Ken Grand-Pierre sat down for a lengthy chat with The Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr. to discuss his new solo album, Momentary Masters, which is out now. Check out the interview below, and head here to fidn out about his forthcoming live dates.

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First of all, I want to say it's great meeting with you again, especially after seeing you tour AHJ. I don't think many expected you to go solo again, but here you are...

Yeah, then there was light [laughs]. But yeah, it feels really good to be doing this again. I'm really proud of this album and getting to share it with people feels really good.

Especially that now we have a whole album to discuss, rather than an EP.

Eh, there's just something about the word EP [laughs]. I think 'mini-out' is better.

I think that must've taken some people aback, but in a positive way. You were so into it and very committed towards the very end. And now you have Momentary Masters. When did the writing for that start? Was it immediately after AHJ, or was there a bit of downtime before you made the album?

I just think you're constantly writing and then something comes together, whether it be a demo or something else that sparks something new. I know that's quite a roundabout way of answering that, but it's always hard for me to pinpoint when the start of an album is for me.

It's funny, I actually had that (about the band) as a question for later on, but I love that you brought that up. One of the most exciting things to me as a music fan is feeling like you're part of an artists' progression. And seeing acts live is a major component of that. For example, I've seen you take on a new band, tour with them, and then you became so comfortable with them you decided to make an album with them. You've kept the same people around you and I can only imagine that doing that has made for a stronger album.

Yeah, and it's really made me excited about things in a new way. That's kind of like some type of new-ventured confidence that was born from touring with them. Especially In the way we play and just the way we hang out. It all just felt like 'Oh, I got some demos that I love that I want to play to these guys!' and that's when I knew I needed to have them on the album, no matter what. So I showed them the demos, just to see where they could go with it, and what kind of feedback we can get from one another and yeah working together was so much fun. Looking back now, it was all done in baby steps, but it was a very fun experience, a very live experience.

I think the most interesting thing about all of that is we've just had the tour and because I think I saw you guys about four or five times in a year it just made everything click. What I enjoy with your solo outing is that with other solo projects you can feel when someone is the ringleader, and you can almost feel like there's invisible ropes that tie everyone together. But with you, you let your band members be themselves to help you on songs and that's a lot of trust to utilize, but in the end it worked out.

And it's been very surprising because the way a musician plays can change so subtly over the course of a year. So what happened slowly over time is that we became so comfortable playing with one another, along with recognizing the changes we'd go through as musicians. Something did just click when it came to finalizing this final set up, and I like that dynamic. I mean, I'll definitely take the lead in a frontman state of mind, I mean that's me singing my songs but I feel that the interaction between us is what makes it such an interesting live show, and sets it apart from other things that I do and have done.

Yeah that's fantastic and you know going into the Momentary Masters, I actually really wanted to tell you this....

Diving right in!

Ddiving into when you released 'Born Slippy' specifically. That song has to have one of the funniest intros that I've heard in a while. It's just like most random voicemail It is a voicemail, yeah?

[Laughs] yeah it was.

Was it for you?

No, my wife got it while Gus was setting up. I was doing something else and out of nowhere I heard this laughter. They were laughing so hard about it and she started playing it back [laughs]. I don't know what sparked us to put it onto the tune, but something about it felt fitting [laughs]. I remember Gus kept going back and forth between it and he was like 'I just can't imagine how people are going to react...' but I love it.

It does fit somehow, especially when the tune just kicks in right after. I don't think anyone would hear that and go 'yeah, put a rock song in that', but I love that's where your brain went.

Yeah I can't imagine hearing the song without it [laughs].

It's funny how one of the things no one ever tells anyone is the big turnaround where you realize that you have a certain esteem and how at times it feels like you're going too fast to really think about it; to really take it in. That's what makes a team so essential, especially people you care about. But for you especially, it must be weird balancing music, your life and all that without even realizing it.

I mean it definitely can be, but at the same time I feel like that's what gives you freedom for change, having those people around you. It's funny, when you're younger you find freedom from doing things on your own but when you get older - can't believe I said that [laughs] 'when you get older' [laughs] - but I do think you start to realize that freedom can come in the form of having people around you that you care about.


