Albert Hammond Jr.


Though best-known as The Strokes' guitarist, Albert Hammond Jr. has carved out a name for himself with his sweet solo songs over the years – and his latest album might just be his strongest to date. Inspired by his stillborn twin brother, Francis, the record brims with strikingly warm and vital character. We caught up with an exuberant Albert over the phone to talk namesakes, Thoreau, and what he really thought about last year's music tome Meet Me In The Bathroom.

Is it nice to be back out on the road?

Oh man, are you kidding!? I mean, it's always fun when you're finishing up on the road and you go back into the studio to start something new, but then once you have it you just can't wait to have it come out – so I've been excited for pretty much a year waiting to do all this! So yeah, I'm very excited to be on the road.

We were reading a really old interview where you spoke about stage-fright and how you used to get sick before you went on stage?

Did I?(Laughs) I don't think I ever got stage-fright per se — but nothing ever fully goes away, because that's part of the rush. I definitely understand it more now and how to use it for what I want. For the majority - nothing is ever 100% — but especially on this record, I feel like I understand what I'm doing. But if that was an old interview, then I step on you old Albert! You're dead to me!

You seem a lot more assured on this album in general — you sound very content. But obviously in terms of subject matter, it comes from quite a heavy topic.

Well just know that the heaviness of the topic didn't weigh heavy on me. Like it didn't create sadness — it was joyous to know, and it actually helped create an arc to my life that would've not existed had I not understood all those facts. So it actually came to me in a very positive way, but I just think that when people hear about it it sounds so intense! They're like, 'Wow, that's crazy! Sorry!', but I think the intensity was really more for my mom at the time. But let me tell you, I've scared her a lot more since then, so... (Laughs) I made sure not to make it easy for her! No, I'm just kidding. I think I got better at all the things I loved to do and wanted to do and then I started to understand my purpose.

Can you expand on that "purpose" a bit?

I needed to change the story — there's a story in rock history about successful guitar players in successful bands and what they can do, and I feel like once I understood that I kind of became the person I needed to be to do what I wanted to do — and that was this record. The arc works so well because of coming from a shadow of my last record, and the image I had of this shadow was like a child who wasn't listened to, just in a permanent state of strong tantrums. In bringing him to life and raising him, and using that force to be creative, it just created an understanding with this idea of a twin that's just melded into one.

And why Francis Trouble? What does the "trouble" pertain to?

See that's the whole thing, how things come into place! That was just a name — I have a production company called Trouble Productions, (sings) 'Trouble was the name that they gave me!', and I just loved the tagline. I'm a “Junior”, which means your identity is kind of cut, then I'm in a band so your identity is cut again. So I've always been looking for a name. If I could be born into the cosmos again as the entertainer that I feel like I am, I would have this name. It's everything I wanted to be, that I want to be, that I could be and, so just... I dunno, it just worked with the album.

A big part of calling it that was trying not to bring the baggage that my name has onto the record. It just felt like it could be listened to very differently. I feel lucky that the story behind it and all the songs on it were so strong, that I felt like it would already give a new ear to it. The artwork, the name, it all ties in! Things just start to fall into place, and it feels right from a gut level.

That's an exciting place to be coming into a record from.

I am definitely not going to be able to explain how excited I am over the phone, cos even when I'm on-stage and I'm excited, I feel like I sound sarcastic — I've watched too many British TV shows. No matter what I say I just sound like I'm being dark and sarcastic.

That is the story of our lives here in the UK.

(Laughs) Yeah it's like, 'No, I swear I'm being honest!'. No, I'm very very excited. Not only do I feel like I have the best record of my life, but I'm performing the songs I've written in the best way I have done, my voice live is the best it has been, the band I have is the best it’s been. In terms of a manager and the label that I've found in Red Bull, I haven't felt that way since signing back in 2001 to RCA where I felt like there was love and money being put behind me.

How are you finding this whole process now you’re clean?

I don't know, you listen to the record, you tell me!(Laughs) I think if you saw my show or you heard my record, and you had either never seen me or had seen me you'd be like, 'Well, whatever he's doing is right'. I think I get better with age and without drugs.

Your press release mentions your interest in Thoreau, Walden and living Spartan-like in the woods. Is that something that you've been doing lately?

I mean, I don't live as extreme! They also live in a much more extreme time anyway. But I think the connection with nature is something that we have lost, and it's really important to me. In nature you can see cycles over the year, daily, and I feel like it just gives you more empathy — more life in general. So I meant it more like that, it reminds me of something I constantly forget – how great it is to be alive.

How have things been in the aftermath of Meet Me In The Bathroom coming out?

There was an aftermath? If there was, I didn't feel it (Laughs). Like very mild, like someone dropped a penny in a giant lake.

I had fun conversations with Lizzy [Goodman] who wrote the book. I liked the whole process, it was funny and fun and anecdotal, until some young British girl reviewed the book and made it into something it never was. She reviewed it from excerpts, so it just became weirdly trashy and there were emotions in there that never existed to me when I gave my interviews. So that was more like 'Oh bummer' for a second, for Lizzy, but it is what it is. I don't really think about it that much?

They should write one when everyone is 70, then we can really... Well, you know like that Quincy Jones interview? He's just like 'I don't care if you don't like me', he's just telling it however he wants to. It's funny. I think that was what was funny about the book, when I read certain parts and it was people we had worked with early on. I guess they were talking pretty honestly and I was like, 'Huh! I always thought you liked us!' (Laughs)

It’s a great read though.

It probably would have been more fun to get all the guys together — it's so hard to do though! What happens is you end up talking for like three days about 10 years of your life. And everyone does that and they piece it all together like a story. But hopefully it reads like Please Kill Me about CBGBs New York? Or, well, maybe it doesn't because they were cooler then. I read that when I was 18, and I loved it.

Is there anything else you think people might want to know?

You can't ask someone like me that, just cos my mind... I mean, I've gotten older so I have a filter but I immediately want to say something childlike and stupid. So I'm not gonna say anything because I'll end up getting in trouble (Laughs). But I don't know... I'm gonna become super dorky and just say, 'Ohhh yeah go check out the record! Come see me live!'.

March 2018