I am a little bit boring…I am sorry! Albert Hammond Jr. auf Solopfaden…20.07.2007
Nur allzu oft liest man in Artikeln über die New Yorker Band „The Strokes“ von der Tyrannei des Frontmans Julian Casablancas. Er ließe keine Widersprüche gelten heißt es, geschweige denn würde er einen seiner Mitmusiker beim kreativen Prozess des Songwritings einbeziehen.
Umso einleuchtender scheint es also, wenn man liest, Strokes Gitarrist Albert Hammond Jr., seines Zeichens Sohn des Hitschreibers Albert Hammond (It never rains in Southern California) sei auf Solotour unterwegs.
Mit einem Lebenslauf wie ihn Albert Hammond Jr. vorzuweisen hat, dürften einem die Türen zur großen Solokarriere weitgeöffnet sein. Sohn eines berühmten Musikers und Gitarrist in einer der einflussreichsten Rockbands unserer Zeit zu sein, lässt einem natürlich auch eine große Bürde mit sich tragen.
Groß waren die Erwartungen bei seiner Familie, seinen Freunden und natürlich bei den Strokes Fans. Kein Wunder also, dass Albert Hammond Jr. nervös war als er seine bisher einzige Cd, „Yours to keep“ das erste Mal seinen Freunden vorspielte.
Das ersehnte „Durchatmen“ kam schnell, als das Feedback seiner Freunde sehr positiv ausfiel.
Mit seiner überaus gelungen ersten Cd mit Gastauftritten von Sean Lennon, Ben Kweller oder Strokes- Bandkollege Julian Casablancas, machte sich der 27- jährige New Yorker samt Bassisten Josh Lattanzi und Drummer Matt Romano auf, zu einer großen Europatour, welche sie am 17. Juli auch im Wiener Flex halt machen ließ.
Die bereits erwähnte Tatsache von Hammonds famosen Background ließ es umso erstaunlicher erscheinen, dass das Flex an diesem Abend sichtlich nicht ausverkauft war.
Den Grund dafür könnte man vielleicht auf schlechte Promotion, auf die Soloalben- Boykottierer oder einfach auf „schlechten“ Musikgeschmack zurückführen; das soll uns hier aber nicht weiter beschäftigen.
Ohne Vorgruppe, somit ganz auf ihre eigene Energie verlassend, erklommen die Musiker, verstärkt durch zwei weitere Gitarristen, wo mir jedoch nur der Name Marc Philippe Eskenazi bekannt ist, die kleine aber durchaus ausreichende Bühne des Wiener Flex.
Albert Hammond Jr., der es gewohnt ist mit seiner Hauptband vor vielen tausend Leuten zu spielen, scheint nervös als er die ersten Töne durchs Mikrophon singt. Lange Zeit vermeidet er während des Konzerts Blickkontakt mit dem Publikum; vielmehr wirkt es so, als würde er sich an seinen Mitmusikern orientieren. Gitarrensoli gibt er weiter an seine zwei Gitarristen, ist er es doch bei den Strokes gewöhnt, die Rhythmusgitarre zu spielen.
Trotzdem, die Musik packt einen- ruhig zustehen ist unmöglich. Oder doch nicht?
Die hinteren Reihen werden dem Wiener Publikum wieder einmal voll und ganz gerecht. Kritisch wird die Band betrachtet, das höchste aller Gefühle ist ein dezentes Kopfnicken kombiniert mit einem leichten Wippen des Beines. Aber gut, was soll?! Zumindest die vorderen Reihen beweisen, dass die Band ihren Job nur allzu gut bewältigt.
Von Song zu Song steigert sich Alberts Selbstbewusstsein, wenn auch nur in kleinen Mengen, aber dieses lässt einen erst erkennen wie unglaublich gut seine Stimme ist. Das muss er wohl vom Papa haben, denkt sich da bestimmt ein Jeder.
Das letzte Lied, von meinem Tanznachbarn und mir zum besten Song des Abends auserkoren, ist ein neuer Song. Es sind nur noch die drei Hauptmusiker auf der Bühne und endlich, ja endlich traut sich auch Albert Hammond Jr. über ein Gitarrensolo, welches ihn nun auch zu einem wirklich guten Gitarristen kürt.
Einfach richtig gut, mein Resume des Auftritts. Und was nach dem Konzert kam?
