Interview By George Gimarc on The Rock n’ Roll Alternative Radio Show. KZEW Radio Station, Dallas, Texas. 12th June 1983.
G.G. This is the Rock n’ Roll Alternative and we are back, we have Mike Peters, live in the studio, right here. Are you there Mike?
M.P. Hiya! My name is Mike Peters. I’m from a band called The Alarm and we’re from Wales.
G.G. Mike, you’re in a new band, at least new to the American audience. Is it a new band really?
M.P. It is quite a new group. We’ve been together for about 18 months as The Alarm, although we have known each other for a long time. As friends, we’ve kind of grown up together. The Alarm formed about 18 months ago and we moved the band to London from North Wales because North Wales is pretty small town, and there wasn’t a lot happening and in that 18 months we’ve really taken off in Great Britain and we’ve just completed our first headline tour there which was tremendous and we’ve played some dates with U2 in Britain. We’ve done about 8 shows with them and every time we’ve played with U2 it’s been a really good gig and Bono and the band really like The Alarm and they offered us the opportunity to come to America on this tour with them and we were really glad they offered it to us and we couldn’t wait to come out here because one thing we’ve tried to do with The Alarm is build the group up with no preconceptions. We’ve always tried to face an audience where nobody’s heard of us before and always tried to do it that way so that people aren’t thinking, this is supposed to be an amazing band, we’d better check them out and sort of think, you know, and we’ve got to live up to certain standards we’d rather just take people on. It’s like me and you, you’ve never heard a song by me before and we’re just going to have to impress you from that moment onwards. There’s no press hype or you’ve got like a million albums before you’ve seen the band live, we just like to take people on in our own time and that’s why we wanted to come to America. We’ve hardly got any records out. The E.P. we’ve got out at the moment is a collection of our first two British singles, well, our second and third singles actually, the first one I’ll probably tell you about later. We just wanted to come over here now so we could see the audience and they could see us without a lot of hype that goes around with a lot of bands now.
G.G. So you consider this a plus that nobody knows who you are.
M.P. Yes that’s right.
G.G. Well I think we’re going to spoil that right here, we’re gonna let them know who you are before they see you tomorrow night, and we’re gonna do that. I want to play a track off here and there’s at least, I would say, at least five good tracks on this album of yours.
M.P. There’s only five on it. (Laughs)
G.G. Yeah! Funny about that. I want to play ‘Marching On’ because I haven’t played that in, gosh it seems like a week now, and so I think we ought to play that now. What are you gonna tell me about it?
M.P. Well, the song is inspired about when we first got into punk rock and the new wave thing in 1976; that the actual feeling of the power of the youth, that was drawn together just through that one thing. It was like in the sixties, when everyone, the power of youth, that could actually change things. You know, Music changed what people think of the Vietnam thing over here, you know, I’m sure it had a big effect. The song is about realising the power of youth as a force to be reckoned with, and a lot of people, especially young people, are drifting apart. They’re all in this gang, or we like this band and we like that band. The song is trying to draw people together and say, ‘lets stick with music’, because it’s the only thing that a lot of young people have got to hold on to, and it’s about the power of music as a force. Not just to change things, but to uplift yourself, and something that you’ve got, that you can believe in. That’s what ‘Marching On’ is about.
CUE : THE ALARM – MARCHING ON
G.G. Quite good that. The Alarm and that is called ‘Marching On’ and it’s on their album self-titled. It should be in the stores in a couple of weeks. It’s on I.R.S. records and Mike Peters is with us right now. Who else is in the band?
M.P. Well on guitar and bass, we’ve got Eddie MacDonald, and on acoustic guitar, Dave Sharp, known as the suicide kid, affectionately, for his daring leaps around the monitors.
G.G. We can count on watching this, these suicide attempts. (Laughs)
M.P. Twist, our drummer and sings backing vocals, and myself, Mike Peters, I play acoustic guitar, bass and harmonica. We all play a bit of everything.
