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You Should Already Know: Hamilton Leithauser

By Hamilton Leithauser; Photo by Lauren Dukoff on June 19, 2014

 

You Should Already Know: Hamilton Leithauser

 

THE LOW POINT OF OUR CAREER

 

Once, at Coney Island High (which used to be on St. Mark’s Place), I played a show and the only two people that came were my friends Nick and Josh. It was a pretty big place. Halfway through the set they waved and said, “Hey, Ham, we gotta go... Good show, man, later!” and they left. And we played on to the empty room. This was several years into the band, so it’s not like we were just starting up or anything. Afterward, we loaded out, were paid $5, and when the club locked up, we sat in the pouring rain and waited for a cab. The cab never came, and I had to walk my Fender Twin and guitar 20 blocks home. Because it had been rained on so much, the amp was utterly saturated, and was totalled. The next day, some crook on the Lower East Side had me over a barrel, and robbed me of it for $50.

 

THE HIGH POINT OF OUR CAREER

 

Finishing Black Hours. I love it!

 

WHEN WE KNEW WE'D MADE IT AS A BAND

 

I have little to no professional stability in my life. I have zero sense that everything is going to work out. Much, much more pressing: I have a vague but immediate and horrifying notion that the Antarctic ice shelf will melt, and the ensuing destruction and chaos will coincide with my hopeless and lonely failure.

 

BEST SHOW EVER

 

I’ve only played six [solo] shows so far. I think the sixth was actually the best. It was in LA the other night. I discovered a wonder drug called Prednisone that saved my voice. I cannot believe it took me 14 years to discover Prednisone. I’d like to thank my friend Sandro again for starting my habit.

 

THE BEST SONG WE EVER WROTE

 

“The Silent Orchestra” because it comes closest to saying the full Black Hours piece in one song.

 

 

WORST SHOW EVER

 

One time in Cleveland, Ohio, I smoked a Swisher Sweet about an hour before we went on stage. About half a song into the set, I knew something was wrong. This was different than the hoarseness or inflammation I had grown accustomed to over the years. It was like someone had actually removed my voice from my body, and within minutes, my voice was entirely gone. If you ever ask a blind person what it is like, they will tell you it’s not total darkness, it’s nothing. This was nothing. I tried to explain to the audience that I couldn’t go on. I tried a series of hand gestures and gave uncomfortable looks to the band, but they just thought I was extremely drunk, and made as if to continue on. Finally, I just walked off the stage in silence. That was a really bad show.

 

THE FUNNIEST THING A JOURNALIST EVER WROTE ABOUT US

 

That I was Walter Martin. “Walter Martin’s wailing vocals” or “Walter Martin’s distinctive rasp.” I always got a kick out of that.

 

HOW WE HOPE TO BE REMEMBERED

 

That guy soldiered on. That’s all he knew to do.

 

WHEN THE JOURNALISTS GOT IT RIGHT

 

That I am the most relevant and important musician of the 21st century.

 

HOW WE'RE MOST LIKELY TO BE REMEMBERED

 

The man who overdosed on Prednisone.


 

HAMILTON LEITHAUSER PICKS 3 OF HIS OWN ALBUMS YOU SHOULD ALREADY OWN

 

Hamilton Leithauser
Black Hours (2014)

I'm really proud of this one. Saying something is your "best" is about the hollowest thing a musician can do, I'll just say I love it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walkmen
You & Me (2008)

This is my favorite of our records. We wrote it at a time when everyone had run away from us, and no one wanted to hear from us or deal with us. I think that gave us some sort of motivation and re-sparked our band, which had been a little sparkless for a little while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walkmen
Bows + Arrows (2004)

We were young and psyched to be playing such hardhitting music. There’s some things I would have liked to do differently, but you always feel that way.