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Albert Hammond Jr. On His New Album and New Domesticity

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 11.12.41 AM.png(Photo by Jason McDonald)

Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. is domestic now -- and it suits him. He's cleaned up, gotten hitched, and moved from the city to upstate New York, but hasn't lost the ability to create soaring rock riffs and catchy hooks. Today Hammond's announced the July release of his third studio album, Momentary Masters, whose title was inspired by astronomer Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, which pondered the insignificance of the human race in the universe. Heavy stuff to be sure, but just as compelling and rock-friendly, it turns out, as love, partying and other timeworn music tropes. Ahead of the record's release and in the midst of a string of shows with the Strokes -- who, according to Hammond's bandmate, Julian Casablancas, are working on new music themselves -- we spoke to the guitarist about Momentary Masters, his quieter new life and the cliché of the tortured artist.

What are some of the ideas or messages you hope will come across in this new record?

For a while I really liked the idea that we all exist with a shadow. It's an idea that over the past couple of years has driven me emotionally.I feel like from a young age you put things to the side depending on how people interact with you but you always exist with this other side of you that didn't really get to grow. It usually ends up being seen as a negative side and people will always try to throw it away, but I've felt that as time has gone by, you really need to grab it and bring it closer to you to be complete.

When you were doing press for your last album, the AHJ EP, a lot of the narrative focused on your experiences overcoming drug addiction. Since then you got married, moved upstate -- it sounds like you're pretty settled down. Has that influenced what we're hearing on this album at all?

I've never been in a better place in my life, in terms of feeling happy or good about myself. With the AHJ EP stuff, that was a year or so [after I got clean], which is usually when you talk about it. You don't want to talk about it when you're in the fire or when you just get out [of rehab]. It's just so new, you know what I mean? Don't get me wrong, there's definitely times where I want to quit or don't understand anything I'm doing, but for the most part, I feel very good.

"Born Slippy" off of Momentary Masters

What's life like for you these days when you're not making music or on tour?

Well, I really love scuba diving. I try and do that. I've been to Turks and Caicos and Belize and Grand Turks and hopefully when I tour Australia I can go to the Great Barrier Reef. And my wife and I have been wanting to go to Honduras. There's this place that's really awesome called Anthony's Key. I also really love motorcycles. I sometimes go to this school to race. My wife loves them, too. That's kind of what we bonded over in the beginning.She likes riding on the back. She carries the backpack and we travel around to local farms and get fruits and vegetables for the week. I cook a lot.

What do you cook?

A mixture of stuff. We usually have fish at night with vegetables and I usually start the morning with a big breakfast, an omelet or something and then lunch is just some kind of vegetables with meat or chicken.Usually my wife makes really good pancakes or I'll make burgers. But we try to do two veggie days -- she's a vegetarian and eats fish -- so we'll make meals with all these different veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and mushrooms with quinoa and lentils and a little ricotta on top.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 7.12.46 PM.pngAlbum cover for Momentary Masters

There's the cliché that the tortured artist is able to create better art. Do you find that having found happiness has changed the actual music that you're writing and making in any way?

I think that [the tortured artist] makes for a better story and I think most tortured people back in the day probably had some issue that they were self-medicating themselves for...That was the case for me, for sure. But no, I've never found that [feeling tortured creates better art]. I've found that sometimes it's nice to be able to do something and open a new door and see, but after a while of doing [any kind of drug], you forget that it opened a door and then you're just stuck in a stagnant place and you're no longer learning, which means you're no longer changing.

Momentary Masters is out July 31st via Vagrant Records 

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