INTERVIEW: Albert Hammond Jr.

 

Albert Hammond, Jr

Seven years since his last full-length release, Albert Hammond, Jr. has returned with more introspective lyrics, not lacking in memorable guitar riffs he might be best known for in both his solo efforts and his work with The Strokes.  As the band takes the back burner, Momentary Masters brings a sense of familiarity – a clean, focused project that’s remarkably different from his first few, but where the changes in The Strokes’ sound might have been more confusing or frustrating, Albert’s done it in a way that shows different levels of personal growth.  You’re rooting for him.  We’re all rooting for him.

AF: So you’ve said that Momentary Masters is more of like a new debut for you, which makes a lot of sense, since it’s been a while – AHJ was a hugely different sound, so how do you think the change in your sound reflects what you’ve undergone in your life in the last few years?

AHJ: There’s parts of it that reflect that, it’s inevitable. You are a piece of whatever you’re creating, but I feel like it more was affected by my surroundings to the point where I could achieve things I wanted to do, you know.  After touring the EP, or while touring, a band formed, so I was able to record in a new way which is very exciting, which is the way I always wanted to or always heard it.  It’s hard to find the right people.  I feel like I owe that to years of life that I’ve been living, but there’s so many small baby steps, I don’t know that I could say that that was that.  I even grew during the making of the album.  I felt one way by the end that was a more confident person.  It’s too hard to say, but yeah, being sober, it’s changed my life.  I wouldn’t be doing any of this if that wasn’t the case.

AF:  I know that the title came from Carl Sagan, I feel that a lot of his themes resonate in your lyrics.  The lyrics in songs like “Power Hungry,” you kind of talk about futility of actions or the things we worry about, or “Don’t Think Twice” — do you feel like that shows in the music?

AHJ:  “Don’t Think Twice” is Dylan – it’s a Dylan cover, so maybe I relate too.  Yeah, the Carl Sagan thing was this clip on YouTube that I would use to meditate to.  It was something that would always put me at ease in an interesting way.  The album title is like that feeling that would last.

Lyrically, “Power Hungry,” that song is a little different from the rest that I’ve written, each part might have different things to it, even in the same song, that kinda happens.  It’s so hard to talk about songs; you feel like you spend so much time to find the right words and then you talk about them in the wrong way

[laughs].  I feel like this album is entertaining different layers of ideas, thoughts, or worries.

AF:  Right, I think one of my favorite songs lyrically on this album would be “Touché.”

AHJ:  Ah yeah, that one, I like that one a lot too.

AF: Yeah, I love that bit, “I forgave you long before I met you for the things that you were bound to do” — it sums up what I was getting a lot of from the album.

AHJ:  I’m so happy you like that, because that’s actually, the girl I dedicated the record to, I took one of her poems — that verse was her poem. I thought it just said so much.  I like finding those words that can mean different things to people depending on where they’re at.  Even that line, “Now that we’re not perfect, we have to be good,” all these different lines mean different things to people.  It happened to me — I was listening to the record, I wrote it, and I was thinking, “Oh, is that what I meant?” I was feeling a different way, and it connected in a different way.  That’s what’s fun about making music.

AF: Who was the poet you were speaking of?

AHJ: Sarah Jones, she was just a friend of mine.  She passed away, and I dedicated the record to her.  She was never really published, but I wanted to leave a mark of her work on the album, so I took that line and I dedicated the record to her.  She had shown me a lot of different people that ended up being helpful in teaching me how to phrase things in a different way.

AF: And is it cool if we talk about Justyna for a second?

AHJ: Sure!

AF:  I saw you back in 2013, and I remember thinking, “Albert’s such a lucky guy.”  It’s like you haven’t looked happier.  How was it having her direct a music video?

AHJ:  Yeah!  She’s amazing. She’s actually sitting right next to me, and I’ll still say the same things I was going to anyways.  She gets an idea and gets excited about it and goes with it.  What’s good is that we kind of pull the best parts for each other out on that, you know. We can kind of tell, we’re pretty honest — we’ll go back and forth, which can always lead to some intensity, but at the end, it always gets a great result. It’s awesome.  She also helps so much with photos or we were just finishing a video, she just did all this behind the scenes stuff and edited.  She’s on tour with me now cause she’s doing lights, the light directing, so she helps create a mood on stage.  It’s really cool.

