"I want to make a record in a way that I want to hear it" - Albert Hammond Jr talks to hmv.com
What’s a guy to do when the once very famous band (The Strokes) he’s in takes ages to record new material for a new album? Sulk? Kick sand around on remote beaches? If you’re Albert Hammond Jr, you do neither of these – instead, you write songs, record them, and release a solo album Momentary Masters (which you can preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page). We chat to the amiable guitarist about writing his own songs, his father’s pop songwriting success, and not writing for The Strokes.
When did the idea of writing songs first come to you?
“The idea of making records has been there since I was a kid. I have a music biz father who wrote the likes of It ‘Never Rains In Southern California’, and co-wrote tunes such as ‘The Air that I Breathe’, and ‘I Need You’. You might have heard those versions by The Hollies and Leo Sayer? With the songs that I write, I want to make a record in a way that I want to hear it. As we all know, sometimes people produce music in a way you’d rather not hear yourself, or indeed even like playing.”
Did you want to consciously do what wouldn't have worked with The Strokes?
“Ideally, when the band started I wanted to write songs, and I never thought I’d end up playing lead guitar. But then it just took off from there. There have been some songs of my own that I thought I’d pitch to the band, so that they might record it for one of the albums, but I know my place, and I know that Julian (Casablancas) is the leader of that band and the songwriter of that band. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong or weird about that. It’s just the way it is. So I knew I’d have to do things by and for myself. It took a while to do it, though. Certainly, talking about it now is very different to how it felt some years ago. At that time, I didn't think I’d be talking to anyone!”
Looking back to your debut album (2006's Yours To Keep), what was it like getting the songs together for it?
“It was more along the lines of, I’m making a record, but let’s play the songs first, put them on demo and see if people like them. I thought I’d go to Rough Trade first because of the label’s association with The Strokes, but I wanted to do it without any pressure. If they didn't like what they heard, then that would have been no problem, either. But the label really liked it and that helped me push everything forward.”
When you were writing those songs, as well as subsequent ones for subsequent albums, were you conscious of writing material that was very different from The Strokes? Or did you as songwriter just emerge naturally?
“Well, the songs are me, simple as that. The funniest thing was when someone asked me what the songs sound like, and the answer was that the songs sounded like me. Sometimes you push yourself in certain directions when you’re doing parts to learn or figure other stuff out, but the actual songs, the reaction that happens in your brain, is very natural. So the songs haven’t been forced out; they took time to write and record, but no, they’re not forced. Not at all.”