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Author Topic: STP OFFICIAL INTERVIEW  (Read 153 times)

Onlinejbaent

  • David Knopfler
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STP OFFICIAL INTERVIEW
« on: July 10, 2018, 10:35:39 am »

Sailing To Philadelphia press kit

Warner Bros., 2000

It's been another busy and productive year for Mark, having recently completed the latest in a long and accomplished series of film scores, this time for A Shot At Glory. The upcoming movie stars Robert Duvall, Michael Keaton and Scottish soccer ace Ally McCoist. After Golden Heart, he also wrote and recorded the soundtracks for Wag The Dog and Metroland.

Sailing To Philadelphia explores a wealth of musical and lyrical themes, from the Stratocaster-led highland ramble of the opening single "What It Is" to the play within a song on the history-infused title track. The ironic "Baloney Again" is a treatise on racial inequity inspired by the road-hardened travails of a pioneering American gospel group, while "Prairie Wedding" explores the emotionally tangled subject of postal brides, and the perils of addiction are depicted on "Junkie Doll." Though he didn't notice any real theme until the recording was just about done, Mark now observes that many of the songs on Sailing To Philadelphia (the title track, the Morrison duet "Speedway At Nazareth") touch on perseverance, aspiration, strong-jawed determination. "There's something in human endeavor that always attracts me, breaks my heart," he remarks.

The core of feeling that ignites the stirring, vivid title song "Sailing To Philadelphia" came from a book Mark was reading, Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. This is the epic fictionalised tale of eighteenth century English adventurers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon-an astronomer and a surveyor-turned transatlantic frontiersmen who surveyed the land in Pennsylvania and Maryland leading to the boundary line that eventually bore their name. At the time he was reading the book, Mark was taking frequent trips to the United States, and changing planes in Philadelphia.

"There's a point that happens where the song ["Sailing To Philadelphia"] strikes you it could work in a duet format," says Knopfler "...because of the two characters. James Taylor had asked if I'd produce him [on a solo project]. We had a couple of chats and it occurred to me that he would also be really ideal to play one of the characters [in the song] as well. With James' folk background I thought he could play Mason." As for working with Van Morrison on "The Last Laugh," the pair have known each other for many years and collaborated before, notably on Van's 1982 album Beautiful Vision, but the new collaboration still gave Mark a special satisfaction. "Van has been so much a part of my life, since I was a kid in school. It's a thrill to hear him singing a song I've written, because of what Van's music has meant to me over the years, and I hope we can do some more."

"Silvertown Blues," Knopfler's own sketch on the emergence of a certain massive twenty-first century construction in Greenwich, called out for the contribution of two figures from Mark's earliest days on the road with Dire Straits. "I wanted to have the Squeeze boys, Glenn and Chris, on there because we came up together in Deptford and we were playing music together at the same time. We shared gigs at places like the Albany Empire, and I associate the area with them. I started writing the song at about the same time as the building of the Dome was announced and construction was beginning." With the record complete, the road is calling. "I loved doing the last tour, with basically the same five guys that play on this album, augmented by one or two people here and there," he says of the Golden Heart excursion in 1996, which included some memorable shows, full of landmark songs from Knopfler's entire career.

When Mark and the band go out again, audiences will see a man who adores his work. "I love touring, I love writing, I love rehearsing, I love recording," he says. "I'm one of those lucky people who likes the whole shebang."
Interview

Q. Are all the songs on Sailing To Philadelphia newly-written since the Golden Heart album in 1996 ?

A. All the songs aren't new. I've been working on some of them for quite a long time. Two come to mind. I actually started writing the lines, some of the lines for One More Matinee, which is the last song on the album...about 30 odd years ago when I went to Leeds City Varieties to interview the cast of a pantomime when I was a club reporter. I remember talking to the ugly sisters and one of them saying there's not the glamour now you see, and that was in probably about 1969 when I was a baby!

