Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Kurt Baker

Artwork for ‘After Party.’ Courtesy of Earshot Media.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Kurt Baker recently unleashed the 80’s culture-oriented video for his single “Over You” ahead of the release of his new solo album, ‘After Party,’ out Oct. 23, 2020 via Wicked Cool Records.

The American musician, songwriter, music producer and multi-instrumentalist has made a career out of versatility and ‘After Party’ looks to be no different.

This time, he’ll get to shine under his own spotlight after two releases with the Madrid-based Kurt Baker Combo, who were more garage punk as opposed to his American five-piece, who’re rooted in power pop.

‘After Party’ will serve as Baker’s sixth full-length record, going back to his previous work with Kurt Baker Combo and The Leftovers. It’ll feature a blend of different sounds influenced by everything from ’60s and ’70s and new wave to album-oriented rock and ’90s punk.

Regarded as a “road warrior” who has played with The Offspring and Tommy Stinson in the past, when live shows are fully able to take place again, Baker plans to tour with the five-piece around Europe and the United States.

The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with Baker about ‘After Party’ and more.

Music Bugle – What was it like making the video for “Over You”? 

Kurt Baker – Making the video was a lot of fun and it was all shot in one day. The director, Trash Diamond, assembled a great cast and crew. Very professional. In the past, making a video can be quite tedious. A lot of time is spent doing nothing, but with this video, it was kinda perfect, because Trash shot the bulk of the footage in the morning and then told me to swing by the studio around 4 p.m. to film my parts. I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve shot music videos in Madrid, there is a high quality of professionalism involved, so it was like we were making a big-time video and I think the result is that it really is a big-time video. We did a few playback shots. It was during the summer, so I was sweating a bunch! Everybody was wearing masks of course, but I could tell we were all having a wonderful time. By the end of the shoot, the crew all had the song stuck in their head, whether it was a good thing for them or not. I took that as a sign that the song had met its goal – being catchy – and that the accompanying video would be a perfect fit. 

Music Bugle – What were some challenges you faced during the making of your album ‘After Party’? 

Kurt Baker – We didn’t have so many challenges, but we did have luck. The whole thing was recorded in January and February, only weeks before the global lockdown with Coronavirus. Craig Sala was able to drive down to Nashville to record the drums with producer Wyatt and then I flew over to Maine from Spain and we recorded the bulk of the material at a makeshift studio that we set up in my parent’s house, where I was staying at the time. Honestly, if we had planned to do the recording a few weeks later, it would have been a huge challenge to get it all done. We were really lucky that the whole band could get together and make a record together like we used to do back in 2012. Working with Wyatt is a wonderful experience. Not only did we co-write all the songs together, but he produced, arranged and mixed the record. He works really quickly and always comes back with wonderful-sounding results. I think the challenge now is trying to make sure this record gets heard by as many people as possible! 

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise? 

Kurt Baker – Right now, I’m listening to the new record by The Yum Yums from Norway. Their new record is probably their best one yet. Just infectious pop-punk. I love those guys and we’ve had some wonderful times sharing the stage together. Another record that I’ve been listening to a lot lately that just came out is by a band called Mom. I have no idea where they are from or have any other information on them, but the new LP rips! I’ve also been listening to the Serge Gainsbourg record, ‘Aux Armes Et Caetera,’ which is his reggae album. Actually, I’ve been listening to a lot of ska music lately too. I used to love ska when I was a teenager, then I took a long, long, long break from it. Now, I’m coming back around.   

Music Bugle – What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far? 

Kurt Baker – That’s a hard question. I know it sounds cliche, but since this whole Coronavirus shit happened, it’s made me really appreciate that I’ve had the fortune and ability to play music on stage for people, so just knowing that I’ve played all over the place to fans that dig my tunes counts for many memorable moments. I did get to do a little impromptu jam with Jimmy Fallon once at a bar in New York City called Manitoba’s. He was buying the shots! It was fun. Also, we played this amazing Halloween Ball in Tokyo last year that was just unreal. So fun. 

Music Bugle – How deeply have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Kurt Baker – Well, those involved in the performing arts have been pretty fucked. No gigs or income coming in for that. Some months have been hard to make rent. Just have to stay positive though and believe that we will get through this. The lockdown in Madrid from March to June was one of the strictest in the world. We could only leave for the essentials. I live in a pretty small flat, so it was almost like a prison. You kinda psych yourself into the reality that you are in, which makes coping easier, but it was a bit traumatizing, to be honest. You know, when I’d leave to go get groceries, I’d be stopped by the police and questioned about silly things, like what I was going to buy at the grocery store. It was pretty bullshit, but that’s what you get sometimes with the cops. I’m glad that things have loosened up a bit, but Madrid is back in the spotlight for a very high rate of infections. In terms of Europe, the Spanish politicians can’t get their shit together for the betterment of the people. Instead, they are bickering and fighting as most politicians do, all the while essentially disregarding the health and the wellbeing of the people. Hopefully, things will start to get better soon! 

Music Bugle – What was your most favorite show ever played? 

Kurt Baker – One time, we played this gigantic pool party in the south of Spain. We all had horrible hangovers, but as soon as we finished our set, we jumped in the pool and it was one of the greatest moments of my life. So refreshing! 

Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder to stand out as a musician these days? 

Kurt Baker – Social media is probably the most important tool a musician has these days, especially now that it’s hard to get out and play concerts and tour – which is my favorite, but it does get tiring after a while. You’ve got to always produce content, keep people updated and interact with your fans as much as possible. If you are an independent musician without people working this angle for you, it takes a lot out of you. That energy should be spent on composing, recording and touring, but you’ve gotta stay in touch with the socials so it can be hard. On the other end, it’s such a great way to expand your fanbase, be in contact with your biggest to smallest fans and sometimes, it’s fun, so yeah, there are pros and cons to everything. Social media is just part of the job as a musician now, so you gotta get hip to it and just do it! 

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape? 

Kurt Baker – I was lucky to be able to visit my family and friends in Maine this past summer for a couple of weeks. The beach is the place that I love to go to. Listening to the waves crash against the sand and the rocks, it’s very calming. I’ve actually really missed being near the water in my seven years in Madrid. I think if I move in the next year or so, it’s going to be to a place that’s near the ocean or the sea. Being near the water is essential for me. There was a shark attack in Maine this past summer. That’s kinda scary. Shit. So yeah, gotta watch for sharks, anywhere you go. 

Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry? 

Kurt Baker – It would be great if more mainstream artists would focus more on just writing good songs. 

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

Kurt Baker – “There’s always money in the banana stand” or “May I start by saying how thrilled we are to have you here. We are such fans of your music and all of your records. I’m not speaking of yours personally, but the whole genre of the rock and roll.” 

*Photo credit – Natacha Bouznad-Villena*

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