Tja, das werden wohl nur die wissen, die sich nach dem Gig noch ein kühles Blondes unter Wiens Sternenhimmel gegönnt haben.
New York City Rocks!
When did you decide to go solo? Was there a certain point in your life where you thought: “Now it is time to do my own stuff”?
Albert: No, but I wish things were more like that. Things were happening in slow progressions; I have been recording songs at home for many years and the songs were getting better but the recordings were gotten stale. So I decided to go and record at a friend’s house. That went well, and so we started doing more and more and it just turned into a record.
It was a slow process, it wasn’t an overnight decision.
How does it feel for you to play in such a small venue, when you are used to play in big houses with the Strokes?
Albert: Well, I don´t really think about it. It would feel weird or different if we would do that with The Strokes. But I want to create a fan base build on this music. It’s new, so this makes sense. It´s fine and normal!
How did you decide which songs to put on your record?
I found a really good quote from Dave Grohl (note: Singer of the Foo Fighters) where he says that making such a decision is like choosing which of your children you are going to drown.
Albert: I was just writing and at some point I just stopped. It was almost the right order for the album and when we caught “It´s hard to live (in the city)” we decided, after one year and a half of process, that we reached the end. It really felt like the end and even if I had more songs, it wasn’t going to happen. So I never had Dave Grohl´s experience. I will have that one very soon, when I am going to record 25 songs.
I will listen to them, and just decide when it is going to sound like a record. If it is 15 songs, it´s 15, if it´s 8, it will be 8 songs.
So there will definitely be a second album?
Albert: Yeah, I am going to the studio in November.
Good to hear that!
When you got your record done, were you nervous to let it listen to your father?
Albert: I was kind of nervous to let it listen to anyone. We had a little listening party at the studio, and I was so nervous to play in front of my friends. Actually I was more nervous to let it listen to my friends. There is that “Friend Thing”, that they will be nice to you because you are friends. But when they say “I actually like it” and they are not just being nice to you, it is a really nice feeling. I was really nervous to hear their opinion, but it worked out great. They all liked it, so I was happy!
And it was a fun night! (smiles)
At this point I want to congratulate you for your Album, you can be really proud of it.
Who got the better bands: The Eastcoast or the Westcoast?
Albert: Everything is a competition right? (laughs)
Well I would say Americans love competitions.
Albert: Yeah, but I don´t feel that way. I feel every place must have some good offers. Middle America has good bands, Westcoast has good bands, Eastcoast has good bands and abroad of course. I feel like the world has become a much smaller place.
Yeah, you were touring with Incubus, so with the “Cali-Boys”. How did you like that?
Albert: It is funny, because they are in this magazine too (note: the music-magazine Visions which is on the table with an article about himself and Incubus).
It was fun! They had asked us and I was surprised; I thought it would be a really good experience. They were doing just small venues, which means, they were always totally sold-out. They are a totally different band, but I felt that it was necessary to do that and that we would really grow with that experience, and we did! We did 29 shows, and it basically felt like we were touring for a year.
Did you come to Europe?
Albert: No, we just did America. I think it really changed us as a band, which is what I wanted to do. I really appreciate them for giving us that opportunity. And they are nice guys.
They sure are! Getting back to the Eastcoast: How inspiring is New York City?
Albert: (smiles) Well, it´s my home. I fell in love with it when I was 18 and moving there. I love my apartment; so it is very inspiring. You know, I am always touring, that means I live out of a suitcase. So when you have a home and you have your stuff which is all just yours-that is inspiring, it’s relaxing. And I am doing my demos there too.
As a frontman you got a lot of responsibility. You can reach people with your lyrics and all that; is that something you miss with The Strokes?
Albert: Well no, these are just different experiences. I really enjoy playing guitar in “The Strokes” and I really enjoy playing music and writing songs. I like to play with my friends Matt (drummer) and Josh (bassist). With the songs from the second album, I started to see the growth in the songwriting. I think I am getting better in writing music and lyrics, hopefully.
So would a sunset inspire you to write a lovesong?
Albert: I think you write songs in between moments. A sunset is there to watch it. You are not writing a song about watching a sunset or you are not writing a song for dinner. (General laughter)
Thinking of moments is inspiring. For me it is a constant thing- like constantly writing, playing and thinking; Later I realize: “I like that, or I don´t like that”. Things happen in the weirdest moments.
