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Ginger Baker Press Archive 1970

Rick Grech Stevie Winwood Jeanette Jacobs Remi Kabakar

Ginger Baker is interviewed about Air Force

Ginger Baker's Air Force

Ginger's Bread 1970

CHOCS AWAY ER, CHAPS!

Record Mirror, January 17th, 1970

INTERVIEWING Ginger Baker — for whom I have the greatest respect as a musician following a rehearsal in the basement of London’s Revolution club for his new band ‘Airforce’ proved to be a mutual displeasure to us both. The most enjoyable aspect of the interview for me was listening to the talents of Stevie Winwood (organ who still manages to smile through his life and cry through his music, Harold McNair and Chris Woods (saxes) Denny Lame (guitar) Remikabaka (congo drurns and Rick Grech (bass -- excused rehearsal on this occasion were Graham Bond (alto) vocalist Jeanette Jacobs and drummer Phil Seamen.

Ginger rolled, thrashed and whisked about his multitude of cymbals and drums with abandon and occasionally punctuated the pieces with instructions to the other members which he sang or demonstrated on the keyboard or the organ. The only time this lanky red-haired complex really comes to life is behind his drum kit away from them he seems like a fish out of water - he appears to move in slow motion and conversation is often monosyllabic or confined to a monotonous mumbling drone.

After an hour and a half of being richly entertained by the Airforce came the expected break, publicist Robin Turner hovered nervously on the perimeter of things — presumeably to pick up the pieces — requested a few minutes of Ginger’s time and this is how we got on or not as you may judge for yourself. Highlight of the interview for me were the moments when Ginger’s eyes glazed over and the pupils rolled up into the upper lid leaving me conversing with two white sockets!

“I’ve had the idea for Airforce for a long time,” began Mr. Baker, “Er and er when I came back from Jamaica, being on holiday and that, there didn’t seem to be much happening Blind Faith-wise and I got together with Chris and Stevie at the cottage y’know, and a few sounds were very nice. Then Rick got interested and I just got together a lot of people who could do it! They were all people I worked with before. I have difficulty getting my ideas over to some musicians but not to these people they sort of help.

“It’s not possible to say how permanent Airforce is as a group — that will depend on circumstances but I’ve got very involved wiv it cos it’s so good. (chuckles) If you’re a ‘hooray’ it’s a Super-band I suppose — it’s a ‘good’ band (more chuckles). We’re just trying to do new things — things that haven’t been done before.

“There is no comparison to be made with anything that has been before - we took the name from a section of the Duke Ellington band which is affectionately known as the ‘Airforce’ we’re all inclined to fly sometime!”

This remark was emphasised by the vanishing eye-balls trick. It was when I referred Ginger’s earlier remark concerning Blind Faith and the fact that three quarters of BF were in Airforce that the bad vibrations began to fly!

Had Blind Faith ceased to be?

“No — I dunno. That’s something we haven’t talked about at all. Stevies’ doing a record and everybody’s got their own thing but I’ve not said that Airforee is a regular band. It’s just a band for now and again. I’d like to see it as a full time thing but we can’t seem to do things that way.

“There weren’t any differences between us and Eric Clapton. Originally it was thought that Blind Faith would tour with Delaney and Bonnie but when I came back Eric was doing that on his own. The concept of Airforce was formed while he’ working with them... I don’t really like any of these questions about all that. I don't think it's got anything to do with anything at all.”

I took evasive action by pointing out that it was Ginger who first mentioned Blind Faith and I thought most people were interested in what was happening with that - Mr. Baker disagreed violently and seized hold of my scribbled questions pointing out the name 'Clapton’ amongst them as proof of my felonious intent. I tried changing the subject as to whether Mr. Baker felt there was any substance to the argument that no group can really achive much musically unless they were of a permanent nature enabling them to take roots and form thier own identities.

"Bullshit!" said Mr. Baker.

Was there any prospect that Airforce might go to the U.S.?

