My Life IN 10 Songs: Clams Baker Jr of Warmduscher on the music that has shaped his musical journey

In April Warmduscher released At The Hotspot, the follow up to their critically acclaimed third album Tainted Lunch, and by all accounts it’s an absolute blinder. We caught up with frontman Clams Baker Jr to find out more about the music that has influenced him from childhood right up to the release of the new LP.

1) What is your earliest music-related memory? What do you remember being played at home when you were a child?

My earliest musical memories are of an 8 track player my mother had in this all in one entertainment system, I don’t remember the music on the 8-tracks but I’ll always remember the vinyl cover of The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ that she had, I was always attracted to the artwork.  I also remember being obsessed with a little all in one vinyl player and playing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ on it over and over!

2) What was the first single/album that you ever bought? Where did you get it and do you have any recollection of the experience?

Track Choice: Lone Ranger and Tonto Tenor Saw

I can’t really remember this to be honest because there are a ton of gray areas… One being I used to get the spoils of my older brother’s publishers clearing house cassette subscriptions that he’d never pay for, so it’s not really buying.  My fondest memory is definitely not my first but it’s buying a Tenor Saw / Nitty Gritty sound clash album in Jamaica, I was 18 and on some kind of weird travel experience with friends after getting out of high school.  It was in a tiny shack in Negril, somewhere on the side of the road and unfortunately I don’t have it anymore.

3) When did you really start to develop a passion for listening to music? How did that come about and what were you into at the time?

My first real memory of being obsessed with music was probably when I was four or five and would sit in my closet and play my mother’s 7” on a little all in one record player that I had given to me by my grandmother I believe.  I would play all kinds of things but I really remember ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away’, ‘Flying Purple People Eater’, and weird stuff like ‘The Little Old Lady That Cooked and Cleaned’.  It must have been records my mother thought made sense for little kids.  I’d also go to my great grandmother’s house and listed to really old stuff like Jimmy Durante and that song ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ over and over!

4) What was the first gig that you went to (as a member of the audience)? Where was it and what was it like?

My first memorable gig was when I was 11 and it was to see James Brown playing with the JB’s.  It was at the Cape Cod Melody Tent where my mother and her boyfriend at the time would take me to see such amazing artists that would come to small places like this as they were past their prime.  It had a rotating stage and you could meet the members after if you hung around so I got to shake hands with James Brown and watch him eyeball my mom.  Pretty cool!

5) What are your memories of starting out making music? What was the first song that you learned to play?

The first memorable song I played was when I was also probably 11-12 and it was an awful rendition of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on the guitar for a school performance. I remember wanting to play the guitar so bad but taking lessons at school and hating them so I quit.  I then payed a friend of my brothers (well my mom payed) $10 a lesson to learn songs that I’d bring in on cassette. They were songs by Black Sabbath, Ratt, Billy Idol, etc…. I was around 13 then I believe

6) What was your first band/musical project? What music was influencing you at that time? What are your memories of playing your first gig and are there any recordings out there?

My very first band every was called Uncle Harveys (something??) with a friend Chris Harvey when I was also around 11, wish I still had the tape.  My first real dabble in music was a project called Future Sounds of Chelsea with my friends Nando Vazquez, Hiro Hyashi, and Jaesun Celebre, although Jaesun left after the first show. We were influenced by things like seeing some Jersey Boy get beaten down by five transvestite prostitutes for heckling them in the pouring rain, hence the song “Don’t Mess With Tranny’s In The Rain” and the annoying pretentiousness of hipster East Village people at the time “East Village Girls All Look the Same When They’re Naked,” definitely not woke stuff but it was early 00 and came from the right place. We did a gig with my NYC mentor Brian Butterick aka Hattie Hathaway, NYC legend of Wigstock, Jackie 60, and so much more. RIP! Needles Jones was also on hand and there is no footage or recordings but it was memorable to say the least.  I believe it was just a DJ set with PA but who knows. I don’t think you can find any music except maybe on an Ivan Smagghe mixtape if you search, but that project got me into my first real band and what made me start performing, which was Black Daniel so I’ll include one of their songs.

NB: At this point, a combination of the all-consuming head cold and associated sleep deprivation being experienced by the interviewer at the time led to a question for this feature intended for New York noise rock supremos A Place To Bury Strangers accidentally being sent to Warmduscher. Thankfully Clams saw the funny side.

7) What are your memories of starting A Place to Bury Strangers? What was your first release and what do you think now when you listen back to it?

? I wasn’t in A Place to Bury Strangers! Hahahahahaha! Oliver (Ackermann, frontman of APTBS) is a friend though.  I hope you leave this in. Oliver and I actually worked together in NYC briefly, one night actually, doing windows sets for Ralph Lauren.  I also was one of the first bands to play Death by Audio (Ackermann’s brand of handmade effects pedals) with Black Daniel so there’s the connections.

8) Which band/artist do you think has had the biggest influence on your music over the years? What is it about them that inspires you?

As I never considered myself to be a musician, but more a lover of music, I was influenced by so many.  It really ranges but to pick one that always comes up would be Big Black and Steve Albini.  There really are so many though, more so albums that shaped me with certain artists.  It changes all the time but that’s one constant for sure.  I love the abrasiveness and treble of the song of the recordings and the way he does vocals.  I also love the humor and wittiness of it all even though it’s pretty dark.  You just have to hear him covering The Weather Girls and James Brown for it to make sense. 

9) Who are some of your favourite current artists? What do you like about them?

There really are so many to talk about!  Working Mens Club, Sleaford Mods, Viagra Boys, Wu-Lu, Amyl & The Sniffers, Pozi, Nuha Ruby Ra, Working Mens Club, Benefits, Meatraffle, Petbrick, Josh Caffe, etc etc etc.. There are so many bands doing amazing things and also bands we are friends with that it’s overwhelming to name any without feeling bad about forgetting to name them all.  I chose Working Mens Club because I love the way they are bridging the gap with electronic and guitar music, I think we need it! 

10) You have a new album out now, how has your approach to making music changed since you started out, and how has your sound developed over that time? Is there a particular song on the record that epitomises what you’re aiming to achieve or that is particularly special to you for any reason?

Track Choice: Warmduscher Supercool

So we released our latest album April 1st, At The Hotspot, on Bella Union, and it has been incredible so far. We kind of strayed from the path while still kicking the same old dirt at the same time which is great.  It’s definitely a progression in sound for us as we produced the record in a more synth heavy surrounding with the dynamic duo of Al Doyle and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip but we recorded the same way we always do, on the spot.  The whole album is special to us as it wraps up a crazy period of time the whole world was experiencing and makes sense of it all in our own weird way.  People seem to like it so that’s an added bonus and that’s all we are really trying to achieve after liking things ourself.

At The Hotspot is out now – order on cd, vinyl or digital download via Bandcamp.

Find out more on Warmduscher’s official website

Interview by Paul Maps

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