John Illsley streams 4 tracks from solo album Long Shadows

John Illsley
John Illsley

John Illsley has given Classic Rock the rundown on four tracks from his upcoming album Long Shadows.

The former Dire Straits bassist issues his latest solo album on May 20 and the songs In The Darkness, Comes Around Again, Ship Of Fools and Long Shadow can be heard below.

While Illsley usually prefers not to go into too much detail about his lyrical content, he has explained the inspiration for the words on these four tracks.

And he tackles everything from religious radicalisation, the Iraq war and internet porn to the influence of artists, politicians and modern celebrities.

On In The Darkness, Illsley was moved to write about the impact the digital age and the internet has, mostly with religious radicilisation and addictive, easy-to-access porn.

He says: “It’s not really talked about much, but the influence of pornography over the internet… I think in the long term for a number of people it will cause serious psychological problems.

“I know a few people who are addicted to it. And if you’re addicted to that stuff there’s no agency you can turn to and say, ‘I’ve got a problem.’ We all get a bit blase about it actually. For 99% of people, they can take it or leave it. But there’s a percentage for whom it becomes problematic.”

He dedicates Ship Of Fools to George Bush and Tony Blair and explains it’s a comment on the Iraq war and the lies that were told to justify American and British involvement. He also warns that history repeats itself and it won’t be the last war of its kind.

“It will happen again,” Illsley says. “The level of dishonesty and trickery that was involved, it was a very underhand business.”

Thinking abour Bob Dylan’s “endless tour” inspired him to look at the impact those in the public eye have on the world on the song Long Shadow, while JJ Cale’s influence is to thank for the sound of Comes Around Again.

Hear all four tracks below, where Illsley’s breakdown of the songs can be read in full.

Illsley and his band play at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimbourne, Dorset, on June 21 and at Norfolk’s Holt Festival on July 30.

In The Darkness: “It was just a realisation that all of us, without exception, are involved in this internet digital age and 90% of it is all good stuff. An incredible way of communicating with the rest of the world. But there’s a dark side to it, specifically with the radicalisation issue which has been pretty prominent in the last year or two.

“But also, it’s not really talked about much, but the influence of pornography over the internet. I think in the long term for a number of people it will cause serious psychological problems. I know a few people who are addicted to it. And if you’re addicted to that stuff there’s no agency you can turn to and say, ‘I’ve got a problem.’ We all get a bit blase about it actually. For 99% of people, they can take it or leave it. But there’s a percentage for whom it becomes problematic.”

Long Shadow: “I was thinking about Bob Dylan at the time, who is on this endless tour and tells us that it will end one day, presumably when he can no longer stand up and do it. The idea was that there are people in our lives who have a pretty serious effect on us and their influence on different walks of life, whether it be political life, artistic life, social life. Some people leave a big footprint behind and have an incredible impact on us. Sometimes it’s subtle, but mostly you’re aware of it.”

Comes Around Again: “It’s just simply that when you’ve lived on this planet for a certain amount of time, it’s amazing what comes around again. It was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek one really. It ended up having a slightly JJ Cale-type feel because I’ve been a big fan of his music for many years. I alway like to pay homage to people who have influenced me over the years.”

Ship Of Fools: “It’s really a take on the rather ludicrous situation that came out of the Iraq war and the fact that it almost seems impossible to get to any sense of truth or openness about why we got involved. I think because it’s too embarrassing. This ship of fools goes around again. It will happen again. The level of dishonesty and trickery that was involved, it was a very underhand business. I dedicated it to George Bush and Tony Blair.”