Mark Knopfler is out with a new album, his first in three years. He’s the former frontman for Dire Straits, the Grammy-winning British band that was one of the world’s best-selling acts from the late 1970s to the early ’90s. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year.
“The songs keep on coming — in fact, the older I get the more that they do,” says Knopfler, who’s set to head out on tour next year. “I’m still just try to do the same thing, which is to write a good song, if I can. Then you try to make a good record of it. And that’s it, really.
“It amounts to just about everything that I want to do, all that I want to do, in life.”
On how working as a teacher and reporter early on shaped his music career
“Actually the teaching job was only a job to save my life from trying to be a musician. It did save my life, actually. It enabled me to get a motorcycle and then to swap back for an old car of my dad’s, and then to be able to move gear around a little bit in terms of guitars and stuff like that.
“I don’t think I would’ve ended up as a songwriter quite the same without journalism. I think it made me sharpen my act up, get myself organized, learn how to condense things.”
On the story behind writing “Money For Nothing”
“I was living in New York part of the time, and I was in an electrical appliance store. There was a wall of televisions that were tuned to MTV. There was a big meathead guy, and he was expounding his views about all these people — in very colorful language, I have to say. But a lot of it was so classic that I just went straight to the sales desk or wherever it was, and I got a piece of paper and a pen and I sat down in the kitchen display area in the window, and I started to write the song.
“He was saying, ‘They’re pretty smart. If you can do that, [that’s the way to do it.]’ I think back then, I was probably doing about — with Dire Straits — we were probably doing about 250 shows a year or whatever it would be. … I think a lot of kids get into rock ‘n’ roll, they don’t get into it to work and it comes as a bit of a shock sometimes.”
On the song “When You Leave” off the new album
“I don’t know whether it’s just getting older, but I suppose that song’s been kicking around for a while. I never know when it’s actually going to make enough sense to be a finished item. Some things can sit there for a long time, so there’s no formula, or if there was a formula, I promise I’d tell you what it is. Maybe it’s also spending a lot of years listening to artists like Chet Baker and being influenced by the trumpet sound, and just wanting to write something in that kind of vein.”
On his future writing and performing music
“It’s funny to me, it’s just funny that the thing goes on consuming you. Actually one of the last tours, my back gave up on me in Chicago, I got a herniated disc, and I just kept going. I don’t know what that is. I guess it means that I should maybe back off from playing live so much — that’ll be the first casualty. But I hope to be able to go on writing and recording for a good while.”