From Fan to Shadow
Clearly to me when I first heard The Alarm, was when I was travelling back to Milford Haven from Aylesbury in 1984 to stay with a mate and he got out of his bag a cassette and said “ you’ve gotta hear this great welsh band they’re brilliant”. It was a copy of Declaration and that was it, I was hooked! Thankyou Tim… little did you know what you had started.
My love for The Alarm continued right through to 1991 but I was never fortunate enough to see them live due to my overseas commitments whilst serving in the RAF. I still remember vividly listening to them on my Walkman, sat on some sandbags in the middle of the desert writing letters during Gulf War 1… At that time, I had no idea the band was breaking up.
Over the next 10 years, The Alarm always stayed with me… in the car, on the Hi Fi, CDs etc but for whatever reason I never became aware of Mike’s solo projects, until much later, again probably because of always being overseas. Strangely enough, years later I found out that I knew the bass player of the Poets, Emyr Penlan (formerly Jess) and used to go out with his sister in school and I also used to walk home the guitarist Chris Lewis from school with his older brother Mark.When I bought my first house in 96, I had a mate of mine as a lodger and he too was an Alarm fan. At that time there seemed to be very few of us about. At about the same time I read an article in Q magazine, about this crazy thing called “The Gathering” and it was organised by one Mike Peters. My Lodger and I thought it would be great to go to this and it was discussed in great detail as we painted a 9ft poppy in my stairwell. Nothing really came of this until 2001 when my old lodger rang me up and said that he actually got hold of some Gathering tickets but couldn’t make and wondered if I wanted them? So off to Gathering 10 my mate and I went (11 down and counting). This event proved to be the resuming of an ongoing and enjoyable relationship with all things The Alarm.
The next ten years seemed like it passed at 100 miles an hour. I’d found music again and I was going to enjoy it. I crammed in as many gigs of The Alarm, Mike Peters, Dead Men Walking and all related bands including the Scala VH1 gig. These gigs proved to be the meeting ground of some now very dear friends and some fantastic memories. Over this period of time I managed to get most of my CD sleeves signed and got to meet Mike and Jules on countless occasions and the wonderful people of the MPO (namely the legendary Pete and Dot). I had also started to get involved with Love Hope Strength. It’s great to be able to put something back and mix it with the music you love. Being still in the RAF at this time, I had always had in interest in the music industry and its associations and how it all worked as it was something completely different to my career and also probably because it was a boyhood dream to be in a band. Funnily enough in my 46th year, I managed it one day as a member of the Alarm on stage in Whitehaven, of all places…a special night for me.
Moving on to the first Los Mondo gig at the Cavern, Liverpool in 2009 and over a beer Jules, who had been very supportive to me during a particularly sad time in my personal life (thankyou Jules) suddenly asked me would I like to come and help out at the Gathering 18 (soon to be relocated at Pontins). Well, I jumped at the chance. “What would I do?” I asked… “Oh, we’ll find something,” Jules said.
From that discussion and over the last three years my role at the Gathering has evolved into what Jules aptly calls Mike’s ‘shadow’. I make sure he is constantly lubricated with industrial quantities of tea, and can he drink it. I also look after his honey and lemon needs throughout rehearsals and the actual performances including on stage to keep his voice in top condition and lubricated. As Mike is somebody who constantly churns out ideas to refine and improve the Gathering experience, he often forgets to take on food so I make sure he gets plenty of that. However throughout rehearsals I also act as a “I’ll get that sorted” guy… anything needs doing and I’ll have a go, driving and collecting equipment, painting pianos, hanging backdrops, you name it, but nobody mention the teamaking.We all know that the Gathering takes a lot of organising but if people could only really see how much effort really goes on behind the scenes even down to the last minute before the curtain they would be amazed. I certainly was the first time I saw it. Now I am secretly proud to be a part of it all and the best thing is that the music is still the heart. I never thought all those years ago whilst driving to Milford Haven that I would be doing what I am now as member of the Alarm family.
30 years – The soundtrack of my life