Albert Hammond Jr. was a little dazed after getting out of rehab in 2009 for addictions to drugs including cocaine and heroin. "I had a year or two when creating was very slow for me I was very confused," he tells Rolling Stone. But by the time the Strokes wrapped their dancey LP Comedown Machine, he felt ready to record his first solo material since 2008's ¿Cómo Te Llama? "Being sober helps," Hammond says. "Weirdly enough, you're more creative. I feel OK being myself. I feel comfortable to sit and sing embarrassing melodies before finding one. I don’t mind going through the process."
On October 8th, Hammond will release a five-song EP AHJ on Strokes bandmate Julian Casablancas' Cult Records. Longtime collaborator Gus Oberg produced the album, which Hammond recorded at his studios in Manhattan and upstate New York, with Casablancas regularly dropping by to give input. Hammond sounds fully recharged on music ready-made for fans of the Strokes' guitar-driven earlier work, howling his best vocals ever over stuttering, futuristic riffs of "St. Justice," the manic grooves of "Rude Customer" and the anthemic "Cooker Ship." "Julian was like '[sing] it higher,'" Hammond says of the latter track. "And it sounded a lot better. And I was like fuck. When I sing this live, it'll be my full voice right at the edge of my range. He said 'Just practice.' I could strangle you!”
Hammond chose to release an EP because he only wanted to release his best material, but he hopes to release another one quickly. "Weirdly, then I'll have an album," he says. "I'm already working on stuff." He adds, "The way the press works, people don't like to review or talk about EPs. It’s considered, 'Why don't you just wait for the record?' But for someone who'screating, and the audience, they can get material quicker," he says. "I almost feel like putting out a few songs every couple months might be better than putting out an album every year or two."
Hammond kicks off his first U.S. solo tour in years November 3rd in Washington D.C. (check here for the complete itinerary), and he's still finalizing the band. "It feels like the universe has just lined up for me to really take responsibility: 'If want to do this thing, do it. Stop trying to hide behind things. Just do it and take the good and the bad straight up.' I'm excited about that. I'm ready."