“I wasn’t even a fan at the time,” said Knopfler.
Though his name will likely forever be linked with the band – which formed in 1977 and included his brother Mark Knopfler, John Illsley and Pick Withers – David points out that his time with the group was only about three years out of his life.
And that’s left him a lot of life in the interim to make the kind of music that he wants to make.
It’s the three decades since he left Dire Straits – in 1980 after its third album – as a solo artist that he chooses to celebrate. And he’s doing so with “30th Anniversary Tour” that includes nine shows in eight cities throughout the U.S. Northeast.
The tour kicked off Oct. 23 in Londonderry, NH, and includes shows on Oct. 26 in Fairfield, CT; Oct. 27 in New York City; Oct. 30 in Bearsville, NY; Nov. 1 at World Cafe Live in Wilmington, DE; Nov. 2 at the Sellersville Theatre 1894 in Sellersville, PA; Nov. 5 in Buffalo, NY; and two shows Nov. 6 and Nov. 7 in Cleveland, OH. For details and ticket information, go to www.knopfler.com.
That’s not to say that he isn’t proud of his musical roots. But as a songwriter, he’s used the past 30 years to transform himself – from basic Straits records to a more sophisticated solo style in the 1980s and then back around to an even more basic four-chord acoustic style that he has now.
“I’m really not interested anymore in big drums or making a lot of noise.” said Knopfler, now 61. “I sometimes go out with a band, but I’m getting more and more impressed by how simple I can make something. Maybe it’s a sign of senility or maybe it’s just a maturity. I don’t see the point in putting 20 chords in now.”
Knopler’s longtime collaborator Harry Bogdanovs – who’s been with him since Knopfler left Straits in 1980 – won’t be with him on this tour. Knopfler said it didn’t make sense to bring Bogdanovs over from England for just nine shows. In Bogdanovs’ place will be guitarist Mike Brown.
“Mike will do a few songs here and there, but it’s basically going to be a solo performance for the most part,” said Knopfler. “It’s kind of liberating to play on your own. It’s more challenging in a way. You can do more if you want to improvise or experiment. You’re not going to throw anyone else off the trail.”
His days of playing stadium rock shows are over, Knopfler said, which leaves him with the opportunity to play smaller venues like he is on this tour, where he can more effectively communicate with the audience.
“There is a huge divide between the small theaters and the art clubs, where you can do singer-songwriter material, and the stadium rock stuff, which is show business,” said Knopfler. “You start missing that person that’s sitting in the front row talking to you.
“I think what happens is your ego. You become less and less concerned with demonstrating something. I think when you’re young and in your 20s, you want to show that you got a few chops,” he said. “Actually, what you eventually want to do is effectively communicate the songs to the audience.”
Knopfler admits to living a frenetic life. He’s married to an American woman and for the past six years has split his time between England and upstate New York. He has, however, just purchased a house in England in which he plans to build a recording studio.
And although he says his promised next studio album is long overdue, he might wait until the studio in his new home is complete and make the new record there.
He still enjoys recording and writing songs, as well as the 90 minutes of the day he spends on stage, “but the other 22-and-a-half hours of the day are a pain in the ass,” mostly because of the travel.
“I’m getting a little bit long in the tooth for the physical demands of the road, I suppose. That’s what it really comes down to,” he said.
But he still loves the music.
“I would make records whether I was paid or not,” said Knopfler. “Frankly, I have paid for making a couple of my albums. You eventually recoup, though. The days when you got a three-album deal and they handed you $300,000 euros to put into your bank account, those kinds of deals where you could cruise on them for two or three years without worry, that was sweet. In those days, you were ahead before you even made the record.”
He said that people are always asking him for advice about the music business, and his response is simple: Get very good at what you do.
“Being really, really good helps and awful lot. If you get good, people will actually start to go out of their way to tell their friends and come to your shows,” said Knopfler. “Keep it interesting and try to be unique. And don’t use more words than you need to tell the story.”