Albert Hammond Jr has spoken to NME about his new hip-hop-inspired single ‘100-99’, his upcoming solo album ‘Melodies On Hiatus’, working with Arctic Monkeys‘ Matt Helders, and progress on The Strokes’ next record.
The guitarist and singer-songwriter shared his latest solo track earlier this week (April 4) and announced details of the new record – which will be his fifth solo album and the follow-up to 2018’s ‘Francis Trouble’.
The LP’s first single finds Hammond Jr combining a beat inspired by ‘90s hip-hop and a glacial guitar melody as he sings: “I’m not safe / I’ve made mistakes, I would again / In spite of what it cost me.” It’s a merging of styles that he has wanted to try out for some years.
“I’d write riffs and think, ‘I can imagine that looped with a beat and someone rapping over it’,” he told NME. “This song just happened to work [like that]. The time [to release a song like this] would have been 13 years ago when I wanted to and it’s so funny – maybe I should have.”
Asked if he felt “typecast” in genre by the perception people have of him as a member of The Strokes, Hammond Jr replied: “Oh my god, are you kidding me? People loved labels when we first came out, and now I feel like people love labels even more.”
He continued: “Success is awesome because you get to do what you’ve wanted to do, but it can also typecast you in that no one knew you – or the different facets of you – before that, so you can get typecast into something. Every positive comes with a negative – although it’s not so much a negative as just understanding the duality of it. It’s fine, I feel very fortunate.”
‘100-99’ will appear on ‘Melodies On Hiatus’ – coming in June. Although the album follows on from 2018’s ‘Francis Trouble’, on which the guitarist created the titular alter ego as a reaction to the discovery that his twin brother had died in their mother’s womb, it is not a sequel to that record.
“I wanted to make volume two [of that album], but I feel like each record makes you want to do something else because you feel like you’ve done that, or you can have different songs when you play live or just in general,” Hammond Jr explained.
Instead, the musician characterises the new records as “the deconstruction of ‘Francis Trouble’”. “It’s impossible to have a band as a solo artist – it’s just impossible to be able to afford it and to do it,” he said. “So I created what I thought was the best version of [having a band], and then I was like, ‘I can’t do it anymore, I’m going to deconstruct it and go on the road differently’, but I just wanted a different thing.
“I’m lucky to be in the most amazing band, so I’ll keep that that and, here, I’ll just be me.”
The returning artist has already confirmed a string of solo US dates, which are set to kick off in New York on September 14. Asked what his plans are for those gigs, given he’s attempting to “deconstruct” the traditional band setup, he said: “I thought about doing a three-piece and tracks – a lot of people don’t like that vibe, but I just wanted to see what it was like.
“I’ve tried to do the best with what I can. There’s certain ways I would present this album if I was able to, but there’s limitations with the venues. But it’s good – limitations help the creativity.”
Although Hammond Jr might be breaking down the band set-up, ‘Melodies On Hiatus’ still captures a collaborative spirit. As well as GoldLink appearing on ‘100-99’, the likes of Rainsford – aka Rainey Qualley – Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens, and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders are also set to feature on various tracks on the record.
The latter appears on the song ‘Thoughtful Distress’, and Hammond Jr reflected on his relationship with the drummer – and Arctic Monkeys generally. “I met them early on, and those guys came out to my first solo gig in London in 2007,” he recalled. “I became friendly with Matt, and I’ve known him and chatted with him over the years. I just love the way he plays drums. It just seemed like it’d be a fun, casual day in the studio, and it was.”
The album was also co-written with Canadian songwriter Simon Wilcox, who has previously helped pen tracks by the likes of Blink-182, Poppy, and Fever 333. Wilcox took care of the record’s lyrics in what the guitarist said ended up being a “magical” experience – once he handed over the reins in that department, at least.
“When I had 20 songs written, I was like, ‘I can’t do this, I should throw this all away and start again because there’s no way I can face writing lyrics for 19 songs’,” he explained. “I was gonna cry just thinking about it.”
At first, he thought he could outsource the lyrics to musicians in other bands but eventually settled on working solely with Wilcox. “She’s really such an amazing lyricist. I work with her now in trying to write songs for other people, we’re like a little partnership.
“[Working on ‘Melodies On Hiatus’,] we would talk for hours, and we almost had an affair through music,” he added. “It was like in that movie Her where Joaquin Phoenix has his PC, and he’s talking to the girl, and they’re getting along – except I knew Simon was a real person. But it’s just funny to not really know someone and then just have these big conversations.”
Aside from working on the new record, recently Hammond Jr has been busy getting back on the road with The Strokes, who will continue to tour the global festival circuit across the summer. He’s also been in a recording studio in Costa Rica with his bandmates and famed producer Rick Rubin, who helmed their latest album ‘The New Abnormal’ – a fact Rubin revealed during an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience last year. Those sessions don’t necessarily mean a new Strokes record is around the corner, though.
“I think he was just so excited about where we recorded,” Hammond Jr said. “But I don’t know what to say about it – I don’t have any information on it. It’s not like it’s happening and I’m hiding something. We went and did a bunch of recording. It could come out a year or two years from now – it’s an unknown amount of time when it’ll be finished but, yes, we are working on another record.”
‘Melodies On Hiatus’ will be released on June 23 via Red Bull Records.