Mark Knopfler ##TOP##
One of the most celebrated British guitar heroes to emerge in the late 1970s and '80s, Mark Knopfler first rose to fame as the leader of Dire Straits, where his songwriting and incisive guitar work played a decisive role in making them an international success story. Landing major chart hits on both sides of the Atlantic with songs like 1978's "Sultans of Swing" and 1985's "Money for Nothing" (the latter anchoring their landmark 1985 album Brothers in Arms), Knopfler's dry wit and smooth, earthy guitar style helped Dire Straits cut a unique throughline that somehow traversed both the more traditional pub rock style of the '70s and the excess of the MTV era. Meanwhile, he began to accumulate an impressive résumé as a producer, sideman, songwriter, and film composer in the '80s, eventually moving on to a successful career as a solo artist in which he continued to explore his interest in country, Americana, and roots music. With albums like 2004's Shangri-La, the 2006 Emmylou Harris duets album All the Roadrunning, and 2012's Privateering, Knopfler established himself as an organically rooted solo act and collaborator with a widespread global audience.
In 1967, Knopfler enrolled at Harlow Technical College, where he studied journalism, and a year later he landed a job at the Yorkshire Evening Post, where he wrote news stories and music criticism. After two years at the Post, Knopfler opted to return to school, studying English at Leeds University. While at Leeds, he became friends with a fellow guitarist named Steve Phillips, and they began playing out under the name the Duolian String Pickers; while working with Phillips, Knopfler began developing the fingerpicking style that would become his trademark.
After cutting a demo tape, Dire Straits found a champion in BBC disc jockey Charlie Gillett, who began playing their demo on his show, attracting the attention of manager Ed Bicknell and Polygram A&R man John Stainze. Bicknell took Dire Straits under his wing and Stainze signed the group to Polygram's progressive and hard rock subsidiary Vertigo Records; Warner Bros. picked up the band for U.S. distribution. Dire Straits' self-titled debut album was released in the fall of 1978, and the song "Sultans of Swing" became a surprise hit single in both America and the U.K.; the album followed it into the charts, as the group's clean, expert playing, and Knopfler's deft lead guitars, Dylanesque vocals, and evocative songs won the band airplay on pop and classic rock playlists. It was the first of a long string of successes for Dire Straits, and while the lineup would shift frequently over the group's lifespan -- Mark Knopfler and John Illsley would prove to be the group's only constants -- between 1978 and 1995 the group was a top concert draw and a frequent presence on radio and record charts; their landmark 1985 album Brothers in Arms sold over nine million copies in the United States alone, and was the top-selling CD of the '80s in the U.K.
Their 1978 debut album, Dire Straits, was an international success, establishing the band's trademark sound marked by the frontman's unique fingerpicking and a laconic singing style unmistakably influenced by Bob Dylan.
Not that his hallmark six-string is absent from the proceedings. It frames the lovely tin-pan whistle motif of the aptly titled "Whistle Theme," acts as a beacon for the elegant, vibraphone-kissed "Smooching," and pushes forward the jovial, top-down momentum of "Freeway Flyer," among other highlights. Knopfler also receives assistance from session pros Mike Mainieri, Steve Jordan, and Terry Williams, as well as vocalist Gerry Rafferty on the set's sole vocal tune, "That's the Way It Always Starts."
An interview with Mark Knopfler by Tom Redmond Mark Knopfler photo by Fabio Lovino One of the most well-known rock guitarists of all time, Mark Knopfler rose to fame as the driving force behind British rock band Dire Straits. What many rock fans may not know is Mark's admiration for Chet Atkins and the projects they were later to work on together as well as the strong friendship they developed. We spoke to Mark in March of 2014. Visit Mark's official website, www.markknopfler.com A multiple Grammy award winner as the lead singer/songwriter for Dire Straits, Knopfler combined his wry lyrics with his guitar prowess to create such major hits as Money For Nothing, Sultans Of Swing, Romeo and Juliet and Walk of Life. He has collaborated with artists such as Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, and Van Morrison, as well as scoring several films including Cal, Local Hero, Princess Bride.Since 1996, Mark has been releasing solo records from Golden Heart to the latest Privateering. He's currently recording his next solo work at his own British Grove Studios in London, recently voted best studio in the UK. Tom: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today Mark.Mark: My pleasure Tom, I would do anything for Chet. Tom: Before we talk about Chet, can you tell me about some of your early memories of music? What you heard when you were young?Mark: I suppose the first was the "listen with mother" kind of stuff when I was a toddler. We listened to a radio show called Children's Favourites every day on BBC. Children's Favourites was probably my first introduction to music. I would have heard Scottish music too pretty early on.Tom:Were your parents musical or play an instrument?Mark: Pretty musical. I mean everybody sang in tune, that's the main thing, right?Tom:Do you recall the first time you heard or were aware of Chet's music? Dire Straits first hit was "Sultans of Swing" Mark: I was at a friend's house and his dad had some records and he had some Chet Atkins stuff but you know we wanted to be rockers and besides, I remember thinking that his guitar playing was from another planet, that I would never be able to play like that. I still think that actually. It just seemed impossible. I didn't know how it all happened. I really don't know how he was able to do all that. I listened to things like Caravan and stuff like that but I wouldn't have had any idea how you'd get to be that good on a guitar.Tom:I'd like to hear how you would describe your guitar playing and also how you would describe Chet's playing.Mark: Well my guitar playing is probably a guitar teacher's nightmare and Chet's guitar playing is sublime. So that I would think would be the essential difference. Chet also used a thumb pick. I had used a thumb pick in the past when playing on my National steel guitar and I'd experimented playing with a thumb pick, but in the end I gave it up. I don't know whether it was because they kept flying off or whatever it would be but I gave it up and that is another kind of disadvantage in some ways because