Interview THE Sun vom 04.11.2006


No More Dire Straits For David


Published: 04 Nov 2006

THIRTY years ago David Knopfler started a band with his older brother Mark but left after three years to pursue a solo career.

The band was Dire Straits, but David has no regrets about leaving and is happy making music his way. David gave this exclusive interview to The Sun's Bob Hayes.

You had a guitar, piano and drums in your bedroom at the age of 11 - how did you get on with the neighbours?

The drums were heard at the opposite end of the street, I'm embarrassed to report.

In 1977 you and elder brother Mark founded Dire Straits, how did that evolve?

Mark and I were doing acoustic gigs and I was sharing a flat with John Illsley (later to become our bass player).  John was rehearsing with a dreadful punk band every Tuesday in our flat. My attempts to subvert them into doing decent melodic material failed so I introduced Mark to John in the hope I could wean John away. It worked and Mark moved in soon thereafter and brought in Pick to complete the initial line-up.

Why did you quit Dire Straits during the making of the third album?

From Mark's point of view, he was just trying to make the record he wanted to make, and that's legitimate. But I wasn't comfortable working with the constant tension and atmosphere any longer. Basic human values were being sacrificed on the altar of Mark's desire to mould events to his will rather than the collective creative vibe. I'm sure with hindsight we all could have handled things differently.

Which track was the most difficult for you to write or record?

Some songs came together in one draft - others took 30 or more and there isn't really any way to know beforehand. Paradoxically, because we were working on a more constricted budget than previous records, we had to work a lot harder on getting the vibe right than on previous ones where we could rely on a large orchestra to flesh them out.

Which track was the least difficult for you?

Probably the easiest was the opening track "Steel Wheels", which just kind of recorded itself. We used the demo version on the album because it seemed so right and finished from the first run through.

Which tracks are the most satisfying for you?

The ones where somebody says: ?Here's a ton of money - hire an orchestra if you need one.?

The track "The Love of Your Life" has a beautifully-haunting intro - is it something traditional and what is its English translation?

Tony was the co-producer on this record and we were recording in his converted donkey stable in Majorca at the time. It just seemed to be made for it so we trusted our intuition and went with it. I think the fact that the effect is rather mysterious and will be different things things for different listeners is exactly right. I wouldn't want to pluck out its mystery by saying explicitly what it might be saying.

When and where will you be touring next?

I've got some concerts with an orchestra in February in Germany, and then a tour of Germany with a small band in April. I hope to do the UK with just my guitarist Harry next summer but I'm waiting to hear from my UK promoter about that.

Which of your previous albums has a special place in your heart?

Several do but The Giver probably has to have a special place because it was the first album after five heavily-programmed records where we went back to being a four-piece band in the studio. It's inevitably so much more enjoyable to work that way.

What's your idea of a great day?

Hanging with people I love. When you're with people you love and who love you, it doesn't really matter where you are or what you're doing, it's always a great time.

Aside from your own work, what is your favourite album and why?

I don't think I have favourite albums or favourite artists either. I have favourite songs, but I'd probably pick a Dylan greatest hits or some such if I could only take one album onto a desert island. As Dylan put it 'I've made shoes for everyone... even you' and he has. He broke down the doors and made song-writing into an art form unrecognisable to what was going down in pop music at the time.

You've written a book of poetry, Blood Stones and Rhythmic Beasts. How did that differ from songwriting?

It's like comparing skiing with skating - they're both sports and both require snow but that's about it. Poetry requires a very different sensibility. Cliches you'd be pleased to use as a chorus in a rock song are spat out as toxic in the poem. Poetry allows you a lot more leeway in terms of playing with the structure and metre and yet it can be totally exacting in finding the right way to express yourself without breaking down the invisible structure.

What's the first song you ever wrote - and how old were you?

It was called "Castles in the Sand" and I was probably about 13. When I played it at the school folk club I pretended it was a traditional Irish song because I didn't know it was allowed to write your own songs.

What are your views on shows like X Factor?

Some quality singers have found a useful way to get into the pop business through shows like this but, of course, the concept is primarily about making the guys who create the TV show a pile of money, not least from all the 50 pence voting phone calls. It's not really so different to what Hughie Green was doing when TV sets were black and white.

The cover of your 2004 album Ship Of Dreams carries The Drifter painting by Scottish artist Jack Vettriano. Are you a drifter?

Nope, but I do look out to sea and wonder if I shouldn't be setting sail from time to time. The I-Ching from time to time will remind all of us we're all wanderers and I've known my share of shipwrecks but I don't feel rootless.

You have your own website  - which you run yourself. How important a platform is this to you?

About as important as remembering to brush your teeth, put the bin out or keep your workspaces free of clutter. It's just one of those things I encumbered myself with in the pioneering days and it's now just another facet of marketing and promotion that, if neglected, becomes a liability.

What are your views on the internet as a tool for upcoming musicians?

Vital but that's a whole interview in itself.

Surveying your career, what have been your best and worst memories?

Every tour and record finished is a good memory. Bad memories  are few and far between. Some of the financial shenanigans with dishonest and dishonourable people can leave a bad taste. That can turn into an unhealthy obsession if unchecked but they've already won if you descend into the pit of litigation and audit trails. I'd really rather cut it loose and work on my art and let the karma come round.

Any future goals?

Maybe I'm going to have to take some time out to find another way to pay my bills, so I can then return to making music without the constant financial compromises that prevent me being able to work in cool studios with my best buddies.

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