John Illsley is the only band member, together with Mark, that stayed in Dire Straits through out the band’s career. In this interview he talks about his life as a musician, from the early days, through the Straits, and to his latest collaboration with singer/songwriter Greg Pearle.
Hi John. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a musician?
- I first became interested in music when I was 13/14 years old. I listened to The Beatles, The Stones, Elvis and Chuck Berry. I picked up the guitar and taught myself how to play with use of chord charts and sheet music.
How did you meet Mark Knopfler and how did Dire Straits come to life?
- I Met Mark in 1976, he used to come visit David who was my flat mate – we sat around in the flat playing stuff together, and it seemed to sound pretty good so we got hold of a drummer who Mark new and the band was formed.
How is your relationship with Mark?
- Mark and I are very good friends and see each other quite alot depending in work commitments.
What is the best memory during your time in Dire Straits?
- Being number 1 in the album chart and the singles chart in America at the same time with Brothers In Arms and Money for nothing.
Why did David Knopfler quit the band?
- For personal reasons, and not enjoying the way the band was going.
You played with Mark Knopfler in 2002, are there any plans for doing more charity-shows together?
Besides the music, do you have any hobbies?
- I paint alot and do Art shows most years.
What do you think about the new music coming to life from year 2000 – 2009?
- There are always interesting bands/singers coming along. Keeps the music fresh and vibrant, I am still a sucker for a good singer/songwriter.
Do you have any contact with Alan Clark and Pick Withers? What are they doing now?
- No – Don`t know what they are up too.
What do you think about a reunion with Mark, David, Pick and yourself?
Do you remember something from the Dire Straits concerts in Norway?
- Always a great response from the crowd – also faithful.
Dire Straits was very famous, what did the fame do with you guys?
- Never thought about it too much.
You are now working with Greg Pearle. How is that working out and how is the response from the audience?
- Greg and I work well together, we both write. Sometimes separately, sometimes together. The response to the cd has been very good and we are selling to people all over the world. We are doing live shows here and in the rest of Europe in the autumn. A new cd will be started in oct/nov for release next year.
Do you have any advice for musicians/guitarplayers, who starts out today?
- Stick at it – it is difficult at the beginning – after about 20 years it gets easier!!
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Norway?
- The cafe`s of Oslo!
What would you like to say to all the Norwegian Dire Straits fans out there?
- Thanks for your kindness and support to the band for the last 30 years.