Baker Studios has been one of the most sought after rooms in Victoria BC since 2001, attracting bands and artist from all over the country and beyond. We have plenty of new and vintage gear including a Neve 5305 20 channel console, this beauty sounds fantastic! We also have a mastering suite and offer very competitive rates.
As the city’s foremost music producer and engineer, Baker is rarely without work. He’s a consummate musician with some of the best ears in the business, but he also has a work ethic unlike most of his contemporaries. With days dwindling in advance of a six-month journey that will keep him on the road until October, he should have been putting together plans for his time away. Instead, the native of Southampton, England, squeezed in multiple recording sessions with local singer-songwriter Jesse Roper.
If prep work for his upcoming dates in Europe with New Age artist Deva Premal weren’t enough, Baker also put the final touches on his new solo recording, Soul Sketches, further increasing his workload leading up to his Thursday departure.
“It was a bit of tight squeeze, to say the least,” Baker said with a laugh.
That’s nothing new. Baker, 42, has been the city’s busiest producer and one of its best-regarded musicians since 1992, his first year in Victoria. In the two decades since, he has recorded or played on numerous Juno-, Grammy- and Latin Grammy-nominated recordings, even netting a Juno nomination himself for best recording engineer in 2013.
His vast resume includes studio work on albums by Cowboy Junkies, Mae Moore, the Bills, Kuba Oms, Alex Cuba, Marc Atkinson and more. To his credit, he has done it all from the confines of his Prospect Lake compound, Baker Studios. After a few stints as a solo artist, the studio became a reality when Baker renovated his basement and simply bought some gear.
“That’s how it started. It found me. I wasn’t looking for it,” he recalled.
Baker will be playing bass and drums on his upcoming two-month tour, something he has done often in the past.
He began playing with Court of Miracles, a family band featuring his mother Jaki Whitren, father John Cartwright and brother William Cartwright. Whitren and Cartwright were a duo of some renown in the 1970s and ’80s, so tours with Court of Miracles provided a steep learning curve, Baker said. “It was an amazing school for a young musician to go through.”
His own career “went in phases” after that. During the early ’90s, he lived in London while working as a professional musician. Two years later, after meeting his future wife in London, he was married and living in Victoria.
“I tried to do the professional musician thing here, playing in every single band I could, teaching on the side. I got burned out. I could see myself 15 years later playing a bar gig for $100 with a cover band, not wanting to be a musician anymore,” he said.
After making the decision to quit playing bar gigs in the mid-1990s, he took a left turn into construction.
“That was a really interesting one for me. All of a sudden, when I wasn’t gigging anymore, I started getting inspired. I started writing songs, wanting to be a musician again.”
His first order of business was to build Baker Studios, from which he has never looked back. “Before I knew it, I was booked. One project after the next after the next.”
Is it difficult to tone down your recording schedule when you’re on the road?
I bought myself a mobile ProTools rig so that I can travel and record. I won’t be so tied down to being in the studio all the time. I’m entering a new chapter in my life.
You have done everything from dance to world music. Where is the through-line for you?
I’m passionate about music, all kinds of music. I really enjoy working with people, and feel that making a record with somebody is such an intimate and deep experience. That, for me, is the most exciting part of it — having this fantastic community of people that I love.
What is your decision-making process on what projects you will and will not do?
I just follow my nose. Somebody presents an idea to me and I start sketching with a pen. Before you know it, you’ve got a picture. It’s difficult to describe really.
Many of the projects you take on involve musicians from Victoria, some of which are largely unknown. After working with you, they often achieve a higher visibility. That has to feel good.
Per capita, this city is an incredibly rich pool. I am really surprised at how many fantastic musicians there are here. It has been a fantastic place to develop my skills as a producer and engineer.
With the number of projects you have on the go at any one time, does it ever feel like too much at some point?
I’ve been this busy for as long as I can remember. It’s been non-stop. There have been times where I’ve worked 10-, 12-, 14-hour days every single day without a day off for two months. That’s studio life.
Is there a downside of that workload?
I push myself maybe a bit too hard. I’m 42 now, so I think it’s time to start learning some balance.
You play pretty much everything on your new album, Soul Sketches. What do you feel is your biggest strength as a musician?
I love it all, man. I love playing drums, I love playing keyboards, I love playing bass. For me, the bass is probably the most satisfying.
Musician, singer, songwriter, mixer, engineer, masterer, producer, arranger. Am I missing anything?
I never like looking at it that way, to be honest. I’m always a bit embarrassed about tooting my own horn. It’s all just music.