G.G. Now that’s one thing, that sets the band apart from a lot of bands I’ve heard, is that you use a harmonica on stage, and we’re going to hear it more in your next number, ‘The Stand’. Why did you choose to pull out an instrument like that, that hasn’t been in vogue since the sixties really?
M.P. Well, what happened was… when we first formed the band, we were just playing electric guitars, and Sharpy wrote a song on an acoustic guitar I’d bought, to stop pestering my mum with the volume of my amplifier in my bedroom. He nicked my acoustic off me and wrote this song, and when he played it to us on the acoustic, we thought it was a real scorcher, so we took it into rehearsals and we tried it out with all these electric guitars, and we thought, the song’s getting buried in all this wall of noise, so we thought, why not try it out on the instrument it was written, so we brought this acoustic guitar in, and we played the song on that, and it sounded really good. We thought ,’wow’, we were really excited by the sound, and once you started trying to mic it up with all the modern day equipment that people have got for acoustic guitars, it started to sound a bit fluffy, and we happened to try micing it up, with these old bits of electronics we had lying around, and we found we had a really good sound, that was really big and powerful, because when you play an acoustic guitar, as probably a lot of people do, when you’re playing it to yourself in your little room or somewhere, it’s a really big sounding instrument, and when people use it on a stage, it tends to sound a little bit thin, so we managed to get a really big sounding, powerful instrument, which the acoustic guitar is.
G.G. So you’re still using those on stage nowadays?
M.P. That’s right, yeah.
G.G. Well that’ll be quite a switch, not an acoustic bass though?
M.P. We use a semi-acoustic epiphone bass. The harmonicas came about because we were just looking for instruments that go with acoustic guitars, and so we thought, people used to use the harmonica like Dylan did, so we thought punk was about picking up anything, and having a go on it. I happened to get the harmonica and so started teaching myself how to play it. I’m not that good at it yet but I’m not too bad, you know.
G.G. Do you have to be a good musician to make a record this good?
M.P. I suppose you have to be able to know your chords. We’re all quite good. Well, I suppose we’re quite good players now. We like to think that we’re quite good but there’s always room for improvement. Sharp’s the best; he’s a great guitarist and Ed’s a good bass player; Twist is a pretty killer drummer I reckon.
G.G. I take it no formal musical training; you’ve just been at it a few years?
M.P. No just a bit of family training; like Twist’s dad used to be a drummer in a strip club in Britain.
G.G. Lot’s of rim shot material there.
M.P. (Laughs) Yeah! Sharpys mum’s a classical guitarist and Ed’s mum’s a pianist and there is no one who can play anything in my family, so that’s why I end up playing everything, because I end up having a go on whatever is the least difficult to play.
G.G. Now so much busking in your past acoustic instruments, did you ever try your hand at busking when you came to London?
M.P. Yeah! We used to busk on the tubes in London.
G.G. Did you have a favourite line?
M.P. Oh yeah! Green Park on the Central line, which is a favourite one.
G.G. Do you ever dream to go back?
M.P. (Laughs) We’re not averse to a bit of busking now and again. I mean sometimes we’ve turned up at gigs and for some reason it’s been cancelled, and so it has been known that The Alarm have played to the fans outside who’ve been queuing up to get in. We’ve played on the steps outside the gigs now and again.
G.G. Well lets hear a tune that I can’t imagine being busked, because it’s such a driving song and it is called ‘The Stand’, “Come on down and meet your maker.” Anything to say about this one, Mike?
M.P. It’s just about making a decision.
G.G. O.K. It’s coming up right now.
CUE : THE ALARM – THE STAND
G.G. That is ‘The Stand’. It is by a new band called The Alarm and they are from Wales and one of them is right here, sitting across from me on the Rock n’ Roll Alternative, Mike Peters with us. Bono will be joining us shortly. He is eating, I think. (Laughs)
M.P.I think he is.(Laughs)
G.G. That’s what we’re supposing anyway, and Bono, if you can hear me, I hope you get through the crowd downstairs. I understand there is an assemblage down there, and we’ve got lots of people on the ‘phones wanting to talk to Bono. I don’t know, Donna, you’re in there, you might check and see if anybody wants to talk to Mike Peters, we will take those phone calls as well. The numbers up here 742 98FM 787 1198 and we are listening to some good music tonight. I want to play another one, but tell me something, you are just starting out, you’ve got an American label who’s had some success with Lords of the New Church, The Go Go’s and all that behind you, and at this point in your career, do you think this is the big break you needed for America?
