It’s an incredibly exciting event for Dire Strait fans - and if you haven’t got your tickets yet, why not? - as a founding member of arguably one of the best bands in the world is coming to west Dorset.

John Illsley tells Lottie Welch about the intimate evening he is bringing to the Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis on Saturday, November 23.

As well as hearing Dire Straits’ favourites such as Romeo and Juliet, Money for Nothing and Walk of Life, The Life and Times of Dire Straits also offers the audience the chance to sit down with the famous bass player, who may reveal things you never knew about the timeless band.

What can the audience expect from the evening?

The reason why I thought about doing this was because I was pushed into doing a Q&A at a club in London with a friend of mine, I initially said no but he said it would be fun and he would ask me some silly questions. Anyway I took a guitar along and some of the musicians from the band and it was actually a very enjoyable experience and I suddenly thought to myself, well actually this is quite an interesting concept because, we started off in quite humble beginnings, so those initial parts of the story are interesting to people rather than the end game where everyone knows about Brothers in Arms and On Every Street, how these events and situations come to pass, that’s the interesting bit and I think that’s what people seem to be quite interested in.

I had forgotten quite a lot of it until I started talking to my manager and he was reminding me about this and suddenly my memory started to get a bit more fluid, so basically every evening is different. There’s a structure to the evening where we start at the very beginning and we go through the flow of the band and the wonderful things about recording in New York, the Bahamas, travelling, concerts and Live Aid. We basically talk about those little things that people probably don’t know about.

It worked really well last time and that’s why we’re doing it again. The audience loved it. We do the songs semi-acoustically, so they sort of come alive again in a different kind if way.

What songs can people expect?

We do anything for the first album to the last album, a real spread.

Dire Straits songs have proved quite timeless, they are still incredibly popular with all ages, what would you say is important in a song to make them stand the test of time?

Relating it to one’s own work - I can’t talk about it in terms of the writing because Mark (Knopfler) was principally the song writer - but the music side of things, we managed to give the music a sense of universality which meant that not only did we sell records in English speaking countries but also all different parts of the world.

I think people can pick up the sense and depth of something and I think songs like ‘Brothers in Arms’ will always be played, the story of Sultans of Swing is always fascinating, Romeo and Juliet is something, there’s a sense of timelessness about it which I’m very proud to have been a part of.

Songs like Brothers in Arms were incredibly important to the armed forces when abroad, they say it’s their song, they’ve taken it as their tune, their moment that glues them together in some kind of way so there’s something very poignant and deep about that sort of thing. That’s what makes me want to go out and keep playing these songs and talking to people about them.

Even though I’m writing all the time and so is Mark, we keep producing solo albums because we can’t stop basically.

If we all knew how to write timeless songs, we would be doing it all the time, it’s not the easiest things to do, there are moments of inspiration.

You say you and Mark are continuing to write, would there be the possibility of a reunion?

We don’t really talk about it, we’ve just gone in our own directions and as a consequence of that we’ve remained very close, we get together every now and then and we just catch up all the time. We have a very deep friendship and I’m very pleased about that after so many years of working together.

What would be your favourite three Dire Straits tracks?

I think Brothers in Arms, Romeo and Juliet and probably Sultans of Swing, but then you’ve got Money for Nothing, you’ve got Walk of Life - people just want to join in with that with joy and fun.

Twisting by the Pool could probably be added to the same list as Walk of Life with people wanting to join in and have fun?

Honestly, we couldn’t believe how popular that was, we just did it for a bit of fun.

Love Over Gold was quite an intense album and Private Investigations - I love playing that too - that album was quite an intense record to make when we did it so when we came out of it, we just needed to lighten up a bit so we went and made this EP in about four days in London, and we went on tour and suddenly Twisting by the Pool became the song of the summer. Wherever we went in Europe, everybody was playing it - it’s so weird how these things happen.

Do you have any favourite memories of your time in Dire Straits?

The obvious one is Live Aid, it was a special time for everybody, you only get to do those things once in a lifetime.

I can remember so many wonderful moments, Im spoilt for choice.

We were in Sydney Entertainment Centre and we played 22 or 23 nights there in front of 10,000 people, the only other person who came close to that was Elton John with 21 nights.

It’s things like that you remember, you don’t realise that at one particular time there was a lot of good energy for this band and we did have a wonderful journey.

Tell us a bit about your current band.

I’m just taking three on the road, Hannah Robinson, who has got the most wonderful voice and she plays a bit of guitar and percussion, and then I’ve got Steve Smith on keyboard, he’s a wonderful piano player, very musical and tells me if I’m playing the wrong notes, and then a wonderful guitar player called Robbie McIntosh, he spent five or six years with The Pretenders a couple of years with Sir Paul McCartney, he’s a wonderful guitar player and really is one of the finest in the country, I am very fortunate to have him. I play the base or guitar and we just address these songs in a very open and fresh way.

Have you ever played in Lyme Regis or Dorset before?

No, but I was talking to someone the other day about the Marine Theatre and they said ‘you’ll love it’, so I looked it up online and I have to say it’s had quite a history, it looks like a wonderful place, I’m really looking forward to playing it.

I love these little theatres. When we were putting this together I said let’s just try and play in small, old theatres around the UK and there are some incredible old music halls and theatres and the atmosphere is wonderful, everybody feels closed in, its intimate, that’s the whole point of this evening is that it’s an intimate look at 40 years of the band.

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