7/24/08: I live three blocks from the Universal City MetroRail station, the train system that passes for a "subway" system here in Los Angeles. But, man, I love it!! I use it whenever I can, and today, I can, and do, for my scheduled 5:30p interview with Mike Peters of The Alarm. The venue, the historic Henry Fonda theatre, is just two train stops and a one-block walk up Hollywood Blvd. from my front door. I arrive at the backstage entrance gate, located in the alley behind the theatre, where I was to meet The Alarm's publicist or the band's tour manager. Remember folks, this is rock and roll, so the very cool guy assigned to the backstage entrance looks at me like I'm from Mars when I ask if he knows where Ken or Oliver are. "Never heard of them," he tells me, but, unlike a million times before, in a very nice way. The guy is so cool he offers me a delicious Welsh cookie he has in a baggie, a gift from one of The Alarm's crew (Mike is from Wales, by the way).
Well, at about 5:45 I finally meet Oliver, the tour manager, only to have him tell me that he can't find Mike. "He's gone missing, at the moment, Jim," he says in a great British accent. "But come inside and sit while the band finishes soundcheck, he's bound to turn up any minute," he adds. Dutifully, I follow Oliver through the backstage door, onto the side of the stage, out to the front of the COMPLETELY empty theatre to watch and hear ¾ of The Alarm run through soundcheck, waiting, hoping that their frontman will arrive in time to check the mic, check his guitars (electric and acoustic) and, eventually, FINALLY, talk with me before I have to literally race across town to Beverly Hills for a 7p cocktail party. So here I sit, alone except for a guy setting up the bar for tonight's show (which included The Fixx and The English Beat as well) and Oliver, pacing back and forth looking for the lead singer. After a few "instrumental" numbers (remember, no singer yet), Mike appears onstage, straps on his electric guitar and he and the band rip through a couple of songs, before switching over to the acoustic for one more. Assured that all systems are go (trust me, they were, the old walls were rocking with the sound of LOUD…can you hear me….I said….LOUD, rock and roll, especially since the room was completely empty, except for me.
Once the band stopped, I walked up to the stage and got Mike's attention. "Oh, hey, Jim," he says, looking down from the stage to me on the dance floor. "Where shall we chat," he says as he crawls off the stage. I'd spotted an old, worn out couch in the corner of the theatre, where, at the time, it seemed quiet enough to talk – and record – our conversation. I start by telling him that, to me, sonically, the album Guerilla Tactics was anything but. By that I meant it is overt and in-your-face right from "The Opening," the name of the album's first song, to the very end and "Broadcast On Street Airwaves." Sure enough, about 2 minutes after pressing "record," the sound guy decides to crank Pink Floyd through the theatre sound system. Mike and I have a good laugh, I press pause and we proceed to walk out a side door, outside the venue in a tiny walkway between Hollywood Boulevard and that alley I mentioned earlier. There, we continue to talk. If you don't know Mike's story, he is a TWO-TIME cancer survivor, and this new album, Guerilla Tactics, was written just after he beat the disease for the second time. I asked Mike - somewhat rhetorically - if that experience fueled the sense of "urgency" in songs like "Fightback," "Situation Under Control," "State of Emergency," "Right Now," "Hit the Ground Running," "Not Gonna Take It Anymore" and "Love Hope and Strength," all found on Guerilla Tactics. "Of course," he answered, followed with a quick, "and I love that you used the word 'urgency.' That's what it is when you're literally fighting for your life." Because of the delayed start to our talk (remember, I had a 5:30 start scheduled, but we didn't begin until about 6:10) and the fact that I had to run across town for a cocktail party, we spoke for just about 15 minutes. But before we wrapped, Mike hit me with an incredibly surprise: he told me in October he and the band were going to Peru to play a concert in Cusco. "Wait a minute!" I screamed "Are you serious? Oh, my God, Mike, do you know what? I'm Peruvian!!! I have tons of family in Lima, including a cousin of mine, Percy, who knows lots of people in the radio business." Maybe you can guess the rest….Mike said I should come with him and the band to Peru, that they could use someone who knows the language, customs, etc, plus perhaps I could work with my cousin and Peruvian radio to promote the concert!!! Of course I told him I'd be more than happy to join him in Peru and for him to give me more details and keep me posted. He asked me to contact his publicist, Ken (who was ill that day and never did show up), which I did when I got back home. So, cross your fingers, toes, eyes, come October, I may be sending the mother of all posts from my native home of Peru!!! Life is good!!
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