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Level 42 at 42: interview with Mark King ahead of Reading gig

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Level 42 were formed 42 years ago and enjoyed huge popularity and a string of hits in the 80s and 90s. The band will be coming to The Hexagon on October 9 as part of their From Here To Eternity Tour. Brian Harrington spoke to Mark King.

I spoke with frontman and bass player Mark King who told me that he was gifted a small drum kit for his ninth birthday and that his first public appearance was as a drummer at a “festival” at Carisbrooke Grammar School in his native Isle Of Wight.

Level 42 started out as an instrumental band, but after signing with a record company were advised to find a vocalist. They considered advertising, but in the end and after some wrangling, the role fell primarily to Mark. He has always seen himself as a “melodicist”, adding that Phil and Boon Gould used to send him reams of lyrics which he would go over and that probably every second set would suggest a melody to him. He would lay this down and send it back. Changes would be made in a collaborative way.

Mark King
Mark King

Back in the 90s he set-up a website offering fans CDRs of unreleased, and often unfinished tracks and demos, a forerunner of what many bands do today. Asked about the longevity of Level 42, Mark told me that it was something they never really considered, he loves performing and, while acknowledging that this is partly a product of nostalgia, expressed his gratitude to a number of well-known current musicians who cite Level 42 as an influence on them. He thinks this is important because their fans check out Level 42 and want to know about their back catalogue.

After a 17-month pause due to Covid, Level 42 played a gig at Camp Bestival near Lulworth Castle. Mark said he loves playing festivals, but can’t wait to be back in a room of happy people enjoying music together again, noting how an enthusiastic reaction pushes bands to raise their level and the importance of that interaction to live performers.

The band have played The Hexagon many times in the past and have an affinity with the venue, Mark told me, in fact it is one of three venues featured on their live album Physical Presence. A great show is anticipated.

Level 42
Level 42

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