The StrokesAlbert Hammond Jr returns with his latest solo release AHJ the EP next Monday (8 October). Releasing the five track collection on bandmate Julian Casablancas‘ label Cult Records the guitarist turned frontman muses on his own solo urges and why musicians need solo projects in a guest column especially for Q.
When I started on my solo material, I don’t feel like I purposely set out to do so – it was more of an organic process as I was already in a band. It was definitely not like I was a race car driver who set out to do music, I was already in the music world. If I could find an audience for myself where I could tour all the time, I would never stop. I just found myself writing, releasing and touring my own stuff and I’ve wanted to do that since I was fifteen. Only this time round I’m with Cult Records, and I’m excited to be starting something with Julian. It’s totally new territory for us.
I’ve not put a shelf-life on my music career. I’ve basically figured out something I could be good at, and strived to be great at it so I can support myself. In music, I keep on trying new things in different ways. I try to create music that affects people.
I’m not finished with exploring my own music yet. I would absolutely love to continue to work and reach by dreams with it. Though success to me is all in the making process, and I recognise that it’s a Catch 22 situation when the outside world also holds a perception of you that is different from your own. I realise now that some situations are not always solely up to me. I feel like a lucky man to be part of some of the things that have been said of me.
Thinking about side projects and why people do them – and I’m not talking about myself here – but I’ve observed my peers who are in bands who say it’s a bit like being in a marriage. As much as everyone all has an opinion, they end-up falling into line like the captain of a ship. Sometimes it all works out for a long time, sometimes someone gets bored and wanted to start something new. Or often it’s the captain that does. Ozzy Osbourne had the whole fallout with Black Sabbath about everything. Changing roles is part of life.
I’m not sure I have even thought about labelling what I’m currently doing as any kind of solo or side project. I’m Albert Hammond Jr, I just feel like myself – I play in a band and then sometimes I have time between that to explore my own material. I guess the media sometimes feels the need to categorise music, but I never really thought that about myself. It’s my role in one band, and my role in other projects.
I first played the EP to my friends and the band, everyone seemed really really psyched about it. I sent it to Nick Valensi when he was away in Dublin, and then I sent it to Fab and he text me saying it was great. When I first played it to Julian said he wanted to put it out.
When someone of success has solo material, their voice is still there you can follow it as it’s familiar but fresh sounding. Taking a look through my record collection, my favourite side and solo projects include all of the members of The Beatles, and people like David Byrne, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. As an artist myself, I definitely feel like what I’ve made on this EP is especially different to my previous work.
The idea to do an EP came about pretty naturally. I initially wanted to release something on Julian’s label. He hadn’t released anything at the time of me coming up with the music. I first sent Julian Cooker Ship, he liked it and then wanted to hear more tracks. After a time, it turned into an ongoing process where I’d recorded more songs and he listened and offered his perspective. I was really open to his different ideas. Sometimes he didn’t say anything till it was closer to finishing a track. It grew just like that- me creating and Julian listening- into an EP of five tracks.
My first record [2006’s Yours to Keep] had a certain coolness about it, I had found a producer, Greg Lattimer, that understood where I was coming from. We created something special, like a teddy bear. My second record [2008’s ¿Cómo Te Llama?]. was when had become tired of acoustic guitar and began exploring something heavier. This time around, my mind is in a better spot. You do get some ideas when you’re out of your mind, but it’s hard to put any decent work behind it. It had taken a few years to get my head back, and when I did, I started writing and working with Gus Oberg. My favourite parts of the EP were made on the spot. It makes me feel like it’s my best work to date because it’s the piece of music that most sounds like me and represents me. Gus and I were so happy when we heard it, we kept putting it on the stereo.
In a loose respect, Julian’s whole Cult Records and The Strokes‘ philosophy is to bridge the gap between amazing music and music created for the masses. When we were young, we used to question why the rawness of music is diluted when it reaches a certain point of success. Right now, Cult are creating new ways to find answers to that question. It’s a great working relationship between Cult and I – a total team process.
Albert Hammond Jr@alberthammondjr
For more head to www.alberthammondjr.com.