"I feel like the stuff that I've done has gotten me to this point and that this is a new beginning, like a new shot to not only establish myself but to share a side of myself that's new even to me."


One of the things that's been surprising to me, both as a journalist and as a fan of your music, has been that sense of growth. People associate you and The Strokes with an aspect of being timeless but you've pushed yourselves with each release, especially you with your solo work. I think I might have told you this once before, years ago, but just think for a second how it's impossible to be in your twenties in NYC and not be a fan of The Strokes.

[Laughs], aw come on.

It's just great seeing your enthusiasm. Especially after all the touring you did for the mini-album, AHJ. You toured that much more than anyone expected.

It's funny you bring that up though, the touring for AHJ was one of the things that inspired this new album. When you have a mini-album, EP, or whatever you get less opportunities to promote it. You get less radio, less TV, less reviews, so that gives you a smaller place to be in. There were times where I was frustrated and thought, 'do I really need an album to be heard?' Momentary Masters wasn't really born out of that frustration, but it'll be nice to take those previous challenges and head them on with a ten track album to promote.

But you know, going back to that, to AHJ, it's surprised me a lot how five songs could feel like a complete piece of work. It's a no brainer to have Albert Hammond Jr. on any TV show or any festival. It's just surprising that having an album or not would even matter in that regard.

It was surprising to me too [laughs]. It was a huge deal actually, I feel like I almost... I just want to keep touring. One of the things with making this album is there was an itch to go back on tour while I was making it with the band, and that usually doesn't happen to me. I've always wanted to go on tour while in the studio but this time it felt very instantaneous, very infectious. It does feel great to have all this backing force of things behind to try to get this to the best place if can be. I think releasing the mini-album made some markets a bit cold towards me, like the last time they saw me was Yours To Keep, almost as if AHJ didn't even happen, and I didn't even do much press for that album [laughs]. So there is a bit of an element of trying to win a crowd over with Momentary Masters, just to see I can do it.

Do you think that part of that desire, to prove yourself, added to the sound of immediacy to Momentary Masters?

Yeah, it wasn't intentional to be that way, that contrast, but I am excited to see if people also latch on to that, as well as to just how people will feel about it in general.

Like, when I'd listen to the album on headphones in the studio I'd always find myself going 'man, listen to that drum fill' or something else, and I'd get lost in that [laughs] I really would. So I hope that people find that aspect of the album interesting. Speaking of headphones... shit [laughs] I just remembered that I lost my headphones yesterday. The worst part too was that they were custom made.


"One of the things that I'm proud about with Momentary Masters is that it's as layered as it is enjoyable. I feel like this is an album you can find different sounds and textures to gravitate towards with the further listens of the album."


Wait, did it have your name on the box?

[Laughs] Yep! Those fuckers are so on eBay already.

Do people even use eBay anymore?

The worst part too is that they're custom, so even if someone tries to shove them in their ears it won't fit; it's a mold of my ear canal. That's going to be a priceless sight, someone trying to fit those in.

So going back to playing live. It's still surprising how much you played in support of AHJ, and I specifically remember that because on one hand many of the songs you played were from AHJ, but you were able to fit them all nicely with old songs for the setlists. I wonder, were future setlists in mind when you were making Momentary Masters?

It's actually funny, because yes, and this is the first record I've ever done where that's been the case. I really did think 'ok this song has to go after this song' in the live set, while I was making the album. I do feel like we got it to a point where everything sort of fits, especially re-arranging songs from the first two albums, along with songs from the EP... I mean mini-album [laughs]. But yeah, it feels a lot more cohesive than I ever thought would be possible, almost as if the set can tell a story with the songs sounds. The main thing I wanted to do with the live show this time around was to make it as fun as possible for everyone involved. We achieved that near the end of touring for AHJ and I really wanted to just keep that going.

How many songs off of Momentary Masters do you expect to play live?