M.P. Well, we’re not trying to make the group into a big group, unless it happens naturally, and that’s why we wanted to come to America, to play now. Like I was saying before, we just want to come and let people discover us in their own way, and we want to come here and just play gigs, and we’ll come again and again and play, because we are a live group. We like playing and we’re not trying to hype the group into success, or anything like that. We just like to come here and play, and if the people like us, that’s fair enough. I think we’ll do really well. The tour has been tremendous so far, we’ve been getting encores every night and it’s been really well received and we’ve been meeting loads and loads of people backstage every night, that have seen us and come to talk to us. It’s been tremendous and I think we’ll do really well. We’ve had lots of response from people; I know Rolling Stone have already become aware of us and they’re coming to do an interview with us at the New York Show, and M.T.V. have booked us for T.V. and things. I think America’s ready for bands like The Alarm.
G.G. Sounds like you’re on your way. It doesn’t sound like you’re going to have to do any of the tooth and nail fighting, that bands did over the last three years to get attention. It was at the point where they were saying, anything from Britain must be one of those wild green-haired punk rockers and nowadays, I think the attitude’s gone, anything from Britain must be interesting, so let’s listen to it, so perhaps that’s to your advantage at this point in time.
M.P. I think America’s going to start witnessing some of the real groups from Britain now. Like ourselves, there’s quite a lot of good groups in London now.
G.G. Can you tip us off to anyone we might not have heard of?
M.P. There’s Big Country, you might have heard of them, now they’ve just started having some success in Britain. That’s Stuart Adamson’s new group (he used to be in The Skids), they’re really good. There is a band called Under Two Flags who are a young group, and there’s a band called The Subbuteo Accessories, which are quite good, silly name, but quite good. There’s a band called Mercenary Skank; U2, they’re gonna start happening over here, I think, (Laughs). But no, actually I think bands like U2 are breaking America open for the likes of The Alarm and Big Country, who I’m sure will be over here quite soon, and I think America’s going to start hearing some real British music very shortly.
G.G. Very good. I think we’ve got someone on the phone who wants to talk to you. Let’s see if we can punch them up to the appropriate mode here. Hello, are you there?
Caller: Yes I’m here.
G.G. O.K. Can you hear him Mike?
M.P. I certainly can.
G.G. Yes, you’re with Mike and George here. What do you want to know?
Caller: Well, I just want to know, if the one trip that The Alarm took to a record company, where they just carried their acoustic guitars up there and sang to the people at this record company, instead of playing a demo. I was wondering if that was the audition that got them a deal with the record company?
M.P. What actually happened was when we formed the group, we decided that we wouldn’t be like any other group, so we wouldn’t make any demos whatsoever. So the first thing we did, was go
into the studio to record a single, which was called ‘Unsafe Building’ and ‘Up for Murder’ We put that out ourselves. We just put 2,000 copies out ourselves and that brought us a lot of attention, and the actual meeting your talking about, (us going into a record company), happened a few times, where we did go into a record company, and played in some guy’s office, and we also did it to get a few gigs. It was when we first moved to London. We were really fighting to get ourselves noticed and to stand out in the market place of the groups, so it really paid off for us. I mean, it’s like, you hear about Springsteen and Bob Dylan: they auditioned on acoustic guitars. So whatever was good for them, was good for us we thought…
G.G. Why not…Yeah…Another question…
Caller: I was just wondering, whether they were gonna be wearing Western gear tomorrow at the
show. I bet that would be a great twist.
G.G. You should see Mike now
M.P. Yeah! You come along and see us. I’m not gonna tell you what we’re gonna be wearing, but we’ve got a few surprises in store for Dallas tomorrow.
