Warmduscher’s Clams Baker talks to Getintothis’ Orla Foster about how he is managing to keep busy and keep the momentum going during lockdown.
Their name may be cod-German for “massive wimp” but don’t expect Warmduscher to shrink from a challenge.
Since forming in 2014, the band has barely had time to draw breath, piling up sell-out shows in their native London and just about everywhere else in the UK.
Though spawned from various members of Fat White Family, Paranoid London and Insecure Men, their true genetic make-up lies surely in sticky dancefloors, cowboy hats and big, perspiration-soaked moustaches.
For their two latest albums, the band teamed up with producer Dan Carey to immortalise the steaming-hot twisted disco and garage fuzz that has become their signature, underscored by the depraved rasp of frontman Clams Baker Jr.
We spoke with Clams to hear more about the band’s ascent.
This interview happened to take place on the VE bank holiday, and from time to time our voices would be drowned out by the singing, shouts and whistles of party-hungry neighbours trying to run races at two metres apart.
We talked about the perverse ways cabin fever has been playing out lately, but also how being holed up at home can sometimes make you more productive than you bargained for.
Getintothis: Warmduscher first came together for an NYE party at a pub. After such spontaneous beginnings, how did the band evolve?
Clams Baker: The band started out because we had such a good time together. Back then we didn’t really have to worry about much because we were just kind of making it all up.
We didn’t rehearse or anything like that, we just played. Things were all mashed up in one take, we did whatever we felt like, and whatever came out, we stuck with it.
But now we’re getting a lot more structured. We have songs that people want to hear, we have a set, and we have to put the work in.
Getintothis: You’re usually framed as a live band. Does that energy translate to record the way you want it to?
Clams Baker: We record each album like it’s a live situation, so it’s kind of the same as a gig. Both Whale City and Tainted Lunch were recorded that way.
For Whale City, we had to do each half of the album in one take. If one of us messed up we had to start over. It’s weird, that energy made it just like a live album.
We worked on one side one day, the other side the next day, and just played through our songs all in a row. I think the live element of the albums is a big part of it for Dan (Carey) as well.
Before that, I often just made up lyrics on the spot while we were playing, so we’ve always worked within constraints.
Getintothis: So you could be mid-show and find yourself creating a new song from scratch?
Clams Baker: That was pretty much it at first. We didn’t even play that many gigs, only when we felt like it. We basically wrote by playing live and making shit up, which just naturally led into making songs.
We’d be playing the same thing over and over and then be like oh shit, here’s a song. If that makes sense.
Getintothis: If you’re making music so instinctively, how do you know what to discard?
Clams Baker: The thing is, when we’re recording there isn’t anything to discard. Getting everyone together is always tough, so when we do it, there’s no time for messing around.
When we made Whale City, Jack was spending most of his time in Glasgow and Ben was busy doing a solo album in New York. We went into the studio thinking, okay, we need twelve songs. We spent around five days writing them and four days recording.
There was no room to experiment. You have a set time period, and there’s no going back and recording things again. You kind of have to be happy with it because there’s nothing you can do.
Getintothis: Your sound takes in lots of different influences, with raggedy post-punk and disco basslines sitting alongside ballads like Summertime Tears and Tiny Letters, which wouldn’t sound out of place on the jukebox at Eddie Rockets. Do you like to throw in a curveball or two?
Clams Baker: We just like to do what we want, in a selfish kind of way, and that can mean trying on lots of different genres. I like to have something different at the end of the album, or to slip in throwbacks to older stuff. Summertime Tears and Tiny Letters are both real old-school throwbacks.
A silly ode to those types of old rock’n’roll bands. It’s having fun, that’s all. No one’s ever like, oh man that’s too weird or too silly. We’re lucky that way.
Getintothis: You’ve all come together from various bands. Are you over the word “supergroup”?
Clams Baker: It can be exhausting. Lots of people latch onto the fact that we’re linked with Fat White Family but Warmduscher is its own thing. We’ve all got our own projects outside of the band, sure — when I make music with Paranoid London it’s completely different.
On the same note, I’m sure that Fat White Family are getting sick of us, like we’re these guys getting free publicity off them, or whatever! Anyway, we’re not looking to be a press type of a band, really. Our strong point is playing live.
Getintothis: Is everything on hold for you now, then?
Clams Baker: It’s weird because I’ve been making myself busy, doing more stuff during this lockdown than I probably have done in years.
We’re trying to keep the momentum going because everything’s kind of been ripped out from under us. We’re writing another album right now… remotely. It’s not ideal but Dan is working with us again, so it’ll be really good, I’m sure.
