Monday, May 19, 2014
GINGER BAKER and DAUGHTER GINETTE BAKER INTERVIEW ABOUT HIS BOOK HELLRAISER JUNE 2011
This is an email interview I did with Ginger Baker and his daughter Ginette Baker in 2011 about his autobiography Hellraiser which was written with Ginette. Hellraiser is a great read about his wild life!
PART 1 - INTERVIEW WITH GINGER BAKER
So your roots were more in jazz rather than skiffle bands?
GB - YES IN JAZZ AS LISTENED TO TRAD JAZZ & BIG BANDS WHEN GROWING UP
Did you ever go see acts in those music halls that were popular in England up until the 1950s and if so, did these influence you musically?
GB - I USED TO GO TO DANCES WITH MY SISTER & I ALWAYS WATCHED THE DRUMMER!
I love the tales about characters like Sister Rosetta Thorpe. How did the gospel and blues people mix or did they? It sounds as though Sister Rosetta acted as though she were more like a blueswoman like Ma Rainey . . .
GB - SISTER WAS COOL
Did you ever meet Junior Wells or Slim Harpo? Sonny Boy Williamson? What was he like? I heard some wild stories about him plucking a chicken in front of frightened Englishmen . . Give us some anecdotes about blues guys in England!
GB - ALL ANECDOTES I CAN REMEMBER ARE IN MY BOOK!
What connection do you hear between African music and American blues music? can you spot any traditional drumming patterns that maybe traveled from Africa to the U.S. when slaves were brought over? Do you ever read or care for any of those blues theorists and folklorists like Luc Sante or Alan Lomax?
GB - THE RHYTHM OF AFRICA IS THE ONE TAUGHT TO ME BY THE GREAT JAZZ DRUMMER PHIL SEAMEN AND ITS CLEAR THAT VERY FEW WHITE DRUMMERS CAN MASTER IT
What do you see as the relationship between drumming and the spirit? Do you have any interest in native african spiritual beliefs or religious practices?
GB - I BELIEVE IN STRONG MAGIC AND THE FEEL OF AFRICA.. YOU MUST HAVE A FEEL FOR THE SPIRIT TO PLAY GOOD!!
Are you proud of your son Kofi's renowned prowess as a drummer?
GB - KOFI IS A VERY TALENTED MUSICIAN AND OF COURSE i AM IMMENSELY PROUD OF HIM
How is the situation for wildlife in Africa? How do you feel about trophy hunters and poachers? I loved books like Born Free, Jane Goodall's work and Gorillas in the Mists.
GB - WE HAVE SOME PROBLEMS WITH THE BABOONS! BUT OF COURSE THE WILDLIFE SHOULD BE PROTECTED. SADLY POVERTY & EXPLOITATION FORCES PEOPLE INTO BAD WAYS
Did you ever read Chinua Achebe's book Things Fall Apart or Isac Dinesen's Out of Africa?
GB - NO
How is the situation in Zimbabwe? How do you feel about the situation there in terms of how the colonists' descendants were kicked off of their farms?
GB - ITS A VERY COMPLICATED SITUATION CAUSED BY THE WHITE MAN IN THE FIRST PLACE IN MY OPINION
Do you have any fave jazz musicians from the 50s/60s? Which ones? Chet Baker? Miles Davis? John Coltrane? Did you ever meet them? What were they like and what did you like about their music or not?
GB - ART BLAKEY.. MAX ROACH.. THELONIOUS MONK
You discovered you were a drummer by accident but taught yourself music theory on your own, correct?
GB - ITS IN THE BOOK!
Do you care for any classical composers?
GB - YES QUITE A FEW
Any interest in contemporary or avant garde music composers . . .
GB - NOT REALLY
Do you have any plans to play more Cream reunion shows with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce?
GB - NOT AT THIS TIME
Is Hellraiser an import or published in the USA as an ebook?
GB - WE ARE WORKING ON GETTING THE ELECTRONIC RIGHTS... YES YOU CAN ORDER IT STRAIGHT FROM AMAZON... SADLY OUR PUBLISHERS ONLY SENT 1000 COPIES TO THE US WHEREAS WE KNOW WE HAVE AT LEAST 1 MILLION FANS THERE WHO DON'T EVEN KNOW IT EXISTS. MORE PROMO NEEDED!
My friend William Winant, a world renowned percussionist and percussion teacher, is a huge fan of yours, he had two questions for you as well
What inspired you to write Toad (the first great rock drum solo recording)?
GB - IT EVOLVED OVER TIME FROM THE GBO DAYS
Ask him why he started to use double kick drums? He was one of the first to so. Ask him if he was aware of jazz drummer Louie Bellson's use of double kick drums, and if that had any influence on him.
GB - THIS IS ALL IN THE BOOK!
Lastly, do you listen to any contemporary music? Which acts and why?
GB - KELLY ROWLANDS & MODERN R&B.... COOL DANCING & BEAT!
Do you have any plans to record more music? Who are you playing music with nowadays?
GB - PLANNING TO WORK WITH JONAS HALBORG ONCE AGAIN
PART 2 - INTERVIEW WITH GINETTE BAKER
Were you thrilled when you father approached you about co-authoring his autobiography Hellraiser?
A: Not 'thrilled'! I just thought 'about time', as he'd recently told me he had another guy ready to do it & I thought 'well that's nice seeing as I've got a degree & do journalism, I wonder if he's ever thought of helping one of his own children for a change!' But I kept quiet & one day he called up & asked me to do it! Then of course I thought 'Oh good this could make my name and some money! Wrong on both counts! ha ha
While reading the memoir I was amazed by your father's recollection for details. Did he keep a journal over the years or did he recite those recollections to you at the time of your writing the book?
