Showtime Magazine – Swedish Interview 1986

This is a translation from Swedish an Interview published in Showtime Magazine.
The translation has been processed via an online translator, so may not read as smoothly as intended in the original article

(Original article cuttings supplied by Pertti Viljanen)

“Rock with vitality, strength and courage

The Alarm on stage is like a fist punch in the solar plexus. Powerful, noisy rock with inherent strength in sound, lyrics and melodies. With vitality and with the acoustic guitar as an angry howling rock instrument. But I hope it’s not for our guitars but for our songs like we must be remembered, Mike Peters points out

SHOWTIME has met the four sympathetic and humble guys from the small Welsh town of Rhyl. Who are tired of constantly being compared to Clash and U2. Who wants to be considered as four ordinary guys. And who lives by the motto: “If you feel it. Do it! If you do not feel it. Do not do it!”

A chilly Saturday night in January. Small town Hultsfred in Småland, Sweden with its 5,000 inhabitants is preparing for a party. The very active music association Rockparty has brought in Welsh The Alarm- a world name and their biggest investment ever. Inside the Hogadal sports hall, a press conference is being held for the area’s local newspapers

We come from a small town, so playing Hultsfred here does not feel very strange, says Mike Peters, the singer. So much more is not really sought. Few questions is made . Few answers are given. – I hate press conferences. They are so impersonal, you sort of get no contact, Dave Sharp explains when we meet later on. He and the others in the band are now suspicious of that type of interview. They have been “burned” mistrusted, misunderstood at several occasions

Too honest … Some do not want to believe that we really stand for what we say. That we want to be four ordinary guys who use rock music to help express our thoughts, opinions and tell stories. Time and time again, The Alarm is compared to The Clash and U2. They are, to put it mildly, tired of that. And that’s understandable. The Alarm interferes with something of its own. Has its own strength, its own power, its own sound. The Alarm is one intense, alarming /loud rock band – among the best you can see live today. Admittedly, it is easy to add to the first description: “something between Clash and U2

But the Alarm is The Alarm! Nothing else. Mike points out:
-Just hope that it is for our songs we are remembered, and not because we play rock with acoustic guitars.
-But of course the acoustic guitars gives the band that extra profile.
The personality which is always good to have

Dave remembers how it all started – I drilled holes
– My mother is a flamenco guitarist from Spain, so I grew up with an acoustic guitar. When we eventually started writing songs and driving them electrically down in the gym, they did not sound at all the way they had done at home in the bedroom. So I started thinking about what it would sound like to put a microphone in an acoustic guitar. To drill a hole in the guitar I had, a classic Spanish from 1946, I thought WAS a bad idea , so I borrowed one from the music store. Dave laughs heartily at the memory
– I drilled a hole in it, put in a microphone and a button for volume control. It did work but the problem was that I could not afford to buy the guitar which cost 30 pounds. And I could not return it because there was a hole in it …
– But it was resolved in the end. I had to pay for it later
The sound “fell”. The Alarms sharp , rough sound was born. The story of the band , however, had begun far earlier

But then under a different name. Mike Peters and bassist Eddie MacDonald grew up on the same street in the small lake town of Rhyl. Dave Sharp and drummer Twist, on the other hand, are originally from Manchester. Mike and Eddie played on their side and Dave and Twist on their. But when Twist started commuting to Rhyl Dave finally had no choice but to hook on
– I simply could not find a better drummer. I think I was twelve years old when I first came to Rhyl. Four years later I moved there, remembers Dave who also lived in Brittany (Bretagne), France for a while and therefore can speak fluent French
– Oui … he laughs. In Rhyl, things were slow at first. After leaving school, they first formed a group without a greater success

A few years later, a new attempt was made with “Seventeen”. But it did not go any further either, so we looted again, Mike points out. Everyone was unemployed at the time, but the guys at The Alarm have always been careful and determined. To do something about one’s own situation, and not sit and wait for others to do it, has more or less been The Alarm’s motto
Run a rock club and shop
So too this time
Because there was so little, for us young people, to do in Rhyl, we started a rock club a few nights a week. The next morning we sold clothes in a local next door, says Dave and Twist adds:
– Do you remember what a great disc jockey I was? At least the best of us four …
However, his career as a “rock club owner” came to an abrupt end. We had the punk band Discharge, and there were a lot of hard punk-rockers. The whole evening glasses, chairs and tables swirled in the air and afterwards the place was completely shattered. Then we were not allowed to be there anymore
“Praised” mixer …
– By the way, I mixed Discharge, and I remember that I had to run after the mixer table that kept moving in the mess …, Dave continues, and a smile appears from his lips
All the time , they kept writing songs, and for their savings from the rock club and the shop they went to Manchester for the first single recording , “Unsafe building” and “Up for murder”. We were so into what we were doing and did not notice we had stayed for 20 hours and only had money for ten
– It worked out, though. What took time was the echo we would have on a song
To keep the echo as slow as possible, we connected two tape recorders to each other. You should have seen that tape. It was several meters long!

