Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. is sober now. After years of hard partying, he eventually embarked on an overall reevaluation of life and its absurdities that helped give him the focus needed to produce his recently released third solo album, Momentary Master. It’s a punchy, often playful, ten-song record that takes its title from a Carl Sagan quote about human lives being in control of “a fraction of a dot”; it’s also a by-product of years of self-improvement.
“All these things would not have happened if my mind had been elsewhere,” Hammond says. “I would’ve been living too much in a world of emotion, which leaves no time for thought, no time to take action.” Curious to learn more about the new Hammond, we asked him to name a few things that have helped keep him right. What came back was a hodgepodge that includes Schwarzenegger fandom, his love of therapy, and plenty of fart talk.
“Coffee is like my new wine. I don’t drink anymore, but I still like the aspect of understanding something like wine, and I guess it still gives you a buzz in some way. Abraço in New York is like my favorite vineyard of coffee. They roast their own beans, and it’s just the most delicious coffee. Their short Americano, no sugar, no milk, is just life-changing. I think Fab [Moretti, Strokes drummer] told me about it.”
The Hygiene of the Wild West
“I just started watching Deadwood. I need to zone out for a second and find that kind of entertainment. Then I start to think, like, Imagine living back then. There wasn’t running water. I get up to pee in the middle of the night and I think how they had this little commode. Do they throw it out in the front of the street? Is that some of the mud? Or do they throw it out in the back? I think smell is the sense that holds the most memory, so I was trying to imagine what it would smell like. And there was no insulation. They must have been fucking freezing. At some point, in the middle of winter, did anyone not say, ‘Did we move here in summer or something?’”
My Mind’s Quest for Destruction
“That’s just the constant in there. I like the idea that sometimes, even in celebration, when things are going right, some shadow part of you is trying to find ways to do stuff that’s not necessary or destructive. I feel like the more you understand it, the easier you can see it coming.”
“I love therapy, even if it’s just somebody having an outside perspective on things. The best therapists are the ones that are almost familylike in how they fill in the shoes of things you’d been missing. I feel like he’s been a whole series of people to me, and most of all, he’s been the person where, if I can learn how to act a certain way when I’m with him, I can do it out in day-to-day life. He’s kind of become this testing board, which I guess is what family is when you grow up. I’ve been going since 2008, on and off. Like everything, you forget stuff. You backpedal into different things and you have to go back. It’s not like going to square one, but you start to realize your shadow wasn’t only for drugs, it was also for, like I said before, destruction.”
“When I’m not on the road, I try to intake about 300 grams of protein a day, which is a lot. I got really into how your body absorbs it and how you feel and how crazy it is when you intake that much food and actually feel better, your brain works better, and you actually lose weight even though you’re eating more. It’s so methodical. It’s a new challenge. In the morning, I normally do a four-egg omelette with broccoli and some kind of organic chicken sausage. For lunch, I’ll have chicken or turkey and make it into a patty and grill it with broccoli or spinach or zucchini, some kind of vegetable. I love lentils, and my wife makes quinoa in vegetable broth. It’s so good. Then I’ll have snacks of like different fruit with nonfat cheese, or nonfat yogurt, like Siggi’s. It’s the Icelandic one. The owner has a handball team and my wife was a professional handball player in Europe, so it always reminds me of that. It’s really good, but it also has a tie in the family.”
Arnold Palmers and Schwarzenegger
“I was in L.A. at Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant that made me feel like I was starring in L.A. Story 2. It felt so much like that restaurant scene. It tasted delicious, and it was beautiful. They made these Arnold Palmers from scratch. Schwarzenegger subconsciously ties in with the whole protein thing. If you watch that movie Pumping Iron, he is just such a character. I like exercising, but I’m not into bodybuilding, but it’s the way you understand that you have to sculpt yourself. He looks good, and those Arnold Palmers tasted great. So, that happened.”
“There are different people who got me into music, but what I liked about Beethoven is that even when I didn’t understand it or it was too long, there’s still something about it that drove me to it. Then it got me excited about actually learning music, like a theory of it. Granted, I don’t know it as fluently as he did, but it was definitely me going from ‘I don’t want to know anything’ to ‘Oh, I understand. I can mix emotion with knowledge, and maybe I can make myself better than what I started out with.’ You should always be careful because if you think too much, you’re going to erase an edge of raw emotion. That’s the hardest thing in the studio. You always want to make something sound good, but at the same time, you don’t want to take away its edge. Which, funnily enough, I don’t know why I did so many drugs because that really takes away your edge, but whatever. That’s a long story. When people ask me for playlists, I always put in ‘Moonlight Sonata’ because it is my favorite song. I play it all the time.”
“Egon Schiele is my favorite painter. There’s just something about art — photography, painting, music, plays — whatever you see, sometimes there’s a gut reaction that’s more important or more visceral than what your brain is thinking about. You can’t explain that reaction. It’s like what happens when you fall in love. It’s something that just exists, and that’s okay. You don’t need to explain it.”
“I take it in powder form and put it in hot water and drink it at night. It oxygenates your blood, which helps you sleep. You wake up feeling better, especially when you’re in a van all the time and traveling a lot. I’m talking ‘clean out all the junk.’”
Farts, a Universal Culture
“There are certain things the body does that are very natural. It’s just human existence. Taking a crap, pissing, farting, burping. I find it funny, something like that is the closest thing to being what we are but is also the thing we push away or get grossed out by. It’s like the definition of when you’re close to someone. If you can fart next to someone and just laugh about it, I feel like you’re truly connected. Maybe that’s from being on the road to me, or maybe it’s just that guys like dick and fart jokes. I can’t help it. I’ll always find that funny. I’ll be 90 years old, and if someone farted in a movie, I’d still laugh. It’s very human to me.”