"I’m a bit of a self-optimist-manipulator."
What gave you the confidence to pull a project of this magnitude off?
I had directed some music videos before and some commercials… I had just recovered from cancer and been a champion boxer my whole life, so maybe, to my own fault, I just do what I want. Like I said, I lied and said I worked for Rolling Stone. I’m a bit of a self-optimist-manipulator. I don’t know if other people do that, but for me -- if you ask me what I’m doing next, I’ll tell you something that I haven’t started... I might not even know if it’s possible, but in my mind, I say: “This is what I am doing. It’s happening.” And sometimes that doesn’t work out well -- in this case, it did.
There was this overwhelming burden of built-up promises that I had made; I had borrowed lots of money, bought a camera, plane tickets, and lived in Africa for three months. There was no way back at that point. He was the greatest obstacle, and I worried every moment that he would get angry and things would fall through. There were so many moments when I thought, this isn’t going to work out, which would have been a fucking bummer. It was just like things came together… From the soundtrack to the archive that existed that I stumbled into, just everything -- it felt like it was meant to be. If I hadn’t made it, I sure as hell hope someone else would have, who wasn’t scared of him.
What was your relationship with Baker like when the cameras were off?
"Beware of Mr. Ginger"
Same way it was with my grandfather, you know. It was like, get him some tea, sit down, watch TV, don’t talk. I mean -- we talked, but he’s a moody guy. He’s on a highly regimented morphine intake. The morphine diet is one that makes you really moody at some point and not at others; I planned the interviews around his morphine. I hung out with him around his morphine intake. He’s really good around dinner, not so good early afternoon, around noon he’s good, and morning: get the fuck out of his way, he’s like riding horses and running over pedestrians. He’s right out of Charles Dickens’ asshole -- he’s just a villain and I love that. He’s just like a character from another dimension; we don’t really have people like that anymore. And by that, I mean: explorers. Everything’s kind of been found, and musically, it’s stagnant… Peter Beard was like that, too. He’s really unbelievable, and it’s been exciting to be a friend; to be on that journey, I’ve been constantly enamored. I haven’t regretted any of it for a second. Well -- maybe, for a second, when he broke my nose with a cane. Still, even that moment, I felt, was really revealing. It was the last day we were together; the first time I was there, when I left the last day, he also picked a fight with me. He’s got emotional withdrawal issues or something, and it’s easier for him to burn things than it is to long, or miss, or whatever. It’s like, “You’re leaving? Cool.” I either shake your hand and we go the other way, or I just burn that. He’s a bridge burner.
"I planned the interviews around his morphine."
His ex-bandmates and ex-wives feature prominently in the film, but his new wife, who you were staying with, doesn't get much screen time. In her one scene, she says so much by not saying much of anything.
You see the gold chain dangling, she’s really young. She’s got a kid. She’s from a certain background. He’s there, he needs someone to take care of him. He’s got the “rock star” thing. I think he’s a really good stepfather, and I think, at this point in his life, he actually relates much better to kids and animals than he does to humans. I think he’s got some form of Aspergers, or autism, and I think he relates to people more with his music. I think that’s how he’s most capable of expressing himself.
When I asked that question [to her], I was really surprised. He had screwed something up, like, earlier that day he had done an interview and told them that she had been in a drug gang before and had done this and that. The newspaper was like, “Ginger Baker’s Wife In Drug Gang,” and he was like, “Oh, shit.” It’s hard to be in his life, because there’s so many implications and repercussions and the drama continues. Here he is, at the end of the world, suing a national bank, and his foot just keeps tapping -- he’s like bored, and he just loves creating chaos. He’s an anarchist. He loves it, the bombing; he was born into chaos and I think he arrives in chaos and people like Eric Clapton are like, “I just want to chill,” and Ginger’s like, “I’m trying to live at the end of the world very quietly. Unfortunately, my dogs have gone next door and killed an entire flock of ostriches and I’m just going to have to tell that guy to fuck off.” You know what I mean? He can’t escape it.