Raise the Level of music

Reinvention is a good way to help a band progress, says Level 42's singer- bassist Mark King

Singer-bassist Mark King (far right) with members of Level 42.
Singer-bassist Mark King (far right) with members of Level 42.PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL

Some musicians do not like to be perpetually associated only with their past hits.

Mark King of Level 42, however, completely understands where fans are coming from when they clamour for the band's hit songs from the 1980s, such as Lessons In Love and Something About You.

"With my family, I went to see Fleetwood Mac play and what was really great about the show was that they played all of the hits, all that you really wanted to hear," says the 57-year-old singer and bassist in a telephone interview from his music studio on the Isle of Wight in England.

"It's quite a challenge to ask audiences to come along and listen to new material, unless they're not familiar with the band at all.

"For me, as a paying customer, when I go to see artists that I admire, I want to hear the stuff that I know them for and made me fall in love with them in the first place."

He will be coming here with Level 42 to perform at this year's Singapore International Jazz Festival 2016, held from tomorrow to Sunday.

The jazz-funk band will be joining a multi-genre international line-up that includes British soul singer Joss Stone, Cuban icons Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, Australian future-soul band Hiatus Kaiyote and home-grown acts Charlie Lim and Jeremy Monteiro.

King, who co-founded Level 42 in 1980, says that he and the band are working on the follow-up to their last release, Sirens (2013).

Besides touring, he adds that he and the other band members, such as fellow founding member and keyboard player Mike Lindup, are always busy playing music for projects outside of Level 42.

Lindup released a solo album, On The One, in 2011.

"That's what we do, we're working musicians and our trade is writing music and performing," says King.

He is eager to return to Singapore because the upcoming show will not be similar to the previous one they played here at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2011.

"It's quite different. The band's expanded now to a seven-piece - we have a full horn section. When you put a brass section into the arrangement, it makes for a different dynamic. There's something grandiose and heroic about it - it's very exciting."

It is this willingness to move their music forward that has helped Level 42 last all these years. The group disbanded in 1994 before reforming in 2001.

"As the band progress and evolve, reinvention is a good thing from time to time. And if I think about artists who really stand the test of time, they are the ones who reinvent from time to time. You see it with Prince, you see it with David Bowie."

Still, King says it puts a smile on his face whenever he hears stories about how much impact the band's old hits have had on their fans.

"Now it's very easy on Twitter and Facebook and social media for fans to be much more in contact with you and they say very nice things to you.

"They tell you that a particular song meant a great deal to them at a certain point in their lives and helped them through maybe a bad time. It makes me happy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Raise the Level of music'. Print Edition | Subscribe