Making their debut in India for the first time, original members of the iconic Dire Straits are in town for a few performances with The Dire Straits Experience.
Band members Chris White and Terence Reis sat down with The Sherp, before they took the stage at the 100 Pipers Play For A Cause to talk about music, social awareness and some well kept secrets so far!
The Sherp: You guys have been around for a long time in the music business, why did you choose 100 Pipers Play For a Cause to be your debut performance in India?
Chris White: It’s the other way around actually. 100 Pipers Play For a Cause contacted us through Big Bad Wolf and explained what the event was and asked if we want to be involved in it and we certainly did. It is the band’s first time in India and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to come and play. We’ve done, what are called, world tours many times but it’s not India. It’s just America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and maybe Japan but that’s it. But u’mm, we are very excited to be playing here.
Terence Reis: And we’d like to come back
Chris White: Let’s play first!
Terence Reis: Yes, we’ll play first but I honestly hope that we come back.
Chris White: But I do believe I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet to do the thing that I’m passionate about, since I come from a humble background back in the UK, so I’m used to all this stuff now but there was a time when it was Dire Straits that got me through and it was the Brothers in Arms that really changed the career of the band. Then we were definitely flying in the nice part of the airplane and not in the back and staying in places like this, but it’s not where I come from. So for me, personally, to be involved in an initiative like this is and a couple of other things we have done, feels absolutely right because that’s where I came from and to be able to give something back is an opportunity not to miss out.
The Sherp: What are you looking forward to most about being in India?
Chris White: I’m looking forward to playing and I hope all the people who come have a great time. That’s what we do it for, that’s what we hope for. It’s just lovely to meet the people as well. We get lots of letters and more and it’s nice to meet and talk to people, after the show, which is fantastic. It’s really great and it’s like a little family.
The Sherp: Then you must come back.
Chris White: If you’ll have us!
The Sherp: “Walk Of Life” is such a great song and people from different generations have a liking towards it. What do you think it is about this song that makes it such a favourite?
Chris White: I’m so surprised to hear you say “Walk Of Life”. Really?
The Sherp: Yes!
Chris White: That’s very interesting. It’s a song that we all love playing, it’s actually one of the easier Dire Straits tracks to play if you think about the big structures like Brothers in Arms, Telegraph Road or Private Investigations. Walk Of Life is happy and upbeat.
Terence Reis: There’s actually a story behind that. Dire Straits’ manager Ed Bicknell told us that when they recorded it, Mark didn’t even want to put it on the record because he said that the drum is speeding up and Ed said, “You’re an idiot. It’s gonna be a hit”, so he said that they’ll put it on anyway, so let’s put it and there you go!
The Sherp: How important is it for a musician to get involved in social causes to spread awareness?
Chris White: I think that’s a very individual thing. I can only talk of myself, when I say it’s an important thing for me and that’s where I come from and my life’s experiences, so it is important to me.
Terence Reis: I think it could also be a Hornet’s nest because for all sorts of reasons, none of which are particularly healthy. If I speak personally about this as it has nothing to do with the band, I think we have things going on in the planet right now where it’s worrying that people are retreating to their corners. We probably need to work together more now than any other time in recent history. I come from Africa where there’s famines, drought and much more.
To see it firsthand, you realize now that it’s different. So I think there are certain elemental things which you have an opportunity to work on with the people involved with the cause and as Chris stated earlier about the integrity behind it; this is not just a label, we did the homework and made sure what they said had a good, long track record. And we’ve had letters saying, “Why didn’t you come to our village? Why aren’t you playing here?” It’s because we can only do so much. We do what we can.
Chris White: Do you know about the Live Aid concert? Do you know what that was? It took place a long time ago in 1985. It was the first global charity concert and I remember somebody saying, “How many minds do you think you could change about this?” and it was related to famine. For me, I don’t know how many people even saw that all over. If you can change one person’s mind, that’s a job well done. It’s enough. So it is good to do.
The Sherp: How easy or difficult is it to play the original music down the years? You have evolved since then but do you find it repetitive?
Terence Reis: We don’t do that.
The Sherp: But are there times when you play it as the same sound?
Chris White: We don’t try to copy but we play something different every night and we try to make things fresh.
Terence Reis: That’s how we make mistakes too.
The Sherp: But no one notices it.
Chris White & Terence Reis: They do!
The Sherp: Have you had any crazy fan moment? Or something funny?
Terence Reis: Oh boy! How much time do you have?
The Sherp: Plenty!
Terence Reis: We get people asking strange things. One that gets me is when we went to Spain, and this is just to save Chris’ embarrassment for all his stories cause there are a lot. This guy came up and asked us to sign some things and pulled out this huge poster, maybe as big as me, and it was a huge picture of Mark and he said, “Will you sign this?” and I said “That’s not me” and he looked at it and went “Oh I’m so sorry Mark.”
So you get some people who come up and freeze and I can understand because the first time I wrote with Paul McCartney, he walked into the room and talked to me for about 20 minutes but I couldn’t say a thing. All I kept thinking was that “That’s Paul McCartney, Oh my God Paul McCartney”. I understand how that is.
The Sherp: There are two Chris’, so have there been cases of a mistake in their identities ever?
Terence Reis: All the time! Chris goes behind the drums and we have to remind him “You’re not the drummer.”
Chris White: It’s fantastic to have him with us, Chris Whitten. He’s great. He’s played with me on every street and he has this sort of signature sound and he worked with Paul McCartney for a long time, so it’s great to have him with us.
The Sherp: Is The Dire Straits Experience ever going to record new music at any point? Is it something you’ll have thought about?
Terence Reis: It is something we’ve thought about
Chris White: But we were quick to realize that it is what it is. Both of us and other people in the band work on other things and we’re doing things for ourselves.
Terence Reis: This is defined by the relationship of the people of Dire Straits and we could do that, we’re happy to do that. You can’t do this, travel and you can’t spent all this time alone. We’ve not gone home in a month, besides for a few days. You can’t do this without loving it, it goes beyond that.
Chris White: It goes beyond what you do, it’s what you are. You would do this if you have 10 billion dollars in the bank and didn’t need to work, then it makes sense. I think we’ve squeezed this lemon to a point where we understand that this is it.
Terence Reis: And that’s why we’ve presented it as the experience.
Chris White: Which is fantastic to do. Really fantastic.
The Sherp: India is the land of musicians with various genres, have you ever thought of collaborating with any Indian musician to make your music even more universal?
Chris White: When you talk about musicians, we have some Indian musicians here tonight and that would be great but that happens anyway. It happens over the course of musical evolution, you can even go back to The Beatles and Ravi Shankar. You can’t help but hear things. You may not know who they are and what they are.
Terence Reis: If we honestly had the time, I think it would be fabulous to bring on some of those guys and do something, if we had the time but that’s what it comes down to.
Chris White: And in terms of the shows we’re doing , we know that there’s pressure of time. We can’t even play our whole show, we have to cut it down a bit.
The Sherp: Have you thought about ever incorporating Eastern influences into your music?
Terence Reis: We steal music all the time. I think musicians don’t know how not to steal, it’s terrible. I stopped playing guitar with my fingers when I was growing up with African street musicians, because that’s how they play it. I heard rock n roll radio and watched people in the streets which ended up with me and the Dire Straits guys.
Chris White: It doesn’t matter what instruments there are, if I hear something that catches my ear I lock myself up and go, “How could I get that sound on the saxophone? How can I do that?” and you can’t always. That’s the truth, but it’s good to try because you find things out along the way.
Terence Reis: You can’t help it. When you’re in an area you stop to absorb it.