Getintothis: What kind of things are you writing about?
Clams Baker: Just everyday life. I come from a pretty colourful background, I’ve been a club promoter, I’ve worked with labels, I’ve been in many different bands. I’ve travelled all over.
I’ve seen both sides of the music industry. So I like to take inspiration from all of that, indulging in my own little stories and scenarios about people I know. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about real estate — we’re being evicted from our place now, so that’s given me a lot of material.
When it’s happening to you, you want to make a story about it. When they come knocking on your door, it becomes kind of easy to write.
Getintothis: Sounds stressful. What makes London worth sticking with? Also, has your street lost its head over VE Day? It’s just that on this end I can barely hear you over the strains of Vera Lynn.
Clams Baker: I’ve been in London for twelve years, so I’m kind of tied into it. I live in a no man’s land in the south, near Clapham. It’s right off a main road, so there’s nothing at all, no celebrations here.
I’m very grateful to be in London, but I could definitely do without the high rents and everything else. It doesn’t always seem like a place that’s really worth the hassle to stay in, but I guess that’s a sign of the times.
I haven’t seen any war freaks going round here though, thankfully. Jesus.
Getintothis: Yes, wartime karaoke is hard to stomach. What are the main challenges you’re facing in lockdown?
Clams Baker: In a way, with phones and social media, it’s like society is built for this situation. I’ve got kids and they don’t find it difficult at all. They just sit in their rooms, they don’t have to go to school and shit like that.
But for the band, it’s a whole different level. You have one shot to do something, and you want to make the best of it, but right now none of that stuff even matters. Nobody’s going to gigs anyway, so you don’t have to worry about promotion, or selling out shows.
And also, it’s hard to know how to pitch stuff… the single we’re doing now, we’re like, is it for the radio? I don’t know. We’re not normally the kind of band to question these things.
Getintothis: It seems a bit redundant to talk about tour dates for now, but are you looking forward to having a punishing live schedule again?
Clams Baker: We had so many amazing gigs lined up ready to go, it was crazy. Nothing’s been cancelled officially, but maybe soon we’ll have a better idea of what’s going on.
If we’re allowed to start playing right away, then of course we will. Everyone’s going to be really up for it.
I haven’t heard about any underground parties during lockdown, are people bothering to sneak around?
Getintothis: There’ve been some illicit picnics, apparently. I also heard about people hiding in the cupboards of a pub round here, but nothing gig-related.
Clams Baker: Yeah, gigs are probably going to be the last thing to come back. Which is a bummer!
I don’t know what’s going to happen when this ends, but I’d like to imagine that we’ll be playing some insane shows, and people will be excited about getting back to normal life.
But logically, I think that everyone’s going to be scared to go out in the beginning, and there’ll be a lot of tension for a while.
Getintothis: As well as Liverpool, you have a show lined up in Birkenhead for October, which is nice as that town often gets overshadowed when it comes to music. Do you enjoy playing less obvious locations?
Clams Baker: We like playing pretty much anywhere. We’re definitely a live band, that’s what makes the most sense to us, and playing smaller places is great.
The only bad gigs are the ones where there’s no vibe, that’s all I care about. We had this gig once, I think it was in Switzerland, that was completely mobbed, but everyone there was just staring at us and wouldn’t react.
If there were five thousand people or five, it wouldn’t matter. But it’s the shows where people just sort of stare you out that make you wonder, oh god, how do I do this. I guess it is what it is — not everywhere is going to like you.
Getintothis: What’s next for Warmduscher?
Clams Baker: We’ve just been granted the Momentum Music Fund, so we want to go ahead and finish the fourth album with Dan. How we do that, I don’t know but we’ve already started to think about it at least.
Grab your slippers and head for the streets, we’ve been awarded this years momentum fund! Big thanks to
these folks for making it happen. @PRSFoundation + @PPLUK +@SpotifyUK + @CreativeScots + @Arts_Wales_ + @ArtsCouncilNI + @WelshGovernment + @InvestNI + @BenSherman1963 pic.twitter.com/NKlsK6J36q
— Warmduscher (@warmduscherr) May 13, 2020
We were in such a great place before this happened, but I guess it’s the same for everyone.
Hopefully when things get back to normal that’ll be the first thing we do, and I think it’ll be a better record because of all the shit we’ll have been through.
There’ll be lots to write about. I’ll be interested to see what we’ll come up with in response to all of this.
I’ll be interested to see what anyone comes up with, really!