“Beware of Mr. Baker” director Jay Bulger (center) and producer Fisher Stevens (right) are interviewed during the film’s press day on Sunday, March 11.
After just a single screening on Saturday night, Jay Bulger’s “Beware of Mr. Baker” became one of the most talked about films of the festival on Sunday (March 11). And while producers Andrew Karsch, Fisher Stevens and Erik H. Gordon are working on lining up more festivals and talking to distribution partners, Bulger is laying the groundwork for his second documentary, a feature on Bill Laswell.
While documenting the life of Ginger Baker in “Beware” meant moving in with Ginger Baker in South Africa, Bulger aims to take on Laswell’s work in Ethiopia where he is working on projects based on the country’s musical history. Laswell is married to the popular Ethiopian singer Egigayehu Shibabawu, also known as GiGi, who is living in exile in the U.S.
“Bill has made it his life’s goal to do for Ethiopian music what (Island Records founder) Chris Blackwell did for Jamaica,” Bulger tells Billboard. “Bill’s gone there and he’s building studios trying to mobilize and record their history. He’s doing it all to teach his son where he came from. It’s really beautiful. Bill, to me, is the next step in terms of musical explorers – he’s played every genre there is but because he’s a producer/bassist, he gets lost in history.”
Since the 1970s, Laswell has made a career out of bringing various genres together into single projects, working with John Lydon in a hip-hop setting, Herbie Hancock’s electric music such as “Rockit,” creating ambient dub versions of the music of Miles Davis and Bob Marley and, for the last decade, funk, Ethiopian and reggae fusions.
“Beware of Mr. Baker” tells the story of drummer Baker, whose life runs from superstardom in Cream to playing with Fela Kuti for six years, working with jazz legends, turning to polo and dealing with broken marriages and heroin addiction for decades. Laswell brought in Baker to record on Public Image Ltd.’s 1986 release “Album.”