G.G. They’re oiling up their chaps. They’re ready for Dallas. You coming to the show tomorrow?
Caller: Oh most definitely! But we’re behind the speakers, so I hope we can get round to the front.
M.P. Well, if you come and make yourself known to us before the gig, we’ll make sure you can get around to the front.
Caller: Wonderful! Thank you very much !
M.P. You haven’t told me your name yet, so…
Caller: I’m Josh
Caller: Yes. Josh McKay. I’ll wave a hand or something.
M.P. Josh McKay? O.K. Josh, well, if you look out for Redeye or Gaz or myself…I don’t know if you know what I look like, but I’ve got…sort of …like…blond spikey hair…
Caller: You’re holding the harmonica in the river reflection thing?
M.P. Yeah! How come you’ve got a copy of the single and no-one else has? (Laughs)
Caller: Oh no, that’s just a picture!
M.P. Oh right!
G.G. He’s got it.
M.P. Well, there’s two friends of mine who are roadies…and Redeye’s got a sort of…Mohican
Caller: Oh wonderful!
G.G. Easy to spot!
M.P. So, if you go up to him and say, “Red, I’m Josh,” we’ll make sure you can get round to the
front and see the show.
Caller: Well, this is great. would you like to have lunch at our house, tomorrow? No never mind!
G.G. Thanks for calling.
M.P. Thanks a lot anyway, Josh. See you tomorrow.
G.G. & M. P (Laughs)
G.G. O.K., on the Rock n’ Roll Alternative, we’re gonna play another track here, from The Alarm.
This is called, ‘Across the Border’. It’s off their I.R.S. LP, out right now. You can find it!
CUE : THE ALARM – ‘ACROSS THE BORDER’
M.P. Actually, when we recorded that song, ‘Across the Border’, I couldn’t play the harmonica very well at that point in time, because, I’d only just started learning how to play it, so we got Mark Feltham in, to play harmonica. He was in a group called Nine Below Zero, which have just split-up recently. We got him to come in, and guest and play on the recording for us, and play harmonica.
G.G. But you know how to play harmonica now?
M.P. Yeah… I picked up… he showed me loads of things, how to play from that. In one of the
tracks he actually had two harmonicas, because the song changed key half-way through, so he
was swapping harmonicas over, you know, in his mouth, at the same time. He was brilliant!
G.G. One of the hottest harmonica players, I remember hearing from the U.K. was Lew Lewis.
M.P. Oh yeah! He was a scorcher! He was too wild. We couldn’t get hold of him.
G.G. (Laughs) What a great guy! O.K. Let’s go to the ‘phones. Hello! You are live on the
Rock n’ Roll Alternative.
Caller: Yes, I was wanting to ask Mike…I read in the ‘Rolling Stone’, that there was some mention
of Revelations in some of the songs that they did. I was wondering if, like U2, the Bible inspired
some of their songs?
M.P. Well…we’re inspired by things like that, the ethics of The Alarm as a group. We believe in faith, we believe in love, we believe in charity and we’ve been inspired by a lot of those things, and these beliefs obviously come out in the music, so I hope that answers your question.
Caller: I also wanted to tell you… I saw you in Austin last night, and I really thought you all put on
an excellent show, and I hope the best for the group.
M.P. Thanks very much. Thanks a lot!
G.G. She’ll be out selling tickets for you tomorrow. (Caller laughs), By-the-way, one of your biggest
Caller: Thank you
M.P. So we’ll see you tomorrow night.
Caller: O.K. Thanks!
G.G. Thanks for calling. O.K. You are live on the ‘Rock n’ Roll Alternative.
Caller: Hi George! Hello Michael! I’ve been living in London for the last six months and just got
back last week, and I ended up catching the show at The Palais (Hammersmith), I think it was, on
M.P. Oh, with U2, at The Palais, yeah.
Caller: I ended up going to see you at The Marquee at the end of the month.
M.P. Oh, at the last two…
Caller: Yeah! I was just wondering what type of response have you all gotten in Britain, because
outside of just little clubs and shit, we didn’t really hear much about you?