Probably between five to six. Eventually I'd like to play the whole thing. It felt so good with making the album, and a lot of it can be done with the current band that we have. I feel like I can just go and play the whole album and it would be fun for the audience, and I don't think that type of assurance is something I've felt before [laughs]. But, I do like to think things a bit reasonably, so if I take in the fact that I have three past albums than I have to consider that people will come to the shows wanting to hear some of those songs. You'd think that would be obvious but I've seen it with other acts often, where they feel so assured by their newest project that they just kind of delve into that at their live shows. And also, going back to what we were saying before: live shows are meant to be fun, at least my shows are [laughs]. I think a strong element of fun for most people will be to see how these new songs fit in with the old ones.

I agree wholeheartedly on that. That singular dynamic of new meshing with old is what makes it great to see a musician numerous times on a tour. Especially when the setlist changes for each date. How have the rehearsals been going?

Everything, and I mean literally everything, has been going great within the rehearsals. It's shocked me a bit, but it just feels so fresh really. We've been experimenting with the setlist more than I expected and I think the funniest thing so far is when we'll get an obviously dumb idea, go with it, and then think 'why did we do that?' [laughs].


"Sometimes we'll just re-arrange one song, and it's funny how doing that can throw the whole thing off, but it's just how it is.."


Your personal life has gone through a lot of changes since we last talked, and it'd only be naturally for your music, for your writing to reflect that. Do you feel there's one particular song on the album that correlates to how you are now? Now, as a person I mean.

The song 'Side Boob' had magic to it when it was being created. I think the problem with solo projects is that it's really easy to feel power hungry and forget the bigger picture. That's where outside people become important, like for me having my wife in my life... because she's so supportive on all the different sides of my life. I trust her opinions so much, and when I'm with her I just know that I can truly let go of things. I know that if something feels like it's too huge she can help me to see the bigger picture of that, even when it feels like there isn't one. It's funny; because when you do music it can feel very insular no matter what band dynamic you're in. It's nice to now have someone like my wife who... she just opens the doors for me to be creative sometimes [laughs]. I know how cheesy that sounds but it's the truth.

Wow... well that's really nice man.

One of the things that's surprised me a lot about marriage is that...[laughs] it's going to sound silly to many out there, but being married to someone makes you almost feel childlike at times, and I think being creative intensifies that.

It's a lot of responsibility to put onto someone but that's the point, it's not about that, it's about finding. If anyone thinks I'm in a better place in my life than they have my wife to thank for that.


"At the end of the day, creatives just want someone who can help them feel childlike in a way. To feel free to express yourself, to just be able to see things in a bigger way."


Also, it eliminates that element of the chase to some degree. I think where I can relate, as someone who's creative, is that sometimes you can get lost in an insatiable chase for something. Whether it be validation or internal affirmation, there just seems to be an element of creatives wanting more than they can see. So I can totally see how someone who both inspires and comforts you can bring a whole lot of perspective to your life.

Yeah, and it's not an easy thing to find. Hell, even when you're actually in a relationship, the process of it changing into that... like I didn't even know I was just thinking of... wow.

I do know what you mean, because it's just such a natural thing. I think it's natural to want to let people in the older you get, because as open and expressive as you are in your youth you're almost living too fast to let people in, to really let them in. I'm 25, and even now I find myself thinking of people in my life and going 'aw shit...I should probably call that person I obviously care about' [laughs].

Well that doesn't necessarily go away when you get older, but you do get better at it. People become more of a priority, if that's a natural thing or a reaction to mortality, hell who knows, but it does just happen.

It's been great to see this side of you. We've bumped into each other a lot over the years, but I've always been around people who knew you better than I know do.

Did they always tell you what an asshole I am? [laughs].

No [laughs], come on man. No, it's just that it's interesting because you're a very New York person. I mean, clearly you live here, but not many people echo it you know? So from my perspective, it's great to have a talk like this with you because I think sometimes we New Yorkers are judged for being so driven, but this goes to show that you can have goals and care about someone deeply and a lot of people could do with seeing that.

True, though there have been instances where people now think I'm very un-New York for living outside of the city [laughs]. Like for being a dude who's so into upstate life now has weirded people out [laughs].

