I’ve just played my final show of 2014 in Bergen, Norway and am finally on my way home with Jules, Dylan and Evan ready to take a break for the Christmas Holidays.
It’s been an intense 12 months since 2014 began with a four hour, thirty minute marathon Gathering electric set that served as a prequel to the year of Declaration! Hats off to Smiley, Craig Adams, James Stevenson and Mark Taylor for going the distance through a mad week of rehearsals, all the way through to an amazing gig with ‘no barriers’ between the band and fans.
The first reaction to the new ‘Declaration’ recordings, released soon after, caused something of a storm in certain circles, that soon gave way to moments of enlightenment and understanding as the final album (with amazing new illustrations by artist Dan Shearn), and tour, revealed new ways to appreciate songs that had been a part of our lives for such a long time.
The tour was a revelation for me personally and I really enjoyed the liberation of playing the shows ‘solo’ and sharing all that I have learned as a musician and a human being, with people who understand and appreciate why I do what I do.
Armed with my innovative new acoustic / electric guitar ‘The Deceiver’ (made for me by Doug and Rob at Auden), the reaction to the one man Alarm show was unanimous and as the vibe spread concerts were selling out wherever I went in the UK, USA and Europe. The atmosphere at each performance was intoxicating and inspiring…taking me back to Tokyo, Japan for two memorable shows at Billboard Live and even further afield to pastures new in Australia along the way.
No two shows were ever the same and there were so many highlights. The 8 Iridium concerts in New York became a long running saga of all my music from the past 30 years and threw up some treasured performances. Concerts in Glasgow, London and Newcastle were up there with some of the best I’ve ever experienced and I was so glad a decision was made (at the very last minute), to film and record the Deaf Institute show in Manchester which resulted in the Declaration Live DVD.
I particularly enjoyed sharing all my stories every night at some legendary venues like McCabes in Santa Monica, California and The Basement in Sydney, and there were lots of laughs amidst the rock and roll too!
I took the approach of telling the stories like we were all in the back of the tour bus together, recounting the thrills and spills of those heady days when Sixty Eight Guns, The Stand and all those other early songs forged the relationships we still enjoy to this day.
Horizons Sing in Cardiff, was another magical event on the journey, made even more special by the video message sent by U2. I was as surprised as anyone when the BBC screened the clip and was very humbled. I was completely swept away on many levels during that night of music with the National Orchestra of Wales and Acquire plus the voices of an Alarm audience who knew each and every word sang. To hear songs like ‘Spirit Of ’76’ and ‘The Deceiver’ with a full orchestral and choral backing was a revelation and I’m so thrilled that BBC Wales are rebroadcasting the entire concert this New Years Eve.
I wrote a lot of new music in 2014 and am excited to be exploring it all now at the studio, sound checks and in dressing rooms with a view to making some recordings as soon as my new vision for ‘Strength’ has been realised and shared.
As a starting point for Strength 2015, I delved right back into the original lyric notebook I wrote in during the creative period of ‘Strength’, and also some notes I had kept from the Jimmy Iovine pre-production sessions that took place in New York in the fall of 1984. I have already found and incorporated unused lyrics and even an unheard song that was rehearsed but never recorded.
Away from home, the conflict in Gaza unexpectedly threw me into another creative project this past Summer, when I came up with the madcap scheme to record The Scriptures and attempt to break the World Record for the longest song ever released. At 104 minutes The Scriptures was a monumental undertaking on so many levels and I must thank Mark Warden for his diligence and perseverance in keeping me and the hundreds of other contributors on track throughout.
The finale session at Abbey Road Studio 2 was a special day even if It was taxing for me on a personal level as the affects of all the hard work, coupled with a post-leukaemia treatment reaction, had me running on empty. Karl Parsons also deserves a special mention for laying out the lyric book which was another work of monumental proportions.
The finished recording is a testament to everyone’s creativity and something that stands up alongside any recording I have ever been associated with. I’ve just finished filing all the track info and session data with Guinness and hopefully will have further news of the world record attempt in early 2015.
Talking of news, 2015 will hopefully bring further activity for the Dead Men Walking after that amazing September night in Los Angeles at the Troubadour with Captain Sensible, Slim Jim Phantom et al. It was such a pleasurable week rehearsing with all the guys, Fred Armisen, Duff McKagan and Chris Cheney from The Living End (what a band!!!), that I can’t wait to play more shows now. There’s an album of original material in the works too, but more on that as the story develops.
On the mountainside, Snowdon Rocks and Ben Nevis were both fantastically well attended and both events benefitted from decent weather especially Snowdon, which was bathed in sunshine from start to finish. It was during the walk down from the summit that the ‘By Your Side’ appeal was hatched and together with NHS charity Awyr Glas (Blue Skies), we launched the fundraising marathon with a Big Busk throughout all three North Wales Hospitals involving 6 choirs and hundreds of hospital staff joining in on the day.
At the same time, we announced the ‘355120’ walkathon to raise the same amount in pounds by walking from Bangor Hospital to Wrexham Maelor via the North Wales Cancer Centre and we will be announcing details of ways to get involved with us in May 2016 very soon. The appeal has already raised over £100,000 and funds are already being used to rebuild and extend the Alaw Unit in Bangor and purchase comforts for patients and their families in the North Wales Cancer Centre. It is hoped that the target figure of £351,120 will be reached and provide a major boost to help Cancer care in all the hospitals and hospices throughout North Wales.
All of this was made possible by the dedication of people like Lydia Franklin and all the other loyal Love Hope Strength volunteers and supporters and so a big thanks to everyone involved for helping to make 2014 such a landmark year for Love Hope Strength. I’m also hoping that some of you will join me in a sponsored event by growing a beard for ‘Januhairy’ which will be shaved off at a communal session during The Gathering in Llandudno on ‘Januhairy’ 30th 2015!!
In December I went down to Australia to perform the Alarm’s music for the first time and also to speak at the World Cancer Congress and address members of the Cancer community from all over the world. It was incredibly intense to be a part of such a global gathering and both James Chippendale and Andy Labrow played a huge part in helping me prepare for the occasion. The event was filmed by Stash Silonski for the new documentary movie which is nearing completion with director Russ Kendall and his team at Kaleidoscope Pictures in the USA.
Away from the stage, I have been receiving regular treatment at the Alaw Unit in Bangor and although I have struggled at times with my body fighting back against the specialist drugs, I’m pleased to report that I am currently in good health and with Dr. Edwards reviewing the way I receive treatment in the future I feel that things are progressing in the right direction.
I am eternally grateful to my wife Jules who has stood by my side throughout everything. I would not be the person I am today without her. My boys, Dylan and Evan, are a testament to her endeavour and the strength and love she brings to our home allows me the platform to be creative in my musical life.
The words Love Hope and Strength were first used creatively thirty years ago and to me, are still as relevant as ever and form the rock that all I hold dear is built upon.
How beautifully poetic it is therefore, that 30 years later those three words – bonded lyrically into one theme, still hold relevance and significance by making a difference in people’s lives in ways unimagined when the ‘Strength’ album brought Love Hope and Strength together for the first time.
Love Hope and Strength is the force that binds the relationship between us, between The Alarm and Mike Peters and the charity that carries it’s name and therefore it’s fitting that the next music I shall release is carved from the same foundation.
On the road and in the studio I’m hoping to strengthen the bonds that have driven our relationships, the intention that has inspired and given us the music we live by and to stay alive and healthy in the name of love hope and strength.
I would like to wish you all health and happiness for 2015 and look forward to sharing new adventures with you very soon,
Love Hope Strength