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The first time I ever smoked weed was at the Sherman Oaks Galleria parking lot. Actually, let’s call it the second time, because I remember my friends would always be like, “You’re not going to really feel it the first time.” So, the first time I felt it was in the parking lot of the Sherman Oaks Galleria. This is the old Galleria, the way it looked in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, not the cement box they made it now. We were going to go get some Taco Bell and see a movie.

Man, was I nervous. When you’re younger, you think everyone’s looking at you. You get older, and you realize no one’s paying any attention to what you’re doing. Anyway, I got to Taco Bell and I said, “I would like a steak soft taco”—I literally remember the words. The guy replied, “Six soft tacos?” and I started laughing as everything went into slow motion. I couldn’t stop. It felt like a really long time. Then I looked up and he was just looking at me and I didn’t know what had happened. I don’t know if I ever got my steak taco or if I got six soft tacos. But my life changed.

guitar

hammond chair

Smoking weed completely changed the way I absorbed music. It changed the way I absorbed film. Would I have changed otherwise? Maybe. But in that year, I became a different person. Just the way I viewed life, and what I wanted to do, and what I cared about. As a kid it seemed like everything I was interested in was super standard. Then all of a sudden everything standard seemed very boring.

You can tell that weed stops your mind from thinking in a certain way. How you see visuals or hear stuff, it just absorbs you in a different way. I think that’s why people like microdosing: it allows them to break free from whatever pattern that they’re constantly living in. You don’t have to use drugs to have that experience. There are other things you can do to get there. You can do breath work. But weed just has a way with music. I remember reading this George Carlin line, that if you can smoke weed, but still work and be disciplined about it, it can be extremely helpful. He would write, then get stoned and read, and see what stood out differently. Granted, he had his issues too, but I loved that idea.

Whatever happiness I have does not come from substances. The things I want to do in my life are stronger than the need to get fucked up.

Imagine just playing music and writing sober, and then getting stoned to listen back to stuff. I feel like you become super sensitive to things. Or if something’s cheesy, it really stands out. It becomes physical. When something moves you, it becomes physical, too. Weed is an interesting tool when it comes to art. I think that’s why a lot of people end up using it for that, so they can see their work from a different lens. It’s a way of changing your perspective.

Some people get high to create. It’s hard because I always feel like, for me, the creative part is ongoing. You’re constantly writing down notes or leaving yourself messages. Then it’s about going back and actually putting in the work on those little nuggets and expanding them. Maybe that nugget isn’t exactly what you wanted, but it’s the beginning of where something is going. That’s the work.

hammond side

The misconception in movies is that someone gets trashed and it all happens at once. No way. I guess it’s more romantic to see it that way, which makes sense, but in real life, the person creating something, whether or not they were messed up, would still be writing constantly.

I was sober for a long time. Now I drink occasionally. I’ve used CBD and THC. When I had my neck surgery, they gave me all these pain pills. I’m not a huge fan of them, so a lot of what helped my muscles relax was CBD with the smallest amount of THC. It really aided my recovery. It was still tough, don’t get me wrong. I wrote everything down to make sure I couldn’t lie to myself and when I saw that I was always looking for ways to not have to take the pills, I realized I finally understood the cost of these kinds of substances. Like, is it worth it?

To be honest, breaking open my sobriety—having a drink or even the surgery—I was just like, Oh no. You feel like the only way to survive is all or nothing. I know people won’t believe it, but that’s fine, to each their own. I’ve found a balance. Whatever happiness I have does not come from substances. The things I want to do in my life are stronger than the need to get fucked up.

Jetway full image

I also dabbled in wine, and that’s a little bit of what sparked the idea for Jetway. I went to Italy to see a friend and we all met at a bar where they were having Aperol spritzes, which is something I’d never had. There was just this euphoric, casual quality to the whole experience. I was like, I want that, and it doesn’t exist in the U.S. But at the same time, an Aperol spritz wasn’t exactly right. It was too sweet.

I like the concept of low alcohol—it feels modern. I think people like the act of consuming more than how trashed they get. Speaking of weed, it’s like looking to smoke a whole joint instead of taking half a hit not knowing where you are. It’s about how you interact with people. That’s what’s so fun about all this stuff. It’s how you socialize, how you celebrate. And in that is a lifestyle.

So I wanted to create a refreshing, crisp drink that had flavor, color, and aroma, and that could change to fit different glasses, whether it was in the can or you poured it out. We ended up creating some-thing that’s like an enhanced wine—a more sessionable wine.

I liked the idea that the drink could be that bridge to a place that you’ve wanted to go.

