The Walkmen‘s frontman Hamilton Leithauser on his earliest musical gurus: “I’ll defend Jim Morrison to the death!”
The first record I ever bought was
When I was younger, rap music hit me so hard. The guys were saying such terrible shit that we would hide the cassettes under our beds, it was like having like porn in the house. And the one that really kicked it off for me was Eazy-E’s first solo record. I played that cassette to death – only the first side, the second side sucks. But that triggered all of my rap interest for the next two decades.
THE ROLLING STONES
England’s Newest Hit Makers
My dad had a copy of the first Rolling Stones record. It was the record that in England was called
In eighth grade I discovered The Doors, probably after hearing “Light My Fire”. I wanted to hear more about them and somehow I ended up with
Ritual De Lo Habitual
WARNER BROS, 1990
When I felt myself maturing from The Doors, I discovered Jane’s Addiction. I liked the hits, obviously, like “Been Caught Stealing”. But I would also sit there and listen to the entirety of “Three Days” and “Then She Did…” It was so mysterious and dangerous and weird to me. I’d never been to California and I didn’t know anything about it. I always thought Perry Farrell was a charismatic frontman. I never liked metal when I was younger, but I liked that heavy distortion that he used sometimes. It was the first time I felt like I was becoming like a tastemaker, which is so stupid. But that’s what I thought.
I grew up in Washington DC but I was too young to be a part of the really awesome hardcore scene that was happening when I was a baby. As I got a little bit older, I noticed all those posters being around – ‘Bad Brains’ was graffitied on the bridge right by my house. But I wasn’t very interested in them when I was younger. It was so hard, it just sounded like noise. And then the switch flipped one day and I realised that these guys had created this thing that nobody had ever created before, and were some of the best players of all-time. I never saw them play, but it was fun to know that they were from right down the street.
Fugazi were at their pinnacle when I discovered them. They had this rule where they would only play all-ages shows, and it could only cost $5 to get in. So I found myself going to a lot of Fugazi shows and really getting into them – it’s nice to have that hometown hero kind of feeling. Actually, the guy who recorded all the records is a very old friend of my dad. Fugazi were straight-edge and clean-living, sort of the opposite of Jane’s Addiction. My friends and I didn’t entirely get the message because we would usually show up with 40 ounce bottles of malt liquor and get trashed.
Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
I was probably at the end of high school when I discovered this. It was very tough and hard-hitting, but they were using mandolins and acoustic guitars, and Shane MacGowan’s words were crazy – he was such a wild man. When we started The Walkmen, I remember there was a moment when we were warming up and doing a big rumble sound. We realised it was sort of like a Pogues rumble, and that became one of our signatures. We had never really discussed it, but we all independently loved The Pogues. I feel like that was a huge moment for us, realising how inspired we were by them.