the definition and the level you achieve with that thumb pick is really something else. I knew from playing with a pick for years that a pick is the biggest amplifier that there is.Tom:The pick puts a lot of volume to the strings. Most rock guitarists are playing those leads with a flat pick as you mentioned but you're playing with your thumb as much as your other two fingers. I had read that you started playing that way because you had an encounter with a guitar with a warped neck, is that accurate? Cover of Rolling Stone Mark:Oh I had plenty of encounters with them. I had an electric guitar but I couldn't afford an amplifier so I used to borrow friends' acoustic guitars and then I ended up playing in folk places long before I got to play in rock places. When a folk singer showed me how to do a clawhammer style, four beats to the bar, that is what essentially got me going with fingerstyle. It was a big step forward. You make your thumb and fingers go where they don't really want to go. I think that's what sort of put me on a kind of footing with Chet eventually. Certainly never an equal footing but on a good footing. To me Chet was always the complete player and he had so much that he could do. I did start to get a little bit better and I started taking liberties with the rules of picking. My fingers would start to come up onto the bass strings and my thumb would start to wander down onto the higher strings instead of just staying where it was supposed to. And that's really how my style started slowly coming about. It's really from just doing things wrong I guess. Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" CD sold over 30 million copies Tom:But doing it your way right?Mark:Right.Tom: I've heard Chet say that he thought when he had his thumb and his fingers working that he could create his own little orchestra. That's what he felt about that bass line being there while he's playing melody with his other fingers.Mark:Well that's right. That's exactly what it does, it opens up the guitar for you in quite a big way and once you get past the basic folk positions and you start to develop the picking it all advances. I was fortunate to be able to get into a lot of country blues and even ragtime music and so it would be more taxing, but what you're actually doing is a kind of piano music, it's like piano music on the guitar sometimes. It wouldn't necessarily be strict one two three four on the thumb, sometimes you'd be jumping that thumb and imitating the Stride piano style. And you slowly move forward, half the time without realizing that you're just getting better. I think there's no substitute basically for just putting a bit of time in. When I told Chet that I used to fall asleep playing the guitar, he said that he did exactly the same thing.Tom:Just playing until you ran out of gas?Mark:Yeah. You'd just fall asleep literally. You'd be nodding off over the instrument but your hands would be moving. Your hands could be flying around but you were falling asleep. I think that's what probably leads to that intimacy that you can have with it.When Chet called me it kind of floored me in a way. As the years went by I realized that the thing that I believe that he liked was that I was a finger picker. That's what we had in common, one of the many things that we actually had in common and it just went from there.Tom:Now the first time that many Chet fans saw you of course was on that TV special in the 80's called "Chet Atkins and Friends", which featured you and The Everly Brothers and Michael McDonald and some others. Can you describe a little bit about that project from your perspective and how it came about?Mark:It was just great to be asked to be on it. I didn't have any of my own guitars, I do remember that and they were all difficult guitars for me to play. Whenever I have to borrow an instrument like that it always seems hard. But still it was such a thrill. The Everly Brothers had already figured very big in my life. I had a little friend in Newcastle when I was growing up and as kids we would pretend we were the Everly Brothers. Video: Mark and Chet perform "Why Worry" with the Everly Brothers" Of course I'm sure that was true of probably thousands of kids during that time . Alot of my first chords were singing Everly Brothers songs so it was a real thrill to be on that show because the Everly's had recorded one of my songs and I had the chance to play it with them on the stage and that was that was fantastic.Tom:That was a beautiful rendition of your song "Why Worry". Did Chet just pick up the phone and call you for that? Was it that simple just like, "Hey I'd like you to come play in this?"Mark:Yeah, and it was the same with the album "Neck and Neck". I just picked up the phone one day and he said "Hi Mark, this is Chet Atkins!" and after I'd recovered from that he just said he was making an album and wanted me on it. I was over awed because he was recording with Earl Klugh and George Benson and some seriously beautiful guitar players. I just thought that it would be miles out of my league but anyway I went over there. Paul Yandell was there with Chet meeting me at the airport and I just hit it off with Chet immediately. It was one of those great things that turned into a friendship. We used to go off to breakfast a lot together and hang out a lot. I also had a very good relationship with my publisher in Nashville, it was a chap named David Conrad who was also a friend of Chet's and so it was just good to have some guys there who were helping to break the ice in a sense. It became quite a regular call for me to be over there in Nashville.Video: Mark and Chet talk about thier friendship on MTV's "This Week in Rock" Mark: The record that I produced for Chet, "Neck and Neck" was a home record. We never got a budget to do it in a proper studio so we'd just do it at home.Tom:The credits on the CD shows the Nashville credits as "CA Workshop". He had that studio downstairs in his home. Is that where you did that? Neck and Neck Mark:We did a lot of it down there, yeah. We did a lot of it in a little place I had in England, in a little carriage house. Neither would be ideal and the sound wasn't good in either one. At Chet's place I'd hear his wife Leona's fridge cut on while we were recording. The thermostat got on the record in a few places.Mark:But it was just a joy to do it. There really was some great repartee between us, we were just ad-libbing funny stuff. I think we were doing "There'll be Some Changes Made" and Chet said something about having learned one lick in bible college and I said, "I'd never trust a saint, Chet," and he shot back immediately in half a second, "I'm only a part time saint!" (laughs) It was just a joy being around him. continued... 041b061a72