Learn how to sound like Albert Hammond Jr. with tips on how to re-create his Fender Stratocaster and Les Paul with P90 sound on such solo hits as GfC with advice from the solo artist and The Strokes’ guitarist himself
In Some quarters Albert’s debut LP Yours To Keep was cruelly dubbed ‘Strokes lite’. The follow up, Como Te llama?, sticks the proverbial two-fingers-up at such petty criticisms. The huge range of guitar tones present draw on the influence of some of the Strokes Rhythm guitarist’s favourite players – Lou Reed, Rick Ocasek of The Cars and Doug Marsh from Built To Spill – plus many more besides. Key to the overall sound was the decision to forgo effects pedals, just using sounds from a variety of different amps – altering the sound simply by moving the microphones.
Hammond’s familiar white 80’s Fender Stratocaster did feature – it’s a ‘70s style re-issue – but he also played a ‘70’s Les Paul with P90, ‘Soapbar’ type pickups and an old Harmony semi-acoustic. A Fender Princeton Reverb saw plenty of action but his favourite new amp, as heard on the solo of Bargain Of The Century, is a Fender Super Champ XD (249 – it’s a valve amp but it comes equipped with onboard digital effects, handy for imitating many of the other tones showcased on the record). A new Strat the same as Albert’s can be bought for about 599 while Les Pauls are frightenly pricey, but you could try a similarly equipped Vintage VR100LM – a snip at just 209.
In The Studio
Albert is very proud of his work as producer on Como Te llama? and he’s even building a proper studio in his new house in Upstate New York so he can experiment further with his newfound skills. Most of the record though was made at Jimi Hendrix’s old studio Electric Lady studios in Greenwich Village, where he made use of all of the facilities. ‘For the intro of GfC we’re actually in the studios bathroom, but it was too reverby for the next part so we moved to the hall. Then the chorus was done in the main studio with the whole room kind of present in the sound.’ Such shenanigans meant time ran out and Albert actually finished the LP in the spare bedroom of his flat, which fortuitously is kitted out as a home studio.
Hammond tends to use rather heavy 0.011 gauge strings and is famed for his staccato up strokes. On recent single GfC Albert plays the central riff barring the D,G & B strings ( 3rd , 4th and 5th from the top) at the 12th fret. He starts by ‘hammering-on’ to the 14th fret with his 3rd finger picking out all three notes, then he adds the second finger on the B string at the 13th fret for a bit of variation. Finally he goes for an E- shaped bar chord by placing the 4th finger on the G string at the 14th fret along with the previous two finger placements. For the chorus he plays standard chords Em followed by G, C, and Am.
Albert reveals that he’s noticed most acts who play large arenas actually use small 15-20 watts amps instead of the big, 100 watt, stacks that used to be favoured by the old stadium rockers of yore. ‘The PAs are so good now days the sound engineers always want your guitar turned so goddamn low – so they can control it completely out front. Its actually better to have a smaller amp because then you can set it louder and actually get some tone out of it.’