Mark King (born 20 October 1958, Cowes, Isle of Wight) is an English musician. He is most famous for being the lead singer and bassist of the band, Level 42. In the early 1980s King popularized the 1970s-era slap and pop style for playing the bass guitar by incorporating it into pop music.
Originally, King pursued a career as a drummer. He even played drums for the band Re-Flex in their early years, before starting his career as a bass player. His father bought him his first kit for £10, while he gained encouragement to pursue a career in music from his music teacher at middle school.
Mark King helped to develop and popularize the slap and pop style of playing the bass guitar in the 1980s. The slapping and popping style was developed in the 1970s by funk and further developed by jazz fusion bassists. King developed a rapid playing speed using this technique, and introduced technical elements that enabled him to produce a mix of percussive effects while still playing a bass line.
King’s bass playing style is largely based on continuous 16th notes (aka semiquavers), sometimes described as “machine-gun” style. This “machine-gun” style consists of playing rapidly using a combination of thumb slaps, pops, hammer-ons, and fretting hand slaps.
King and Level 42 are considered highly influential artists of the Brit funk movement of the 1970s and 1980s. One of King’s greatest influences was the musician Tom Taylor, who gave King guitar lessons at the age of 12.
The two most commonly used brands have been JayDees (as exemplified by “Love Games”) and the Status Graphite (evident on his solo works).
Mark King has used Status Graphite basses since the 1980s including the Series-2000 and Empathy models. In November 2000, Rob Green and Mark King developed the Status KingBass, a headless, double cut-away bass with a woven graphite through-neck, Status Hyperactive pickups and active electronics. Status LEDs are a custom option on all Status models. Status Graphite basses are handmade in England by Rob Green.
Other known basses he has used are Alembics (specifically custom Series II models), of which there is a Signature Mark King model, Pangborn basses, a Zon bass (on the album “World Machine” for the song “Lying Still”). King’s first fretless bass was a Japanese-made “Moon” Jazz-style bass. King also owned two MusicMan basses, a Wal bass, which was fitted with an MB4 MIDI interface (used on the album “Guaranteed”, on the track “Lasso The Moon”).
In 1996, King briefly used Fender basses. A limited run of 42 “Mark King” Jazz basses were made, based on the American Deluxe series, built and set up to King’s specifications. They all came fitted with SIM’s LED lights, flat-radiused fingerboards and a custom neck plate engraved with his signature. Also in 1999, King used GB basses, handmade in England by Bernie Goodfellow.
One Man (1998)
Live at the Jazz Cafe (1999) (live)
Live on the Isle of Wight (2000) (live)
“I Feel Free” (1984)
“Bitter Moon” (1998)