Hak Baker’s music encapsulates city living; nostalgic memories meet London truths in his melodic G-folk sound. But Baker does more than just his art, he has his platform, Bricks In The Wall, designed to create a space for artists and musicians to be themselves, whilst remaining inclusive and accessible to their communities. We sat down with Hak in his studio and he told us all about his musical process, his relationship with London and what he has coming up.
How do you think growing up in London and the Isle of Dogs has affected, or inspired, your kind of music or your process?
Yeah. Growing up on the Island of Dogs and especially East London.. There’s opportunity everywhere, you know? You gotta have your ears open and move quickly, but that’s really the first thing you learn or you get left. You really just have to know when to stand your ground, and when to go.
And so how do you think those experiences shaped your style of music?
I think because there was a lot of different races over and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just taking a lot of music and inspiration from everywhere; school, reggae, garage and jungle, all kinds of stuff… you know what I mean? It was all a melting pot of different cultures and we, me and my mates [sic], just brought all of that together.
Yeah. How would you describe that as a genre?
Uh it's with its nuances. G folk is like, just something that we've made accidentally. I was like, I just wanna tell stories about my life. I feel like our life's exciting enough to anecdote, you know what I mean? So then we just needed to make a bed where the lyrics could live. So hence the folk connotation, and then we had to like G up, you know, like, so that's why it's G-folk.
Yeah makes sense. So, who would you say are your inspirations?
A guy called Terry Callier. He was this man from Detroit, in like the seventies or something, I listen to him a lot. My mate, Phil showed me him randomly when we were in Peckham one day and he just pulled out this vinyl. I felt like that was like new age folk, even then. So he was the man.
So tell us a bit more about your musical journey. Like, how did you, how did your sound evolve?
It's a long story. I just kind of got to an age where I felt like I needed to, I wanted to do something different. I always liked guitar. Uh, so when I got one, I was like, I gotta teach myself how to play it. So I just used to just play things. I think I've got a good ear for that stuff. So it felt like whatever felt, sounded good, whatever touched me. I would record it in my phone but I didn’t know how or where to start. The only person I knew was Allie, and I told him I wanted to make tunes and he said he would build a studio. And he did! And we came here, and we just made some tunes.
So he built this just for you?
No, he didn't do it just for me. But, yeah, that was that really. And it makes it sound simple but that’s kind of how it happened.
Let's talk more about London, and your relationship with the city. So, when did you move out of Isle of Dogs? Are you still kind of living in east London? What's your favorite part about living in London?
Uh, London, I got like a, like a mix up relationship. I used to be in fat shape. I left my mom and dad’s when I was like 14 or 15, and moved in with Allie again. I've always been susceptible to love. I've always been open to love from a young age. So I fell in love with all the back streets of London from a very, very young age. Like I was brought up on the street, basically, not in a bad way.
I love the underworld though, but it don't really exist no more [sic]. Underworld London was the best. It wasn't even horrible, like, like it was just beautiful, like people from everywhere coming together and having a good time. Do you know what I mean? Uh, but that don't really exist no more.. Don't really feel like our London anymore. So yeah, falling out of love with it.
Cast your mind back to when things were better and you did love London, where would you say was your favorite part of it?
My happiest memories of London are just being a bad man. Like 2005, 2007. That was the crazy brick lane era. When it first come back, like 2008/2009 to, like, 2013, and you could go raving at any time of the day. That's when it was alive, now it's dead.
Tell us about bricks in the wall. For the young initiator, explain what that is and how that came about.
Um, Bricks in the Wall is something that I’m building. It’s like a collective of people where we can get together and be ourselves to the maximum. I'm a black left field singer and it's difficult, cause we don't belong. We're not fitting into their like boxes or how they want us to be. You know, that we're not the most easily sold thing for them. Cause they don't even add the blueprint for it. Cause we're not following anything. We're just doing what we want and they don't really wanna support that.
So I thought like we've been working hard for the past five, six years, so we've got like a stage where we can put people on and make sure that they're heard, you know, so we did our first one in Camden and around us, which was amazing. We had, uh, Connie Constance. Who's doing amazing right now. Um, Rachel chin Kaiwa, um, and Bill Kaine who's like, gonna be super. So, like, I just feel like it's a step in the right direction. Like we're just building our own thing because that's what we've been doing here.
Let's talk about fashion. How would you describe your personal style?
Depends where we're going. Like. You know, if we're going out with the lads and we've gotta dress up, then you know, we will go for loafers and nice trousers and a nice shirt or polo, you know.
I just like to be comfortable. I just want to be loose, quite know, Jamaica yard, these black colors, uh, shirts, shorts. Just like to just float, I'm a floater, so I could end up anywhere by the end of the night.
How have you been spending your summer so far?
My summer's been great, man. It kind of started off with a pub tour from bloody Scotland to Brighton. It was amazing, probably around the best times of my life. I just got my driver's license back. And I was like, just driving myself, everywhere, to Manchester, to Brighton and everywhere.
You've created a playlist for Wax Radio. What inspired this? When you do make it, what do you, what kind of thing do you think would again, kind of Wax vibe? And where would you listen to it?
The playlist was just inspired by, like, free movement and at the same time, relaxing music, man. It's a mix of a fast paced and relaxing kind of tune.
You gotta be in like Soho, cuz you're getting ready to go out. So you're getting lively and then you just relax, and go to a nice little pub and go to a nice little shin. That's where you shake your shoulders.
And finally… What's exciting? What have you got coming up in the next 6 or 12 months?
Album… Hopefully start releasing that next year. So that's gonna be fun. And maybe have a break somewhere, probably not.
1.Young Again – Hak Baker
2.Juno – Sam Akpro
3.Dancing Girl – Terry Callier
4.I Wanna Be Adored – The Stone Roses
5.Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
6.Turn Israel – G.T. Moore
7.Yam Yam – No Vacation
8.Closer – Mr Fingers
9.West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys
10.Dosed – Red Hot Chili Peppers
11.Stick & Move – Big Sad 1900, Uce Lee
12.Adversity – DVS
13.Bricks in the Wall – Hak Baker