DIre Straits' John Illsley shares stories about the world's greatest rock band, his friendship with Mark Knopfler, his autobiography and his latest solo album.


Dire Straits' John Illsley walks down memory lane

My interview with Dire Straits’ co-founder, John Illsley is one of my absolute favourites. In fact, he was so interesting that I’ve devoted the entire episode this week to him. Dire Straits were formed in 1977 by brothers Mark and David Knopfler, with both brothers playing guitar and Mark also singing lead vocals. They were joined in the early years by bass player John Illsley and drummer Pick Withers, and it is this line-up that recorded its debut album in 1978. 

The band’s sound was markedly different to their contemporaries and shared more in common with generic pub rock than it did with punk, disco or rock of the late 1970s. Following a gig at London’s Rock Garden in 1977 the band were turned down in their initial attempts to sign a record deal, but after the demo version of Sultans Of Swing gained some radio play, they were immediately signed. The debut album led to a huge amount of success including a top 10 UK and US single with Sultans Of Swing, the album also going into the top 10 in every country in Europe; a sold-out tour and Mark Knopfler and Pick Withers being chosen by Bob Dylan to play on his next album – not too bad a success rate for an album that only cost the band a paltry £12,500 to record. More and more success followed, culminating in one of the standout performances at Live Aid in 1985 and the mega success of the classic album Brothers In Arms. Mark Knopfler has gone on to achieve a great deal of success as a solo artist, as part of a duo with Chet Atkins, working with artists such as James Taylor, and as a producer, including producing an album for Tina Turner.

Meeting Mark Knopfler and making beautiful music together

John Illsley’s story is unusual in that the bassist and co-founder of Dire Straits survived rock superstardom better than most. John grew up in a conservative post-war English home, and eventually discovered boredom-killing rock and roll. While living in public housing, he met David Knopfler, a guitarist whose brother, Mark, sang, played lead, and wrote songs. In 1977, they formed Dire Straits and went on to conquer the MTV universe.

With plainspoken honesty, Illsley describes touring and recording routines, and how each wreaked havoc on members’ personal lives. He covers the Knopfler brothers’ painful falling-out during the recording of 1980’s Making Movies; they’re still estranged, yet Illsley remains friends with both. He chronicles the dizzying success of 1985’s Brothers in Arms, the massive tour for ’91’s On Every Street, and how he and Mark knew the band was reaching its end. Many bass and guitar anecdotes are included; Illsley prefers the soft sound of old bass strings, and Mark’s distinctive Les Paul tone on “Money for Nothing” was achieved accidentally when the microphone in front of his Laney amp was pointing down at the floor. An absorbing history of an important band, one that intentionally flew under the publicity radar.

My chat with John

This week at the movies:

Review: Moonage Daydream

It was undoubtedly a mammoth task. Filmmaker, Brett Morgen spent four years combing through the substantial Bowie archive which includes paintings, drawings, recordings, photographs, films, and journals, in all more than five million items to make a documentary about the life and influence of David Bowie. Even more difficult, the task of summarising and understanding and ultimately condensing the thought and philosophical meanderings of a man credited with being one of the most influential of our times. Bowie has only been dead for 6 years. Moonage Daydream, named after one of Bowies early songs was approved by the Bowie estate and is anything but a “warts and all” film, rather it serves as a glowing tribute and reflects among other things, David Bowie’s mastery of his own narrative, his obsession with managing his own public relations continues well after his death.The result is a kaleidoscopic montage of colourful, graphics, old concert and news interviews that tries to sympathetically weave many threads of an interesting life.  We are reminded of how Bowie’s emergence shocked and rocked the world of early free-lovin 70’s by adding a whole new level of sexual politics, Bowie’s early characters, like Ziggy Stardust were passionate advocates of androgyny and bisexuality that along with some original music, gathered a huge following. Looking back, it’s clear that David Bowie presented as the thinking person’s drag queen and it became a thing. Bowie then spent many years avowing comfort and any semblance of a suburban life, in pursuit of artistic purity. We also see Bowie’s determination to follow his art wherever it took him, before for a short-time he capitulated to the mainstream and bounced back again. Interestingly the film delves, albeit superficially, into Bowie’s psychology. Was he intending to shock us all, because he was a lost little boy, just looking for love? Certainly, his attitude towards his art and his politics changed when he finally found a loving partner. His later years were spent privately enjoying relationship and family like the rest of us. We don’t see and hear enough of the substantial Bowie music catalogue and far too many colour graphics, I wondered if Morgen was trying too hard to be, “artistic”. 

