Original Dire Straits keyboardist Alan Clark and saxophonist Chris White have joined a growing list of musicians performing as part of the Abu Dhabi leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. The duo are coming with The Straits, a tribute act dedicated to the former best-selling group and will play a free concert at Destination Village on the Corniche Breakwater on Friday night. However Clark states The Straits are not merely a cover band. Speaking en route to Abu Dhabi, he says the seven-member group attempts to recreate the same eclectic live atmosphere that made Dire Straits one of the most revered rock bands on stage.
How does it feel to be back on stage playing all those classic hits again?
It felt rather good actually. After all the time of not being involved in Dire Straits we are all really enjoying it. This band is so damn good and we enjoy playing together and there is such a great body of music to play that it is all going terribly well.
How do The Straits perform the tracks? Are they straight covers?
I am treating this way we treated every incarnation of Dire Straits in the past. In other words when Dire Straits got back together every year to record a new record or tour the music will be refreshed with new arrangements and ideas on how to play the track. So I made The Straits and extension of that. We are not standing still, we are taking the music and letting it mature and progress and take its natural course.
How did The Straits begin?
Chris White and I and John Isley from Dire Straits ended up playing with some friends in Italy a couple of years ago and we had such a good fun that it planted the idea in my head. Then I was asked to put a show together for charity event at the Royal Albert Hall in May last year, so I started thinking about putting this band together for that show and that is exactly what happened. The show went down extremely well so we just kept going.
You found your singer Terence Reis online?
I found Terence on the internet, which is wear I find most things these days! When I first heard Terence - well, it was his voice - he was singing a Dire Straits song and whoever was playing the guitar was doing a damn fine job of it and I was hoping it was him and it turned out it was.
Was he recommended to you or did you stumble upon him online?
It was kind of a random search because I realised in order to make this band happen, we had to have someone that will directly replace (Dire Straits singer and guitarist) Mark Knopfler. Some guys in the band thought we shouldn't attempt to do that but I thought the only way it was ever going to work was to find someone who can stand there and do what Mark Knopfler does. So I started looking and it didn’t take that long to find Terrence surprisingly enough.
I can imagine the venues The Straits are playing are smaller than the arenas Dire Straits regularly packed out.
We are playing the same gigs that we were playing as Dire Straits when I joined the band in 1981. We are doing big theaters as opposed to large arenas. When you play in a theatre you have more of an intimate contact with every one. I remember the complete opposite of that when walking out to Wembley Arena when there is a hundred thousand people and you wonder how on earth you are going to project to the people in the back because they are 150 yards away. So it is actually better to play to a smaller crowd.
In that case do you support Mark Knopfler's decision to quit Dire Straits? He said the band became too big.
Well it might have got too big for him but not to me. It was big but that was the natural course of things and it could have got bigger maybe, I don’t know.
Has Knopfler been to any of The Strait’s shows?
No he hasn’t been to any of the gigs.
What do you think his reaction would be to seeing The Straits live?
I am sure if he did come to the gigs he would be extremely happy at the way we are dealing with the heritage of Dire Straits and the way we are playing the songs. He hasn’t come and I haven't spoken to him about it but I am sure he would have researched what we are doing and I’m sure he’s happy.