Do you write songs about yourself, or do you see yourself as a tale-teller?
Albert: In this first record I have told stories about things I have thought of, but for the second album I feel like I put myself into it a lot more than I think I do. (thinks)
For sure, yeah!
Totally different topic: I read that you are a rollerskater?
Albert: (laughs) Yeah!
Do you still rollerskate?
Albert: Nooo! But I used to compete. Have you ever seen ice-skating, like figure skating?
Albert: I used to do that with a partner, like jumps and all that. It was really hard work actually, but I really enjoyed this time. But then I broke my ankle and I stopped.
Albert: Not really, I was actually excited because….(thinks)
Oh well, I don´t really remember that time; it is so long ago, like 17 years. I barely remember it, maybe one or two moments.
(still laughing) Ok, so on your record you worked with Sean Lennon, also a son of a famous musician (Note: John Lennon’s Son). Did you talk with him about your shared experience of having such a famous father? Do you share the same feelings?
Albert: I think his dad is like the most famous Rock ´n´ Roll person in the world. Funny enough, when I asked him he answered the same why I did; You don´t notice, it´s just your dad. It seems like everyone else from the outside asks himself “What is it like?”, but on the inside it just your dad. It´s like getting the question about defining success; you can not really answer it, you are just in it.
What is your dad doing?
He is retired.
Albert: And what did he do?
Well it would be too complicated to explain it, especially in English.
Albert: Okay, but I am just saying that when somebody says “My dad is a doctor”, I would be excited to know how it is, to be a son of a doctor. And that person would probably say that it is boring, you know what I mean? It is just your dad, you don’t care! Your dad is your dad.
Yeah, I know what you mean.
Albert: I spent most of the time with my mom!
Because your father was away that often?
Albert: I think I was lucky to grow up with my parents. My father supported the lifestyle of my mother being able to raise me, which is great. I loved it!
Let´s talk about the famous “New York Scene”; does that community between New Yorker bands really exist?
Albert: I never saw it, but it sounds great. I would love to be a part of it, but I am still not. If anyone from New York reads this, and want to start up a scene, I would be more than happy to help him out. (laughs)
But no, I have never felt anything like that. Unfortunately not, but I think there definitely had to be something like that. I think people in general don´t want to build up a community.
I think back to the CBGB´s thing (note: famous club in New York City, where a lot of bands started their career. Unfortunately it is already closed), when people just went there to hang out and bands needed people to let them listen to their music, so they played there and everyone came.
I think a New Yorker Scene sounds great, I would like it.
Maybe you can start one!
Albert: Maybe someone else starts one, maybe a younger one. It would be exciting for me, I would try it. But why not? Let´s do it!
So can you recommend us some good clubs in NYC?
Albert: Well Clubs in America are really different. In some clubs you have to be a famous actor to get in, but it is always packed inside and they play bad music. I just hang out at bars. Like at the one called “Black and White”, it´s between third and fourth avenue on the 10th street.
Basically I just go to bars or stay at home. I don’t really go out, I am a little bit boring- sorry!
I just like being at home. People should come and make pictures of me and my house, and then everyone would understand. I have something like an opium- dune- it’s small but it feels like a Moroccan palace. When you walk in, you have these white floors and cushions.
It feels like you are in Morocco, even the view.
What can you see when you look out of your window?
Albert: The Williamsburg Bridge and the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. My apartment faces the East, so you can see the sunrises. And there is this old church right in front of me, with this broken clock.
I hope the bell is broken too…
Albert: Oh the bell still goes off, like booooong. (general laughter)
But the sun shines bright in the morning and comes right into my bed. That is nice!
Ok, last question: Is there any musician you would get nervous if you get to meet him?
Albert: I would get nervous if I would meet anyone I admire. (Albert looks at the picture of himself in Visions, which lies open on the table. He hates that picture, and asks himself why they had to choose that picture of him!) Fuck it! Anyway…
You want to be friends with the people you admire, but sometimes you don’t even get along with them but you still respect what they are doing. That is always a strange balance in human society.
I got your point. Unfortunately we have to stop, but thank you for the Interview. We will see you tonight!
Albert: Thank you!
ALBERT HAMMOND JR, 17. Juli 2007 (Flex, Wien)
20.07.2007, 10:23 von M. Punz