The film is interesting but too long, too tame and too indulgent, the end offering tends to gloss over the issues and controversies that Bowie raised, particularly the sexual politics which are only now reaching prominence 50 years later. It is a sanitised biography after all but well worth a look. 

Review: Jordan Peele's Nope

Jordan Peele is fast becoming a hero of our times – his films to date, including, Get Out and US have well and truly established his reputation as filmmaker of consequence. Peele uses horror films as the vehicle for his satire and biting social commentary. He presents us with a mirror in which we can clearly see the flaws in our society as they truly are. In Nope he tackles our addiction to spectacle, best seen in the obsession with the viral video and TMZ. We are prepared to exploit anything, including animals to get the perfect Instagram pic. Many in our world trade on the adage that seeing is believing and we can manipulate what others see. After the death of their Hollywood horse-trainer father, OJ and Em become engrossed by the presence of a strange being around their ranch. They set out to secure their financial future by capturing indisputable pictures of the UFO type being they dub Jean Jacket. In their quest, the pair seek help from a video salesman and a crusty old cinematographer.

Jean Jacket is a heavenly body in the sense that it lives in the sky but by way of behaviour it enacts some pretty serious judgements. Yep, Peele works on a big canvas, nothing, it seems is off limits, even the divine.  Fathoming the rules of this judgement becomes the underlying theme as well as the plot of Nope and it’s often a hairy, scary ride. Those who play to spectacle come unstuck, as do those who exploit animals, while those who go about their business, honestly, thoughtfully, without regard for how everything looks, survive. Nope is Peele’s most mainstream offering, it’s reminiscent of those unnerving, scary Hitchcock films, like Birds and is really compelling entertainment. Peele has a wonderful touch and timing for scathing humour. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as OJ and Em are superb and Michael Wincott in his cameo as the world-weary cinematographer, Antler Holst is outstanding. Nope might not be as deep as Peele’s earlier films but it is more accessible without watering down his message and it could well be the first step in his passage to becoming a modern Hitchcock. 

Transcript of this week's show:

Sandy : Hi, thanks so much for your company today. I hope you’ve had a terrific week and you’ve been kicking goals, no matter what that means for you. I’ve found myself reflecting a little bit over the last few days on some of the feedback that I’ve received from you. A few of you have asked me if I could let you hear more from my special guests. So sometimes I do come across people who turn out to be really great interviews, who quite frankly deserve more time. This week, I’ve had the pleasure of chatting to a guy called John Illsley, who boasts both a great story, as well as some truly awesome music. So this week, I want to bring you more of him and more of his music. For those of you who don’t instantly recognise the name, John is the English musician, best known for being the bass guitarist, and founding member of English rock band dire straits, I caught up with John to chat about his new book, my life in Dire Straits, as well as his latest solo album, simply called ‘Eight’. He was really captivating, and I hope you enjoy hearing from him. As much as I enjoyed chatting with him. John Illsley, it’s terrific to meet you. Welcome to a breath of fresh air. What a career you’ve enjoyed so far, you’re going to have walk me through it. But let’s start at the most recent things and work our way back. You’ve got a book out, you’ve got a new album out, a solo album, which is your eighth solo album? Could you tell us a little bit about both of those?

