Albert Hammond Jr. is a songwriting universe unto himself. Although credited with some of the most memorable riffs in the Strokes’ canon (”Reptilia” chief among them), the famed guitarist/songwriter’s solo career has turned into something of an institution unto itself. His 2006 debut effort Yours to Keep got a remarkably strong critical response, showing that although Julian Casablancas was the unmistakable face of the Strokes, Hammond Jr. wasn’t so much their secret weapon as much as their most essential piece.
Although Hammond Jr.‘s 2008 disc ¿Cómo Te Llama? failed to generate the same notices as his first disc, it was a small 2013 EP called AHJ that served a stark wakeup call for many. Hammond Jr.‘s sharp, punchy songs on the EP serve as a sharp contrast to that year’s new Strokes disc, Comedown Machine, which many consider to be their worst. Appetites for a full-length were appropriately whetted, and finally, “Born Slippy”, which several people were quick to note was tragically not a cover of the iconic Underworld trance number, was released as the lead single to Hammond Jr.‘s third solo foray, Momentary Masters.
To celebrate the occasion, Hammond Jr. took on a good solid 20 Questions, here revealing the power that Patti Smith’s Just Kids had over him, the joys of meditation, and why you shouldn’t “cry for things that can’t cry for you.”
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I watched Up again recently and I cried three times full on. It was beautiful. What an amazing soundtrack too. I think the last book I cried in was Patti Smith’s Just Kids. I don’t shy away from crying though. I actually really enjoy being moved like that.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Well that’s just impossible because I’m always going to project myself like what I want to be. Probably Harrison Ford in Blade Runner or in Indiana Jones, maybe mixed with a little Kurt Russell in Captain Ron, the idea being that you always watch the person in the adventure but in your own life you are the person who has to slay the beast and win the cup.
3. The greatest album, ever?
I don’t believe in that, because emotions change how you feel about something and emotions change constantly.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I saw both of them so late in the game. I was 18 when I saw Star Wars for the first time and Julian and I use to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. There are some amazing episodes of that. If you are asking between the old Star Trek and Star Wars, then Star Wars all the way, but if you mean The Next Generation I might lean towards Star Wars more but there would be times that I would choose Star Trek. As you can see, there is never one true answer to anything.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Silence. Meditating twice a day for 20 minutes. That usually always me to absorb things more. Putting my eyes into observer mode and not judging anything, just watching things as though I was a camera, observing. Then, a good movie or a good book or a random conversation. The brain needs new ideas, knowledge to break patterns and grow, so even in the simplest ways I always try and change how I do things or learn new things to keep my mind active. The problem with any ideal is the practicality of it in a day to day life is a hard thing to achieve so learning how to not stress over the imperfections that is living has been one of the biggest challenges and easily is the reason why I can absorb more in my day to day.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I’m most proud of how in the last couple years I’ve rediscovered my curiosity for life, how getting sober wasn’t the final step but the first step of many in beginning to understand myself, that even though you constantly forget you remind yourself that ...
7. You want to be remembered for ...?
I would like to leave the world a better place than when I entered it. I would hope that by the time I die I could have learned from the years of living and hand something down.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Amazing thinkers and leader like MLK, Bob Marley, John Lennon, Ghandi, Laurence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, Alan Watts, Woody Alan, Lenny Bruce, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, etc. So many but its hard to remember them all when doing an interview, even if its just you typing it. I started playing music so I wouldn’t have to do homework, haha.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”.
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
I don’t know about talents but I’m skilled at cooking, scuba diving, appreciating and riding motorcycles, chopping trees, and cleaning. I’m a very good cleaner.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Don’t cry for things that can’t cry for you. My dad told me that when I was a kid and had lost something, forgot what. A toy, probably.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Bought: My studio.
Stole: My wife’s heart.
Borrowed: This body I’m in.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?
Why so extreme? I feel best in both depending what I’m doing. Would hate to wear a suit while cutting trees. Sometimes you wanna be James Bond and sometimes you wanna be Marlon Brando until you realize you can’t be either!
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
I think that ties in with the question above. I would bring these people MLK, Bob Marley, John Lennon, Ghandi, Laurence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, Alan Watts, Woody Alan, Lenny Bruce, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, plus a lot more. Or, just thinking out loud here I might just try and bring Ava Gardner or Marilyn Monroe and have a date night ...
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I’ve always wanted to see what Egypt was like when they were building the pyramids or Rome at the height of the empire or Greece, more specifically, Crete before it was destroyed. Why? Because I’m curious how we all hung out on a day to day basis, what was the chit chat, etc. Reading things in a book never gives you the feel.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Daily rituals and finding a home that re-energizes you. Going to the Russian baths or having a massage is nice too. But its something you have to do daily if not you are gonna need more than Prozac.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?
Air, water, and food. I enjoy coffee and dark chocolate with sea salt. I don’t drink or smoke.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
There is a theme building up here. I like variety. For now I enjoy calling the country home because I travel so much that it’s amazing to come home and have an environment where I can be focused and be outdoors with nature. But without the feeling of city life and travel, that would become obsolete and something new would materialize.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Stop spending money on war and spend it on education, because without the means to truly speak you always end up fighting.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Trying to finish this interview. I thought about myself more than I need to at this point. I need to take a shower after all this.