WHEN the Alarm – Eddie MacDonald, Mike Peters, Dave Sharpe and Twist
(Nigel Twist) – started out in the mid-’70s, their folk-inspired rock
songs led to quick comparisons with everyone from Bob Dylan to U2 (for
whom they used to be the opening act). One of the differences, however,
was that the Wales-based group toured non-stop. While the Alarm built an
international following through constant touring between 1982 and 1986,
serious internal problems developed.
After a short break following a tour that began late last year, the
Alarm is back in the United States opening for Bob Dylan (including a
St. Louis show June 17 at the Muny).
|LISA ROBINSON: Is it true that the band went through a crisis during
which no one talked to anyone else in the band?
|MIKE PETERS: We have been together as a band since we were all 15 years
old, and we’re 28 now. We needed a period to redefine our friendship. We
had grown up in North Wales, and the group was uprooted from that. So
after a full year on the road, we realized that we were all quite
different people and had to spend a little time getting to know each
other in a different way.
Some of us had got married, and Nige (Nigel Twist) got married and
divorced all in the space of a few months, which is quite a shocking
experience for someone to go through. There were things we never really
talked about, and the best thing we ever did was to open up to each
other. We never wanted the group to become strangers or to split up.
|LISA ROBINSON: Were you closer in the very early days?
|MIKE PETERS: Well, we were four very different individuals when we met.
We had a friendship, but we had different lives. We had jobs, and we’d
get together on the weekends to make music. The Alarm was the result of
the interaction of those four very different personalities and
backgrounds. But as we got started and traveled around America, a lot of
those things changed, because we’d be taking in the same experiences day
in and day out, all four of us together.
There’s not a lot to talk about when your life is consumed with TV
shows, gigs and interviews. We had to literally take ourselves out of
the music business for a little while to get to know each other and be
with each other as individuals, not as members of the Alarm.
|LISA ROBINSON: You toured for four years non-stop. Did you get to the
point where you couldn’t stand seeing each other?
|MIKE PETERS: It never got to that stage (laughs). There were certain
things about the way the group was progressing that we didn’t like and
we all had a different perception of the group. For example, Dave
(Sharp) didn’t agree with the way I was introducing a certain song one
night. But rather than say, “Come on Mike, I don’t like the way you do
that,” he would keep it to himself because he didn’t want to rock the
|LISA ROBINSON: Is there someone in the band who is the peacemaker when
there are disagreements?
|MIKE PETERS: We all are. We argue about the music all the time, but we
get on really well together.
We feel like a new band, and there is so much music in us now that we
want to double the speed of things. We only made an EP (extended-play
record) and two albums between 1981 and 1986, and that’s not healthy,
especially considering that we all write songs.
There are so many contributions from each member of the group, we find
now that if we tour too much that creativity can turn into a form of
frustration. That was the danger that crept into the group; we were
playing the same songs every night. We had done it too long; we were
coming back to some places on the same tour three and four times. We
wanted to be on tour, but we didn’t know when to stop. Of course, we
like it (laughs). We’re our own worst enemies in that.
|LISA ROBINSON: Do you think of your most recent album (“Eye of the
Hurricane,” 1987) as going back to basics?
|MIKE PETERS: Definitely, back to our roots. This album is an honest
Alarm album. I don’t think anybody can sit down and write the best album
that’s ever been heard, but you can make one to the best of your
ability, and that’s what we did with this record. We decided that we
wouldn’t cheat on this record and overproduce it. We would put all our
faith in the true sound of the Alarm.
|LISA ROBINSON: Are you still friendly with U2?
|MIKE PETERS: Yes. We haven’t seen them for a while but we spoke to them
a lot last year when they were making “The Joshua Tree.”
|LISA ROBINSON: Are you still compared with them as much as you were in
|MIKE PETERS: Yes, but I think people have realized that with this
record, we have established our own identity a lot more than we have
been able to previously.
|LISA ROBINSON: Did the comparisons with U2 put a lot of pressure on you?
|MIKE PETERS: A year and a half ago, we felt under pressure and that’s
why we wanted to make an album that would blow that comparison out of
the water once and for all. But those are the wrong reasons to go into
the studio. You’re making a record to prove a point, not because it’s
representative of your true feelings. Luckily we had the presence of
mind to say, “Hold on, this isn’t the Alarm, what are we doing here?” So
we left the studio and went back to Wales, where we got down to some
serious soul searching.
Also, there were stories going around that the Alarm was breaking up,
which was never true, but it made us realize how fragile the band is and
if we tried to push it too hard, it could easily shatter. So when we got
home, we talked about the U2 issue and agreed that the worst thing we
could ever do as a band was to respond to those comparisons. We decided
to ignore them and get on with being the Alarm, and that ultimately we
would be recognized for that.
So we made this record purely for our own personal satisfaction. We
wouldn’t even let the record company hear us in the studio, and we kept
our manager out of the way so there wouldn’t be any pressure. If no one
is hearing the song, no one is going to ask, “What’s the single?”
We stopped worrying about being compared to U2 or Bob Dylan or anybody.
We just wanted to make a great record, and if it doesn’t sell, we’re
proud of it anyway and can play it to our children in 10 years and say,
“Hey son, I was in a band, listen to this” (laughs).
|LISA ROBINSON: It must be difficult to keep that attitude with all the
|MIKE PETERS: When you’re young and getting your first great reviews, you
want even better reviews the next time. You start believing the reviews
and you think, “Well, let’s write a song just to get a better review.”
It’s very dangerous.