Q. Did you enjoy the Golden Heart tour ?

A. I loved doing the last tour with basically the same five guys that play on this album, augmented by one or two people here and there, but its the same guys and also the crew is essentially the Straits crew, which is the same basic crew that would be on the Hillbillies stuff, so we managed to keep that. When we were doing the On Every Street tour it was massive because we had to take our own stage and an enormous lighting rig and you get extra truck drivers in and extra everything but it just got so big, you know, and I just wanted to go another way. And if playing in huge great places all the time suits some people then that's great, good luck to them, some people feel really at home in it. I wouldn't say I felt out of place in it but I never really dug it, you know, where I felt it was a fix that I needed to have as a permanent part of my life and I thought that if I was going to improve as a writer and as a player I was going to have to get myself into another situation.

Q. Did you go straight to work on Sailing To Philadelphia after the Golden Heart tour ?

A. I think there was a little bit of a gap when I came off because I've usually got some films and things to do and I think I ended up doing Metroland and Wag The Dog. I've just finished another one too called A Shot At Glory which is a Robert Duvall film with Ally McCoist and Michael Keaton in it, it's a really good picture, and so that meant I had to go to Scotland and I worked with some really good Scottish players, too, so that was fun, I've just finished doing a soundtrack album for that.

Q. But Sailing To Philadelphia has been the main focus ?

A. The main thing has just been putting this together and putting it together really slowly so, we record fast, obviously, its the kind of band where you're in the business of making a record straight away, as soon as the tape's rolling you're playing and you're recording, but what I mean is that the actual recording sessions were very short. I remember thinking I might want to do a double, I had a lot of stuff that I wanted to do and then I just ended up cutting a lot of stuff out of it. There were a couple of things I did with Emmylou Harris that I thought might go on and then I thought no, I'd like to do an album with Emmy. That's what its like with me. I'd actually like to do an album with Van as well at some point. We talked a couple of times about doing a blues project and I'd still like to do that, something I'd look forward to in the future.

Q. Did you always have Van (Morrison) in mind for The Last Laugh ?

A. I think I had Van in mind for that, this song The Last Laugh, yeah I think I had him in mind for it as soon as it was looking at me on the page. Sometimes its a mystery really why the songs arrive at all, it goes in a certain way and then you follow it through, and you get to where its time for a bridge and you write the bridge because of what has happened before it, you know, and Van has been so much a part of my life, just his music since I was a kid at university and stuff so its a thrill to hear him singing a song that you've written and I hope we can do some more.

Q. Do you know him well ?

A. I started working with Van on something in the 80s, I can't remember what it was called now but I remember doing things like Cleaning Windows, stuff like that, it was in San Francisco. So we've talked a couple of times since then, I'd run into him, he'd say "I want to do a blues record." and I'd thought about writing an entire thing for him and maybe that'll happen sometime.

Q. Are there times when a song just calls out to be a duet ?

A. Yeah, there's a point that happens where the song strikes you that it could work as a duet format. Sailing To Philadelphia though was very much like that because of the two characters. I was reading this Thomas Pynchon book, Mason and Dixon, ....it was such a huge doorstep of a book, its a fantastic book, you know, my thing was to do like a three minute take on a three year book - if you know what I mean - and have the two characters sing their parts really and James Taylor had asked if I would produce him and I had a couple of chats, and he was kind of on my mind and it occurred to me that he would be really ideal to play this part, if you like, it was almost like fitting a character to a part and I needed the sort of West Country... and with James' folk background I thought that he could play Charlie Mason.

Q. Do you write at home ?

A. I can write anywhere more or less but I just write at home. Usually it a pretty uncomfortable position and just start and then go on until, you know, either I just need a cup of coffee or something, or get up and leave it. Its a very amateurish way of going about it. I don't have a professional set up or anything.

Q. Let's talk some more about the songs on the album individually, starting with the first track and opening single What It Is, which has a bit of a Dire Straits feel.

