David Knopfler, Mark Knopfler’s brother, played guitar in the original band line-up for Dire Straits and contributed on both Dire Straits and Communiqué. However, during the recording of Making Movies in 1980, David decided to leave the band. Today, David Knopfler has his own solo career, with 10 studio albums in his catalogue. In this interview from 2003 he talks about his life as a musician, both in the days with Dire Straits and later on as a solo artist.
Hi David, and thank you for taking time to answer our questions! We know that you are very busy working with your new album so we are thankful for this! This means a lot to myself and especially for all the Norwegian fans out there who enjoys your music. First question: How long have you been working with music, and what instruments do you play today?
- All my life really – from earliest memories – first songs were written around age eleven or twelve – play mainly guitar and piano – a little rough and ready harmonica for the odd eight bar fill. This album I’m working on at the moment seems to be quite strongly reliant on a12 string Taylor.
What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have any favourite artists/bands?
- Dylan remains the one I always go back to when all else disappoints. He dragged the whole genre of song writing forwards – single handedly reinventing pop music as a serious art form. Joni Mitchell remains an equally imposing giant.
You have been working with many musicians over the past years, can you name the most important for you?
- I’ve been incredibly blessed by the calibre of performance I’ve been privileged to enjoy on my records by so many of the musicians I’ve worked with – many of whom have résumé’s quality artists they’ve worked longer than my arm. If I had to single out one key person though it would have to be my friend and my co-producer Harry Bogdanovs who is equally at home behind a guitar, or keyboard to say nothing of assorted mandolins and banjos.
Making a new record is a lot of hard work I understand. Can you tell us about the process, and what is the part you like the most?
- Hmm… Well I love it all really … I really enjoy the writing.. the moment a song is finished and you sense it’s maybe a good one, good enough to be recorded at any rate, is special … then the process of going into the studio itself is rather wonderful too – I light candles in my studios the way some people light candles in churches! In 25 years of recording from the first Dire Straits album to the present day I’ve never taken being in a studio for granted.. it always feels like magic moments.
What is the best memory of your career?
- Wow – far too many to pick just one… the best most recent one was in California last month – I was touring there but that morning I was driving a rental Jeep alone down to Santa Cruz from San Francisco to do an early morning radio interview – the weather was wild and everything about the scenery was kind of exciting and exotic – anyone who’s enjoyed the feeling of being both alone and yet in tune with that “on the road” sensibility will know what I’m talking about. Then out of the blue I heard “St Swithun’s Day” from the Wishbones album coming at me from the radio and sounding really good too! Whooee… Same thrill I got when I first heard Soul Kissing playing in 1983! Best of all it wasn’t even the station I was going to visit that was playing it. Too cool.
What is, in your opinion, the best song that you have ever written?
- Mm.. tough one..
Can you tell us a little about how you got interested in music?
- Listening to classical stuff aged about three and riding the arm of the sofa into the valley of death to the charge of the light brigade.
You are now working with your 9. album, what kind of style will it be? The same as “Wishbones” or in a new direction?
- Too early to say but if it follows the arc of the last eight, which pretty much everyone seems agreed on, then it’ll be an incremental improvement on Wishbones… Capricorns unless crucified aged 33 seem to find their way to the mountain top late in life! 😉
On the “Wishbones” album, Alan Clarke and Chris White appeared, will they do it this time? Will they join you on the forthcoming tour?
- That would be really cool wouldn’t it? but I don’t know who it’ll be yet.
What do you think about the new music coming to life from year 2000 to 2003?
- There’s always great new work coming out but you may have to dig a little deeper and travel a little further to the margins to avoid the advertising noise and hammer drills of the mainstream industry to find the real treasure. In my experience good music doesn’t land on your mat – you have to go out and find it for yourself.
Have you ever thought about releasing a live-DVD or a “Best of” album?
- There’s a DVD coming out in 2004 and I think I’m probably going to aim for a long overdue “Best Of” in 2005.
What person/s do you look up to?
- Anyone taller than me.
Besides the music do you have any hobbies?
- Not “hobbies” exactly but I do the gym on a fairly regular basis – scuba diving certified – net addict and apple mac addict in the pioneer days of early nineties – played a spot of chess during the Kasparov V The World game – and never entirely lost my social work hankering for helping people – sometimes to the point of making them feel suffocated 😉 – like non-commercial quality art in whatever form it’s created – but really music remains my biggest passion.
Can you tell us about your music studio and the equipment you got there?
- Right now it’s beyond redemption – one huge mess of disjointed bits and pieces that needs someone with an engineering degree or three to come in and put to rights for me. I’m not too practical on the engineering front – I can do it – but would rather wash dishes.
How would you describe your own music?
- I’m a singer songwriter who makes essentially acoustic music… no codes no clicks no computers. http://www.knopfler.com/articles/songwriters.html.
And now a few questions about your time with Dire Straits. How was it to travel around the world with the band?
- I don’t remember – as I got seriously recreational after every show.
What is the main reason you left Dire Straits?
- I was feeling very hemmed in and claustrophobic both creatively and emotionally.
How is your relationship with your brother Mark?
- We don’t have one right now but I remain optimistic – from my mouth to God’s ear.
What Dire Straits songs have you written?
- Somewhat surprisingly there are no song writing credits for me on either Dire Straits or Communiqué.
What do you think about a reunion with Mark, John, Pick and yourself? This is the biggest dream for all fans of Dire Straits!!
- I don’t think about it, period. It would be very hard to see what could be the point? My soul is not for sale… Harder still to imagine any of the four founder members being interested? Certainly creatively it holds less than no allure for me – maybe for a really saving lives charity event or something I could put aside reservations for one evening … but I’d probably roast in hell for all eternity if I ever said yes to the kinds of proposal that drag most bands into less than honestly felt reunions.
What is the best memories from the years with Dire Straits?
- Don’t ever look back.
How will you describe the way to glory and fame with Dire Straits?
- Fame is a four letter word and has less than nothing to do with what attracted me to founding Dire Straits.
How was it to be a part of a superband? I guess the fame and all the money did something with all you guys?
- Yes it sure did and most of it, bar the contributions to Amnesty International. bad.
How was Dire Straits found? I have read that you were the founder and not Mark?
- I was a social worker sharing a flat with John – he was playing in a dreadful punk band with no future who rehearsed in our flat – only way not to have their racket inflicted on me any longer was to get John into a better band so I invited Mark down with the promise of a good bass player I’d found.
All the Norwegian fans including myself would like to thank you for taking time for answer these questions. We all wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.