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Friday, July 25, 2008

Albert Hammond Jr interview

 
















ALBERT HAMMOND JR TALKS TO ROB TOWNSEND ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM, HIS UPCOMING TOUR AND HIS OTHER BAND’S IMPACT ON THE MUSIC WORLD

Albert Hammond, Jr. is a talented guy. As well as being in one of the most lauded bands of the last decade, The Strokes’ guitarist is making a name for himself as a singer/songwriter, and this week releases his second solo album, ¿Cómo Te Llama?

However, far from his solo work being down to any long-standing desire to go it alone, Hammond, Jr. admits it came about almost by accident after he wrote a couple of songs he liked. “I felt I had reached a point where if I didn’t record them in a way that would let me let go of them, I would never move on. Friends started to really like what I was doing, so I kept doing more until I was like: ‘Oh, I have a record. Cool. Maybe I can put it out in England or something.’ I wasn’t planning on touring or doing any press but it kind of built up and before I knew it I was on the road and the album was out everywhere.”

That album was Yours To Keep and now, a couple of years on, ¿Cómo Te Llama? follows, showing growth and increased ambition to his sound. The guitar-led, perky pop melodies are still there, but this time they are bolder and more powerful. Another difference is that this album was more of a collaborative effort, with Hammond, Jr. including his band in the songwriting process at a much earlier stage. “I really like the concept of trying to explain what you hear in your head to someone else and seeing how they bring it back to you. People can add more by how they play it or by thinking of tones you might not have thought of. Even if the collaboration is as small as a tone, in my world that’s huge because it keeps everything fresh and exciting.”


















The New York-based musician has long been iconic as a member of The Strokes, who changed the course of indie music for the better when they released their debut album in 2001. Having witnessed their seminal performance at that year’s Reading Festival, I ask Hammond, Jr. whether at the time he had any idea of the impact his band was having. While he says in retrospect it was an amazing experience, he admits that, back then, he wasn’t thinking about his role in altering how bands would sound and look. “When you’re doing it, you almost don’t realise that your dream is coming true. It’s all just day-by-day; you don’t really see an arc. We were happy and it’s awesome when you are a part of things changing, but if you’d have asked me that question back then, I don’t think I would have said anything about changing anything. I’d have probably asked you how I could meet a girl I liked or if you had any coke,” he laughs.

With The Strokes still going strong, Hammond, Jr. describes his dichotomous musical life as: “Positioning myself between two things that give me great joy,” and says it’s not difficult to balance his time and mindset between the two projects. Typical of the laid-back charm and appealing optimism he displays throughout our conversation, the American says: “I try to find the way it can be done as opposed to the way it can’t. I can still write songs for my third record and be playing with The Strokes. It’s like that Spinal Tap thing [where keyboardist Viv Savage is asked to deputise for an absent Nigel Tufnell]: ‘Oh yeah, I can do that. I've got two hands.’”




















When I reviewed Hammond, Jr’s performance at England’s Latitude Festival last year, he seemed a very natural frontman, but he tells me he found it strange stepping up to the role. “The hardest part was probably to be on my third or fourth show and being reviewed as if I’d been around for years. Most people get a year or two, if not more, to find their way and I was already being looked at before I really even understood what I was doing.”

Having played live all over the world for much of last year, Albert Hammond, Jr. is now increasingly confident fronting his band. He begins a hectic worldwide gigging schedule in Australia in a few weeks and hints that he hopes to bookend months of touring by playing Big Day Out next January. “They didn’t ask me last year,” he frowns. When I enquire whether he is excited about his visit to Sydney in August, his enthusiasm is palpable. “Ah yeah. Are you kidding? I really wanted to come over with the first album but you guys are far away.”

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

this man is a GOD. A GOD I TELLS YA.

Bobby Six is Rob Townsend... said...

If you are wondering where the live review is to accompany this interview, unfortunately AHJ had to cancel his Australian tour because of a throat infection. If and when he returns there will be a review.

Sabrina said...

Well written article.