The Five Minute Interview: Albert Hammond, singer and songwriter

"My all time dream is to take to the stage just father and son. Perhaps one day Albert might even like to write a song with me."


Albert Hammond, 64, is a singer-songwriter whose output in the 1960s and 70s made him one of the most successful musicians of that period. Albert’s most well-known songs include The Air That I Breathe - a huge hit for The Hollies, Gimme Dat Ding for The Pipkins and his self-performed track It Never Rains in Southern California. His son Albert Hammond Jr., is the guitarist for indie-rock heavyweights The Strokes. Albert will be taking part in the second series of Songbook – a music show exploring the way in which songwriters work. Songbook: Albert Hammond airs on Thursday February 12 on Sky Arts 1 and Sky Arts HD. Visit
www.alberthammond.com

for more information.

If I weren't talking to you right now I'd be…

In the gym - I go almost every day and it really helps me to relax. I was up until 4.30 this morning and had a blood test and physical yesterday. After just four hours sleep I feel quite drained but as soon as I get to the gym I’ll feel better. Exercise is the only thing that ever really “ups” me.



A phrase I use far too often...

I don’t really examine myself in that way so it’s difficult to say. I’m a very instinctive guy and can’t really look too deeply at myself. I guess some people spend a lot of time looking in the mirror while the rest of us just don’t care that much.



I wish people would take more notice of...

Human beings and their suffering. People starve and go without things too often and while we talk about helping and making a difference we very rarely act. I think it’s partly why humanity has deteriorated a bit; things are too black and white, rich and poor these days. Some people have too much, while others have too little. Some women would love to have just one baby, while another refuses to care for her sixteen. It just doesn’t seem fair.



A common misperception of me is...

Probably where I’m from. I was born in London but raised in Gibraltar and I guess both places try to claim me. I often ask myself, ‘if I wasn’t famous, who’d want me?’ but I feel very Gibraltarian and really identify with the place. It was great to grow up there and it taught me to be instinctive – almost like a street kid. I learned to speak on the streets, both in Spanish and English.



Are there any similarities between your son’s song writing and your own?

Oh absolutely, I think my son and I have many similarities. He’s heard all the music I love, be it Buddy Holly, The Beatles or Johnny Cash and I think he’s absorbed it. But he’s young and tries to be a little hipper than his dad so he’ll often dismiss that music. Albert’s a terrific kid and though I may not approve of everything he does he just a wonderful human being. I’m truly exited at the moment because The Strokes are going into the studio for the first time in two and a half years next week. I can’t wait to see what they come out with. My all time dream is to take to the stage just father and son. Perhaps one day he might even like to write a song with me.

The most surprising thing that ever happened to me was...

Having my first hit. I was working at the Chelsea Drug Store, just doing dishes when I wrote Little Arrows. I’d carry around a little transistor radio and play it to the other guys when the song came on but they’d never believe it was me.



I am not a politician but...

If I were I’d change everything. I couldn’t be a politician though as I need to touch people and make people happy. Politicians don’t do that despite what they say. They keep their distance from real humanity and unfortunately they’re all the same.



I'm good at...

You know what, the thing I’m best at is actually also my downfall. I never learned to read music, which can be a real problem when you’re jamming with great musicians. However, the fact I was more of a ‘three-chord-player’ meant I had to really shape the melodies. Had I known how to play twenty notes it could have strangled the sound of my songs.



But I'm very bad at...

I think I drive too fast. I don’t know why I do it; I guess it just excites me. It’s a difficult question though because again I don’t really analyse myself in that way. Perhaps I could have been a better father, a better husband, a better human being – you could look at it that way. But I did the best I could and to me that’s a positive thing.



The ideal night out is...

Oh I’m a home guy, so when I do go out for the evening it has to be perfect - a great restaurant with wonderful food and beautiful company. I love to be around young people because they make me feel I’m going to leave longer.



In moments of weakness I...

Turn to friends and family. I’m not one for psychologists or psychiatrists although I have seen a few in my time. Real friends and real people work so much better than someone watching the clock and charging for their time. I’m more of a street person so I get more out of real people.



You know me as a singer and a songwriter but in truer life I'd have been...

A doctor. I think of myself as a healer in many ways because people respond to music so emotively. That really appeals to me and I love to make people happy.



The best age to be is...

Any age between 30 and 50. You have the energy, stamina and good looks of your youth but you also have experience. Before 30 you’re too naïve and after 50 you’re just wondering how much longer you can stick around.



In a nutshell, my philosophy is…

Just be good. When my son was a little boy I used to sit him on my knee and sing to him. I always hoped he’d remember those moments so I’d do my best to slip in nuggets of advice among the songs. I would often tell him to always be good because if you are good to people, others will be good to you. The world is generally a good place but it’d be even better if we were a little warmer to each other.

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