John Illsley: Well, they were projects, which were really not planned to be honest. But then we had locked down. And for people who do music and do a bit of writing and stuff, it was the ideal time to indulge it for, because there wasn’t anything else going on. Literally, probably in Australia, everything came to standstill. Nobody was doing anything. And I had a few ideas for some songs. So I started with that. And before the lockdown started, actually, let me just go back a little bit. A publisher approached me about doing writing a book about the straits on my life on the straits because she had been to see one of the shows that I was doing, which was sort of a q&a of the the band’s life, which I started doing about two or three years ago, because it was very enjoyable to reflect with one of my managers and have a chat and then play some music, have a chat, play some music. And so it was an evening of personal indulgence, but also sort of a Q&A with the audience as well. So she saw that, and she did have you ever thought about writing a book? And I said, it’s very odd question. Why are you asking me she said, Well, I’m an agent, and I came to see your show the other day? So she put the idea forward of a book, which I hadn’t really been thinking about at all, to be honest. Until she mentioned that. I’m not sure that I could do that. So I said, I’m probably going to have some help to arrange it. And because when you’re writing a book, it needs to be structured and having never written one before, it would have been crazy to try and do it on my own. And so anyway, one thing led to another and we actually started putting the idea together before lockdown. And then of course with lockdown. We were doing, what we’re doing now, which was zooming every day. And I was relating the story. And I thought it wasn’t going to remember anything at all. But then, interestingly enough, once you start talking about something, something else comes into your mind. And it was remarkable because I can’t remember an awful lot of things and suddenly, but I was remembering the almost ridiculous details. And it just turned into this quite long process. And then the album took place during lockdown and I started the album with my son Harry, who brought all his DJ equipment and recording equipment down. And I said let’s go and work on some songs together for about two or three hours a day in the morning, we’d sat down and he’d never done anything like this before and I’d never done anything with him before. So it was quite an interesting Father Son moment. I think he found it quite tricky to begin with his dad. As I sit here strumming a guitar and recording. [Music 00:05:05 – 00:06:34] The bare bones of that then turned into a full blown out. And there we are. That’s, where we are. So I ended up after locked down with two fairly big projects on my hands.

Sandy: Amazing. Why did you call the album Eight?

John Illsley: Well, it’s my solo album. And actually, when I was looking at photographs for the book, my sister who’s got the archive of the family, she gave me all these pictures of when we were young. And one of them was when I was eight years old, which is the cover. If you get the album you’ll see it. There’s a cover of me on the front. When I was eight, just before we were going to have lunch with Granny. And I thought this is my solo album. That’s me. I was eight let’s call it eight. So that was that and it’s also when you call something Eight, everyone says what does that mean? And I said well, because there’s been seven solo albums before that and they go, we never knew that. So that helps people to go back and listen to the earliest music. Well, hopefully [Music 00:07:32 – 00:08:44]

Sandy: So Eight has nine tracks. And they’re all original tracks. Do you have a personal favorite? John Illsley: Well, long way back. The opening track on the album is really a reflection of when the band started in the Council flat in depth. And it was really based around the first time we went to Los Angeles as a group in 1979, the first American tour and we played at the Roxy in LA. And it was all about going there and staying at the Sunset Marquis, which was the Rock and Roll hotel and where all the misbehaving went on in LA.

Sandy I remember it well.

John Illsley: You’ve been there? Sandy: Yes.

John Illsley: So the Roxy was just down the strip from there and, we didn’t realise at the time until we went up to the bar upstairs that there were quite a lot of people in the room. It was a bit of a LA crowd really turned up and very exciting. So I wrote this song called long way back because it’s a long way back to depth for town, which is where the band started. It was a pretty speedy part of London in a council flat which I was renting.

Sandy: You really did start from very humble beginnings, didn’t you? Could you tell us a little bit about how you got together with your friend Mark Knopfler?