"After the first two gigs I've got to go away to do something. I can’t expect the others to sit around doing nothing and if when I come back they are involved in something else - that's the way it goes."

What was it which was taking Ginger away - the projected film role?

"Film - yeah."
What exactly will Ginger be doing in the film?
"God knows - I'm supposed to be acting."
(Chuckle).
Have they given him a script?
"Oh yeah!"
What kind of character is it?
"A gunfighter (chuckles) y'know!"
It sounds as if Ginger was not treating the excercise too seriously?
“Right” (chuckles) I’ll try anything once.

"People kept getting on to me to try it. I read the story and I dunno whether it’s a good story or not — I don’t have to say too much. I’m not the star by any means. I don’t appear till halfway through then I finish up by being killed!

Who else is in the film?
“I dunno”.
Where is it being shot?
“Mexico.”

Does Mr. Baker see any significance in trend towards bigger bands?

“To an extent we’re just doing what I've been doing for years. I played in an octet years ago in which we played what we thought was jazz and I’ve been playing the same thing ever since through the Cream, Blind Faith and Alexis Korner. People like what we play which good because if the people didn’t like what we played there would be no sense in playing it - what were we talking about?

"... You can’t go on doing the same thing for ever. Good Lord! I just thought it would be nice to work with all my old friends.

“I may not make much money out of it but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s the music that is the thing. Obviously I’m going to charge a lot of money for it.”

Why was the group’s Dutch debut cancelled?
"Bread!” said Ginger and the eyes disappeared once more.

Was Ginger overwhelmed by the fact the Albert Hall concert was sold out before anyone had even heard the group?

“If I saw a group with those names in it - quite apart from mine - I’d think Jesus Christ I must hear that.”

End of interview and just time for Robin Turner to make a profound remark
about managers no longer managing musicians but musicians now managing their managers.

Ginger disconsolately kicked a drum about the floor.

“I can’t put myself in someone elses shoes," he grumbled. I went to shake hands — it was at least a good clean fight - Ginger kept his by his side. I shook a limp wrist.

“Yeah,” said Ginger.
“Yeah” Keith Altham.

FORCE ZOOM TO A MILLION

SHOW PAGE by JACK BENTLEY

If the break-up of the Beatles is causing you concern about the future of British pop exports — forget it.

American Impresarios have just advanced half a million dollars to our newest beat group, Ginger Bakers Air Force, without even hearing an advance disc or concert.

The money is part payment for an American tour of twenty-four shows starting in June. The final sum amounts to more than 1.000.000 dollars (over £400.000).

This was no hasty gamble. For here is a twelve-piece super group composed of potential bandleaders and led by a man who has just been voted the world's best drummer in a US national poll.

Ginger Baker, 30, is a name that is seldom tossed around on the Jimmy Young Show. Yet when he toured America with The Cream and Blind Faith he received the kind of fan worship that wouldn't have disappointed Tom Jones. Both these groups sold discs by the million. It's not only the Americans who are quick to latch on to Ginger and Co. as successors to the Beatles.

Last night the Air Force were picked to top this year’s final pop prom at London’s Round House. Ginger was at London’s pop mecca, the Revolution Club, waiting to rehearse what he calls “his bunch of loons.” when he told me:

"The fans have suddenly tumbled to the fact that any group I’m connected with is composed of real musicians—fellows who play their Instruments like top professionals. Thats our gimmick.

"John and Paul had great talent for writing songs but the Beatles were never great musicians. Nor the Stones.

“It has taken a long time to get together a bunch of first-class musicians who think alike.

“Most of them are making big financial sacrifices at the moment. Our organist, Graham Bond, is even disbanding his group, Initiation, to join us.

"Another reason people seem to dig our sound is that I let all the group have a go at writing music. More than half of them have numbers on our first LP.

“But there is a good dividend in return. I have made the band co-operative so that everybody gets a fair percentage.

