Mark Knopfler: “I Try to Write Good Songs and Make Good Records – And Get Better”

Mark Knopfler: “I Try to Write Good Songs and Make Good Records – And Get Better”

Mark Knopfler

This interesting interview is from March 2015, and today was posted on the official Fan Page of Mark Knopfler on Facebook. You can check the interview below and read it. Enjoy!

Very few people find early in life what they want to do and get to do it all their lives. At the top of the list in music is Mark Knopfler. He got his first guitar at the age of 15, he practiced with the same ferocity as guitar god Chet Atkins (“You should fall asleep with the guitar in your hands”) and found a style of playing that has become among the most famous signatures in music.

“Sultans of Swing,” the first Dire Straits single, made Top Five lists, in 8 years the band went on to sell 125 million records, and then Knopfler called it quits.

Mark Knopfler had what may look like smaller dreams, writing great songs, making great records, working to make each one better. The happy result is as a self-improvement effort, Knopfler’s solo career can’t be topped. His album Tracker was recorded in old-fashioned analog, enjoyed through state-of-the-moment earphones, it elevates easy-on-the-cars listening to a complex, subtle mosaic – to art.

For the album “Tracker” he wrote and recorded a song about British Novelist Beryl Bainbridge (1934-2010), she published 18 novels and two collections of short stories. Often nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize, she never won, and as the Booker is awarded to living writers, the only way the prize committee could correct its error was to create a one-off her the year after she died. Knopfler wrote caustic lyrics:

“Beryl was on another level
When she got a Booker medal
She was dead in her grave
After all, she gave
After all, she gave”

To listen to “Tracker” is to hear 84-minutes of music that is, for fans of grown-up music, just a bit better than almost anything else out there. To listen to this album is to weep for joy. The interview down below is by Jesse Kornbluth for Huff post. Enjoy!

Read the Interview

JS: “Jack Nicholson says: “Until you’re 27, you can live on barbed wire. After that, you pay for everything.” In the fall, you’re playing 35 American cities in 6 weeks. And you’re no longer 27. What’s your regime?”

MK: “You pay a price getting older. As Bette Davis said, old age isn’t for sissies. I do two gyms and one Pilates a week, and I haven’t had a cigarette in close to 15 years. You have to look after yourself, so I’ve built more days off into the tour. And I’m a slow learner, I’ve discovered I like to write on the road.”

JK: “Your songs are indelible you correctly call them “landmarks”. I get the high of touring, hanging out with your mates, seeing the world. But when you’re playing the classics what’s the thrill?”

MK: “A song like “Brothers in Arms” captures a moment. And because it’s become meaningful to many people, I have an obligation to play it well.”

JK: “The wisdom of age, got any?”

MK: “I’ve learned to respect what talent I’ve got. I’m sure I didn’t for many years, I was just playing and running with it. Now I stick to my little ditties. Doing a film score is outside my zone. I feel like an imposter from time to time.”

JK: “I think you’re perfect, and I think you can improve. Is there anything you’re working to get better at?”

MK: “Gillian Welch told me, “All I’m trying to do is write a good song and make a good record.” That sums it up. And you hope, as you go along, you get better.”

JK: “True or false: Any idiot can write a 6-minute art song. It takes a genius to write a 2:45 song with three chords and a hook.”

MK: “It depends on the chords. But a proper songwriter can do it in a few words.”

JK: “You and J.J. Cale came from such different backgrounds it’s stunning to me that you have a similar musical philosophy. How does that happen?”

MK: “The first time I heard James Burton play lead guitar on “A Little Too Much,” all I knew was that Ricky Nelson was a terrific singer and that guitar player was also terrific. I’d bet when J.J. heard that song he thought pretty much the same thing.”

JK: “You have a degree in literature. Your first jobs were in journalism. Shouldn’t you write a book?”

MK: “I don’t think my prose would hold up. It might even bore you to death, really, it might read like a note to the milkman. Better for me to stick to songs.”

JK: “By writing a song about her, and with really catchy music, you’ve done the estate of Beryl Bainbridge a great favor. What other writers would you like to champion?”

MK: “Many. Beryl grabbed my attention for her writing, but even more for the fact that she never won the Booker Prize until she was dead. In her time, the judges were from Cambridge or Oxford, mostly male, definitely inclined to snobbery. Beryl was from Liverpool, poor, not educated. Her published didn’t promote her books, and he was having an affair with her. So when I wrote the song, I went to a “Sultans of Swing” style to evoke her time.”

JK: “You have children, some quite young. What do they think about your music?

MK: “Issy, my 17-year-old, plays guitar in her room. When I told her about the musicians I was recording with, she’d never heard of any of them. That’s how it is when you’re young, you’re in your own world. When I mentioned someone to my song the drummer, he asked if that was in “the olden days.”

JK: “So, from the vantage point of the olden days, as best you can see it, what’s your future?”

MK: “Hopping from one slippery stone to the next, until it ends in tears.”


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