For the artwork, I wanted something that felt nostalgic, but new and modern. Something that was elegant enough to bring to someone’s house, but that you could also have at the park. Or that would fit in the most high end of places, but at the same time be snuck into a movie theater.

The flavors were inspired by travel and my child-hood. Growing up in L.A., there was a big Japanese foodboom. We ate sushi a lot, and I always loved the flavor of yuzu pepper. Sometimes at Thanksgiving we would have shabu-shabu instead of turkey. And there’s maté because my mom’s from Argentina and I grew up drinking that.

I liked the idea that the drink could be that bridge to a place that you’ve wanted to go. A jetway is a bridge to somewhere. It’s what you get on before you get on the plane. Actually, part of Jetway was made during the pandemic, which might’ve subconsciously informed its “golden age of travel” look, and the tagline: “Live your adventure.” I wasn’t sitting there being like, “It’s a pandemic. We have to think of something that feels like an escape,” but when you’re creating, the world around you affects how you view things. People really want to travel. You can take going to get a coffee or simply seeing people as an adventure if you look at it right. It might be what you look forward to all week.

side by side

side by side left

The last year and a half, or whatever it’s been, definitely took a toll on everyone. The biggest toll it took on me is I weirdly have panic attacks now and I have no clue why. The first time I had one, it was on the freeway. There was some traffic and the cars were stopping and everything felt like it was closing in on me. Talking about it, it sounds like there’s no way it would’ve caused that much terror. My wife was with me and I almost said, “I have to park the car and just walk off the freeway.” Because it feels like you’re drowning or being suffocated. Now, that feeling comes back sometimes. I don’t know what it’s from. It’s almost like being claustrophobic in life. You just feel it.

I don’t know if it stems from the pandemic but there’s definitely a balance that’s off with work-home life. I’ve always believed that you set up your home to help re-energize you for the next day. I’m very aware of my energy. I’ll be hanging out and I’ll be like, “Oh, I need to go home and gather myself, because I need to be able to do x, y, and z tomorrow and I’m running low.” You put things in your home and you have rituals in your home to help build your energy back up. I feel like maybe this year, those things have really been burnt out and need to be reset. Our first album came out in 2001. I don’t think you get to control things like that in life. I saw the Twin Towers fall down from my apartment. It was surreal when it happened. We had no idea at the time how that would affect things like playing shows. Now with the pandemic, it’s also weirdly unknown. The pandemic is obviously far more global, but there are certain similarities when things happen that affect everyone. My form of work hasn’t come back at all. Sure, I’ve left the house, but it’s not the same release. There’s still a new lingering cloud that wasn’t there before.

Now, the things that wake up and excite me on a day to day basis can change. I feel like it’s trial and error. If you ask me, some days I’m extremely overwhelmed and I don’t know what I’m doing. I think you fall in love with things or ideas you want to try, and you just start on them not knowing where they’ll lead to, or what they’ll take from you, or what you’ll need to do to get to what you want to do.

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When I look back at all the times it failed, someone else came into the picture who helped push it further.

To be honest, making a drink is a crazy thing to want to do. I failed many times. I didn’t even think I would get to where I am. Getting here was, in and of itself, its own journey and adventure. I just felt it in my gut that I could do something cool here. That I could make something unique. That’s why I keep saying, at least in my mind, it’s more of a lifestyle than a drink. The drink is amazing, but when you’re holding it, there’s a whole feeling you get from it. I think if you saw the drink and tasted it, it would feel like how I stand on stage or how my music sounds. It feels like a part of my personality. I started working on Jetway in 2017. For a long time, it felt like I’d get one step ahead and get so excited, and then it would drop off, like, “Oh well, I guess that’s done. It’s not going to happen.” But I kept finding people who would help take it to the next level. When I look back at all the times it failed, someone else came into the picture who helped push it further.

When I met my co-founder Ben Parsons, it was with his incredible knowledge and experience in the business that we found this amazing winery. It’s so cool. The grapes grow on volcanic rock, so it has this, I don’t know, minerality and impossibility. How does something so delicious grow out of that environment?

Then it kept working out. I did the artwork with Lizzie Nanut, who did some of my album covers. These things attracted the rest of the team. All I knew is that I had an extreme passion and excitement to want to create this. I didn’t mind failing. I knew that as long as I ended up with a beverage and art that I liked, I’d be like, “Oh my god, I did it.” But I always dream way too big because it’s fun. There’s no point in dreaming small.

final hammond

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Albert Hammond Jr photographed by Abdi Ibrahim in Los Angeles. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.