But....you're in the Strokes. But you know, something else our mutual friends have told me is how marriage seems to have made you into this relatively new person. It seems that people are taking you in a way, and contrasting the now Albert with the Albert I'd talk to two years ago, I can notice a bit of difference there.

It's interesting to have you say that, because though I acknowledge that I'm a different person now, I do ultimately just feel very... it feels like I'm myself now [laughs] like as much as myself as I can be. And yeah, I do think my wife has a lot to do with that. I feel like when you're younger you feel like you can't be yourself, so you put on all these different hats and characters so that you can fit in or find people who also feel like you, but you never talk about it. Then it all just gets too big, and you try to cover that up but end up feeling alone.

But now, it feels like I found a place of acceptance with this person (my wife) and it just focuses me in on things that need to be done. I think that all of that makes you who you are, and it's made me realize that the times in the past, where it felt that I gave up, it doesn't feel like those are instances of the real me, you know?


"As time goes on, and you have different experiences, you eventually have to just confront it all, but it can feel quite constant. For example, I've been sober for a while but it feels like I'm constantly confronting things, like the mistakes I've made and it doesn't... it just doesn't end."


I know what you mean. It's interesting to see how that contrasts with your professional life and personal life. Especially because many would probably consider your professional life as your personal life (in that you're a musician).

I can see how people would see that, especially if they don't work in a creative field. But you get it, in that when you do creative things as work it's all just different roles. Your personal life and experiences do inform your professional life but it's all just different roles man [laughs]. The Albert that watches movies on the couch isn't the same Albert that plays music festivals [laughs].

It just hit me actually, how I'd constantly bump into your wife when I was covering your shows during the AHJ tours. Will she be going on tour in the autumn?

Yeah I think so. She's my line director. She helps out with all the videos too [laughs].

That's incredible. I can still remember how joyous she'd be at the shows!

She directed the video for 'Born Slippy', and she's like...she's just so creative [laughs] it's amazing. She took some time off work to think about things and from that we were able to team up. It made me feel so much more prepared, with doing all this for Momentary Masters, and it's just a great thing to be in a relationship where you can be in each other's corner and just support one another. I never realized that I wanted that from a partner until I met her. The fact that we can inspire one another to be creative is special to me.

One of the things that makes Momentary Masters stand out to me is the songs on there have an attribute of being infectious in a very intimate way. These aren't songs I just want to tweet or post about on Facebook, they're also songs I want to grab the person next to me and say 'hey listen to this' the way you'd play songs in your car, backyard, or whatever, you know?

Yeah, I think it's because it goes into simplicity over anything else. There are layers in the songs, but the aspect of grasping someone was more important than anything else, when I was making the album. It's just fun to have a thing you can make and think of the elements of entertainment that go into it. I like mixing themes that people can think about with an aspect of digestible entertainment. Especially when I can tell a story. There's just something satisfying about telling a story while also entertaining someone. It's a simple idea but a difficult one to really grasp while you're creating.

There's also a contrast in that the album makes you think back to the previous releases in a positive way, but you don't feel a rush in trying to listen to the older stuff you want to be in this world of Momentary Masters. I think that's a happy medium to be in, because it goes to show how successful that aspect of immediacy was, and how it can resonate past the first listen.

Yeah, I don't know if I could say that was the goal but I think no matter what, you always want that to be the case. I love the albums I made before, but whenever I release a new album I do want the focus to be on that in a way that can be... I don't know if overbearing is the right way to put it [laughs], but I do feel like we all, musicians, feel that way towards our latest works.

That that must feel like quite the achievement for you. You may have awards and massive tours, and all of that is great, but at the end of the day you've made an album that's fun and can last for years.

It is quite a thing. I guess the thing with achievements is you do feel proud but it's always a never ending cycle and you never... it's not like I'm on top of feeling comfortable, there's always that craving of wanting to improve, the need for it. Maybe 'improving' is the wrong word because I feel like I'm turning it into a competition [laughs], but that's just what it's like for me. I'm always thinking on how I can improve myself. I think the biggest thing is that I have a bit of harmony with it all.

