At first glance, it's a little odd seeing Arthur Baker out and about in the morning. After all, this is a man who has not only made his living in nightlife but also spent nearly four decades shaping its direction and timbre. As glimpsed in New Order's iconic music video for "Confusion" — itself a Baker-produced joint — the DJ/producer is distinctly an after-dark creature, alternating between dimly lit recording studios and blinding New York City clubs, with seemingly little in between.
But there he is at 9:30 a.m. on a sweltering Miami Monday, clad in an innocuous blue tee and shorts as he sits window-side in Wynwood's Zak the Baker, nursing an iced coffee and pastry. Any disconnect between Baker's profession and his present location vanishes the moment he gets to talking about Miami and its local flavor.
"You know, it's not a real difficult thing to convince people to come to Miami," Baker quips. "The buzz in Miami is superstrong. It's a very international city. All my friends from everywhere else always come through."
It's no surprise he has a large circle of friends. During his lengthy career, he's worked with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the Rolling Stones, all while changing the course of popular American music with the likes of "Planet Rock" and his quintessentially New York electro productions of the '80s.
Spurred by the birth of their daughter, Baker and his wife made Miami their permanent residence only three years ago. Even so, he's had a home here in one form or another for the better part of 25 years and has held an affection for Miami and its culture even longer.
"I've always loved Miami music," Baker notes, fondly reminiscing about driving down from his native Boston with a friend in the early '70s.
"We were listening to music like Betty Wright, KC & the Sunshine Band... There is an amazing musical heritage here which a lot of people miss, but I try to talk about it whenever I can."
Still beaming from a stirring DJ set at October's III Points Music, Art & Technology Festival, Baker is working with Miami legend DJ Le Spam to transfer Baker's decades-old master tapes to digital format in preparation for new live shows. Additionally, he hopes to put the finishing touches on collaborations with local artists such as Oscar G and Alpha 606 for forthcoming releases including, he hopes, a full-length album.
"In my life of making dance music, all my great, all my best stuff, I would say, was influenced by being out in the club," he says. "When you go out and you go, 'Shit, I wish I'd made that track; what the fuck was that?' those are the two feelings that inspire me."
Fortunately for Baker — and for us — Miami offers no shortage of inspiration.