The Current's Guitar Collection: Albert Hammond Jr., Fender Stratocaster; Hammarsing Kharhmar, Fender Jazzmaster

Albert Hammond Jr performs a combination of "Spooky Couch" and "Side Boob" live in the studios of 89.3 The Current. Hammond plays his Fender Stratocaster while Hammarsing Kharhmar, seen at far left in the full-band view, plays his Fender Jazzmaster. (MPR/Nate Ryan)

Anyone who has followed Albert Hammond Jr.'s career over the past 15 years or may have noticed a standard piece of equipment: Hammond's white Fender Stratocaster. The instrument has featured consistently in Hammond's work with the Strokes and as a solo artist.

Following a recent in-studio session at The Current, we had a chance to talk to Hammond about his trusty Strat, as well as to Hammond's bandmate Hammarsing Kharhmar about a new Fender Jazzmaster. Here's what the two had to say about their guitars.

Albert Hammond Jr.

You've played this white Stratocaster for a long time, correct?

Yeah, since '99. It was 400 bucks, the best 400 bucks I ever spent.

Do you remember where you got it?

Yes, of course. Richie's Guitar Shop. He also fixes guitars. That's also how I met him. It's just in his apartment in Manhattan.

If you've had this since 1999, is that pre-Strokes?

Well, I was still in the Strokes, it's just no one knew about them. Pre album release, for sure. Very, very "pre-"! (laughs)

When you're writing songs, do you typically write on this guitar?

No, no. I can, it's electric. I practice on it. But I write on acoustic guitar or on piano. It's not like I need the Strat to get something magical or something like that. It's more just that when you go on the road, if you have a good sound, you just kind of go with it, you know what I mean? It's a good guitar.

When you first picked it up at Richie's, had you tried others?

No, I actually picked up the Epiphone that Nick Valensi uses and that was going to be my guitar. But we got to the studio and Nick picked it up and everyone thought it looked good on him so I was like, "Fine, keep it." And then — I got my guitar teacher from Richie — and he was telling me that there was this white Strat that I should check out, and I went there and it felt great and it just became my sound. A lot of luck — I got a lot of luck in my early life.

And it's been your workhorse since.

Yes, I've had it 16 years, something like that.

Have you had to have the frets redressed or anything like that?

Yes, just the frets. Once on the frets. I mean, I change the strings and clean it, the normal stuff. My techs all through the years have kept good upkeep, too. It's in pretty good shape. I never would have guessed it, but I'm happy I found it.

Scroll down to see a video of Hammond playing his Fender Strat during another session at The Current from 2007.

Hammarsing Kharhmar

How recently did you get your Fender Jazzmaster?

I just got it. We toured Japan for the first time, and I was actually looking to get a Jazzmaster as a backup guitar. Steve Schiltz — who used to play in this band with Albert and has his own band, Longwave — he has a friend in Tokyo who collects guitars, so Steve put me in touch with that guy, who had this '94 made-in-Japan Jazzmaster; I think that was the last year where it was actually made in Japan. I got it for 520 bucks; it's the best guitar I've ever got. I love it. I used to use a Telecaster, but now it's just Jazzmaster all the way. I'm getting to know it; it's my new best friend.

What made you want to get a Jazzmaster?

I figured I had a Telecaster and I didn't want to add another Strat to the mix. I was using a Les Paul, but it just didn't feel right. And Steve, when he played in the band, used to use a Jazzmaster, and I was like, "Well, it has a really full and kind of raw sound." And it's just a cool-looking guitar, too, so I was like, "Let's get it!"

And you started using it from that point?

I played it immediately the next day at our show, but I broke a string and then I had to use the backup. But I've used it in every show since then.

Was it the first one you picked up at the shop in Toyko?

It wasn't even a shop; it's just this guy who is a guitar collector. He was like, "I have these two Jazzmasters that I'm trying to sell," and he left them at the hotel where we were staying. I went back that night. It was just the color — there were two; the other one was sort of a misty purple color, and I thought that didn't feel right. But this one, as soon as I plugged it in at sound check, it just felt so good. It's just one of those things.

What instrument did you use when you were recording the album?

Most of that was done on Albert's black Les Paul. I like to switch around on guitars. For Albert, it's always just one guitar, which is cool. But when we start working on the next record, I'll definitely use the Jazzmaster because it makes you play in a different way.

How so?

The frets are a little wider, so there's more space for my fingers and it just feels really nice.

My Telecaster sounded a little more smooth; this one sounds a little more dirty, more chunky. I like that. The Jazzmaster's sound has got more body and I feel more confident when I play it, so I guess that's the best thing about this guitar.

Related Stories

  • Albert Hammond Jr. pursues a labor of love 'I fell in love with the idea of writing songs and playing,' Albert Hammond Jr. says, reflecting on the origins of his career. It helped that Hammond's father is a songwriter himself, and that both of his parents are very supportive. Hammond Jr. spoke more about his career arc when he stopped in to The Current for an in-studio session hosted by Jill Riley.
  • Albert Hammond Jr. performs live in the Current studio Albert Hammond Jr. was born in Los Angeles California. As a member of the indie-rock band The Strokes, he plays lead and rhythm guitar. He released his solo record, "Yours To Keep" in the UK in 2006 and in North America in 2007.

3 Photos

  • Albert Hammond Jr's Fender Stratocaster
    Albert Hammond Jr's Fender Stratocaster rests in The Current studio. Hammond has played this instrument since 1999, both with the Strokes and on his solo projects. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Hammarsing Kharhmar's Jazzmaster
    Body and headstock of Hammarsing Kharhmar's Fender Jazzmaster, photographed in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Hammarsing Kharhmar's Jazzmaster
    Hammarsing Kharhmar's Fender Jazzmaster, which was purchased from a collector in Tokyo. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

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