John Illsley: This is a sort of series of coincidences actually. I think life is a series of coincidences. If you put your self in a particular place where something different might happen, then occasionally different things do happen. And so I’ve never really got to the straight and narrow, probably a bit more straight and narrow now, although my wife probably doesn’t think. Then I was used to take quite a bit of few risks. I didn’t go to university until I was 23. If I felt like changing and doing something, I’d usually take the unpredictable path and which found me in this council flat which was renting in South London. And I needed a flatmate. And a friend of mine said, well I know a local social worker is looking for a place to live. And it turned out to be David Knopfler. Which was an important moment, which we didn’t realise, of course, in all our lives. The fact that I had space in this council flat that I couldn’t afford the rent because it was 9 pounds, 48 a week and I really wasn’t very well off at the time. I was going to say, it was in dire straits, but they’re such a pleasure. But things were pretty basic. So David moved in and he had a guitar with him. And so we used to sit down and strumming guitar. I think one day he said to me, you should meet my brother Mark. He’s, quite handy on the guitar. And I said, great. This is probably going to come down in a couple of weeks. And he did, he came down. I met him, you know when you meet with somebody for the first time, you get a sort of feeling, I just got a certain sense of warmth from him. And I thought at the time when I was reflecting on it as I’m going to know this bloke for a long time, and as it turns out, it’s been 45 years now. Well, there’s one thing that we don’t realise, of course, is that we don’t have unlimited amount of time on this planet. So it’s best to get on with stuff. And I think you realise that as you get older, there’s only a limited amount of birthdays you’re going to have and when you’re 23 you don’t think about birthdays and how many more you’re going to have, when you’re 73 you think okay, I’ve had quite a few birthdays. I don’t dwell on it too much. But so that’s what I’m saying the coincidences and I wouldn’t have been in the council flat and so I’d packed in my job and gone to study sociology and philosophy at Goldsmiths college and they were giving out council flats to students, so I got one of those, so I almost created this thing for myself without realising it where I was going to meet these guys and we just made sense musically together and personally together, we just used to hang out a lot Mark and I especially and still do.

Host: Do you believe in fate? 

John Illsley: Probably yes, whatever the fate is.

Sandy: Coming up, find out how John Illsley and Mark Knopfler hit the big time and how they managed to keep their feet firmly on the ground. It’s great to have you with me. I do hope you’re enjoying what I’m bringing. So we’ve heard how John Illsley believes it was fate. Or if you like serendipity that led him to partnering with Mark Knopfler in the first place, and founding the phenomenon that’s become dire straits. To say the band hit the big time is probably an understatement. But one thing’s for sure. When they did, their lives changed forever, when you decided to pull a band together with them, who actually named a dire straits and why?

John Illsley: Well, that was named by a friend of Pick the drummer, who was the only professional musician amongst us. And he was living with other musicians in North London. And he was so blooming poor. He said I’m not going to come and play with the band unless you pay my petrol and my fag money, and we didn’t have any money ourselves. So I thought that was a bit tight. But anyway, he was a great drummer, and we enjoyed playing with him. So we paid his fag money and his petrol for him to come down and play with us. And his mate. When we were looking for a name for the band, his mate said to him pick you are a professional drummer all your life, and you’re still in dire straits, why don’t you call it that. So that’s how it came to be. I suppose the Rolling Stones called themselves the Rolling Stones because of a blues song by Muddy Waters. I don’t know. The Beatles is a great name because it’s baat as opposed to beat, these are little gems. Why they have the kinks got their name? I don’t know. That’s probably a different story altogether.

Sandy: I would have to ask them. So John Illsley, you started digging around the place in the beginning. It wasn’t easy for you. You didn’t have any money. You were carrying all your own gear in and out of gigs. When did fortune change for you?

