- - Wednesday, September 7, 2016

As leader of the anthemic Welsh rock group The Alarm, Mike Peters created some of the 1980s’ most memorable songs, including “Spirit of 76,” “Rain in the Summertime,” “The Stand” and “Strength.” Although they marched on some of the same hallowed ground as longtime friends U2, The Alarm never enjoyed quite the same success as their Irish counterparts.

After the band’s initial lineup dissolved in the early 1990s, Mr. Peters released solid solo records before reclaiming the band’s moniker with a new lineup of rockers and continuing to spread the band’s message of love, hope and strength.

Mr. Peters’ 20-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma motivated him to start a foundation and fight on in music and inspire others living with cancer. His struggle is the subject of the upcoming documentary film “The Man in the Camo Jacket.”

During a stop on his “Spirit of 86” tour, a celebration of The Alarm’s landmark worldwide concert broadcast, Mr. Peters discussed his fight, his passion for music and how he keeps “marching on.”

Question: I know your cancer relapsed in late 2015. How are you now?

Answer: I’m fairly under control again now. I take chemotherapy ever day. I have it here with me. I take a course in hospital once a month. I’ve got all the defenses in place. I can live with it, which is the main thing. I don’t want it to dominate my life and stop me doing things.

I never want it to take a minute of my real life away from me. It’s a challenge. Twice a day I have to face the bottle that says “Oral Chemotherapy.” Even though it only take a few seconds, knowing it’s there is a constant. I feel like, more than ever, music is the place I can escape to. Music is cancer-free as far as I’m concerned. That’s the place where I can really invest my time and be away from it all.

Q: This tour celebrates “The Spirit of 86,” the MTV broadcast of The Alarm’s concert at UCLA. Why was it so special?

A: A little bit of rock ‘n’ roll history was made in the sense that MTV’s broadcast of The Alarm was the first ever live global satellite broadcast. Even “Live Aid,” which was a year before, wasn’t globally broadcast live.

Q: What do you remember about that day?

A: It was decided that we were going to play at 3 o’clock in the afternoon in Los Angeles because it was 6 o’clock in New York, 10 o’clock in Britain. And it was 11 o’clock in Europe and 10 a.m. in Australia and Japan. It was the hour when the world was awake.

The technology was tenuous [compared to] when you think about technology today and what you can do with your smartphone and things like periscope. The satellite was pre-booked, directed to be over Los Angeles right at 3 o’clock and only there for the duration of the concert. Then it was gone.

When we did the sound check the night before, there were already 5,000 people camping in the shadows of the UCLA campus. We knew that this was going to be a big event. At ten to [3 p.m.] there were 25,000 people, and the barrier crashed down.

The fire marshal came into the dressing room and said, “Unless you get out there and ask the audience to move back, this gig ain’t happening.” I had to go out before the gig and ask the people to move back. We rushed on, start the show, and two seconds after we came on stage, the barrier crashed down again.

Q: You always had a unique connection with the fans.

A: It was all we had. We couldn’t afford to have the arrogance of our peers, whose success had come through radio stations. We never really got excessive radio play. What we built was through eye-to-eye contact and physical representation of the band. That was our strength.

Even people who doubted the band, when they came to the gig, they would then say, “Now I get it!”

I do think if we had been able to stay strong internally as a band after UCLA, and when we got back home to England, the story would have been different. If we gathered ourselves at that point and made the next record to come out in January of 1987 instead of October of 1987, we would have been ahead of the game. We would have been before “The Joshua Tree” or INXS’ “Kick.”

We never had the kind of global push that a lot of major label bands had. We got there by working hard on the road.

Q: You guys were friends with, and came up with, U2. Was there ever a minute you guys thought, “Why them and not us?”

A: No, we never really thought like that. Maybe some of the other guys in The Alarm did. I didn’t.

We were ambitious and we asked questions. I just believed in the songs and the music we were making, believed that would carry as long as it was meant to be — as long as we were enjoying it and making a connection with the fans. That was really what it was all about.

Superstardom was great if it came, but it wasn’t something to miss of envy. I’ve got a lot of friends in superstar bands. They might have more money or more homes around the world, but they’re not happy. Not really.

Q: Are you working on new music?

A: I’ve got a few albums in me at the moment. I’ve sort of immersed myself in rebuilding the past in the last couple years — revisiting it, seeing it through fresh eyes. Seeing what I do to make it relevant to today. The recording and the arrangements that were made in the ‘80s live in that time. But the lyrics, they carry on and grow with you and your audience.


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