You just have to hear the first few notes of Sultans of Swing, and you’re instantly hit by a wave of rocking adrenaline. We’ve had the honour of speaking to the man who played an intrinsic part in the making of this song, alongside an outstanding repertoire of his own.
Who is David Knopfler in the eyes of David Knopfler?
When I’m not in the public eye, I’m the guy who takes care of his loved ones, who carries out the trash, decorates the house, vacuums the carpets, etc… Just the usual stuff we all get up to.
It had all kicked off with Sultans of Swing back in 1977. How did you take to this rise of fame at the time?
It was mostly disturbing.
You’ve composed your own distinct sound since the Dire Straits days, touching upon a number of genres. How would you describe your creative process?
I would leave that to journalists I think, but if I had to take a stab at it, I’d say it’s mostly intuitive. I’ve been doing it since I was eleven, so it’s as automatic to me as asking someone who’s bilingual how they speak in their second language. I don’t really have a formula. When something resonates with me – whether it’s a melody, a chord structure, or a lyrical couplet – I just build from there, and sometimes it leads to a song, and sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes the song still sounds good the next day, and sometimes it doesn’t. And then sometimes it successfully gets recorded… and sometimes it doesn’t.
Image above: David Knopfler
As a performer, do you feel more at home in the recording studio, or on stage?
I’m generally more relaxed in the studio, but you’re comparing two completely different and almost unrelated phenomena.
If you could create a line up for your fantasy concert, who’d make the list?
Ha! Oh man, what a great question. Okay… Well I’d start with my regular band with Harry Bogdanovs on guitar and keys, Martin Ditcham and Geoff Dugmore on drums and/or percussion, and Pete Shaw on bass. Then I’d want to add Bub Roberts on guitar and Alan Clark on Hammond. Then, as money is no object, I’d add three backing singers, probably starting with Miriam Stockley and any other singers she’s wanted to work with. And just to round it off, I’d maybe want to have Bruce Hornsby on piano, Mark Knopfler on guitar and David Lindley on anything he fancied playing as special guests.
I could easily add another fifty great musicians to this list – but that’s a good place to start.
Image above: Mark and David Knopfler
Where do you think music is heading nowadays?
It’s already happened. It headed back to live concerts from CD and up to the internet for audio files. There will always be singer-songwriters, but the delivery method for getting the music to an audience will continue to change and evolve. For artists, the challenge will always be working out how to protect copyrights, get exposure and get fairly paid.
If your instruments could speak, what would they say?
Stop freezing and frying me. I like to be kept at a constant temperature and at a constant humidity. Your tour bus and gigs are not conducive to that. You wouldn’t believe the abuse we suffer when you allow us to leave your studio.
Of all the songs that you’ve written, which ones speak to you the most?
All my songs resonate with me or I wouldn’t have released them in the first place. To play favourites wouldn’t be fair on the others, though I’m usually the most interested in the newest ones waiting to be recorded. I don’t do nostalgia, and I tend not to look back.
Image above: In the centre, the Knopfler brothers Mark and David, the rest of Dire Straits and their friends in 1978