On his new album 'After Party,' American musician, songwriter, music producer, and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Baker is back at it. And with 'it', we mean playing excellent power pop. The album finds him playing with his American band for the first time in five years, following two acclaimed albums with Kurt Baker Combo, his four-piece group based in Madrid, Spain. We caught up with Kurt who walked us through some of his biggest influences, which apparently run the gamut from the sweetness of Haribo candy to GG Allin, who has never been called sweet in his life.
'After Party' is set for release on October 23 via Wicked Cool Records. (photo credit: Natacha Bouznad-Villena)
This movie is so fun. I’ve watched it so many times. The dynamic between Kurt Russel and Martin Short is comic gold. We can all relate a bit to Captain Ron, or at least I can relate a bit to him. I’ve always wanted to be a sea captain, maybe it’s because I was born next to the ocean in Portland, Maine. Following the Harvey family and the Captain around the Caribbean is a hell of an adventure. I wanna say that it’s very rare that I find child actors to be hilarious, but actor Benjamin Salisbury is seriously hilarious in his part as “Ben”, Martin Short’s son. Also, Kurt Russel reminds me a bit of Joe Queer from the Queers in this film. Joe actually has been known to take the boat out on the New England coast every so often, so that’s kinda fun. If it’s a rainy day or even if it’s the most beautiful weather outside, chances are you’ll find me with an ice-cold pina colada enjoying my 1,000th time watching Captain Ron. They really don’t make movies like this anymore.
That Thing You Do
When it comes to fictional music films, it doesn’t get much better than this. When “That Thing You Do” came out in the late ’90s, I loved the movie, but I really loved the song. Penned by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne, who unfortunately passed away this year due to COVID, I remember instantly loving this song because it reminded me of The Beatles. It’s probably one of the catchiest songs ever written. I’d later become a huge Fountains of Wayne fan, but a few years after it’s initial theatrical release, I remember re-watching the film with my bandmates in the Leftovers. All the songs that were featured in the movie were so good, and I loved watching the Wonders go from playing a pizza joint in western PA all the way to the top. It was a very inspiring film, and musically the soundtrack became a big influence on The Leftovers. I always went back to watching this film, and it even hit home more when the Leftovers broke up. I don’t wanna spoil the film, but I got a lot of hope from watching this film in some darker moments in my musical career. It’s just a wonderful film with a wonderful soundtrack.
Turbonegro “Apocalypse Dudes”
Some may call it “Death Punk”, but for me, this album by Turbonegro is one of the hottest rock n roll records ever put to wax. When I got this album I was in high school, and it just blew me away (see the song “Good Head”, haha), but seriously - there was something so tongue and cheek but very dangerous about this band that was so appealing to me. And how they were able to fuse the sounds of The Dictators, Iggy and the Stooges, Ramones and Cheap Trick into one big ball of fury was just so amazing to my ears. I think because of this record, I got really into the whole Scandinavian Rock N Roll scene.. with Glucifer and the Hellacopters, but to this day Turbonegro is a band that I still listen to quite often. I got to meet them at Azkena Rock Fest a few years ago and it was so cool to be talking with Happy Tom and Euroboy. Two legends in my book
Dee Dee King - “Standing In The Spotlight”
Many people think this album is horrible, but to me, it’s a work of genius. Dee Dee King or Ramone was a visionary. Maybe he thought in a different way than you and me, but he was genuine and real when he did this record. It’s just SO Dee Dee, and that’s what I love about it. This record goes for a lot of money at used record shops, but I found a copy in pristine condition at a little shop called Dr. Rock’s Magical House of Wax in Malmo, Sweden. Dr. Rock sold it to me for 4 euros, something like 40 Kroner. This is a steal. Poor Dr. Rock had no idea, or maybe he did and he’s just a great guy. We always go to his shop whenever we are on tour in Malmo. He brings over a box of wine and sits in the corner chain-smoking and selling us piles of cheap used vinyl. Back to Dee Dee - so I had the chance to tell Daniel Ray, who produced this album how important it was to me one time when we were playing with the Dictators. He looked at me, very surprised, and said: “You gotta be shitting me!”.
