Global Bass Online November 2000
Check out the GiveAway from BASSIX Studio
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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
So what can a gig-goer expect to hear in an average set from the Mark
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?
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.
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 ....it'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.
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
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!).
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
‘But,’ he says, ‘I'm tempted to
bring back a couple of old E1010 delay units, (old analogue Yamaha
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?
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.
Global Bass look forward to ‘Trash
2’ and more
Read this article in Spanish as translated by Sebastian Alejandro Caffini
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