M.P. What, in Manchester and places like that, you mean?
Caller: You what?
M.P. You mean on the rest of the tour?
Caller: (Laughs) I can’t hear you.
G.G. On the rest of the tour…
M.P. When we played Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle, there were places outside the tour, outside London, where we were breaking house records on the dates like that, but the only gigs
that got reviewed in the music papers, were the London shows, like the Clarendon Ballroom, that
we did in London. That gig was reviewed in the N.M.E. and there was a full page review of us in
Sounds, a British paper, this week, which dealt with a gig we did in Birmingham, as well, so the
tour was sold out every night. It was really good, and you know, I don’t know if you’ve caught us
here in America yet, but the reaction we’ve been getting here has been similar to the reaction
we’ve been getting in London, so we’ve been enjoying it so far.
Caller: This is pretty wild because almost everyone, (I guess we brought about ten people with us
that night), and we’re all pretty heavy U2 fans and we were really disappointed, because maybe
U2 need a lesser band to open for them, because you’re really terrific and I can’t wait to get your
M.P. Thanks a lot.
Caller: And that’s all I have to say…
M.P Are you coming to the gig tomorrow?
Caller: Thanks a lot
G.G. Well, I guess he is, I guess he is…O.K. Well. Mike, you’ve been touring on the kind of the
coat-tails of U2. Do you have any inspirations to come through on your own?
M.P. Oh, certainly do! I mean, we wouldn’t be here otherwise. We’re not just U2’s support group
(G.G. Laughs) or anyone else’s, you know what I mean. We’re The Alarm, and although we get
compared with bands like The Clash and The Jam and lots of other groups, we’re essentially, The
Alarm, first and foremost. It’s just that other people have a lot of trouble bagging us, because we’re
not part of the movement and we can’t be pigeon-holed, so they’ll try and compare us with the
nearest group they can find to us, you know, but I’m sure when people get to know the roots of The
Alarm and hear our new material, they’ll realise that The Alarm is a very individual group.
G.G. Well, here’s what we’ll compare you to… This is ‘Lie of the Land’. This is also off the album. You have to go out and find it. Beg your store, your local record store, to order this record, ‘cos it is just terrific. Here it is. ‘Lie of the Land’ The Alarm. On the Rock n’ Roll alternative.
CUE : THE ALARM – ‘LIE OF THE LAND’
G.G. That is a tune called ‘Lie of the Land’. The Alarm on the Rock n’ Roll Alternative…it’s from their mini album, out on I.R.S. Records and it is terrific, folks. You need to go out and find it… We have just been joined by Bono. Greetings!
BONO: How are you? Sorry, I’m late. It’s a long story.
G.G. But you’re here. That’s what’s important.
G.G. And welcome back to Dallas. Third time through.
BONO: That’s right. Third time lucky.
G.G. This is gonna be a big one.
BONO: Actually, first time was lucky as well, so no, I mean, we don’t consider that we’re coming
back to do the same thing again. This is a new band that people are about to see.
G.G. You keep playing larger and larger venues. Is the band growing up with the venues too?
BONO: Yeah! I think if you stay in the same place you become stagnant. Your music becomes
stale, so we’re quite ambitious as a band, as you probably know, and I feel that we’re able to
actually turn those big venues into small rooms. At least that’s our ambition when we walk out on
G.G. Boy, you have got to be one of the best live bands, I’ve ever seen, too. You’re all over the
BONO: Thank you. Thank you very much.
G.G. I’ve got a bunch of people…you saw the people downstairs, I guess.
BONO: Yes. There’s a lot of people outside. That’s another reason why I’m just a little bit late.
They’re really nice people as well, which helps.
G.G. I’ve got a bunch of people on the ‘phone that have been patiently waiting. Why don’t we put
some of them on the air? Let’s just see what they have to say. O.K.? You’re on the Rock n’ Roll
Alternative with Bono, Mike and George, here.
Caller: Yeah. I want to know what you thought about the U.S. Festival.
