Guitar hero discusses The Strokes, The Libertines, Jake Bugg, and new material
Andrew Trendell

15:23 12th May 2014

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"I had all these cool ideas, but they've been shat on," laughs Albert Hammond Jr in the lobby of his Leeds hotel. He rushes over immediately after arriving, a few hours before he takes to the stage at Live At Leeds festival. Hunched over in a Michael Jackson Thriller-esque jacket emblazoned with the logo from his awesome 2013 EP, AHJ, he's in very high spirits for a seemingly restless artist with no time to breathe. 

So restless in fact, that as well as celebrating his latest release and planning an upcoming rare live outing with The Strokes at The Governor's Ball in New York, but he's penning another solo album to be recorded at his home studio later this summer. 

"I would do an EP but I've been told is that the reason that certain things haven't got more attention is that people don't give as much pull to an EP as they do a record."

That's a mighty shame - as AHJ was one of the best EPs of 2013 and worthy of far more attention. Is this something that Hammond finds frustrating?

"To me it almost feels like a mini-album. It's only 13 minutes but it doesn't feel like I've put in two B-sides and some live stuff, it feels like a strong but short record," he nods. "I'd love to do another five then put them all together. Obviously if you've already got it then you don't have to get it, it would just come with the other bit, but I'd like to do two cool different vinyls. I had all these cool ideas, but like I said, they've been shat on!

"I'm excited to make new music, so let's just go and see what happens with that."

Albert Hammond Jr at Live At Leeds, by Charly Murgatroyd

So what kind of direction is the new stuff taking?

"It's always hard to tell at this point, but the two songs I have are so different that one of them is just a heavily distorted riff over some thumping drums, and the other I can't really explain - it's just heavier," says Hammond, clearly excited as the material takes shape in his mind. "The other one has kind of a melodic, Talking Heads, 80s David Bowie feel. It has these cool, high-riffs over this chord structure. All of the Talking Heads has these little riffs, so it's kind of like that but mixed with 'China Girl' by David Bowie, so I'm curious to see where that goes."

Yet despite The Strokes getting back together for their first live shows in years this summer, AHJ is quick to state that there isn't anything particular to these songs that sets them apart as Albert Hammond Jr songs, rather than potential future tracks by The Strokes - he just does what comes naturally.

"I don't write like that," he shrugs, nonchalantly. "I don't save things, we're not talking about recording anything so I can't save for anything. I'm just writing and recording it."

Indeed, Hammond has enough business of his own to be getting on with - not least his current UK tour following his string of huge dates with Jake Bugg over in the US.

"That was great," he smiles. "It was The Skins and then me and Jake Bugg and they're very young, about 18 or 19. What was funny is that they were all coming to our room, the adults, to get alcohol! There was a knock on the door and I'd be just like 'just take it, take the booze'. It was a lot of fun."

Being a spin-off from the follow-up generation to the garage rock revolution that The Strokes kick-started in the early noughties before Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines exploded, is there anything in Bugg that Hammond spies as the potential to make him a future festival headliners? What is it that people see in Bugg that marks him as heir to the guitar rock throne?

"What people see in him is just that he's a talented guy with a great voice, and as he figures himself out, I think that he'll be able to headline," admits Hammond. "He's doing great and I don't even need to say anything. It's hard to tell because it's a learning process.

"People think that you don't think have it, could all of a sudden change and then have it. People said that about REM for years and then all of a sudden they were an arena band. It depends on the songs but for some bands it's about success and the draw and for some bands it's like they just have it. Being able to do it on your own terms is the best way, and he seems to be going down a good path."

Albert Hammond Jr live at XOYO, London, by Justine Trickett

But when it comes to headlining festivals, the preference will always fall upon the legacy acts. The latest sees fellow garage-rock heroes The Libertines reunite to play a huge show at London's Hyde Park this summer. While the UK may seem a little obsessed with nostalgia and the whole world is thrilled to see The Strokes step back on stage, Hammond is adamant that whether it is, don't call it a comeback.

"I could never consider us a reunion because we haven't broken up, so it's a little different to The Libertines, but I think that people are over-thinking too much," he admits. "You play music and if you get to make money out of it and people like the songs then I don't see what's so crazy about it. In time, I think a band need to release something to keep going.

"I know that when The Strokes tour again, it will be because we put something out - even though we didn't tour the last one. Doing a few festivals before you put something out is kind of gearing up the big machine, it just kind of helps everyone ge ready, mentally, financially and it brings you back to your audience. You can see the audience's reaction to your music and you just 'feel' again."

So when it The Governor's Ball rolls around, is it a warm up to 'feeling' like The Strokes again, or just a celebration of the band in their hometown. 

"Ha," laughs Hammond. "It's all a celebration! Really, I'm looking forward to a smaller show more than a festival show. To me, festival shows are like a very rich dessert before the meal, but it's going to be awesome.

"I think it was just that Julian was trying to figure out his solo thing and I don't know when he's doing it, but we got this offer and we all agreed on it - but more importantly he agreed on it. He's the leader of the band, and we usually say yes to playing shows. I imagine that'll start something, it always does but it's just too soon. He's swamped with his solo stuff and I can't even begin to stress him out with like 'what are doing?' I know he's singing a song that we recorded and he's in the studio trying to do something, so we'll see."

Indeed, we shall see. It's only a matter of time until they return to the studio and the game-changing garage rock icons are back as we know them - but let them take their time. The Albert Hammond Jr you see on stage today is an artist at the peak of his creativity, bursting with a vibrant and infectious care-free energy. Enjoy him solo while you can. And as for The Strokes, well - take your time boys. 

Albert Hammond Jr's remaining UK tour dates are below. For more information visit Gigwise tickets.

Monday 12 May - Nottingham, Bodega Social
Tuesday 13 May - Bristol, The Fleece
Thursday 15 May - London, Village Underground

Below: 10 exclusive photos of Albert Hammond Jr at XOYO, London

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Photo: Justine Trickett/Charlie Murgatroyd