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Mark King Interview

October the 8th sees the 25th anniversary of Level 42s fantastic album, Running In The Family.

Mark King, Level 42s bassist, took time out to answer a few questions asked by 80sNostalgia readers.

80s: You started out as a drummer. What prompted the transition to bass guitar?

MK : A lack of drum kit! Mine were being held hostage in Vienna where I had travelled to join the band that never was, so on my return to London
Boon, Phil, Mike and I would meet up at The Guildhall School of Music to jam. Phil had the drums and was a great player anyway, so I moved to the next best thing in the rhythm department.

Can you clear up where the name Level 42 came from? There are all sorts of theories knocking about.

Douglas Adams ‘The HitchHikers Guide To The Galaxy’. Deep Thought, a fantastically advanced computer on a planet far, far away, came up with an answer having been posed the ultimate question ” Why are we here, The Universe, and everything?” The answer mathematically was “42”.

Your first solo album was in 1984. Why did you decide to do something outside of Level 42 at that time?

I had recorded a solo single “Freedom” ahead of the album back in 1982 in an attempt to prise an advance from Polydor records that would secure a mortgage for me and my new family. Two years later they asked me where the album was…… oops! So I booked some studio time and went in and laid down
the first track ” The Essential” which turned out to be a 20 minute romp through some of the kinds of music that had influenced me, or a self-indulgent pile of toss, depending on your point of view.

Is your solo career still under the shadow of Level 42? Or competing with Level 42?

Neither. It is I, and I is it, for we both exist in one head.

How long do you think Level 42 can go on?

For as long as I enjoy the gigs, which I do immensely. I fully plan to make a new album in 2013, probably.

What are the chances of the original line-up getting together? Even if it’s just for a one-off gig?

Never say never! so………..

Are you going to do a solo tour in the UK?

That is possible too. I loved playing at Ronnies earlier this year, and the band and I had a great time – hilarious actually! – so if any promoters out there fancy losing a few bob, give me a shout.

You worked with some big names back in the 80s such as Nik Kershaw and Midge Ure. Is there an 80s legend you would have like to have collaborated with?

I’d have loved to work with Elton John and Eric Clapton, or Macca, or George Harrison and Ringo….. the list is huge.

Do you ever listen to the old Level 42 CDs and think that some songs could have been done differently?

Of course, but they were made as they were and I’m proud of what we achieved together as writers and collaborators. I recently revisited the Running In The Family album and re-worked all the songs acoustically, which was a very interesting project

Do you regard yourself as a pioneer of the slap and pop bass style? How did this come about?

I certainly never invented the style, but in the true Olympian spirit I was able to pick up the baton and move it on a little. It is most gratifying when other players cite you as an influence.

You were a member of Level 42 during the greatest decade in pop music. What was it like being in a band in those days?

Fantastic! When you have grown up dreaming of playing to adoring audiences, to find yourself doing just that is mind blowing. I wish I’d made more of it at the time of course…….!

Were there any rivalries between Level 42 and other chart bands at the time?

I suppose the Brit Funk bands of 80/81/82, you know, Lynx, Light of the World, Central Line, Shakatak, et al were all vying for the same audience, but there was plenty of room for us all. As we moved into the mid-eighties our songwriting style evolved, and many of our early contemporaries seemed to disappear or dis-band and we found ourselves competing more in the pop mainstream ( whatever the hell that is?).

You had a brief stint as a pub landlord I believe. Any plans to get back into the business?

Haha, no….. I did open a “Continental style Cafe Bar” here on the Isle of Wight when all there was were pubs and caff’s, and that seemed quite radical at the time. Bros cam and opened it for us on 14th June 1990. We sold it in 2000.

Do you like 70s Prog Rock? Any recommendations?

Yeah! Focus. Moving Waves. Tijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman were, and still are, fantastic. Check out Eruption

Any plans to write a book, like an autobiography?

I spoke with Peter White, a journalist friend of mine earlier this year and chatted for about four hours on the subject, with me reminiscing and he furiously
scribbling it all down. Then I spent a restless night worrying if I should be quite so candid?, anyway I called Pete back and said lets forget it…….. so to answer the question: No.

Is it true you’re left handed?


Do you need a driver?

No, but I do need a new putter……….. chortle!


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