When filmmaker Jay Bulger named his latest documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, he wasn’t exaggerating. The film begins and ends with its main character, legendary rock drummer Ginger Baker, attacking Bulger and breaking his nose with a metal cane. Known for his work in bands like Cream and Blind Faith – and, notoriously, for his drug use and temper – Ginger Baker largely disappeared from the music scene in the mid-1970s. But, surprisingly enough, his dramatic life carries on to this day. In the documentary, Bulger puts Baker’s otherworldly talent and tragic flaws on full display.
On choosing Baker as a subject:
"I didn’t really know who Ginger Baker was — except by name — at that time. It wasn’t until I watched Tony Palmer’s very obscure documentary called Ginger Baker in Africa — that was about Ginger driving the first Range Rover ever produced over the Sahara desert to go and live and play and record and build the first 16 track recording studio in Africa. And when I saw him driving across in that documentary, I was like, “Oh my god. This guy is something else.”
On the backstory of Baker's decision to road trip to Africa:
Well the inception of the idea was, he was at a gas station driving his Jensen FF, which is like a Ferrari — English Ferrari type, very expensive sport car — and he’s getting gas and he’s like, “Jeez. I’m going to go to Africa!” And he just got in the car — totally high — and he got in his car and got as far as Algeria or something, and he saw some really beautiful girl, and he drove off a cliff. And there’s footage of the Jensen off the cliff — they pull it up. He’s like, “Then I went back. I realized I needed an SUV.”
On Baker breaking his nose with a cane as they said goodbye after filming:
"His earliest memory is him going out to the tracks and watching his dad go off on the train [that carried him to his death]. And he [said in the documentary], “I knew that he was never coming back.” And he started crying. And he told me that he would never be left on those tracks again…. That’s what he does with people, and bands and music, too.”
On Baker being compared to drummers Keith Moon (The Who) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin):
“They shouldn’t be put in the same context. Ginger’s up there with Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams. The guy was beyond rock and roll. And he grew up in the jazz era. He was much older than Moon and Bonham, and he grew up playing as a professional jazz musician. Those guys would have said the same thing. They looked up to him.”
On Baker’s poor financial decisions:
"I basically documented him blowing all that Cream reunion money. Five to ten mil. And when I got there, he bought 39 [imported Argentinian] polo ponies. And at the end, he had to sell the whole thing…. They have horses in [South Africa], too. That’s how ridiculous he is. He could have bought those South African ponies."