I don't know why we treat it that way, but I suppose the aspect of having your name on it almost takes hold. There is something to that, and you almost feel like you have to earn that, your name on the album that's already yours.

"I feel very connected to that aspect of myself, and it's definitely made for a better album overall. For whatever reason, I believed that I could go into a studio and make an album better than my last."


You went into making the setlists while recording, at least thinking about them. I wonder if those thoughts were brought about from a desire to be back on stage. Was that a constant for you?

Sure, it always is. I think it's back and forth, on the desire aspect but at the end of the day the live show does feel like a reward. I know how hackneyed that must sound, but it's true.

Like when you and The Strokes played Hyde Park a couple of months back, during British Summertime.

Yeah! [Laughs] exactly that. It's funny you bring that up because I remember feeling weird that day, leading up to the show. It's a bit of a silly gripe to have but one of the weirdest things about doing big shows like this is a constant rotation of people touching your gear [laughs]. I'm sure someone's reading this now and rolling their eyes, but there is a bit of weirdness towards... I mean someone's touching your stuff [laughs].

No, I get it [laughs].

But yeah, going back to playing live and thinking about it in the studio, I do feel like you always get excited about playing live. To the point where you just imagine it a lot, and in the end that does affect the full extent that some songs go through. With this album it was very conscious that anything created could be played live. Because if that element exists it'll be as though we really captured what's on record the purest way we could. I wanted there to be intensity on this record that could experienced in a live setting. The weirdest thing about making albums is a bit of reconciliation towards knowing you can never do that 100%, albums just always end up sounding softer no matter what.

Do you think that you feel secure over the new records when you listen to them for the first time? After you get back that initial mix?

For the most part yeah, definitely much more secure than I used to be.

It's funny you bring up the aspect of albums sounding softer. I think bands such as the Stereophonics and Oasis have come quite close in catching that live sound. I've recently been listening to the Stereophonics album< em>Language.Sex.Violence.Other? and the songs on that sound like blistering live songs.

I know a little bit about the Stereophonics, but I do know what you mean about Oasis. It might just be a musician thing, but when you listen to their albums in contrast to their performances you can feel the softness of the records [laughs]. It isn't their fault; it's just a character trait of making records.

I don't think that it's ever deliberate, but in a small way, we musicians kind of like it. Because it gives us something to chase, something we can never fully achieve [laughs] and it kind of fuels the live show.

Is there a song off of Momentary Masters that you're particularly looking forward to playing?

More then one! I really want to play 'Caught By My Shadow', 'Losing Touch', 'Razor's Edge', and 'Side Boob'. I'm pretty excited about those. I really love 'Razor's Edge' and 'Touché' a lot.


"And it gets to a point where you have an understanding that the show you experienced isn't the same as the show the crowd experienced, so you also have to accept that and let go."


That really is going to be a great tour, the autumn tour coming up. Lastly, and I don't think you've been asked this before. Have you ever played in a place and thought 'aw man we didn't nail it' and you want to go back there and play a good show?

Dude... tons man.

Tons?

Tons! One of the things about being a musician is learning how to let go when things don't go perfectly for you. You can't have a perfect show for so many reasons, whether it be the venue, the equipment, or just generally being tired. That's what really pushes you at times man; you're always striving to get close to what the audience is experiencing.

And that's something you're always experiencing?

Yeah, definitely. It's just a constant.

You know, one of the things that's weirded me out over the years, whether it'd be from shooting bands or being part of crew, was seeing how the dressing room gets mobbed with people right after a show. Like you guys will come off stage and immediately after the room will be filled with people trying to talk to you, whether they're from the label or whatever. I think it gets lost on people how you're coming down from this big rush of adrenaline, and the fact you have to deal with so many people...it's mental.

Yeah, sometimes I just can't deal with that at all [laughs]. Like, it's going to sound funny considering how many years it's been but sometimes I just can't be in a headspace like that after a show because it feels like I'm literally dying [laughs]. So much energy was spent and all of that, the comedown, causes these crazy headaches and I'll look at the room, all the people in it, the talks of partying and stuff and all I'll want to say is 'I was just on stage and exerted so much energy, I just had the party [laughs]'.