There is nothing like leaving your job, being broke, and discovering that you hace cancer to really change the way you look at life. Many people might have withered into nothing, but not Mike Peters. Instead he turned to his old friend music and the result is Rise - an album that is glorious but not naive. Rise is his first solo album to be released in the U.S., but follows several solo albums released on his own indie-label in the U.K. Since he left the Alarm in 1991, effectively breaking up the band in the process, he has found it to be a long road, but one rich with interesting stops along the way.
"When I left the Alarm I was in shell shock. I had never expected to leave the band that I had started. But the group had become too safe. As a result, people in the band wanted to change the dynamic of it. I foundmyself sort of trying to control everything, keeping everyone happy. In reality noone was happy and I was beginning to lose it just from the sheer effort. I loved being in the band, but it was time to get out." Peters explains that it was liberating to be out of the band, but also terrifying. "Huge learning curve! And very much downward at first! It was very confusing musically as well. I found myself overstating things, trying to prove, to justify, my part in the Alarm."
"Then I found out I was sick. Ireally felt like I had hit ground zero. After that the only thing I could do was rise." Hence, he explains, the album title and one of the best songs on it, "Ground Zero." He believes that the album is a result of his being very up these days. "I wanted the album to be life affirming, because I had just been affirmed, I had beat back the cancer, eventually."
The creation of Rise was also something new for Peters. Although the songs were written and recorded in a fairly traditional way and recorded by a "traditional" band, Peters would give the tapes to two Welsh DJs after each recording session. "They would take the songs and rebuild them, creating something like an electronic mirror image of the song. It brought subtle changes sometimes. For instance, the originalversion might be multi-speed, like a real rock song, but the elctronic version would be a strict tempo." Peters is glad that the U.S. version adds the two bonus tracks, "The Message(The Mess-Age Mix)" and "White Noise Part III." "Maybe if Velvel does a single I'll put some on as besides."
Peters is not locked into the two guitars and a bass straightjacket. Liberal use of horn sections in many Alarm songs gives the lie to that. And when asked the inevitable question about his favorite Spandau Ballet song, he is surprisingly enthusiastic. "Their early stuff was very important, I mean, it was dance music, but it broke a lot of molds. It was very cutting edge at the time, unlocked a lot of doors. hey sort of allowed the whole new romantic movement to go forward in the mainstream. I think I remember liking ;Chant Number One' a lot."
He is playing Alarm songs on his current tour, and has made a small career out of keeping the fanbase for the Alarm supplied with out-takes, demos, and acoustic interpretations. "I was listening to a bootleg I had been sent of song from the Alarm, b-sides and such. I realized that there were some goof stuff there, so I decided to go back and clean them up a bit, recreating them." The result was a fanclun CD of 10 almost forgatten Alarm songs. "The reaction was good. I tried to keep an eye for detail and for the period. I didn't update them or change them, just clean them up." Next came a two CD set of acoustic interpretations od Alarm standards, 42 songs thrown into a whole new light. "After I was diagnosed and started playing these old songs acoustically, it really put a new spin on them. I began to see them differently, to sing them differently."
The fans loved it, and Peters says the fans' love has been very helpful to him. "The email I got while I was really sick was very helpful. But also the webpage http://www.demon.co.uk/alarmpo/ was a great way of getting in touch with the fanbase. It has allowed me to keep my sanity!"
Another way for Peters to connect with his fans has been through annual get-togethers he has thrown in Wales. Called the Gathering, these annually family reunion style events bring together fans of the Alarm, and even other Alarm members. He has played at the Gathering with former members, although he rule out an outright reunion. "Although, never say never, eh?" Instead the Gathering offers opportunities for him to talk with fans, play soccer, hold trivia contests, and play a few songs. Next year will be seventh year for the event.
Peters, while observant of the past, does not worship it. "People sometimes make a big deal about it, but really...Imean take the video for 'The Stand.' People still to this day remark about what a great video it was. But it wasn't something we planned a whole lot. We showed up, asked for some spray paint and began painting. It was not something that anyone consciously tried to do as 'art.' A lot of stuff we did just happened."
The future holds a lot for Peters. He has linked up with former Cult member Billy Duffie to form a new band, ColourSound. They've just wrapped up a U.K. tour and plan to release a new album on Velvel in early 1999. "I'm very excited about the project. There is some really good stuff, songs that Billy and I have worked on. We can't wait to let people hear them." It is apropos that a constant symbol on most of Peters album covers, both as a solo artist and with the Alarm has been the Poppy. A symbol of life, it shows better than anything else could what Peters is celebrating these days.