Waronker was born in Los Angeles, the son of producer Lenny Waronker and actress and musician Donna Loren, and the brother of musician Anna Waronker. His grandfather was classical violinist Simon Waronker. He was a student of the renowned teacher, Freddie Gruber.
Waronker's first professional project was the alternative rock band Walt Mink, which he helped form while attending Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1989. The band's name was taken from that of a former psychology professor at Macalester. He played on their first two albums, Miss Happiness (1992) and Bareback Ride (1993).
Left-handed Waronker first became well known in the late 1990s for his work with Beck (on Odelay, Mutations, Midnite Vultures, Sea Change, Guero, Modern Guilt, and Morning Phase). He continues to tour and record periodically with Beck.
In 1998, Waronker played drums on two songs ("Bled White" and "Bottle Up and Explode!") on Elliott Smith's XO album. He also appeared on "Stupidity Tries" on Smith's next release, 2000's Figure 8.
In October 1997, R.E.M.'s drummer Bill Berry left the band in pursuit of a quieter life. Seven months later, as R.E.M. rehearsed in Athens, Georgia, for a tour in support of that year's Up album, Waronker was asked to come and play with them. His first performance with R.E.M. was in Washington, D.C., at the Tibetan Freedom Concert at RFK Stadium.
Between 1998 and 2002, Waronker toured with R.E.M. and appeared on two albums, 1998's Up and 2001's Reveal.
Waronker played drums on Roger Waters' album Is This the Life We Really Want? (2017) and joined Waters' band during the US + THEM world tour in the same year.
Waronker has played on a wide range of albums since beginning his professional career in the mid-1990s. Highlights include recordings with Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Johnny Cash, Yoko Ono, Pink, Leonard Cohen, Dwight Yokum, Thurston Moore, Daniel Johnston, Doobie Brothers, Bat For Lashes, Pete Yorn, AIR, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Richard Thompson, Gnarls Barkley, Jeff Martin's Idaho, Brett Dennon, Benji Hughes, Tracy Chapman, Leona Ness, Sia, John Doe, Five For Fighting, Nelly Furtado, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Lisa Marie Presley, Willie DeVille, The Vines, Badly Drawn Boy, Rufus Wainwright, and R.L. Burnside.
Some of his drumming can be instantly recognized on The Vines' "Get Free", Smashing Pumpkins' "Perfect", Beck's "Chemtrails" and Air's "Photograph", among others.
He has produced numerous acts, most notably "Tamer Animals" and "Rituals" from Other Lives, as well as albums for Yeasayer, Priscilla Ahn, Lisa Germano, Eels, and The Moth & the Flame.
In 2009, Waronker joined Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, Mauro Refosco and Flea to play material from Yorke's album The Eraser, as well as other original pieces, for three dates in Los Angeles in October 2009. The band, now named Atoms for Peace, then played a brief tour of America in April 2010. Their full-length album Amok was released February 25, 2013 on XL Records.
He currently plays drums with his band, Ultraista, formed with bandmates Nigel Godrich and Laura Bettison. Their debut album is due out on Temporary Residence at the beginning of October 2012. A remix single of their song "Smalltalk" was released September 18, 2012 on Ghostly International.
He performed on six tracks on Brandon Flowers' solo album The Desired Effect, which reached number one in the United Kingdom.
Waronker has an endorsement contract with Istanbul Agop Cymbals, C&C Custom Drum Company, and Innovative Percussion Drumsticks
In 1996, Waronker scored Miguel Arteta's movie Star Maps, followed by Chuck & Buck in 2000 and The Good Girl in 2002. He has also scored several documentary movies for AMC, including 2002's Lost in La Mancha. Other Waronker compositions have appeared in the drama Alias, the sit-com Malcolm in the Middle and on FOX Sports.
His drumming performances have appeared in a number of scores, including Man on the Moon (1999), Badly Drawn Boy's About a Boy soundtrack (2002), Collateral (2004), Dawn of the Dead (2004), and Walking Tall (2004).
Waronker attended Macalester College, from which he graduated in 1993. He is married to the sculptor Lizzy Waronker.