Jon Baker (producer)
Jon Baker is a music industry executive. He has worked as a fashion designer, promoter, and is currently co-owner of Geejam, a luxury resort and recording studio located in San San, near Port Antonio, Jamaica.
Baker was born in 1960. His father was a specialist car dealer and his mother the head designer at British ready-to-wear fashion firm Susan Small, and designed dresses for Princess Anne (including her wedding dress) and other notables.
He went to the Chelsea School of Art in 1977 where he was introduced to the punk scene. In 1978, Baker opened ‘’Blooz,’’ a shop in Kensington Market that specialized in punk rock and new wave style t-shirts. By the end of that year, Baker had become part of the burgeoning post-punk new romantic movement, influenced by Chris Sullivan, Boy George, Sade and Spandau Ballet and based largely around the Blitz Club. In 1978, Baker opened a fashion store called Axiom in the Great Gear Market on King’s Road in London and was a stylist for many New Romantic bands like Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran). In 1980 Baker traveled to New York to stage a fashion show by Axiom designers coupled with a performance by Spandau Ballet at the Underground Club on Union Square Park.
In the early 1980s Baker moved to New York and worked with Ruza Blue, a British expat and music promoter, who brought him to Disco Fever, an important early hip hop club in the Bronx. The two started a popular hip hop night at NYC’s Club Negril. When Negril proved too small a venue, the two promoted an important and very popular Friday night hip hop party at The Roxy. During this era, Baker also ran Jon Baker Productions, a small booking agency that brought well known club nights from London and Berlin to New York’s Danceteria, and British design collectives to New York and produced fashion shows for nightclubs like Danceteria, the Roxy, the Peppermint Lounge, and The Ritz.
Gee Street Records, 1985-1990
Baker’s returned to London in 1984. In 1985, Baker organized Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s first UK tour. That year he met Rob Birch and Nick Hallam of the Stereo MCs and together, they began to produce and distribute white label records to London dance shops. He also met future wife Ziggi Golding, an agent who ran the progressive “Z” modeling agency, with whom he established Gee Street Records. Among the artists Gee Street signed and/or promoted were Jon King/King Butcher, Funtopia, Gail Ann Dorsey, Queen Latifah, The Jungle Brothers, The Stereo MCs and PM Dawn.
Gee Street’s first major success was the release of Straight Out of the Jungle by the Jungle Brothers; its single “I’ll House You” went top 5 in the UK national charts. Then, in 1988, he signed the Stereo MCs to a licensing deal with Island Records. In 1989, he brought PM Dawn to England to record. By 1991, PM Dawn’s demo had incredible underground buzz and garnered interest from all the major record labels.
Island Records 1991–1997 / V2 1997–2000
In 1990, Chris Blackwell signed PM Dawn, and proposed a joint venture with Island/Polygram that secured Gee Street’s roster for Island. Back in the US, Baker became a senior A&R man on the Island records team and head of Blackwell’s newly formed Island Jamaica label for North America, which included Luciano, Chaka Demus and Pliars and Beenie Man among others. In 1996, Blackwell left Island and the Polygram group. With this, Baker bought Gee Street and resold 75% of it to Richard Branson. In the deal, Baker retained control of Gee Street’s marketing, promotion and A&R, while Branson made Gee Street the cornerstone of V2 Records in North America and named Baker co-President.
Baker sold his shares of Gee Street to Richard Branson in 2000. In 2002 he moved to Jamaica, became a Jamaican citizen. That year, he also produced the album Adelante, featuring Kymani Marley, Alberto D’Ascola (aka Alborosie) In 2004, Baker produced Two Culture Clash in collaboration with producer Mark Jones in the UK. In 2004 and again in 2005, he became a consultant for New Reality TV’s Digicel Rising Star talent competition on Jamaica’s TVJ television station in 2004., In 2006, Baker worked with Steve Beaver of the Hong Kong-based Beaver Music on the Singerz Collection album series through Universal Japan; it featured contemporary songs interpreted in a reggae style. Later that year, however, Baker and Beaver went into a more formal partnership and agreed to develop Geejam into a luxury private hotel. To this point, Baker had devoted a great deal of his energy to make Geejam an exclusive residential recording studio. The studio’s resources had earned a strong reputation among industry insiders and attracted several top artists including Gorillaz, No Doubt, India.Arie, Dru Hill, Godwana, Les Nubians, Wyclef Jean and Björk. Geejam opened to the general public in 2008 and is part of the Island Outpost brand. Since 2008, Geejam has been rated Jamaica’s number one hotel by travel review website TripAdvisor.com in March 2010. Over this time, Drake, Santigold, Major Lazer and Amy Winehouse have all worked on recording projects there. The Geejam Group’s most recent project involved the Jamaican mento band The Jolly Boys. Their album Great Expectation was released in the UK on September 13 and was received well by critics in Europe.
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