Arthur Baker has been there, done that and is still doing it. Having ignited his career in the early 1970s, the American producer and DJ is widely respected as a doyen in the dance music and hip hop communities. His production fingerprints can be found embroided into groundbreaking recordings from hip hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa and British post punk group New Order, among many others. And Baker is still cooking up the goods.



It's generally accepted that the dance music sector hit a rough patch in recent years. Do you see a brighter future for dance?

Creatively there are so many people doing different things. Especially In Europe, dance music starts in the underground and within six months it's (synchronized) in a car advertisement. The shelf life for underground tracks isn't too long. I saw it happen with drum 'n' bass. When I first came to London, it was an underground thing, happening in small basement bars. Then within a year it was used in BMW commercials. Dance music is going off into other creative directions and everything is possible.

Does a DJ or producer have to multi-skill to get ahead?

Any dance producer should also be a DJ. It's almost like advertising yourself. First of all, as a DJ you get to experience how people react to the music in a club. And you'll make more money, or at least it can be a regular income. There are no big budgets for dance producers anymore, and producers won't earn a lot from record sales unless they have a huge crossover hit. Producers can make a living from remixes, but you're not going to get hired as a producer, but as a producer/DJ.

Why did you make the move a decade ago from NYC to London?

London is very open to dance music. Its much more considered 'pop music' than it is in America, where it is considered underground. The pop music in America is hip hop, which in England is the underground. When I moved over, there were a lot more clubs, and dance music of course is much bigger in Europe. So there's more work. I'm not really inspired by living in London, its more hearing other peoples' music that inspires me.

Are you impressed with the general quality of dance music out there?

I think right now we have a level playing field, where for the most part, everyone has access to the same equipment. The music I really like now is pretty much made by people who 10 years ago couldn't afford to get into the studio. There's a lot of great talent that now has a chance to make music and make records, which is great. But, of course, there's a lot of crap that comes out.

Is research critical for a producer or DJ?

Very much so. You have to go to clubs all the time and check out what gets a reaction. I think most young musicians nowadays are making music in a vacuum. Just do your research. It's really important.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm doing my own record. I do try to work on my music every day, for a few hours at least. If you work on it, eventually something great will come by. Most people have a great record, or great track in them. It could be anyone out there. My theory is that anyone who writes a song will potentially write a great song. Whether or not anyone will get to hear it, is another thing. But the bottom line is that, with the Internet and all the permutations of the Internet, that one great thing now gets a chance to be heard.


Photo By Matthew Niederberger

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