King of the road again with a new 42; the interview Philip Key talks to the constant front man about getting back on the level.
WHAT is it about the number 42? In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, it was the answer to life, theuniverse and everything' in the film Brazil, the Jonathan Pryce character lives on the 42nd floor' and the highest car park in the world (in Japan) has 42 levels.
And then there was the British band Level 42. In the 1980s, the jazz/funk/rock/pop band had a string of hit singles with numbers like Lessons in Love, Something about You and Running in the Family, together with best-selling albums.
But with continuous changes in personnel the band finally came to an end in 1994 with a final album ironically titled Forever Now.
Flash forward to 2006 and what's this? Level 42 is back on the road with a concert date at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall on Monday. So what happened?
To find the answers I went to Mark King, the extraordinary bassist and singer who has been part of Level 42 from the beginning.
"Well, we all gave it a rest in 1994," he explains. Mark recorded a solo album, toured around and released some live albums.
"But I had been playing so many Level 42 songs that in 2001 I got the rights to the name.
"In the following two years he was back on the road as Level 42 with various musicians and then decided it was time for a new record.
He has spent the last 18 months working on the new album Retroglide back home in the Isle of Wight and is now back touring with the record recently released.
"I am thrilled with the way the album has come out," he says. "It's back to classic Level 42 according to the fan base and they are lapping it up. It is going down a storm and I could not be happier." The songs were written with his old songwriting partner Boon Gould.
It was thanks to the support of the fans that he decided to try a new Level 42 album, the first since 1994. "They were coming along to the gigs, bless them, and have been so faithful I thought it might be nice to whack out some new songs.
"It was all done on the Isle of Wight where I still live and was a pleasure to do.
Guitarist Mark Lindup from the original 1980 line-up joined him along with King's brother Nathan, drummer Gary Husband and Ghanaian percussionist Kwaku. On tour, saxophonist Sean Freeman will join them.
Mark King had been a drummer himself once, doing the tour of holiday camps in his early days. He switched to bass in the early days of Level 42 when drummer Phil Gould joined.
King can still play drums. "But I would be loathe to let people hear me although it is OK for doing demos. But there is no point in the recording studio when you have someone like Gary Husband around."
The new album some of which he will be performing at Monday's concert - features 11 tracks including the title number, a science fiction-themed piece. The album's artwork is also science fiction influenced.
"Well I am a big fan of science fiction and many of our numbers in the past have been influenced by it like Foundation and Empire - based on the Isaac Asimov books and Dune inspired by the Frank Herbert novel.
"And of course we took our band title from the number 42 in the Douglas Adams books. It's a thread which runs through the band."
Born in the Isle of Wight, he still recalls the day in 1969 when man first walked on the moon. He was at school but teachers wheeled in the audio visual trolley to show them the pictures of the landing on the moon's surface.
Mark has lived most of his life in the Isle of Wight. "I did live in London for 10 years after I left home at 18 to find fame and fortune. It has all worked out very well."
He loves being back on the road.
"The audience is a good mature mix and the fans who have become parents bring the kids along and it is very nice to meet young musicians after the show who have been inspired by us."
He has been to Liverpool a few times, most notably at the Royal Cour t.
"I can't remember if we have played at the Philharmonic Hall before, but I feel we must have."
It is the Liverpool date which the band has decided to film for later release on DVD.
"We have always had a great night in Liverpool and you are spoiled for heritage up there. But it is a pretty discerning audience in Liverpool and I like to think that as a band we are good musicians and among the best. So we are looking forward to filming the show with a great Liverpool audience."
King, who celebrated his 48th birthday last week, loves playing live. "There is nothing like getting up on stage for an hour and half and showing off," he says. "And getting paid for it.
"So anyone who comes along on Monday will have a good night. There is the filming, too, so if any young lady feels like getting up and streaking, that's fine by me. Not the lads, though!"
The tour which will include dates in Holland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium after Liverpool runs to a total number of 42 concerts. That 42 again. "Just coincidence," laughs King.
Level 42 at the Philharmonic Hall on Monday, 7.30pm.
Mark King - he could not be happier' Still Rockin: Level 42, are touring again with a new album on release