GG Allin - always was is and always shall be
There is a funny meme going around with GG Allin on New Years Day 2020 looking young and handsome (The cover of this album), next to the raunchy disturbing, and disgusting GG as we know him with the words “3 months later”. Yeah, 2020 has been pretty tough, I know. But this album is a PUNK classic. His first one. I own three copies of this record on vinyl, just because. GG Allin was from New Hampshire too so that’s pretty cool. Just last week I was in Toulouse, France talking to a friend who runs a video production company and he doesn’t listen to punk rock or anything like that but he absolutely loves GG Allin and wants to do a feature-length film in French about his life. That’s pretty rad! GG Allin was many things, but he was a rebel against the man, against or messed up society. He also was really nasty. His first record is just fun poppy punk. It’s innocent and a good listen. And I listen to this record A LOT.
The Beach Boys - Love You
Maybe it’s the super heavy frothy synthesizers or the zany songs about the solar system and Johnny Carson, or perhaps is the heartbreakingly honest songs like “I’ll bet he’s nice” or “The Night was so young” that make this my favorite Beach Boys album. Brian Wilson was not in a good place during the recording of this album, but it’s just so warm and true that it tops “Pet Sounds” or any other of their records for me. I mean, I love the Beach Boys so much, and it’s kinda unconventional to say that this would be a top pick when you consider all the wonderful music in their discography, but this album just hits a home run for me. Give it like 5 or 10 more years and hipsters will be all over this record like they were for Big Star years back. I’m telling you!
Chewy, sugary, and deliciously bad for you. But I’m addicted. Hey, we all have our vices right? Go eat your ice cream and leave me be with my Haribo. The great thing about Haribo is that in each country you visit around the world, the Haribo varieties are different. So it’s a lot of fun because for example, there is no such thing in Europe as “Twin Cherries” or “Twin Snakes” which are available in the US, and in exchange, they have different packs like “Party Mix” in Spain, or more licorice-flavored gummy products in the Northern European countries. Bonn, Germany is where Haribo is from and one morning after a gig there the promoter drove me to the Haribo superstore. They’ve got in a case a gigantic Haribo gummy coin with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face on it. That’s pretty cool. I’ve even got a Haribo tattoo. Yeah, I know… I’m friggin’ crazy.
I’m a huge fan of Japanese food, so when we went to tour in Japan last year I was extremely excited to try out all the local cuisine. Sushi is great, and so is Ramen, but for me, it’s all about the delicious Chicken Katsudon. I had some GREAT Katsudon in Tokyo. Playing in Japan was always a lifelong goal for me, so finally getting over there and playing some great gigs and meeting so many wonderful fans was just an all-time highlight in my career… and of course, the food! So yeah, there is just something so delicious about the Chicken Katusdon. Maybe it’s the flaky buttery coating of the chicken or the fusion of flavor between the rice and the sauce. Man, I’m getting hungry. There was this one fan at a gig in Tokyo that knew about my first ever band when I was 13/14 years old called The Outnumbered. I had NO idea how he knew, but he certainly did his research. The Outnumbered were kind of Ska Punk band that was influenced by the Suicide Machines and Operation Ivy. We had a song called “Shut the Fuck Up Donut”, still have no idea really what that song is about.
Whenever I need to feel inspired, I put on Cool Runnings. This is a movie about believing in yourself even when you face uphill battles and the odds are stacked against you. My buddy Mark is from Calgary and he was around when the original Jamaican Bobsled team was at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Apparently, the bar in which they filmed some important scenes just recently closed due to COVID, which kinda sucks because I’d love to go there. One time my great aunt, who used to travel around Canada writing articles for newspapers in the Chicagoland area, brought me back a cowboy hat form Calgary which apparently made me an honorary citizen. So, I hope I can get an ice-cold Labatt or whatever they drink in Alberta for free when I finally make it over to that town.
Amigos is a bar and also a Mexican restaurant that is located in the heart of the old port in Portland, Me. On our new record, we name drop it on a song called “I Like Her A Lot”. The whole band has spent a lot of time at Amigos. It’s kind of like Cheers. You always see the same faces, for better or worse, and there are always fun times and good conversations to be had on the patio. Looking back over the years, lots of songs and good memories have come from nights out at Amigos. Our best friend Pat is a world champion Big Buck Hunter player, and they’ve got a machine there for him to play. When you walk in, he’s always there to greet you. We love Amigos. We also call it “Cafe Friends”. It’s definitely not a cafe in any shape or form. But it certainly is a Portland, Me classic. You didn’t hear it from me, but I guess their jello shots are pretty popular!