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Global Bass writer ANDY LONG chats up Mark King, monster bass player from the `80’s band LEVEL 42. With a new album out soon, in the ‘Trash’ series, we thought it was time to catch up with Mark and see how the new millennium is treating him…


    Level 42

When one hears the name Level 42, The first thing that springs to mind is the image of Mark King, huge Jaydee bass strapped right up under his chin, thumb erect and going like a jackhammer, popping out a barrage of bass notes and grinning like a Cheshire cat.  

The first song that springs to mind is, of course, ‘Lessons In Love’. Remember that classic intro?  The song hit the Number One spot in an astonishing seventeen countries, although surprisingly enough it failed to reach that hallowed spot in the band’s native U.K., where it peaked at Number 3.  

Even though they never had a British #1 hit, Level 42 developed into an amazing success story.  In their fourteen-year history they chalked up a total of twenty-nine U.K. chart hits and sales in excess of thirty million.  Their last single ‘Love In A Peaceful World’ achieved a respectable No. 31 in August of `94.  

I spoke to Mark recently to catch up with what he’s been doing since the band’s demise, I was interested in finding out why they broke out but opened up the chat by asking him to name a few of his early influences.  

Mark:   I began playing bass in 1979 around the time that Level 42 began 'jamming'. I had really wanted to pursue a career as a drummer, but fate has a funny way of turning things around, so my influences were not just bassists but musicians such as Billy Cobham, John McLaughlin, Lenny White, Stan Clarke, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and so many of the great players that Miles Davis brought to light in the late sixties and early seventies.  

So, going back to my earlier point, after all the success Level 42 achieved, why did they decide to call it a day in 1994?  

Mark:  We had been very successful, but music by its very nature continually moves on and evolves. Level 42 hadn't really done that for a few years, so..... to me we really felt like a band from the 1980's that had outstayed its welcome!  

Following the split Mark took the whole of 1995 off and took some time to just enjoy being a family man back at home on the Isle of Wight.  Shortly afterwards he sold his archetypal rock-star mansion with built-in studio and the family moved to a smaller home on the island.  About this time Mark began to consider a new direction for his career.  

Mark:  Well I was looking for some kind of role in the music industry. What do you do? I write songs amongst other things, so I thought I might try writing songs for some artists I admired. I never had the balls to approach them with the material I came up with and it started to mount up! Then I got a call from Warner Chappell’s (publisher) and they listened to the stuff I was doing and introduced me to Eagle Records. 

The Eagle people liked what they heard and they soon signed up Mark for a solo album.  ‘One Man’ was actually Mark¹s second solo album, having released ‘Influences’ way back in 1984.  Sad to say that the press and the record buying public reacted with what Mark describes as “Stunning indifference!” to both the album and it¹s single release ‘Bitter Moon’.  

Mark:  ‘I never seem to have learned the lesson that what had got me anywhere in the first place was a complete belief in my own ability’, Mark mused.  ‘The moment you invite anyone else to choose your path you are compromised - and, of course, that's your own fault!’  

The next album was an independent release, ‘Trash¹, described as a selection of songs that were ‘never finished or used’.  I asked Mark why he chose to release an album like this.  

Mark:  Having shelves full of odds and sods of music from the past twenty years led me to post a message on the websites offering any hard and fast fans out there a chance to hear some of the things that were never going to see the light of day otherwise.  

A glance at Mark¹s website reveals that 1999 was a pretty hectic year, with a tour that took in dates in the U.K., Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain.  Sounds like a lot of hard work to me but Mark disagreed.  

Mark:  I had some good lads working with me - My brother Nathan, Lyndon Connah (a tortured artist if ever there was one!) and Trevor Smith, (who succumbed to the lure of a regular shilling), plus a good crew made the Euro jaunt a happy affair! I like playing live - It's the arse-ache of setting it all up that wears a bit thin at my age!  

Along with Lyndon and Nathan, Mark is currently working with drummer Gary Husband.  ‘Hubbo' is the most talented musician I've ever, and probably ever will work with - and I've played with a lot!’.  So what can a gig-goer expect to hear in an average set from the Mark King Band?  