A: We are a family of constant drama so that gets recounted & becomes family 'myth'... he had written his memoir in the 80's 25,000 wds of which were still extant (The Graham Bond section). It was well written. But in the main these 'anecdotes' are a lot of them 'aural' history that keep fresh in the re-telling over dinner tables of the world...(this is how we get laughs & sympathy!) Other recollections were recited to me whilst I took notes & tapes prior to writing.. but I already knew the great majority of them & so was able to prompt further recollection.. i.e. 'What about such & such a place?' him 'I've never been there.' me 'Yes you have because I was with you' etc etc
I really liked the care you took into writing down people's names and crediting who played in what band and which artists did the artwork for his different projects. Was it important to your father to give credit to where credit was due?
A: Not really, it was the publisher's who wanted that.... we scaled it right down in fact! He only wanted to give credit to those he truly admired!
Some of the passages about the underworld of 1950s London were disturbing but fascinating and on par with William Burroughs' writing in terms of stark honesty. How did you decide to portray your father's observations and experiences in such a bold way? Did Burroughs or the in your face punk rock ethos influence your writing style?
A: Ginger read William Burroughs extensively in the 60's & 70's.. junkies tend to enjoy his work. Personally having lived with two junkies (my now deceased husband was one also) I have no need to read about it.. I've lived it & it was awful! Burroughs in my opinion is vastly over-rated, so no, he has not influenced me... Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Douglas Adams, Jilly Cooper.... my sort of writers!
I enjoyed your father's poems and reading about his sculptural art work and graphic work. Any plans to put a book of Ginger Baker's poetry with images of his art? I am sure people would love to see pictures of his art. I want to see the fiber glass sculpture with the motor in the middle he mentions in the book.
A: This is an idea we've been toying with for some time and I think it would be great. I 'd also like to put on an exhibition on of 60's art produced by those on the music scene. I have some stuff of Eric's & my mother (who designed the inside of the Airforce first album, the dragon, & is the granddaughter of one of the Belgian Impressionist painters) has some wonderful stuff. However, nobody is remotely interested in putting up the money & I have the ambition of a gnat!
After writing this book what new insights did you come away with about your father? I was struck by the scene when he mentions being in a bar in Manhattan in the late 60s and hearing people scoff at Vietnam war protesters after which he yells at them they didn't know anything about war. The first thing that came to mind is that your father lost his father at such a young age in WWII and that he carried this pain with him his whole life.
A: Yes he would have perhaps been a better person had his father lived! Who knows? Most kids who went through the Blitz have some sort of residual trauma..& of course this showed up in the 60's peace demonstrations. It was always talked about that my real Grand dad had died in ww11 & meeting the grandfather who had survived the Western Front in WW1 has perhaps kindled my First World War obsession. Ginger says his father is always with him, but don't forget this was a fate shared by many.
There must have been long stretches of time when you didn't see your father when you were growing up while he was traveling in Africa and other places. How did this affect you and your siblings?
A: It was fantastic when he was away, for these reasons, firstly, there was a rest from the constant violent conflict which was the sole dynamic of my parent's relationship and secondly we were free to establish some of our own identity away from an often violent, always egotistical & highly dominating parent to whom giving praise was an anathema! So yes 'hooray he's gone away, the longer the better!' Apart from meeting the stars etc, he was useful for some good social life!!!!
So you have a university degree and a master's degree in literature? What was your area of concentration and which authors from that era do you love?
A: I have a 'first' BA, and a post grad MA in which I studied 'writing & society 1710-1820' .. this is basically 18th century popular culture. I love modern popular culture & read very widely fact & fiction on all manner of subjects from astro-physics to Tolstoy to anthroplogical studies to war biographies etc etc.....
What contemporary fiction do you read?
A: Contemporary fiction I find to be generally of a very poor standard.. I read some I'm given as gifts etc.. I would say I admire the early work of Jilly Cooper tho' academics would die at me putting her in the canon! Sixties writers such as Nell Dunn and Alan Sillitoe ( Saturday Night & Sunday Morning) were cooking.. I don't really like reading fiction set in the 'now'.. its not escapism!
What are your dad's current music plans?
A: He is very desperate to gat some money. Before that he said he had 'retired' but now he's spent all the re-union cash (Eric wonders 'how'??) he's asking for work. However nobody has so far been willing and/or able to put up the cash or make the arrangements required because he is so difficult to deal with and wife 4 had made this a million times worse! Its more rock n roll than ever at his house!
So, when did you get into punk rock?
A: No my own memoir (I can send you some) tells how I was mixing with members of the Royal Family in 1977 & not 'against' them.. I became a punk in 1985.. when it was long over!
Did you know Poly Styrene? What do you have to say of her passing? I loved her singing. What were some of your favorite bands from the 70s and 80s?
A: I did not know Poly, but Zillah Minx was a close friend of hers & so I was aware she was about to pass away etc etc... many people speak very highly of her contribution especially lyrically.
What did your father think of your interest in punk rock? Did he ever care for any punk rock music?
A: He hated punk, he hates anyone who 'can't play their instruments' & that included The Beatles & The Stones!!! We were highly amused when he worked on Lydon's PIL album. Lydon also had said 'Never trust a hippy'.... hypocrites abound when cash speaks!
Which of the kids play music? Do you or your sister play music? Tell us about your brother Kofi's drumming career.
A: Do keep up with Leda baker who designed our web-site. A hugely talented guitar and bassist who played with Ginger (at my instigation) at his 2009 Jazz Cafe gig in London (this can be googled) She is also a a writer of computer software living in Amsterdam. Kofi is better technically than his Dad & is on tour in Europe. I do not play any musical instrument at all.