The guitarist from The Strokes chats about combining drugs and patriotism.
Gavin Haynes has 100 free minutes but no friends. So each week we're going to make him call a popstar. This week: Albert Hammond Jr.
Noisey: Hello Albert. According to Google, the top four searches related to Albert Hammond Jr are: lyrics, drugs, rehab and suits. Does that effectively frame your life’s arc in miniature, or would you like to be remembered for more than that?
Albert Hammond Jr: Yeah, uh. Well, I’m on Google. That’s nice.
You’ve recently stated that you used to shoot cocaine, heroin and ketamine all together. For the benefit of those readers who’ve maybe shot only two together, what’s the overall effect of mixing all three?
Well, first of all, the statement wasn’t made to glorify anything, it was just made to understand where I was, to understand where I am now. But obviously, it gets you really high. It's like listening to multiple albums together. It’d be your iPod on shuffle.
An infinite regress towards the beginning of time?
Every time it’s different. Sometimes you’re like: “Jesus, I wish I’d erased that song.”
But mainly good times?
No, that’s why I stopped. There’s good times when it’s innocent. And then the innocence disappears and it takes you a while to realise it’s become something else.
Courtney Love once said, and I quote: “I’ve never been good with numbers, but when I was on crack I could do math really well. I became a whiz at calculus” We would say "maths" in England but I'll go on. Do you ever feel that cocaine gave you any kind of special ability, numerically? Was there another higher function, maybe, that drugs plugged you into? Maybe you could sew very neatly? Kind of like a spider on LSD?
She’s full of shit.
Yeah of course. People make statements like that. They’re trying to express in words. I think it needs to sound more extreme just to have that effect. She’s describing that she had extreme focus on one thing, whereas most of the time, she was just more all over the place. She’s definitely full of shit.
Did you go to one of those rehabs where you have to talk about your feelings a lot in order for them to tell you you’re cured? Do you subscribe to the basic Freudian notion that we all have a lot of childhood spiritual puss inside that just needs to be squeezed out of us by talking?
I’m not a huge fan of Freud. But when you go for it, you definitely have to speak. But you come to a point where you just… I mean, I was beaten up and so I was just going to follow whatever was there. And as you get your brain back, you take what you like and leave the rest behind. You kinda learn that with everything in life. You know - as opposed to closing the door cos you don’t like one part, but maybe there’s one thing inside there?
There’s a song on your new EP called “Rude Customer”. Have you ever left a negative online review for a product or service?
Then I’m gonna have to ask: what’s your Amazon handle to verify that?
I’m pretty sure it’s just Albert.
Really? That’s your username? You got there first in all the Alberts?
Well it just says ‘Welcome, Albert’.
It’s not ‘ilovethestrokes81’ or something like that?
No. I’m in the band, why would I need to…
Do you ever wistfully back look to the era when people used to refer to you and Agyness Deyn as ‘Ags and Ham’? Did you ever make that joke to each other in private? Did you ever phone her up and go, "hey Ags, it’s Ham here?”
No I didn’t. I think I saw that once, but I didn’t really see it around much.
Really? It was big in fashionable circles, I can tell you.
I know of it. But it wasn’t something said enough to me to make an impression.
Is being a sex symbol nice?
If you get sex out of it, yes.
Have you achieved that goal?
Yeah but - first of all I don’t see myself as a sex symbol. But I don’t know if I needed to be a sex symbol to get laid. I never needed that affirmation.
They’re around, women. They’re there.
Yes. We are men. They are women. They are looking for us.
The law of the jungle, baby.
Your father is British Gibraltarian. And your mother is Argentinian. Bearing in mind that if you say yes, you’ll probably never be able to set foot in Britain ever again, and if you say no, you should probably take Argentina off your touring roster until the end of your natural life, do you think the Falklands belong to Argentina?
Firstly I don’t think anything I say about that is ever going to matter to either country. But I... wouldn’t have enough information to make a decision. Clearly, from what’s happening… um. Is it still British?
For god’s sakes, man. We went to war. It remains British. There’s a lot of Argentinian sabre-rattling though. You know what they’re like, with their sabres.
Why do they want it again?
They think they own it. We threw a bunch of their sheep farmers off there in 1830, but by that principle they should probably be giving Argentina back to non-Hispanic Amerindians about now.
But why does Britain want it?
To project power in the world. Britain has a lot of important rocks.
Yeah but I know Gibraltar is a strategic point so I just thought maybe there’s some kind of strategic reason. Britain will always seem powerful. Right now, English-speaking countries feel really dominant. Maybe they have a base down there. I don’t know, that debate is harder than just answering it right now. It’s gonna go longer and deeper than you’re gonna write. If they wanna fight it out, just let them.
You don’t feel any allegiance to either country.
When people say you’re proud to be from somewhere it seems kinda silly to me. You were born there. You grew up. It’s just an accident. I don’t feel that kind of pride for countries.
Would you fight in a war for America?
Your father co-wrote the theme song to the 1988 Olympics. How fast can you run?
Uh… like a mile or in general? I’m a good runner. I don’t do crazy running at distance, but I can run.
Out of you and your Cult Records label boss Julian Casablancas, who can run faster?
I don’t know.
Why can certain people run faster? I don’t know.
Yeah, I guess so. Or practice doing it. Maybe he can run longer than me, and I stop and he catches me.
Well that’s about all I have. I think I’ve done very well at not mentioning The Strokes, don’t you think?
Yes, yes you’ve done very well.
Is this the best interview you’ve done all day?
… Yes. Definitely.
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Illustration by Sam Taylor @SptSam