John Illsley: Well, there is another coincidence, where I’m stupidly started a record shop in North London, with the girlfriend of mine when I was at university, and in order to sort of get the right music in the place, I sent a letter to a DJ in London, who I’d been listening to, he used to play on Sunday mornings. A guy called Charlie Gilbert and he played this Honky Tonk music show, and I got some ideas for the shop from him. He very graciously sent me a whole list of albums that I should stock in the record store. And it was a shop lasted about four months. So that was a bit of a disaster. But I had a contact with Charlie. And so when we made the demo tape in 1976, by Mark had maybe five songs at the time, Mark said don’t you know, Charlie Gillbert on radio, And i said I don’t exactly know him, but I’m sure we can get in contact with him. So I wrote to Charlie and said, Look, I’m in this band called dire straits, and we’ve made this demo tape. Would you listen to it? And he wrote back and he said, ‘Sure’. And he said, come round to the house for tea on Thursday afternoon. So Mark, and I trip down there with this tape, gave it to Charlie not thinking anything of it. And that was Thursday. And that Sunday morning, he played Song of swing on the radio from the demo tape. [Music 00:21:25 – 00:22:54] we didn’t hear it because that morning, we weren’t listening to the show, Mark and I was shifting some furniture and make some money for a mate. And so we didn’t actually hear on the radio until the following weekend when he played it again. And he said I’m going to play this song on the radio until somebody out there, picks this band up and gives them a record deal. And it was like I so rang Charlie, and so called Charlie, what’s going on here? And he said you wouldn’t believe the amount of phone calls I’ve had from record companies, other DJs music people saying, who the hell is this band? What the hell’s going on Charlie? And he said, Well, I don’t know anything about that. Apart from that these two blokes came in and gave me this tape, to say give your phone number away to them. And I said, ‘Sure’. And then our phone started ringing like crazy. There’s no mobiles in those days. It was old phone on the wall. Every time somebody rang up from the record company, I was writing all their details all over the walls on this, in this, council flat. The whole wall was covered in people’s names and telephone numbers. Well, pleasantly surprised, and so we will suddenly bombarded with these record companies coming at us.

Host: John, did you know that you had something special with the other guys? I mean, you obviously knew how prolific a songwriter and a great guitarists mark is, did you know that you were making really special music together at that point?

John Illsley: Well, it felt good. That’s all I can say. You don’t really know until somebody says, we like that. It’s the feedback you kind of get, which makes you think, people are taking this seriously. They like it. And so there’s an element of surprise. I think when The Stones started out, they were just playing rock and roll blues and stuff. They didn’t know what was going to happen. And suddenly, it was mayhem surrounding them. And that sense, was a bit of mayhem surrounding us, I suppose not in the same kind of way. We were probably not quite misbehaving as the Stones or that.

Sandy: At the time you were the biggest band in the world. And the journey lasted to do something like 15 years, right?

John Illsley: Yes, it did. It has legacy we say. I think the reason why was because we mentioned earlier we had a pretty prolific songwriter who was constantly coming up with ideas and good songs and songs like Romeo and Juliet, Tunnel of Love and Money for Nothing.

Sandy: Money for Nothing was Dire Straits’ most commercially successful single. It topped several charts in the US and was also a massive hit in the UK, as well as in many other countries. The song was about Rockstar excess and the easy life it brings compared to real work. Mark Knopfler wrote it after overhearing delivery men in a New York Department Store complaining about their jobs while watching MTV. Sting actually sings on the song too, and help writers, the song “Moon Dire Straits” a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance, it was also quite controversial, the lyrics were deemed homophobic. And when the band performed at live, they’d often replaced some of the words with less vulgar ones. I’m chatting with dire straits co founder and bassist John Illsley.

John Illsley: Without one realising it, these have formed a backdrop of quite a few people’s lives, and which is actually a very pleasurable thing to know. And having been a part of that was a great pleasure for me, I have to say, and the important thing to remember, though, is, Mark often said this to me, so that I do wonder what would have happened if you and the other guys we made the songs with, have sounded the same if these songs have been played by somebody else. And I said, “Well, we’ll never know that”. And the great thing about the writing was that we all got involved when the song was presented to the band, the band then knocked it into shape, for one of a better expression. And so everybody’s input. And I think the rhythm section between myself and pick was pretty important. That seems to have stood the test of time as well.

Sandy: And the chemistry between you two is also super important, isn’t it? The fact that you all got on so well together, and you and mark in particular, would have contributed to the sounds you were making?

