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Albert Hammond Jr. Q&A

Riffing with a Stroke

With his bandmates in The Strokes popping out babies and an apparent hiatus on the horizon, Albert Hammond Jr. has stepped out of his role as rhythm guitarist for the band with a new solo album (Yours To Keep, released March 2007) and a string of concerts in the United States and beyond. Hammond launches his latest tour May 20th at the Independent. He spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from his New York apartment.

SF Station (SFS): You are known to sport a three-piece suit onstage as well as when you are out and about. What makes a good suit?

Albert Hammond Jr. (AHJ): I think it’s a little bit different for everyone. Everyone has their own personality with how they wear clothes, so a good suit would be one that fits your personality.

SFS: Do you buy your own suits or do you have a stylist or someone that supplies you with new threads?

AHJ: No, I buy my own clothes.

SFS: How many suits do you take with you one tour?

AHJ: I can’t take many because there is not much room. I usually take two or three pairs of jeans, a few vests, a blazer and maybe a suit. It’s been awhile since I’ve worn a suit. I’m more into suspenders right now. I wear jeans with suspenders and a T-shirt. It’s a summer look.

SFS: When you tour solo is it much different than when you’re with The Strokes?

AHJ: We have less money and it’s less of a production. Any time you go on tour it’s pretty much the same -- you get to go on a bus and play shows for people who dig the music with a bunch of friends.

SFS: When did you tell the rest of the members of The Strokes that you were going to release a solo album?

AHJ: I’ve been recording music at my house since I was 15-years old, so they knew that I was recording on my own ever since they met me. By the time I realized I was going to do a record, it was pretty much already done. I finished mixing it and told everybody about it. A couple weeks later I had a listening party and I invited all of them. Then in September 2006 I got the first copies of the album and gave everyone a copy. It was very slow and organic.

SFS: So there were no surprises or outrage?

AHJ: We’re friends, I can’t imagine there would be any surprise. Having a friend tell you they are having a kid is probably a bigger surprise than making a new record.

SFS: And that happened recently, too.

AHJ: Yeah, Nikolai’s wife had a baby and Nick’s wife had twins.

SFS: That must work out well for your solo project, since it seems like there is some downtime with The Strokes.

AHJ: Well, we’re touring in the summer and doing all of the festivals. But, when we’re done we are going to take some time off. We’ve made three records in five years -- I guess I’ve made four -- and we’re going to take some time to come back and breathe and figure out what we are going to do next.

But, my record was not a factor in any of that.

SFS: Do you have any idea what is coming next for The Strokes?

AHJ: I have no idea.

SFS: Has touring with your solo band changed the way you approach music?

AHJ: Yes, everything you do kind of changes your approach. I knew I had songs coming and I wanted to get it out so I could start something new and different.

SFS: Do you plan to continue to record on your own?

AHJ: Yeah, my plan is to develop for as long as I can.

SFS: Have there been any surprises for you since you started this project?

AHJ: Everyday is surprise -- talking to people and the fact that I’ve played all of these shows already. It has all been a surprise. We’ve been trying to build up a new thing. I think the nicest surprise has been people have started to really dig the live shows and they are saying the live shows are better than the record. That side of it has grown and really created its own world.

SFS: What will happen if that world gains more momentum and explodes into something big?

AHJ: That would be a high-class problem, which sounds great. There’s not much of a problem there.

Albert Hammond Jr. performs with The Dead Trees at The Independent on May 20th. Tickets are $18. Doors open at 8:30pm and the show starts at 9pm.