Q&A: Ginger Baker on Why 'the Rolling Stones Are Not Good Musicians'

'I won’t go within 10 miles of a Stones gig,' says former Cream drummer

Ginger Baker performs in New York City.
Al Pereira/WireImage
October 11, 2013 3:45 PM ET

Former Cream drummer Ginger Baker's life has changed since he starred in the 2012 documentary Beware of Mr. Baker. He moved to England with his wife and teenage daughter after decades of living on a South African polo ranch with 38 horses. He also formed a new group, Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion, with saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abbas Dodoo out of an impromptu jam session in England – and now they're in the middle of a run at New York's Iridium Jazz Club, ending October 13th.

Find Out Where Cream Lands in Our List of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time

Baker talked with Rolling Stone by phone about his new project, the weaknesses of his Sixties peers the Rolling Stones and why Cream will never play again after their 2005 reunion.

How are you doing?

I'm doing the same as ever.

I wanted to ask you about Jazz Confusion and how the recent gigs went.
Every gig we've done has gone extremely well. 

Did anything surprise you about playing with them? 


How did you put the group together?
It was a roadie friend of mine really, who got it together. Edgar, he's not really well at the moment. Abbas and I have been together for over five years now. But Edgar got Alec Dankworth, who's my favorite bass player of all time. He's the best bass player I think I've ever played with. He's just great. He's got a great sense of humor. It's really a joy to play with him and it's really good music.

Why is Alec your favorite bass player?
Because of the way he plays!

Did you have any expectations going into it?
I just wanted to play again.

How did that decision start?

I don't know!

Do you remember where you got the idea to do this? 

No, not really.

Are you living in England now? 

Yes. That's where I am right now. You just phoned me so you know that this is an English phone number.

I know, I just wanted to ask.
Well why ask me questions if you know the answer?

I thought you might be playing gigs or rehearsing or something. Anyway, why did you want to go back and live in England again?

Because that's where the musicians are.

Do you still have a home in South Africa?

When did you sell it? 

A couple of years ago.

Do you miss it?
Yeah, I miss a lot of it, but that's the way life goes sometimes.

Has your life changed at all since Beware of Mr. Baker [Jay Bulger's 2012 award-winning documentary] in any way? 


Did you get a lot of good feedback from the film? 

I don't know! I have nothing to do with it.

Did you like it? 

Some of it is very good and some of it is annoying.   

Like what?
Like some of the people he interviewed. One of them I specifically told him I didn't want the guy on the film. (mentions a former manager) He was a lazy bastard and cost me a fortune.

But at the same time you had people like Eric Clapton and Charlie Watts.
Yeah, that was very nice. That was very good.

You've played the Iridium before and you played for Max Roach there. Are you excited to play…
I played with who there? 

You played for Max Roach there.
No I didn't.

Well he came to your show.
He came to two or three of the shows. Max is a great friend of mine.

Do you have good memories from playing in New York, specifically at this club?

Yeah, that was a great band. The DJQ was a really great band.

How long has it been since you played a show in the States [besides Cream's reunion]? 

I don't know. A long time. Probably the last actual show I played was at the Iridium. I don't know when it was. 1997, I think.

What is it like coming back and playing again? 

I don't know! What is it like – ?

Is it exciting?

I don't know. I don't get excited anymore.

Why not?
Because I don't! I never have done.

How is your health nowadays?

Not good.

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