John Illsley: Yes, I think the bands survive because of exactly what you’ve said, it is about having a relationship with somebody and the relationship working over time. You know, some relationships are only momentary, and this one seems to have stood the test of time. We knew when to call it a day, though. We realized that after the on every street album and the on every street Tour, where we played that 10 million people, it’s amazing, which is a really extraordinary thought is completely wacky. 

Host: John have you always had your feet on the ground through this journey? Or did you get carried away with it at the height of the success? Because you appear to be such a grounded, humble, normal guy. Did you become the pop star when everybody was clamouring for you?

John Illsley: Well, I think that side of things is very difficult to deal with sometimes. And it helped the fact that we were a bit older. And I can assure you, we had an awful lot of fun. Let’s put it that way, playing music and, being together and hanging out together. And it’s probably because they came from a family, which was quite disciplined. My father was a x major in the army and a bank manager. So I came from a slightly disciplined family. And that probably stood me in good stead when the band first started, because I was able to literally hold things together while everybody else was like, out of control, not doing anything. And so actually quite an important partnership there when you realize that what you’re good at. And I knew what I was good at. I can assure you not in a boring way either. I’ve had plenty of fun, let me assure you.

Sandy: Yes, I can see that on your face. You wouldn’t be boring. Of all of those fabulous songs is the one that’s closest to your heart.

John Illsley: Well, it’s a song that really seems to have resonance. And we’ll have resonance for probably a long time as brothers in arms, it’s one of those songs which touches people and me, every time I play it. It’s a wonderful piece of music.

Sandy: The song “Brothers in Arms” was inspired by the Falklands War, while Britain managed to reclaim its territories, the nation lost nearly 300 soldiers in the conflict. John says it’s sad that the song about a young soldier dying on the battlefield is still so appropriate today.

John Illsley: I played it recently at a festival in Ireland, a literary festival after some discussions and some talks about the war in Ukraine and all the rest of it and the organizers said would you just play Brothers in Arms acoustically? So I did and it was quite difficult and it’s quite difficult to play just on the guitar on your own. And I did it and I found it quite difficult myself and was quite harrowing. But it was a remarkable experience and probably one I’ll treasure actually. 

Sandy: Thanks so much for hanging in with me. I love having your company. Now John Illsley Mark Knopfler, dire straits. This is a story of Fortune smiling on those, who did take a chance. We’ve been hearing from John Illsley about his humble beginnings and military style upbringing that protected him from getting carried away with the unexpected success that Dire Straits saw over a 15 year period. Throughout the 80s, Dire Straits were one of the biggest bands on the planet. Their songs formed the soundtrack of a generation and they live on today, still racking up sales, still being played on the radio on every continent. Now in other unplanned moves, John tells us about his autobiography, My Life in dire straits, the inside story of one of the biggest bands in rock history, as well as about his latest solo album, eight. The book is called “My Life in Dire Straits” it’s out now.

John Illsley: When you look at the proportions of sales around the world. Australia, New Zealand for some obscure reason, I suppose because we did work out there a lot, but proportionately speaking it’s sold incredibly well in New Zealand and Australia.

Sandy: Australia and New Zealand just loved Dire Straits. I remember it was my birthday and Sultan of swing had just come out and we didn’t play any other record that whole night. It must have played 150 times around and we just kept dancing. [Music 00:37:47 – 00:38:58] the book recounts the band’s rise from humble origins in London Spirit and sodas pubs to the best known venues in the world. The working man’s clubs to Madison Square Garden, gigging with wild punk bands to the Live Aid stage at Wembley. Until ultimately, the shattering demands of touring on a global scale, and living life in the spotlight took their inevitable toll. John story is also a tribute to his friend Mark Knopfler, the band’s lead singer, songwriter and gifted guitarist. It’s a tale told with honesty, soulful reflection and wry humour. And it’s the first and only account of the band’s incredible journey. What do your kids think about you? Are they proud of their dad? Or are they like most kids that are growing up or have grown up that just shrug it off and go, thinking of old fogy?

