THERE are bands people care about, bands people love and bands that totally consume their most earnest fans.

The Smiths are one of those. There is no question too minute that ardent Smiths fans do not want to know the answer to.

And now they have a chance to ask someone who was actually there from 1982 to 1987 as the archetypal Manchester indie band went about their business and built a legend.

Smiths drummer Mike Joyce is to host a screening of Inside The Smiths, the documentary he made with the band’s bassist Andy Rourke, at The Soul Cellar in Southampton tonight. He’ll also be taking questions from the audience before the chairs are cleared away for a DJ set.

“I’ve only done half a dozen of these, but they’ve all been really interesting, there’s nothing I’m not prepared to answer,” he says.

The Smiths’ star burned brightly for those five years, but if anything it has glowed with an even greater intensity ever since. So much so, the reformation of The Smiths would surely eclipse all the high-profile reunions of recent years.

But such has been the animosity between the band’s songwriting partnership, singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, and the rhythm section of Mike and Andy, that any such get together seems unlikely.

“I don’t think about it until I’m asked about it,” says Mike. “And some of the numbers have been mind-blowing – 15, 20 million for two hours work? Bring. It. On.

“It would be an incredible experience though because we’re all much better players now. It would be like nothing on Earth. Johnny said a year or so ago when he was asked about it that he wasn’t the one standing in the way which took me aback because it wasn’t the unequivocal no I’d been expecting. I was there when it all happened, I had the best seat in the house because I could see the other three in front of me.”

Mike will never escape his past history with The Smiths, not that he’d want to. He may not have written the words or music to songs like This Charming Man, There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, How Soon Is Now, Panic or Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, but he more than played his part.

“Johnny once said that if Elvis had had me and Andy as his rhythm section he would’ve been an even bigger artist, which is just an incredibly sweet thing for him to have said. Now, from my perspective I don’t know how proud Morrissey and Johnny are of The Smiths, but I know Andy and I are incredibly proud of it.

“I can’t really discuss chord changes or tell you what a lyric like ‘The leather runs smooth on the passenger seat’ means, but I can tell you how it felt to record How Soon Is Now. It was like: ‘Great recording. Right, what’s next’.”

Mike went on to play with the likes of Buzzcocks, Public Image Limited, Suede and soul singer PP Arnold, but has effectively hung up his sticks. These days, most of his time is spent planning, organising and recording a radio show for East Village Radio, which he loves.

“I’m absolutely passionate about it because it’s all down to me. I source the bands, plan the music I play, get people in, interview them, everything, and I love it. People tell me that The Smiths changed their lives, which is lovely, but it changed mine as well.