Cancer can change anyone’s life--including rock stars.
The documentary MAN IN THE CAMO JACKET showcases the life story of the iconic Welsh rock front man Mike Peters of The Alarm from his rise to fame, to battling cancer and finally leading a worldwide philanthropy around the world with the top musicians in rock history.
The film is directed by Russ Kendall (THE SONG THAT CHANGED MY LIFE).
The documentary includes a short interview with Fred Armisen, Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, Martha Quinn, Billy Bragg, Slim Jim Phantom of Stray Cats, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze and Billy Duffy.
LRM had a phone interview earlier this month with Mike Peters to discuss his accomplishments in life and his ongoing fight against cancer.
MAN IN THE CAMO JACKET is currently available on VOD and iTunes.
Mike Peters: I’m very excited to come to the States this week for a coast-to-coast tour for the MAN IN THE CAMO JACKET FILM. It’s been released on Independence Day. It’s very exciting.
LRM: I’ve checked out the documentary. It’s practically showcasing most of your life. When did this documentary first started?
Mike Peters: Officially, it began when I was first diagnosed with cancer back in 1995. That’s when things really started. It was then it was documented properly. It was really in 2012, when I met with the director Russ Kendall. He came to the UK for film a short piece for American television called THE SONG THAT CHANGED MY LIFE.
He discovered all of my work with the cancer foundation. That’s when it really started. Russ felt like he stumbled on to a huge story that needed telling in a cinematic style.
LRM: Where did all this footage came from? Was most of this out of your own main video footage?
Mike Peters: That’s right, Gig. Back in 1985, when The Alarm came to America, it coincided with the affordable movie cameras that captured sound in video cameras. I’ve invested into one. I was the band archiver and the lead singer. Even when I was young, I’ve kept a scrapbook. I wanted to value my journey through rock n’ roll.
Russ Kendell couldn’t believe it when he stumbled into my archive and how many tapes I’ve gotten. It was a great resource to look into my music. It was going through The Alarm records and looking at the old lyrics. It’s where the story began and where it was going.
LRM: Well, that actually sounds terrific. Did Russ actually create new footage to be included into the documentary? Or was it just mainly with the cancer diagnosis?
Mike Peters: Russ started to shoot going forward in 2012. He came across with me on some life-changing moments. The story continued with my advocacy in the cancer field, in which it started to get recognized outside of my own audience and music-related mediums. I started to attract other organizations. I was invited to address the global cancer community such as the World Cancer Congress down in Australia, and I was on tour then. I went on stage and I think no one expected anyone to be there with a camo jacket on.
Luckily, Russ had a great insight into my personality. He bought the records that came out. He saw the stands on MTV. He was deeply into the music. He started to follow me in those couple of years.
I think he had the instincts for a film about a guy on the relationship with his audience. It’s also about that guy on how he dealt with his illnesses and the trials in his own life. We made a good connection together. I’m sure we’re life-long friends now.
Fate do plays it hands sometimes. He ends up telling this story although he came into it late rather than coming from the inside. He was detached enough to be able to tell this story. Not just about myself, but also the music embedded into The Alarm as well.
LRM: Speaking of the camo jacket, can you tell me why you chose the camo jacket as the symbol of your fight against cancer?
Mike Peters: On the eve of the tour in 1995, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was advised to have a bone marrow transplant straight away. I felt that cancelling the tour brought the world down on my shoulders as to see the tour through.
I had a bit of an argument with the medical team that I decided to do the tour. I thought if I was going to win this tour--we needed to be a hundred percent focused with positive energy. A friend of mine, he told me about self-healing. I read on the plane about a girl who focused on her mind and went into a spontaneous remission. I was also reading something about John Lennon at the time. I was thinking about John Lennon in his army jacket, in which he wanted to give peace a chance.
I took that mental image. I thought about going to war on cancer. It was entering this psychological combat zone. I got off the plane in Hartford, Conn. and went ahead to buy a camo jacket. I said to my wife Jules that, “This jacket and these clothes are all green.” That’s the start of my story. I always had something green whenever I go on stage.
I’m not cured. I still live with the disease. I’ve been facing this every day of my life since I wore the camo jacket. The camo jacket is a way to focus my mind on what I had to do to stay alive.
LRM: Is this the same camo jacket you originally got? Or do you own several jackets for yourself?
Mike Peters: [Laughs] I do have a couple. The one you see in the film is the first one I bought. I had it for a long time. There were some changes. The original name tag on it was this guy called “Schwint.” [Laughs]
LRM: Oh, wow. Tell me more about the charity foundation you’re involved with. Are you still raising money for cancer awareness?
Mike Peters: That’s right. Love Hope Strength started back in 2007. It was originally a way to raise funds to pay back the hospital care I’ve received back in the UK. I’m a patient of the NHS. Healthcare in Britain is free to all.
I’ve met James Chippendale in America who had an entirely different experience with his leukemia transplant. He had to go through insurance. We realized on how vastly different our healthcare is around the world from country to country.
I wanted to focus on those people with lessor wealth in our countries. I wanted to give these people a fighting chance. We hiked in Mount Everest and Kilimanjaro. We raised a lot of funds in the US and the UK. We thought that those funds would go a lot farther in Africa.
In America, James, one of the producers of the film, is also one of the survivors. We are about the same age. I told him that he is lucky to be alive. His donor is from Germany. If it was the UK, then he would’ve been excluded for being too old. It’s about the access into the international bone marrow registry.
I’ve led donor drives at concert festivals across the US and the UK. We realized getting people on to the list is very important. So far with the drives at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Van’s Warped Tour, we have registered over 150,000 people to the list. We have found over three thousand matches for people who needed transplants. This is a second chance at life.
LRM: Terrific. One last question for you, Mike. You have accomplished so much in your entire lifetime forming a popular band The Alarm, fighting cancer, running a charity, and touring all over the world. What do you supposed is the greatest accomplishment that you want people to know?
Mike Peters: I am a dad to two great little kids. I live in Wales. I’ve been married for thirty-one years now. I am very happy.
You need to appreciate yourself in the value of time--you can be a happy self. That’s all I wanted to do is to be happy in life. That’s what my parents said to me. When I saw the Sex Pistols back in 1976 to wanted be a punk rocker, my mum and dad said, “As long as you’re happy, we’ll support you. We’re always here for you.”
I always wanted to be like that for my own kids, my fans, my band and for my wife. I want the people to know that I’m still there and be there when they need me.
LRM: It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Mike.
Mike Peters: Thank you, Gig. Thank you for supporting the film.
MAN IN THE CAMO JACKET is currently available on VOD and iTunes.
Source: Exclusive to LRM