Mark:  I’m afraid we don't do 'average' sets, but right now it's sounding pretty good! I asked the website to come up with suggestions for any numbers that Level 42 never played live but that they would have liked to hear, (and the results were an education!), so I have taken the suggestions on board and it sounds cool!¹  

The band closed 1999 with seven straight nights at Ronnie Scott¹s Jazz Club in Birmingham, a prestigious venue indeed.  They followed this up with another five-night slot at the Jazz cafe in London¹s Camden Town.  All this led to the most recent release ‘Live At The Jazz Café’.  How pleased was Mark with the result?  

Mark:  It was as good as it was! Playing live can be traumatic from the players point of view, and we all feel it could have been so much better. The plain fact is of course, that that is how good you were right there and then! - it's live, right?  

So Mark is content to sell these albums independently through his website, and it seems to be working for him, as he explains.  

Mark:   The problem with the internet as a way of selling direct for a new, unknown artist is; How the hell do you get people to look you up when no-one has heard of you or knows what you do?  Oh no! it's the record companies for you young man! .....For myself, I have the benefit of a 'track record', so people looking up Level 42 stuff will get round to finding out what I've been up to, and yeah's workin' just fine for me!¹  

Time for the part we¹ve all been waiting for, a look at Mark¹s gear.  In the level 42 days Mark was always seen with those huge Jaydees or Alembics.  I noticed that he appeared to be playing Fender Jazzes these days but he soon put me right there.  They are in fact the custom creations of Bernie Goodfellow.  

Mark:   Right now I'm breaking in  a pair of new GB basses, made by Bernie Goodfellow. The pair I was using before were 'Fender' based, but these new basses are more.... well, just more really! They have thru' necks, which I always prefer, and Bernie¹s electronics are fab! The Lights-up-the-neck go bananas when I play fast, but Bernie says they're meant to!  

While we¹re on the subject of Jazz basses, a few years ago Mark did a DIY de-fret on a Moon Jazz, something most of us non-luthiers would be very nervous about attempting, but Mark went for it.  

Mark: I don't know about non-luthier, I'm Methodist I think...., anyway the removing of the frets was fine, and I needed a fretless - what are you gonna do?!  

As far as amplification goes, Mark has been heavily featured in the Ashdown advertising campaign over the last year or so, showing off the huge 8x10 combo that they built for him.  I was under the impression that this was a sponsorship deal but Mark was quick to correct me (again!).  

Mark:   I don't have sponsorships with any manufacturer, and NEVER have! I've used various makes of equipment over the years and have always made it clear to the manufacturers involved that I won't sign any exclusive contracts, so I never did! I exercise my right to use whatever I want, whenever I want. That said, Mark Gooday from Ashdown is an old pal from the Trace Elliot days, and when I was looking for a different approach sound wise for the 'One Man' stuff, he came up with an Ashdown rig which was perfect! Great warm bottom end, but here we are one year on and I'm checking out an Eden rig, courtesy of the Bass Centre (Cheers Barry and Alex!).¹  

Mark’s sound has always been fairly free of effects, ‘But,he says, ‘I'm tempted to bring back a couple of old E1010 delay units, (old analogue Yamaha delays!), for a couple of the songs that I had used them on originally’.  

Just to close I asked Mark what his immediate plans for the future were?  

Mark:  I am filming the latest tour because I want to have a live video to offer on the website. I can't get to all the places on the planet that I would like to and this is the best way to get the squonk to all the dudes who can't get to the gigs! Trash 2 is coming’, and.......and..…. that¹s where we¹re going to have to leave the Mark King story for now.  From the heady days of the eighties when Level 42 was heard pumping out from behind the darkened windows of every white Ford Escort XR3i, Mark seems well on the road to reinventing himself as the serious and more mature musician.


 We at Global Bass look forward to ‘Trash 2’ and more from Mark...

                  and, of course more from Andy too!


Andy Long is one of our newest recruits as a writer for Global Bass. He has had a lot of experience writing for other magazines as well and after his head cleared he decided to join us. We don’t pay anything but we are fun to be with.  

In his spare time Andy runs a train. Not an HO model, an actual real, large, smelly train. The kind that runs over bunnies. And he loves it. Not the bunny squashing, the running. Of the train. What relieves me is that he does this in England, thousands of miles from our offices, so I figure we are safe.   

For now…  

For an Italian translation of this article by Alessandro Arcuri, click here.

Read this article in Spanish as translated by Sebastian Alejandro Caffini





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