the insider: albert hammond, jr.
the strokes guitarist on his solo ep and bringing imagination on the road.
If you’ve been nursing a Strokes-shaped hole in your heart ever since Comedown Machine dropped back in March, not to worry! Albert Hammond Jr. himself is here to help in a big way with his new solo EP, AHJ. Recorded immediately following the band’s LP release in the spring, Hammond Jr.‘s latest solo effort is a high-flying, guitar-driven whirlwind wrapped up nicely into a slick, polished package. And he’s been keeping it all in The Strokes family. Distributed by Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records label, the five-song EP is decidedly short--many of the tracks are under three minutes-- and totally sweet, filled with dancey beats (“St. Justice”), rumbling drums (“Carnal Cruise”) and sing-along lyrics (um, all of them?). The musician phoned in last week to talk about the recording process, how he stays inspired, and going on tour with his friends...even if he has to beg them to bring him along. Between The Strokes and your solo gigs, you’re a really busy guy. How long have you been working on AHJ?I’ve been working on it since March, but you could say it’s been in the works for about 33 years now...yeah, my whole life. [Laughing] What was the process like? Are you the type of guy who does the late night studio sessions?Not really! It was actually a pretty relaxing period, and by the third song we felt like we were on a roll. It went from around 1 pm to 8 pm; since it’s on Julian’s label and we’re working with old friends, it’s pretty mellow.Even though I’m sure choosing your favorite song is like picking your most-loved child--in other words, impossible-- does any song have a special meaning to you?You’re right; it’s a tough thing to say, because each track has something special. “Carnal Cruise” was a pretty huge one for me, though. We were also trying to push “Rude Customer” to the next level--we came in and changed that one the most over the course of recording. I was trying to figure out the best melodies over and over until it eventually worked. Technically, my favorite song is “Cooker Ship.” I’ve just named more than half the EP, haven’t I? See, it’s hard to choose!The Strokes hold a special place in many people’s hearts--they’re just one of those bands that we’ve grown up with, in a way. Are there any bands like that for you?I definitely had bands like that for me when I was younger--that defined certain points in my life, for sure. Buddy Holly and the Beatles and Guided by Voices, all of them. Even as you get older, you’ve heard so much stuff and when you go back to those seminal bands it’s still exciting. Besides those bands, though, it’s not so much for me anymore...although I am excited when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Arctic Monkeys or Kings of Leon release something new. What can you tell us about the music videos for your songs?We’ve shot two so far. The video for “Carnal Cruise” was shot upstat, and it’s going to be cool. Pretty trippy, with a performance and surrounded by smoke. Then we also just did one for “St. Justice” which was shot in my apartment. It’s sort of like a boy-meets-girl story, a chance encounter that fades away. They meet, then hang out, then eat, then make out, have sex..it defines a relationship in a whirlwind. Both videos are awesome and very guerilla-style. Will you be touring anytime soon?I just announced my tour, actually! It starts October 13 in Argentina, then I go to America. I don’t know exactly who I’m going on tour with, though...I want to tour with my friends. I’ll be like, “Hey guys..you better bring me on tour! Please?” There will be a price to pay if they don’t [laughing].Even after years of touring, does it still excite you?It does. I mean, there’s nothing in life you can’t get sick of; but at the same time, there’s nothing in life you can’t get used to. Of course I love performing and if I had to go on tour every day it would be hard. But I just try to keep a balance so it stays exciting and fresh.What are things you always take with you on tour?Well, besides the obvious--my band, my credit cards, my glasses and contacts--I mostly need to bring the comforts of a modern man. My music, my books, and my imagination. That’d be really sad if it was like, “Oh, my imagination? Yeah, he’s staying home this tour!“Listen to “St. Justice” below and buy AHJ here.