John Illsley: Well, they are got used to. Yes, I know. They’re proud, actually. I’m proud of them. They’ve all turned out, I’ve got four of them that I’ve done, they’re all turned out pretty good. And three of them are into music, and one is into building. So the one in to buildings, of course, is earning a good living and the other ones are not.

Sandy: Did you try and talk them out of it?

John Illsley: No, not at all. Both my daughters have sung on pretty much, certainly five of my albums, and Harry helped me make this last one. So they’re all part of it. My youngest daughter came out on the last tour and did all the organizing and for managing and stuff, she loves all that. And I know she’s there. They’ve blown up the history of the of the family if you like and I think they’ve half read the book, which is good because actually, it then gets into the big time stuff but they’ve read the early part of the book, which is me growing up and how one gets into these crazy situations in your life. So it’s an example to them, really, of not accepting the status quo which I never did. I wasn’t very good at that. I’m probably better at it now, although sometimes my wife is not so sure. They’re proud and in a sense that makes me feel good too, because I’m still working I’m still playing, I’m still writing. So that won’t ever go away and when somebody says when are you going to retire? I say, what from?

Sandy: None of this was planned from John Illsley latest album Eight. The song’s title really could have been John’s theme song, as his career evolved after a series of serendipitous meetings that included renting out a room in his small council flat whilst at university to mark Nautilus brother David. Dire Straits as I’m sure you know, were for many years, one of the biggest bands in rock history, selling more than 120 million records. They won four Grammy Awards and embarked on some of the biggest Tours the industry has ever seen. They were hectic days indeed. And the last tour in 1992 was according to John at a misery, whatever the zeitgeist was, he said it had passed, and the strain on personal relationships, both physical and emotional, was palpable. Fame had taken its toll, and the band decided to give it all up. Today. John Illsley is a very different man. He’s able to put his feet up again and go at his own pace, both with making music and his newfound hobby. Now you’ve discovered a new talent in being a painter as well, because your art is fabulous.

John Illsley: Well, thank you. That’s an ever changing situation, the painting that’s for sure. That is really difficult, paint pictures and I’m painting when I think that’s okay, all the rest of it, or that seems to work but doesn’t really, if unless you’re communicating somebody else and they say that’s good. So it’s the feedback you get, which makes you think, people are taking this seriously, they like it.

Sandy: Well, it’s just a new challenge. I have total faith in you that you’ll conquer that until. John being very modest. His paintings are fabulous. He first started with painting when he was 15. Around the same time, he picked up a guitar. And while music obviously took priority until the band split in the early 90s. He then found himself painting most days, but his solo exhibitions in London, Sydney and New York have all been amazingly successful. John Illsley has spent the last 15 years fighting leaukemia. Today he’s all clear and is a firm believer that in life, anything can happen at any time. He spends most of his time these days making music, working on paintings, or in the restaurant pub that he owns in Hampshire. He’s never been more contained. He and Mark Knopfler are still good friends, and he no longer laments the fact that Mark chose not to turn up to the band’s 2018 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. John says there’s something in the song Romeo and Juliet that relates to that event. Although he wouldn’t say what? I guess we’re just going to have to wait till we can chat with him again to discover more. Meantime, here’s that song. 

Sandy: Classic Romeo and Juliet from dire straits. John Illsley, I better let you go. But in letting you go which track would you like us to go out with from the latest album?

John Illsley: 21st century because it’s pretty relevant to what’s going on right now.

Sandy: John Illsley, thank you so much for talking with us today, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you and congratulations on it on fabulous career.

John Illsley: Thank you very much nice to speak to you. 

Sandy:  I hope you enjoyed hearing John’s Illsley’s story. Perhaps there’s an artist you’d like to hear from, just send me a message through the website, www.abreathof freshair.com.au and let me know who you’d like me to find for you. It would be my pleasure to get them on to the show. Meantime, if you could do me a favour and subscribe to the podcast, I’d be really grateful. Take care of your cell phone too until we meet again. I look forward to being back in your company same time next week. Bye!

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