BONO: The U.S Festival. That was very good for us, in the sense that I think, when you’re faced
with 20,000 people, there’s no hiding. (Laughs) You can’t hide behind your haircut, you can’t. You
have to deliver and there’s a lot of bands, I think, it showed up; that they weren’t really bands at
all…that they were just part of a production line or assembly line process and you know, somebody
stuck fashionable heads on various different types of bodies, and put them on stage, but there
were a few bands that actually carried, and I’d like to think that U2 were one of them. A lot of
people, even kind of cynics people, who hated the band, seemed to be surprised the way it worked
for us. Again, it is because we’re a live band.
G.G. Thanks for calling.
BONO: Who was that by the way?
G.G. Oh, that was just one of our callers. We’ll get names.
BONO: I’d like to know their names.
G.G. What do you think of some of the new bands coming out like Kajagoogoo and there seems
to be a bunch of bands like this? I was a little disappointed with some of those bands. What do
you think of that?
BONO: I would just like to start this interview by saying that I’ve no real time for these
categorisations of new music or old music. I think…
G.G. it’s all pop…
BONO: This group plays U2 music; that’s all that counts. I think the only distinction is between
great music and not great music. At present, there is a lot of not great music about, I think. I
think music lacks a lot of soul, a lot of spirit. I think that’s what rock n’ roll was about.
G.G. A sense of humour?
BONO: Yeah, maybe, a sense of humour, that’s a criticism you could apply to U2. People say we
take ourselves too seriously and I have to plead guilty. (Laughs) But, you know, you have got to be able to laugh at yourself.
G.G. Let’s see who we’ve got here.
BONO: But we rarely do that on stage. I think it’s offstage when we laugh at ourselves. If you’re in
the company of The Edge, that’s very easy.
G.G. Mike, you told me that you’ve got…
BONO: George, can I just say, your wife is really wonderful…she’s really good…
G.G. O.K. O.K. I was looking at a cryptic note. We’re immersed in stuff here today. Mike, you
had a special song you had brought up here.
M.P. Yeah. I’ve been trying to play this to Bono all tour, but we haven’t had a chance to do it for him yet, but we’ll let him hear it now.
BONO: What is this?
M.P. You wait and see. (Laughs) I’ll tell you about it when you’ve played it through.
CUE : THE ALARM – BLAZE OF GLORY
G.G. What a terrific tune. Excuse me from interrupting it like that. Golly, Mike!
M.P. That’s a track we recorded just before we came to America. It’s going to be on our album
and we’ll be finishing the album off when we get back from the States.
G.G. That’s called ‘Blaze of Glory’
BONO: That is a blaze of glory. I mean you talk about a No.1. Sort of No.1 or nothing!
G.G. I hate to tell you Bono, but you’re gonna have to move out if he keeps this up.
BONO: It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
M.P. I’ve got a few more songs like that up my sleeve.
G.G. That’s terrific. When’s it gonna be out?
M.P. Well, the album will be coming out, probably, in the first week in September and we’re going straight back to Britain after we’ve done the tour with U2 …and we’re gonna do the album as soon as we get back, and then release it as soon as we can! We’re really looking forward to doing it
because we’ve got a lot of songs up our sleeves that are like ‘Blaze’, and there’s a song called ‘Sixty Eight Guns’ that we do, which is going to be a big one, and a song called ‘Tell Me’. We’ve got a lot of new songs as well. We’re quite lucky because we’ve got three songwriters.
G.G. Will we be hearing this tomorrow night?
M.P. You certainly will be hearing it tomorrow night.
G.G. Well, many thanks for bringing that tape by. We’re going to take a short break, with more
‘phone calls for Bono and Mike, on the Rock n’ Roll Alternative.
* Postscript *
The Alarm released ‘Declaration’ in February 1984. The version of ‘Blaze of Glory’ that Mike Peters played to Bono never made the album. It was released as a ‘B’ side to the U.K. release of ‘Absolute Reality’ which reached No.35 in the U.K. charts in April 1985.