Thursday, 2 June 2016

INTERVIEW Chris White, The Dire Straits Experience

IT was almost 40 years ago that Dire Straits got together, playing their first gig in Deptford back in 1977.
For the next 20 years the legendary band enjoyed phenomenal success selling more than 120 million albums worldwide, playing to packed out gigs across the globe including a set at Live Aid, and winning plenty of awards.
By the time they split in 1995 they had left a back catalogue of some of the finest musical compositions rock had ever produced.
However, despite the split, demand for their songs did not wane - in fact it grew stronger, and in 2011 original members Chris White and Alan Clark were persuaded to get a band together to perform Dire Straits songs at a charity show at the Albert Hall.
They recruited singer songwriter Terence Reis to front the band, gave themselves a new name - The Straits - and such was the success of the gig, were then persuaded to do a small UK tour which included a show at the Albany in Deptford.
By the time The Straits ended, three and a half years later, the band had played more than 150 shows in 25 countries around the world.
And now they are back - with a new seven strong line up and a new name - The Dire Straits Experience - and are gearing up for a gig at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley on Sunday, June 12.
And in a chat ahead of the show, saxophonist Chris White says he can't wait to be back in South London.
"We are all really looking forward to it," he says cheerfully. "It's a venue I never played in with the group back in the day as by the time I had joined we were playing all the big stadiums like Wembley and Earl's Court. So it's actually lovely to be playing smaller and more intimate venues where you can see the audience and see them singing along with you!
“Besides it is going to be great being back in South London where it all began for us.”
Modest and softly spoken, Chris says he is still amazed at the fans who have not stop clamouring for the group to carry on touring and playing their music. But he says he is grateful for the chance to continue to do so - and introduce their musical genius to new generations.
"I am always amazed that we still get asked to perform these wonderful songs," he says warmly.
"When we did the Albert Hall concert, we thought it was just going to be a one-off. We had no idea it would lead to all this! But it went so well, we got lots of invitations to do more gigs and it went from there.
“We are blessed because Dire Straits has a huge and loyal fan base and their reaction has been heart-warming and humbling. It's been fantastic to see there is still such an appetite for those big songs like Romeo & Juliet, Telegraph Road and Brothers in Arms.
"I think there is a nostalgia element to it but I think the songs were so well written and they resonate with people even now so I guess that's why people still want to come and hear us play - and we really enjoy playing them.
"It's pretty bewildering though!"
And whether they are old fans or new, Chris says the music at the Bromley show will be recognisable but to expect a few twists.
"There are certain things that will be different but the joy is that we have been able to delve into the back catalogue and put some early songs such as Lady Writer on the set list," he says.
"That's going to be really exciting because we will introduce those songs to a whole new generation as well as evoke memories for those who heard them when they first came out.
"I do feel very fortunate to be able to still play them."
But what of the new line up? And will there be any new material?
"After the Deptford gig and that tour, some of the band had other stuff to do so they moved on," says Chris.
"But now we have a solid line up and over the last two years we have been really busy touring - in fact we get requests to play all over the world as well as the UK of course which we love - we are off to Australia later this year - so we are always really really busy!
"It's great though because it's really about the live performance for us and about people coming out to see us."
But times have changed and the world with it and Chris admits that although he loves touring, decisions to go to far flung places have to be done carefully given the unsettled nature of some countries.
"I do still enjoy touring and although it doesn't get any easier with age it is still a lot of fun and I still get a real kick out of it," he says.
"But we have to be mindful of the situations in some of these countries.
"There are parts of the world where in the past we would say 'great let's go' and now we have to think about whether it's safe to do so.
"I'm going to Turkey tomorrow for a festival and back in the day would not have thought twice about going there.
"But if you don't go you just stay at home and then what happens? You would never go out so I think let's get on with it."
All the touring has meant that Chris has been living out of a suitcase for much of the year but he hints that a move to South London could be on the cards in the future.
"I spent years living in Sydenham and Brockley before moving to Berkshire," he says. "But it's great to be back albeit temporarily and I think I'd like to move here at some point but it's changed so much.
"My son, who is also a musician, lives in Brixton and when I went to visit him I was shocked at how much it has changed over the years.
"I remember how it used to be and it's all so different! It still feels great and alive though - there is still the most amazing buzz about Brixton that hasn't got lost thankfully.
"It's also so much easier to get around now - it wasn't this good when I lived here! I still have lots of mates in South London and I love being here so it's on the cards."

The Dire Straits Experience is playing The Churchill Theatre Bromley on Sunday, June 12. Visit or call the box office on 020 3285 6000 for tickets.

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