Interview: Albert Hammond Jr is excited
Singer/songwriter (and guitarist with New York City legends, The Strokes), Albert Hammond Jr. will perform special headline shows in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne next February. We caught up with him to talk about the tour and his latest record:
Hi Albert and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Something You Said. Firstly, congratulations on your new album Momentary Masters. Would you say that it is a straight-line evolution from your previous releases or a completely separate beast that doesn’t share much in common with its predecessors?
Well, thanks first of all. I don’t think when you create things, you can separate it. It will always have pieces of you… trails. When you walk you still leave footprints. It is a big difference, in that it is the first time I have had a full band and went into the studio with that, but I still think there are many elements of me in there and many elements of something that is very new. That’s what makes it exciting.
What challenges did this album present?
Well, you are always just trying to write better songs, always upping what you think you can do, always pushing yourself. You have to get excited about something you create and get to a point where you are more excited than about the past things, otherwise you can’t move forward. It is just a constant challenge in creating. In this album, in the actual recording process, the biggest component that caused a curiosity was how we were going to work together and it grew into something really fantastic, where all the band guys pushed each other to come up with better things. They really took to the songs which was quite amazing.
What does this album say about the stage of your life that you in right now?
I guess I just love playing music and really want to entertain and make more music with this band. We wanted to see if it could stand on its own two feet. How I feel myself personally, I don’t know if that is in the music too but I feel great. I have to energy for this career and now I have to see if I can do it.
When you set about writing for an album do you draw directly from personal experience in an autobiographical manner or prefer a disconnected third person fictional approach?
I don’t think about it like that, it is a constant thing. It is like saying ‘what do you do to get dressed every day?’. It is always different, sometimes it comes to you through things you did or as you say a third person experience. I feel like you only have what you perceive and everything that happens around you is like a mirror inside of you. The things you like, the things you hate or things about yourself. I take lyrics from anywhere I can. I don’t discriminate in where it comes from or how it gets there just so long as it gets to the place.
How far back do some of those songs stretch back? Is it all relatively all new material or have some of these songs been with you for years and are only now seeing the light of day?
No, it’s all relatively new. Maybe some parts. I don’t think there is any way to have all new stuff because there are always parts that are floating around that just find the right home. The songs on the album haven’t been waiting, so in that sense they are all new.
This album was released through Vagrant Records, was there a particular reason for switching from Rough Trade?
Yeah. I haven’t been on Rough Trade for a bit, I don’t think they wanted me to be honest. It’s not like I didn’t go through other labels, I was on New Line in America for the first album, RCA didn’t want the first album. On the second album they put it on a small imprint, Rough Trade took it and then Cult took it and with this one the BMG umbrella of Infectious and Vagrant. I am always looking for people who are excited. I am willing to put in a lot of work for the things I believe in so I just try and find people who will do that on the other end. It’s the hardest thing. I don’t hold any hard feelings towards anyone.
Meeting so many different musicians and interesting characters throughout the years, were there any words of wisdom spoken to you that really resonated with you and altered the way you approach your music?
There is nothing that is coming to me that I feel like I have to let out, but I have read articles with different musicians where they explain something, and I will be fascinated in how they explain something that I have always felt but explained it in a different way. It is fun to try and express yourself and have other people affected by it in the same way I imagine it might happen to me, from me.
Your collaborative and solo work has inspired a great many musicians but who continues to inspire you these days?
It depends. I have been asked that a lot and it is hard because it is constantly changing, but at same time it is how something hits you on different days and how it can inspire you. Sometimes it is your own new song or something you read. I guess a few years ago it was The Wipers and Adam & The Ants and their song called Car Trouble, parts one and two. There music was fun so that was inspiring. A lot of different books and friends inspire me. I have had lots of discussions with friends over dinner that was really inspiring. It is just a mixture of stuff, I feel like inspiration can be like different sides of your personality, such as your wants. If you want to prove something or get something you can do it by creating something. The morning inspires me, waking up and still breathing is pretty inspirational.
You achieved global domination with your work when playing with The Strokes, but does there come a point where you feel that it is a natural progression for an accomplished artist such as yourself to seek out a solo career?
I don’t look at it like that. I know we were successful but I feel that as time goes by you know you have left an imprint in history but you can’t really live by what you have done in the past, you feel kind of dead, it is what is exciting now that counts. It is amazing all the stuff we have done but I can’t just sit in a room and live on that.
As someone who works in music as well as fashion, do you feel that the triangle between fashion, music and art is equilateral?
Yeah they definitely cross paths at some point and at the same time they can be the extreme opposite. It depends but anything you are creating is in the same realm. I think they are all tied in like it is entertaining by looking a certain way and the art comes into it with the art of the record as an aesthetic. Maybe it is the aesthetic of something that tells people where you sit. I never think about this shit, I enjoy talking to you about it but I never really sit down and think about things like that.
Does working in the realm of design and fashion bring a renewed sense of vigour when returning to your next musical project?
To use your word, the biggest sense of vigour… which sounds strange coming out of my mouth, but I do like it… is just a song. It is based on a song. I mean doing the clothes thing that I have done has been really quick and easy. It hasn’t been time-consuming and is based on what I would have chosen or would want to wear at some point. I wouldn’t consider myself a designer… that would be me putting down other people that do it. There was an opportunity to do it and I thought it would be fun to try it.
You will be in Australia in early 2016 to play a string of shows and well as Mountain Sounds Festival. Do you adjust your set list when playing a festival or treat it as you would any other show?
It is definitely different. You tend to build the set list over touring and you start to see where things work and where they don’t work. The only difference with a festival is that you might have a lot more new people coming and sometimes you want to change the pace of it.
All the best with the tour and we look forward to seeing in Australia soon.
Thanks man, I can’t wait.
See Albert at the following venues:
Tue 16 Feb The Gov | Adelaide, SA (18+)
1300 438 849 | www.moshtix.com.au
Wed 17 Feb Woolly Mammoth | Brisbane QLD (18+)
1300 724 867 | www.mammothmanestage.com.au
Fri 19 Feb Oxford Art Factory | Sydney, NSW (18+)
1300 438 849 | www.moshtix.com.au
Sun 21 Feb Corner Hotel | Melbourne, VIC (18+)
1300 724 867 | www.cornerhotel.com
Interview by Courtney Dabb.