Albert Hammond Jr.

I hated music, then I fell in love with it

“Buddy Holly is the whole reason why I picked up a guitar and got into music in the first place,” pipes Strokes afro-sex god Albert Hammond Jr. “Hearing Buddy Holly for the first time really was a life changing experience. One day I hated music and the next, I just fell in love with it.”

You can say that again. If it wasn’t for Holly, the skinny tie wearing Albert Hammond Jr. we’ve all come to love and know since the turn of the 21st century may have been famous for something completely different – ROLLERSKATING!

That’s right folks, this Fender wearing, cigarette smoking Strokes star once entertained crowds in their thousands as a championship skater back in his youth. “Ha ha yeah that’s true,” Albert confesses with a hint of embarrassment before he suddenly gets all serious. “I used to train three times a week and it was really hard work. You have to commit a lot of time to get really good at it and I put everything into it at the time.”

Thankfully a major injury setback soon put a stop to all that nonsense and it wasn’t long before Albert stumbled across a certain Julian Casablancas during a spell at an elite boarding school in Switzerland. Six years later, the pair were reunited at New York University Tisch’s School Of Arts and the coolest, most defining US band since Nirvana formed. The rest as they say, is history. Three acclaimed albums later and Albert currently finds himself fronting his own debut solo project, ‘Yours To Keep’.

Formed out of early instrumentals from the New York five-piece’s 2002 tour video ‘In Transit’, Albert’s first solo outing sounds like a cross between The Strokes and The Kinks with ex-Ben Kweller star Josh Lattanzi and drum tech Matt Romano fleshing out the bass and stick duties while the likes of Sean Lennon, Kweller and Casablancas provide the all-star icing on the cake.

As the three-year project gained momentum, Albert found himself struggling to find a window in his 100 mile an hour schedule, often jotting down lyrics during late night hotel bedroom sessions. “It was actually very difficult finding time to record this album because I was so busy with The Strokes,” he explains. “We’d come back after three months of touring and go straight back into the studio. We were just constantly on the go and I never had a moment to myself. Still when we did eventually find the time, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. We were only in the studio for short periods at a time but it was a blast working with all my friends.”

In a year which has already witnessed fine individual efforts from Thom Yorke, Richard Hawley and James Dean Bradfield, 2007 is shaping to be the year of the solo artist. In Albert’s case, these words couldn’t be any closer to the truth especially after his day band repeatedly refused to include any of his songs on their albums. Still there’s never been any bitterness between either party. If there was, Casablancas’ contribution would have been scribbled out of the all-star guest book a long time ago.

One day I hated music and the next, I just fell in love with it.

Intriguingly though, band mate Romano knows exactly what it’s like to experience the not-so-cool side of the New York five-piece’s slickest member. Five years ago when The Strokes were on the brink of world domination and ‘Is This It’ had your Coldplays, Travis’s and Starsailors shitting in their pants, disaster struck when full time sticksman Fabrizio Moretti fell out of the band’s tour bus in Glasgow and broke his hand.

Romano was eventually drafted in as a last minute replacement and Albert took an instant disliking to his new band mate. “Me and Albert hated each other at first. It was difficult cos I was more or less a stranger to the band when I came to play the drums for them and he was placing his trust and career in me. If I wasn’t playing up to par that’d make him nervous and all his frustrations were projected on to me,” Romano admits. “I was shitting bricks. I had three days to learn the songs, one rehearsal in London and then I was on. It was so nerve wracking at first and I found it difficult especially with all the added pressure. But as I started playing better, he started to warm to me and by the end of the tour we were good friends.”

Albert and Romano continued to bond both on and off stage over the next few years to the point where they both pondered the prospect of putting together their own project. “We always talked about making music after we became really good friends and now five years later here we are,” says The Strokes’ drum tech with an air of satisfaction. “It was a blast making this record with friends cos you rarely get a chance to do that. Making a record with friends is what I’d imagine every musician would like to do.”

With his first solo project in the can, Albert now has to ask himself, when in the hell he’ll be able to go on tour? “Oh we’ll definitely be doing some dates,” promises Albert. “As soon as The Strokes finish their tour in the autumn, we’re gonna take a couple of months off. Then I’m gonna get Josh and Matt together and we’re gonna try and work everything out. Hopefully by this time next year we’ll be well on our way to touring.”

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