A. Yeah, What It Is has got a Stratocaster on it which makes people think of the Straits but its a Scottish style of a lick. I was just coming into Scotland late one night, coming into Edinburgh rather late one night, Saturday night. Edinburgh is one of those places where its a magic city, beautiful, and I always make a point of going there whenever I'm in Scotland ...and its so steeped in history that I'm always conscious of being ...in the presence of, even though I don't necessarily believe in ghosts as such, I'm always conscious of the presence of the past there. So, I like all that and its all presided over by this castle with a garrison and the sounds of Scotland, and these huge old buildings and this ancient old town park, you know, and its another road song in the sense that you're missing... you're on your own and you're missing home and its one of those kind of tunes.

Q. You mentioned the title track with James Taylor, Sailing To Philadelphia.

A. Philadelphia airport for me had become a place where I just changed planes and its full of shops and just millions of people going in every direction, different terminals and you can't help thinking what it must have been like, you know, at the time of the Mason-Dixon, you know they would sail on a packet from a port on the west coast of England and you would sail and it would take weeks and weeks and weeks and if you were lucky you made it. And, as far as Dixon was concerned, in order to get down there from the North he would have taken a coal boat down to that port and then changed down there, Bristol or somewhere like that maybe or one of the ports on the west coast and then sail, I can't remember which, and then sail to Philadelphia and nowadays we sail in on a great big airliner, I don't really think much about it, but you can still see the boats out there when you're sailing down over there through the clouds. You know, the book's so great because it makes you think about the present, it doesn't just put you in the past, it makes you think about what America really is and what we're becoming, you know. So, there you are.

Q. Whose Your Baby Now ?

A. Whose Your baby Now ? is just a quick written thing, it just depicts a situation and it can apply to different people and different things. And its the sort of thing that if I was a little kid and I heard the strumming acoustics I want to strum an acoustic guitar myself. That's just a tradition I wouldn't like to see die out, I'd want kids to always want to pick up a guitar and thrash it like that.

Q. One of the most unusual titles on the album is Baloney Again.

A. Baloney Again is seen from the point of view of a black gospel group touring in the southern states of America in the early 50s, in the song 53 to be precise, and I got the idea from the sleeve notes for a Fairfield Four record, the Fairfield Four being actually a Nashville based black gospel group. The guy who wrote the sleeve notes said something about how it often had to be a baloney sandwich rather than a restaurant steak or whatever it was and that's all it might take for me to get started on writing a song. I am very happy to report that there is no formula for writing songs as far as I'm concerned.

Q. We've already mentioned the Van Morrison track, The Last Laugh.

A. The Last Laugh, I suppose a lot of these songs when they happen to me....a lot of the songs seem to be partly about perseverance. What that says about me I really don't know but just a few songs seem to be about that. I feel so fortunate in my life, although The Last Laugh is not necessarily about me, absolutely not, its just ...its great when you see perseverance rewarded. And I did think it was appropriate for Van because he has stuck with his music and is enjoying a very powerful renaissance I think and a lot of the songs seem to be just really a little bit about that....I don't know why I wrote Speedway At Nazareth, for instance, I hadn't got a clue...I started writing that years ago and I don't know why I started writing it...there's something about the perseverance in pursuit of a rather strange holy grail, pursuit of a rather strange prize and there's something in that human endeavour that always attracts me, it breaks my heart, there's something really wonderful about it.

Q. Silvertown Blues features GlennTilbrook and Chris Difford.

A. Silvertown Blues...I wanted to have The Squeeze boys on, Glenn and Chris' voices, because I just associate them with that time in...as we came up in Depford we were playing music together at the same time, in fact the very first gig that we did was on the back of Farrar House in Depford with Squeeze. We shared gigs at places like the Albany Empire and stuff like that....Again the Dome was....I started writing the song I think about the same time as it was getting off the ground and I was aware that, although I had left the area for a long time, I was aware that this poisonous bit of wasteland was being used in this great PR exercise and this huge inflation was going to go on, you know, this great thing was going to arise...and the funny thing is I actually think that the building itself is fine, its just the use of it still fills me with a kind of amazement.