I know, I see photos too, and I’ve never seen myself happier, it’s almost weird.  I almost can’t tell, it’s so natural that I can’t tell until I see a photo and I’m like, “Wow, I look so happy there!”

AF:  That’s really great to hear.

AHJ:  It’s really nice.

AF: I wanna make this really quick — I did notice that a few Reddit users were feeling betrayed that you cancelled your AMA (says Albert, “That wasn’t my call…we really wanted to do it”).  I did pick up a few questions from some users if you wouldn’t mind answering a few of those.

AHJ: Of course, I’d love to!

AF: Reddit user Walksonthree had a few questions.  Firstly, do you miss your afro?

AHJ: Do I miss it? No, it’s not something that can cry for me, so I don’t cry for it.

AF:  And what do you think is the most difficult song to perform from Momentary Masters?

AHJ:  There’s a lot of them.  I’m happy that I don’t have to play that much guitar on it, because it’s f-cking hard.  “Power Hungry” is pretty hard, we’re trying to figure out which set to play it in.  “Touché” — we play it and it sounds great, but it’s definitely a hard one to play.  But I mean hard in a good way, I mean, they’re new songs.  “Coming to Getcha” is one that was hard, but it ended up being a really great change to the record.

AF:  Love that one too.  And his last one, why’d you lower your guitar strap?  He says, “It’s like seeing a totally different dude perform.”

AHJ: [laughs] They notice such nuances.

AF: [laughs] They do.

AHJ:  People always ask me, “Why is your guitar strap so high?” and I’d be like, “I just wear it where I feel comfortable.”  And so for a few shows, it was high and it was bothering me, so I lowered it a bit and it just felt more comfortable, so I kept it there.  It’s kind of fluctuated.  My muscles got too big, how about that one? That’s what happened, I engorged too much.

AF: Sounds like it.

AHJ: Yeah, I don’t know, people just hate change, don’t they?  It’s inevitable, my friends, everything changes!

AF:  I’ll tell ya, all of their questions revolve so much around The Strokes, that’s all they wanna talk about.

AHJ: It’s okay, I always try to answer them sometimes, I understand.  They just wanna know, but they don’t understand that I wanna know more than they wanna know.

AF: Yeah, yeah, it’s all been up in the air for a while, so no pressure for answers.

AHJ: Yeah.

AF:  Notjacobpeterson and I both wanna know why Yours to Keep isn’t on iTunes or Spotify anymore.

AHJ:  I licensed it.  I own the masters, so when I got signed, I licensed it to the label.  They licensed it for seven years or whatever, so then I got it back, and when you get it back it takes it off of Spotify and iTunes.  Then we were going to make the vinyl for the first time ever, so when we do that, we will re-release it on iTunes and Spotify and vinyl.  It just seemed weird to do it at the same time as we were releasing a new record. It’ll come back, it’ll come back in a better way.

AF:  Perfect. Yeah, “Everyone Gets A Star” is still a favorite of mine.

AHJ:  Yeah, it’s one of my favorites too.  And we also have recorded a live record, so we even thought of bringing that out at the same time as that.  So you get Yours to Keep and you get a live album, all these things happen for a reason and I know why they’re happening.  My hands are on most strings.  Obviously, you have people that you trust to deal with stuff because if I wear myself too thin, I wouldn’t be good at doing music [laughs].

AF:  So much more to look forward to!  And YOitzODELLE asks what your favorite song is to perform from the first record — I’d like to know what your favorite songs are to perform from each of your records.

AHJ: Oh man, probably what’s on my setlist right now… “In Transit” is fun just ‘cause everyone sings along.  I tried “Call An Ambulance” and “Blue Skies” by myself and that’s been fun.  “Rocket” and “Lisa” are really fun. I really wanna play “You Won’t Be Fooled by This.”  We’ve been doing “Spooky Couch” and that’s good, “Cooker Ship” on the EP and “St. Justice,” and then the new songs, “Coming to Getcha,” “Caught by my Shadow,” and “Side Boob”.

AF: Perfect, yeah, I can’t wait to hear the new setlist.  And Bowery Ballroom is one of my favorite venues here so that’s gonna be really exciting.

AHJ: I know, me too.  Soon!

Albert will be performing two back to back shows at Bowery Ballroom, September 21 and 22.