Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
By Brian Smith
After twenty plus years in the music business, one would forgive Mike Peters if he has become a bit jaded about the whole process. Yet, after a 100 minute set that shows he hasn’t lost a step, Peters still has a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye that belies his age as he approaches the half century mark.
Peters has revived seminal alternative band with a new lineup, and a new album, entitled _In the Poppyfields_. Like many bands who have seemingly passed their prime in terms of publicity and airplay, he knew that something different had to be done if The Alarm was going to garner any notice in the music world for their new record.
“There’s a lack of interest or even a disdain for bands of a certain generation”, says Peters. “you get beyond 18 these days and people think you’re too old to rock and roll. We decided that we had nothing to lose, so let’s play them [the music industry] at their own game.”
The Alarm played the game as well as it could be played. For the album’s first single, “45 RPM,” they produced a video that featured a band called The Poppyfields, made up of four 18-year-olds, who proceeded to lip synch the lyrics and pretend to play their instruments to the song. Peters notes “The Alarm wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the video, although our logo was all over the back drop. People liked the record, and started playing it on the radio”. The single rose to #28 in the British charts, then “it was revealed that it was by The Alarm, and a lot of people were taken by surprise. It had a good effect on us as a band, and kept us wanting to rock and roll”.
Pretty good strategy for a band whose last publicity came as a result of the VH1 special “Bands Reunited.” The title was somewhat of a misnomer in The Alarm’s case, claims Peters. “The Alarm’s [current] lineup has been playing together for over ten years as The Alarm, and before that at The Gathering [Music Festival]. The lads and I have been playing together for over thirteen years. The interesting thing was that the VH1 program wanted the four original guys, and the newer guys came down to help Eddie [McDonald], Dave [Sharp], and Nigel [Twist] get re-acquainted with the songs, especially in the case of Nigel. Eddie has played with us a few times, and Dave has never stopped playing. So, they [the original members] just didn’t want to go back there – I had tried many times to get the original lineup back together, and then this was the next logical step. I know all of them have given me their blessing, so…”.
Peters then remains the only member of The Alarm who has been there from the beginning. From the 1984 tour opening for The Pretenders, to today’s never-ending tour, the lyrics have always had elements of spirituality mixed in with a hard rock/alternative sound. Inspiration comes in all forms, including, in once case, a Stephen King novel called “The Stand”, which inspired a song by the same name. Peters deflects specific lyrical explanations, though:
“Well, I read that book and that was its source, the genesis of the song. I don’t like to answer that question because I want people to find their own answers. I think that what all of the music of The Alarm is, that it’s very important for people to find their own answers. I don’t like to get too specific about words because that answers too many questions and they’re like ‘oh, it’s about that. I think it’s better to keep people guessing. That way they can find their own path that’s logical, and that’s what I believe. They should be asking questions”.
Peters concedes the theme inherent in the song, but also states, “I try not to write about the obvious subjects. There’s a song on the new album that says ‘sometimes you’ve got to stop believing to find faith’ and I’m interested in that. Sometimes to come home, you have to go away. People always feel that with their faith, and that empowers me, because when people overcome their struggles, that’s what makes them rulers.”
_In The Poppyfields_ came about as a result of fan involvement. Peters says the approach was to release an album a month for five months to their fan club, then let the fans decide which songs should go on their new release. This kept things fresh, Mike claims, because “there are four ways to pull [in the band], and we get lost on the road, and we need a lot of balance. Being in the band a long time, there’s a lot of hindsight [for me].
“It’s kind of a myth that bands stay together. People change, families change, occupations change. It’s always moving on – I think sometimes when a band stays the same, they can go against what they were in the first place. And at the end of the day, I always enjoyed the bands that have been lead through the songs, and The Alarm has always been about the songs that I wrote”.
With forty plus songs already
recorded, and a band that has sixty plus cumulative years in the business,
The Alarm isn’t ready to go out “in a blaze of glory” just yet. According
to Peters, In the Poppyfields is “just a new beginning for The Alarm”.