Q. How about El Macho ?

A. The name 'Jerry' came up just because I wanted it to be male or female when you're listening to it and it can be what you want, I don't want to spoil it for anybody, its just one of those situations. Its kind of funny, I got the idea of El Macho itself simply from a picture, from a Spanish painting that I saw, and I liked it and it sort of just stuck with me.

Q. Prairie Wedding ?

A. Prairie Wedding...I got the idea from a play about postal brides and I do remember seeing something one night with no sound, I was watching a channel with no sound, or I was watching it in some hotel, maybe on the continent, I don't know but it was a film about a similar situation. So, its really the two things, a play and a film. So, I really did it myself after that, it was my own take on what that must have felt like, to meet someone who you'd never met, who you'd never seen, and marry them: take them out into the middle of nowhere, try and make a life. Again, you know, a few of these things are about how relatively easy life is now compared with the way it was for millions of people not so long ago.

Q. Wanderlust ?

A. I wrote Wanderlust a long time back when I must have been feeling a bit bleaker than I am now. I suppose its one of those things except that the urge to move is always pretty strong with a lot of musicians, I don't quite know why that is. Maybe its just because I've done so many millions of miles touring, you know every now and again you get the urge to burn some rubber.

Q. What was the inspiration for Junkie Doll ?

A. Junkie Doll I got from.....the actual term was used by Edward Snorburn in a book, he had written a trilogy and there was a book...in which she actually fictionally but really actually depicts drug addiction and heroin addiction in the most graphic way, it really, really affected me very strongly.

Q. Sands of Nevada ?

A. I can't remember where Sands of Nevada came from, its like a folk style tune but then with a lot of other stuff thrown on top of it. Its a combination of things. I was interested, I think, in the idea of gambling ...in the idea of being an addictive gambler, so in a sense, like Junkie Doll, its another addictive song. I was just trying to understand it, I've never known, I don't think I've ever known, anybody whose a gambling addict except the promoters, of course, who I've had to work with over the years and I'm convinced that they're all gamblers.

Q. The last track, One More Matinee, we touched on earlier, so the next question has to be when we're going to see you on stage again ?

A. Oh yeah, I mean the road....I love touring. I'm one of those very lucky people who enjoys the whole shebang as far as music goes, and I love writing and I love rehearsing more than anything. I love recording and I love touring. So, its only going to be a matter of time. I am going to get together with the five guys who I made the record with...I couldn't think of a name for them so I called them the 96ers for this record just because we got together in 96 for Golden Heart and I suppose I'll call them something else on the next record. We're going to get together and do some television specials and things like that. Presumably, when that comes to an end, we'll have some shows organised and we'll be able to go on tour a little bit.

Q. Have you ever had what they call a 'dry spell' ?

B. The only dry periods I've ever gone through is when I couldn't really be bothered to do any work, that's really just my fault for not getting the guitar and sitting down and doing some work. Any excuse, you know, to get out on my motorbike or something like that, you know, just to lark around...I've tried to be a bit more responsible about writing really, I mean I ought to, and I certainly don't want to disrespect my talent...if it is there then I want to try to be equal to it.

Q. Do you ever fell a sense of awe when you work with some of the musicians you do ?

A. I mean as far as being in the studio with voices like Van's, its just a great thrill. There's a bit of you which is always the fan, I mean that I'm always thinking that I am a lucky guy. I don't know why I am as lucky as I am but I think just to have had the children and then to have a life where you don't have to hurry to get to work in a morning has got to be a bonus.


« Last Edit: July 13, 2018, 01:39:31 pm by jbaent »
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