FEW musicians can be recognised just by the sound of their instrument.
Stevie Wonder’s harmonica. Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. Keith Moon’s drums.
Then there’s Mark King’s bass.
Those punchy, frenetic and catchy basslines which underpinned some of the 80s’ most polished pop songs still get regular radioplay today.
Huge chart hits like Lessons in Love and Something About You showcased not only King’s talent as a musician but also as a songwriter. Albums such as World Machine and Running in the Family sold millions.
Some 30 years since the band formed, King and Level 42 are preparing to set off on a major UK tour which will culminate at London’s Royal Albert Hall. They play Manchester Apollo on October 14 and continue to attract a loyal following.
“I love coming to play in the North West,” said Mark. “Because so many bands play in Liverpool and Manchester the people there are very discerning and we know we have to raise the bar to make an impression.
“We’ve toured every couple of years and the fans always respond to us.”
The band are currently promoting their new EP, Sirens, on their newly founded label called, of course, Level 42 Records.
Founder member and talented keyboard player and vocalist Mike Lindup is still on board while Pete-Ray Biggin (drums), Sean Freeman (sax/vocals) and Mark’s brother Nathan (guitar/vocals) make up the rest of the band.
“We have an expanded band for the Sirens tour,” said Mark. “We’ve got a full brass section and are sounding fantastic. It really is like when we started out on the jazz funk scene in the early 80s with a disco influence.
“Putting together the set-list for this tour has been so exciting with the new and old material.”
As well as recording new material, Level 42 continue to be a regular name on the eighties revival circuit, especially during festival season and events like Rewind have become huge.
“The demographic at these events is so interesting,” said Mark. “You get people turning up in their big hair and shoulder pads but also fans who are now parents, bringing their grown up children along and appreciating the music of the 80s in a new light.
“Recently I went back through some of the earlier material which we’ve not performed live for a long time. But this line-up has given some songs a new lease of life.
“It’s not a case of the Sunday night charts being the be all and end all anymore. We lived for Sunday nights back then! The days of record companies planning your every last move have long gone and there’s a freedom about the way we work today that I enjoy.
“You’ve got to embrace the multimedia side of things - Twitter has become an important cog in the machine and the interaction I enjoy with fans has been great. It’s fabulous to have that contact.”
Mark’s daughter Marlee appears on the new EP and he says it was a strange experience having her on board.
“The band have known her since she was a baby and now she’s at university,” he said. “My brother Nathan has been in the band for 15 years now and actually my nephew William Stapleton is supporting us on the tour. He’s a singer songwriter in the Ed Sheeran mode.”
See livenation.co.uk for ticket details.