TF Archives

Arthur Baker & Returning to New York: There's Not One Good Club There

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Sunday, June 27, 2004
"We thought Arthur Baker was going to be this technological genius creating these dance records and really he was just a punk let loose in a recording studio who didn't know what the fucking hell he was doing - he was just pushing sliders up and down."

Chatting to Skrufff a couple of years back, New Order's bassist Peter Hook admitted that they were surprised when they first met New York electro pioneer Arthur Baker in the early 80s in New York.

"We were terrified of going over there to meet him but when we got there we realized he was just like us," he recalled.

"We thought he was the 'bee's knees'(brilliant- Northern Ed). And he thought we were! He's still a great friend, he's a great guy."

And 20 years after he helped kick-start one of the world's key electronic groups, it's fitting that Baker sits right at the centre of the 80s flavoured new electro scene that's currently revitalising clubland in London and beyond. And it's also fitting that's he's sitting in his recently opened New York style diner Harlem in London, on a hot summer's day discussing his fast growing club concept Return to New York.

Opening two years ago with instantly successful electro-themed nights at the plush Great Eastern Hotel, RTNY has now expanded to the cavernous arches club SE One, and on July 3rd and 4th becomes a 2 night affair for the very first time.

"It seemed like a good idea, it's the 4th July weekend (US Independence Day) and I wanted to mark that but I also wanted to do a Saturday night," says Arthur.

"Everyone's going to get a wristband so they can leave and come back on Saturday and Sunday and I figure most people will do that. We're going to keep one room open for the entire time, but not the entire complex. For example, the Cock room is going to be opening at 4pm on Sunday afternoon, running to 3am. Junior Vasquez is playing from 9 until 3am. It's really a two day event."

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): How much is there a masterplan or particular concept behind Return To New York-

Arthur Baker: "We try to keep it consistent by bringing over a hip hop DJ from America each time; for example, at the last one we had Mark Ronson, we've had Mantronik previously. And we've just started doing house music at the last party with Todd (Terry) and Marshall (Jefferson) to make better use of the new venue. When we were at the Great Eastern Hotel, we were limited because we only had one big room there, which was always electro and that's why we moved to SE One, though we'll probably do parties at Great Eastern again. They thought RTNY was too big for the hotel. So that's why we've opened up to house but I've tried to go more retro house, so this time, we've got the Hacienda Room for example, featuring Mike Pickering and Graeme Park, who haven't played together in London together in years, if ever. And we've also got Shaun Ryder, Bez and Mani."

Skrufff: The electro room at the last party was busier than the house room for Todd Terry and Marshall Jefferson . .

Arthur Baker: "Our audience is definitely electro; the whole idea of Return To New York was to present a tribute to the past and the future, bringing in legends alongside new names. It's good to let the kids hear what was going on before alongside new live bands. We have Pink Grease and the other special we've got for the next party is Mick Jones and Tony James' new band Carbon Silicon. They wouldn't let us use their names on the flyer (Mick Jones is from the Clash) so the name of the band's there, but no-one knows who the fuck Carbon Silicon are. They're supposed to sound much like Big Audio Dynamite but more song-y."

Skrufff: What do you make of the vibe in London at the moment-

Arthur Baker: "The vibe's good in London because you know what, you couldn't get 2,500 people to a party like Return To New York, in New York right now. I think people are much more open to it here, the vibe's coming back a lit