Como Te Llama?: An Interview with Albert Hammond Jr.

Como Te Llama?: An Interview with Albert Hammond Jr.

by Marcos Colón
07.23.2008

In 2001, a quintet of young 20-something’s created so much hype with their debut album, Is This It?, that publications around the globe declared them the saviors of rock and roll. Labeled as garage-rock revivalists, The Strokes went on to be one of the most influential bands of the 21st century, spawning disciples such as Arctic Monkeys and The Kooks and rocking the tight jeans and ties before anyone else.

First known for providing the chilling guitar solo on their first single, "Last Night," Albert Hammond Jr. has since created an image and distinctive playing style that’s all too familiar. After The Strokes third album, First Impressions of Earth, he dappled with the solo songwriting while the band went on hiatus. His first effort, Yours To Keep, received high praises from the critics and garnered comparisons to his previous band’s sound. Wrapping up his highly anticipated second album, Como Te Llama?, Hammond Jr. is set to outdo the first try.

Clubplanet recently chatted with Mr. Hammond Jr. on the completion of his second solo effort, where he plans to tour the new album and what the rest of the year has in store as he meets up with the rest of The Strokes at the start of the new year.

CP: What does it feel like to wrap up your second solo record?
Albert Hammond Jr. : It feels wonderful. We had a really good time, and it’s about 90% done. When I produced it I got really close to it and I needed to get further away when I mixed it. I wouldn’t have put it out if I wasn’t completely happy with it, so that’s why I’m still working on it. I spent a lot of time at my house with Gus, which was nice, overdubbing and remixing and it all came together perfectly.

CP: After putting your first album under your belt, Yours To Keep, what did you want to want to tweak or change when you went back into the studio for Como Te Llama?
Albert: Once I finished the first album, I wanted to make sure the second record would do something different. It’s going to have another side of me. The first one was a personal thing in my head, kind of a dream world. Then I spent a year touring with the band and I started writing different kinds of songs and I went for three to five weeks just doing that. Before I could go back and play with The Strokes I wanted to have two different versions. The first new song out of the bunch, "Gfc," felt so different, and I kept on going in that direction.

CP: Overall it sounds like the band has become a tighter unit. Do you think this is due to you guys growing closer after the release of the first album, or is it due to you guys becoming more accepting of each other’s ideas?
Albert:
Accepting each other’s ideas is a learning process. When we make a new song, people will not know how to collaborate and people tend to kill a song, so I try to teach them how to not kill it. You have to know how to do it slowly. The first album created the band and in the process of writing the second one, it was really taking shape. We were playing shows and everyone around me would get really excited when they heard the new songs. It was a different output with the first one. We’d be too shy to play a song, so they would just hear it in the studio and I would work on it until it was mostly finished. Sometimes we would bring in close friends to have a listen, like my close friend Matt. I would show them the wrong song and they would inspire me because they would get excited about where it’s going and I would go home and take it somewhere else. When we’re in the studio, something as small as a tone or an idea would keep the momentum going, whether we used the idea or not. It’s a collaborative effort. The way the band plays a new song, the way the band cares about them is the biggest thing in the world. Whether they add stuff or they don’t, just the fact that they’re there wanting to be there because they like the music puts in an amazing energy and vibe, and that’s what kind of grew over the year. It’s something I’ve never had before.

CP: How did you decide to have an instrumental track like "Spooky Couch" ? It seems like something fresh on the album that has that Legend of Zelda feel when you haven’t really chosen a new path.
Albert:
(laughs) It’s funny how that happened because everyone was telling me to not put it on the record. They told me that no one has the attention span to listen to it. It started out as a two-minute cycle of an instrumental. I knew that there was never going to be singing on it. I like the idea of classical music where stuff is being said, but the emotions are being told through melody and not so much through words. And it’s interesting to do a different thing. We would just leave it on repeat as we were hanging out and everyone would be like “We could listen to this all day,” and I was like “Maybe, just maybe, we could loop this thing and make a seven minute song that kind of builds up with percussions and strings and piano and drums at the end.” It just worked. I was shocked at how people dug it when I had the listening party. I kind of left it on because it felt like a good pallet cleanser before the end. It washed away whatever you just heard and you could hear the last four songs in a separate way. On vinyl it ended up having its own side, which I found to be very cool.

CP: As far as your songwriting goes, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Albert:
Inspiration is like a living thing. It’s from your whole life, when you listen to stuff and when you’ve had certain things happen to you, or you’ve had a good day or a bad day, or a movie you like or a girl you like. It’s just an everyday process that builds up. The whole thing about inspiration for me is not so much listening to, say, Queen, and really liking a song and trying to write a Queen song and listening to Queen and being so excited or going to see a live show and being so excited that you go write a song. Just the fact that a song makes you so excited that you pick up your guitar and see what you can do. I pick up the guitar every day and play it a little bit every day. You spend weeks writing crap and throwing it away, you sometimes need to remind yourself what you fell in love with in the beginning with music. You put on a song you haven’t heard in a while or something you are really into and it really gets you excited to keep on trying. That’s kind of what inspiration is for me. It’s not so much Neil Young, Kinks and The Clash. That’s what I was listening to nonstop when I was making this record. I don’t think anything sounds like that, but that's what was in my CD player constantly. Maybe the fifth album would sound just like it. It’s almost like a time delay on it. You get into something and three years later is when it actually comes out of you.

CP: You once said that you wanted to “tour everywhere you can and get those cracks and fill them up with music.” What are some of those cracks that you would like to play that you really haven’t gotten a chance to yet?
Albert:
I like the idea of building up a fanbase. I like going outside of the main markets. You get to see the world. To get your music out there and to really be heard, you have to go to smaller places and it takes longer to build up. If you actually achieve that it’s amazing if you combine playing in between big cities and a small towns and you get tons of people to come out and see you. I wanted to try playing colleges, because all my favorite bands like The Doors and The Stooge

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