“They invited us to open five shows for them in Germany,” bassist-singer Mark King says. “I’ve always been grateful for them giving us that chance. They didn’t have to do that, but they did, and it gave us some great exposure in Europe.”
Fast forward a few years later, to November 1985, Police drummer Stewart Copeland asked King to join him and a few other friends to form an impromptu supergroup. They would rehearse in secret at Stewart’s English farmhouse, then they would perform one song for the BBC’s annual televised charity telethon Children in Need.
“It was me, Stewart, Nik Kershaw, Big Country’s drummer Mark Brzezicki and a guy named Rowan Atkinson, you know, ‘Mr. Bean,'” King says, with a laugh. “We played a song called ‘Love Lessons’ in the second part of the show. Believe it or not, Stewart sang lead, and ‘Mr. Bean’ banged on the tambourine. It was surreal.”
King and Copeland stayed friends over the next 30-some years, so it was no surprise to King to get a text out of the blue from Copeland … another invitation to jam informally, this time with guitarist Adrian Belew (King Crimson, David Bowie, Frank Zappa) and Italian singer/multi-instrumentalist Vittorio Cosma.
Over 15 days at a recording studio in Milan, Italy, that informal jam became a bona fide supergroup: Gizmodrome.
“We had these basic backing tracks to work from that Stewart and Adrian had been working on,” King says. “This stuff came together really fast. I can’t believe I’m standing there next to Adrian, who’s making these amazing sounds and his face is all lit up. It was an absolute pleasure.”
Now the buying public has the pleasure of snapping up Gizmodrome’s self-titled debut album, released Sept. 15 via earMUSIC.
In this age of modern technology, where artists can collaborate by sending each other files through Dropbox or by email, it’s refreshing to see them gather in a studio and hash out their experimental sounds together.
“You can never stop learning,” King says. “Going old school like this, it was such a great experience. We’re all dyed-in-the-wool live players, we were feeding off each other.
“On paper, you would think that this group would be something special; sometimes that doesn’t always translate for artists, but when we got together, I knew we were on to something. It’s a sonic treat. Funky and fun.”
King hopes Gizmodrome can take their funky fun on the road next year and maybe even do a second album, but Level 42 fans shouldn’t worry – the British legends aren’t going anywhere. They’re still together and going strong.