But as new documentary Man in the Camo Jacket reveals, Peters may have needed the healing the band’s music provided more than anyone.
Directed by Russ Kendall, the film not only chronicles the band’s fractured and then resurrected career, it follows Peters through his ongoing 20-year battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s clear that as much as modern medicine has kept his disease at bay, music has played an equal if not greater role. In fact, when he was first diagnosed, instead of starting treatment, the Welsh Peters carried on with a planned U.S. tour.
Throughout the inspiring film, he returns to the road over and over again despite grueling chemotherapy treatments. The film takes its name from the combat fatigues Peters wore as he began his triumphant fight with cancer.
“Music has 100 percent kept me alive,” Peters tells Billboard. “Medicine would have kept me alive in 1995 if I’d had the transplant [which his doctors recommended], but I would have been in isolation for a year, might not have had children, I might not have had the strength or will to reform The Alarm in 2000.”
Peters has taken the same drive he applies to his music and applied it to Love Hope Strength Foundation, an organization founded by Peters and James Chippendale that is devoted to hosting marrow donor drives at concerts and festivals via its Get on the List campaign, as well as raises awareness and funds for cancer treatment. Its efforts, including hosting the world’s highest concert on Mt. Everest, were chronicled in the documentary Everest Rocks
Man in the Camo Jacket was released on VOD and iTunes on July 4 by XLrator Media. The film was produced by Jonathan McHugh and Jonathan Platt of J-2 Films, James Chippendale of Johnny Lama Productions and Alex Coletti.
On July 17, a Washington, D.C. screening will be followed by a performance by Peters at the Gibson Showroom. On Aug. 3, the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles will host a screening, as well as an acoustic performance and Q&A with Peters.
Kendall trailed Peters for eight years, on stage and off. “He wanted to tell the story of The Alarm, as well as my own story and how everything flows into one,” Peters says. “I [knew] everyone who had a part to play was in safe hands and he would tell it with dignity and care and tell it truthfully, warts and all.”
Peters had served as the band’s archivist since he bought a video camera in the early ‘80s and he turned that footage over to Kendall to use as well — even though some of the film was a shade personal. “I forgot I sent him all my home videos that I sent to [my wife] Jules from the road. I wasn’t expecting to see myself in my underwear,” Peters says with a laugh.
Peters had no say over the final edit and, in fact, the first time he saw the finished film was at a public screening. “I thought Russ got a really good handle on it and told it brilliantly,” he says, even though he admits that he wishes some of his behavior had been better.
Specifically, the film shows the 1991 concert when Peters quit The Alarm on stage without telling his bandmates in advance. Amazingly, the band goes right into the next song without missing a beat. “They’d stopped listening to me at that point,” Peter says, as he states what is obvious in hindsight: “We weren’t very good at communicating.”
Music continues to propel Peters. Last Friday (July 7), The Alarm kicked off 13 dates on the Warped tour. The group will cycle on and off the festival throughout the summer while playing 32 headlining dates.
As he promotes the film between gigs, Peters hopes the doc draws fans far beyond the group’s base. “It’s not so much a film for Alarm aficionados. It’s about so much more,” he says. “It’s introducing the whole story of who Mike Peters is. Who is this guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, maybe too much at times.”