The Alarm started to become a name. The 2,000 copies of the self-financed single sold out. The group got to join U2 as a opening act, and the record companies were now in line to sign The Alarm. But the guys took it easy/calmly
– We did not want to jump on the first best record contract, where the company would then control us. Instead we were interested in a record company that followed what we wanted. That’s why it took so long. Two years before we signed our first record deal, we had sold out Marquee in London. Those who finally won the tug of war was the small company IRS. Some brilliant singles, “Marching Out”, “68 Guns” and “The Stand” are followed by a mini-LP and eventually the debut LP “The Declaration” in 1984. That it then took 18 months to the next LP was another sign of The Alarms strong will, “Strength” – “To build the ships to set the sails – To cross the sea of ​​fools – To be dealt the cards to play our hand To win or else to lose In this cruel world that kicks a man when he’s down “. (Deeside from the latest LP” Strength “)
– We had toured a lot and simply did not feel like recording a new LP until later. Of course, we could have written a dozen songs in a week. Just right up and down, “pam-pa-dam-pam-pam”
– But it would have been completely without feeling, and that way we do not work, Eddie emphasizes
“Strength is a record where the acoustic guitars no longer have an equally prominent role. – We wanted to make a record, more separated than the first. The electric songs would be more electric and the acoustic more acoustic. On “Declaration” most of the material was written on and for acoustic guitars

The new record is mostly written on electric guitar. A new experience for me. At the same time it also sounds better to play them with electric guitar. However, Dave does not let go of his predilection for the acoustic guitar in the first place
– No, after all, those are my roots. This is where the real feeling comes from. Admittedly, it is smoother with an electric guitar on stage, but it still has its limitations. – With an acoustic guitar, I can play exactly what and how I feel. I can not do that with an electric guitar, Dave explains. Dave bases his guitar playing entirely on emotions. – I agree with Steve Ray Vaughn who says that it is not a question at all about technique. It’s just about emotions, being able to express yourself in a personal way. Just like different dialects. Incredible feeling
– If you do not feel it properly, you can not play it either. No matter how good a technician you are. I never play on any scales. Nor is it simply about that
I believe in Dave. He shows it again and again during the concert with his colossal empathy. But never as clear as on the introduction to the extra issue “The Stand”. After first sitting and picking up the guitar in a traditional Spanish piece, he suddenly stops. Looks out over the audience and starts playing “Stairway to Heaven”
– That was not the intention at all from the beginning. But I just felt more for “Stairway to Heaven” right then

Dave looks up and ruffles the curls
– Do you know what I mean? he asks. A band must never go on a routine and sound the same from concert to concert. We never sound the same. At the same time, the perfectionist breaks through the emotional man and thinker Dave (I want to seek answers to everything I wonder about), when he can not stop grieving over a completely crazy chord
– Did you hear? I just thought it just shouldn’t sound like this. And then I look up and discover that I have the wrong chord. I have not made such a mistake in a year at least …
But as important as the feeling, empathy and power are in the music – just as important are the lyrics for The Alarm
– The most important thing for us when we write songs is that we do not forget who we are. But based on ourselves in stories, experiences and thoughts
Dave hits the nail on the head right away. No cues. Otherwise, it’s Mike who writes all of The Alarm’s lyrics. Texts that lead to thought. Who are expressive and take a stand without being directly apolitical for that reason. Who urges that you yourself do not like injustices etc. The important is not what people think. Everyone should believe in what they think , and we don’t try to lecture and how to vote and things like that
– Instead, it is important to know why you think this or that. Find out the reason why and not think in a certain way, just because your friends think the same
Mike gives with his friendly face almost a “teddy bear-like impression. He has easy to smile and it’s hard to imagine that he is behind all the powerful lyrics.

“If a man can not change the world these days – I still believe a man can change his own destiny – But the price is high that has got to be paid – For everyone who survives there are many who falls” (Spirit of ’76 from “Strength”)
– “Spirit of 76″ is about the punk wave and what became of it. All goals and promises were most disappointing, and many are disillusioned today. Therefore, it is an invitation to stop looking back and look ahead instead,” says Mike.
Folk legend
Today Mike and the others in the band live in London. And it’s about London and the Tower that “The day the ravens left the tower” tells
– It is an old folk legend that says if the ravens left the Tower, the White Tower would fall and a great disaster befall the Kingdom. But I myself would not want to experience that day and if I were to do so, I would then want to be far away from my loved ones
“London Tower’s burning, Parliament’s ablaze Buckingham Palace has gone
“Somewhere in the distance my darling she’s a crying I should be by her side”
(“The day the ravens left the tower from” Strength “)

The Alarm never likes to plan more than six months ahead. It includes this European tour and the three months in the United States, of which six weeks were linked to Pat Benatar
– It will be decisive for whether we will be really big or not
– A really big band is what manages to get good records and live performances to meet halfway, become a unit
– I think we have something going on right now with a strong record and live performances that is getting better and better

What is a good live performance, he clearly has in mind
– Regardless of whether you play in front of 500 or 5,000, it is the last at the very back of the concert venue you play for. Not just for those at the forefront. Therein lies the difference between good and bad live bands

Fifth member
On this tour, The Alarm also has a guy on keyboards, Mark Taylor
– But it’s not question of a fifth member. I play keyboards on the record but they can not do it live so we brought Mark, says Eddie
The Alarm stands for emotion. The Alarm stands for strength. The Alarm stands for vitality. This is exactly what Dave Sharp says:
– I want to be proud of my generation. That’s why I play rock!


(Page updated 17/08/2022)

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