“We have a vocal group in place of a brass section—two girls making like trumpets and two men like trombones.

“Every Instrument is amplified but this doesn’t mean blasted ear drums. Volume can be reduced as easily as it can be turned up.”

Reason
Ginger first played trumpet with the RAF Cadet Corps and then built a drum kit out of plastic. He practised up to ten hours a day.

His great passion is his new 150 mph Jensen FF sports car.

"That’s one reason why I’m goin to America by boat," he said. “I want to take it with me.

“Besides, I’ve flown so many thousands of miles that maybe the law of aveages is against me now.”

Next week the Air Force tour Scotland and the North, and Ginger will make it in his Jensen.

“That reminds me,” he said. “I must send your article over to America because some fans will want convincing I’m still alive. It has just been announced over there for the fifth time- that I’ve been killed in a car crash."

When I left Mr. Baker I think he was considering doing next week’s tour by canal barge.

 

Portrait of a man making a million and happy to talk about:
GINGER'S BREAD by Jack Tinker

GINGER BAKER put the fat brown wage envelope close to his ear and rattled it with scowling suspicion. “There should be two-and-tuppence in change,” he said.

There was.
So when he goes on to tell you that he knows to the last penny just how his fortune stands, you believe him implicitly.

At the age of 31 he Is a millionaire. On paper anyway. Which, if nothing else, puts him in a class of his own among the world’s greatest drummers.

However With the red haired Mr. Baker, there is plenty else.

Wild
He has to be both seen and heard to be believed. His music is as wild, compulsive, complex yet strangely disciplined as his life-style.

Stories about his prowess behind the drums rival those of his magic touch with money. How, at one recording session, in the middle of an Intricate drum solo, he aimed one of his sticks with deadly accuracy at an offending group member, and carried on p1ayng without dropping a beat.

Ginger has been hotly tipped to win next week's Melody Maker poll for the drummer of the year.

It has been a long and spectacularly colourful haul to the top for the Lewisham boy who had set his heart on becoming a racing cyclist.

“I gave up when my bike got smashed in an accident and I found I could play the drums better than I could pedal,” he says.

After that major decision there followed 16 years of unstately progress. From the old trad bands up through the super-star groups of Cream and Blind Faith, to Air Force, the group of “guys I like playing with and know can play.”

Now, one Albert Hall concert, a double LP, and several sensational gigs later, AirForce are one of the most potent forces in the ‘70s pop scene.

Air Force were Just winding up a long and steamy recording session. Outside the Barnes studios, Ginger’s low gleaming steel-blue Jensen spread its £6,000 length along an impressive stretch of kerb.

This and an imposing house in the poshest part of Harrow’s very straight stockbroker belt, are the only outward concessions he makes to the conventional millionaire image.

Vivid
So far no one had felt the wrong edge of his drum-sticks. But as he fired off a battery of complicated directions in a voice punctuated by vivid expletives, there was no mistaking who was boss around here.

“I’ve had all your committee-run groups with everyone having a vote what happens,” he says in language which has to be diligently pruned for print purposes.“It’s not power I’m interested in. But I know when I'm right and I say so.”

Both Cream and Blind Faith were abandoned when they did not go the way he thought they should. “Ever since we made it big with Cream I have invested my bread well.”

The bread gets buttered better and the butter spread further each year. Nigeria is the current focal point for his investment. He is hoping to set up a home there.

“I’m not a capitalist. No one needs more than enough to see their wife and kids right for life.” Ginger reckons that his wife Liz and his three young children, Ginette Karen (nine), Leda Kirsten (two and a halt), and Kofi Streatfield (one and a bit), are now in that happy position.

“So I spread the bread around a bit,” he says.
Suddenly it was time for his group’s pay-out. “I’ve not paid them all they've earned. I’ve kept a bit back. They’ll only blow it all in one go and they’ll be glad of this later. You know what it’s like.

Ginger Baker does understand money as well as he understands music.