jesse malin interviews by kristin angelique

jesse malin

stratosphere studios, nyc
january 9, 2004

photograph by kristin angelique

2003 interviews with Jesse Malin

Jesse Malin: Interview
By Kristin Angelique

Session 1
Jesse, a mountain road in Pennsylvania
Kristin, Portland Oregon

Kristin: Do you want to talk about your new album?

Jesse: Well, we're still working on it, so I don't know what to talk about - except that I'm in the studio doing pre-production, we tracked some songs already...

I'm excited to make another record, I'm going to try and get it out by the spring.

Kristin: I don't know what's going to happen with your next album, but - Silver Manhattan and Hotel Columbia - those are beautiful songs. I haven't gotten to hear all of your new songs, but those are great.

Jesse: Well, I'm definitely going to have a lot of ones you've never heard.

Kristin: I'm really excited to hear them!

jesse malin set list
mercury lounge, nyc june 24 2004

Kristin: There's been some misconception in the press that I came across frequently this last year - that The Fine Art Of Self Destruction (2002 UK, 2003 USA) has been this huge departure for you. I often read where critics even attribute your "new direction" to your association with Ryan Adams and his production and appearance on your debut solo album.

But you were writing and performing these kinds of ballads and truly heartfelt lyrics - even acoustically - years before the release of TFAOSD - some of the album's songs even date back to these quieter times.

Do these more fragile and introspective songs - do they reflect a change in yourself - or in your life - or are they just you experimenting with the endless possibilities that music has to offer?

Or both?

Jesse: Well I've always played this kind of music on the side. I had a band called Hope. We were together making music pretty much like this in the late eighties. You know to me - it's just music. I just decided to do this. I also like hardcore punk and stuff like D Generation. It's something I always enjoy. I just wanted to try something else.

I always liked folk acoustic songs. I always listened to the Replacements, Stones ballads, Elton John You know it wasn't anything like - new.

Whatever the press is going to say... You know they're just reading the cover not the book - I've said that before - they - you know they just hear D Generation and then they hear this and they try to link it up to something.

You know, like I've told people - on the last D Generation record, Through The Darkness - we had a ballad - me and acoustic guitar - that I wrote for my girlfriend at the time, called Violent Love.

I think it's always been there.

We covered Neil Young's Don't Be Denied on that record. I'd done acoustic shows in New York around the D Generation years. You know - writing outside the band - like Mike Ness from Social Distortion or Joey Ramone - just doing acoustic stuff.

I did a show for a company, a benefit for Meals On Wheels. I did an acoustic show for them. You know it just all came out - but people - you know they like to tie in to one thing and hold you to it. But I think more and more - it's not having any rules - and being free to constantly be changing. You know, I don't really think it's that different to me.

So it's me writing lyrics and that's all. I just don't - maybe I don't scream as loud, the guitars are maybe a little quieter - but who knows? Maybe the next record's going to be a punk record.

Kristin: I think that you are an amazing lyricist and songwriter - from the way that you compose your songs - to the characters that you create within the stories they tell.

Your writing skills are very impressive! I especially admire your characterization and imagery - which flow so naturally through your lyrics. I love how you start some songs right in the middle of the action. Cigarettes and Violets is a great example of all these excellent qualities.

Is this just something you do by like - magic - or are you conscious of these inherencies to great storytelling?

[Interference due to a tunnel caused a break here]

Jesse: OK, so, I was saying that Joe Strummer used to say: "No input - no output."

Joe Strummer's Law...

i took this picture in nyc, january 2004
this is painted on the exterior of jesse's bar: niagara
(o: coincidentally :o)

photo credit: kristin angelique

I work hard to do these lyrics. I do it - but it's like - I just wake up and, you know - some days it's easy and some days it's work and - I'm constantly - I like to talk to people, listen to people and read different books... I'm always checking out films or reading other writers... Lyricists from Joni Mitchell to Tom Waits. All over the place...

I think it's really important to be taking in stuff. That's what I heard. And I guess - you know - you try to go back to a lot of that Kerouac mantra that you just - you live your life and you paint stories. I mean a lot of times are based on people I know and my own experiences or some place I've been in.

And sometimes you try to see - or to imagine - you try to get some kind of idea of what a theme will be like or something - but for the most part life kind of dictates your stories.

Another rule I always have though, is: carry a pen!

I'm always writing stuff down - on napkins, my hand - scribbling stuff that I hold onto - and then later it can trigger the rest of the song or be used in something - or - I throw it in the garbage.

I think the people that I like - writers, authors, songwriters, bands - like the Rolling Stones are some of the greatest songwriters of all time. Mick and Keith had a rich body of work...

You know - there's just so much out there to take from - and I think you've gotta constantly be challenging yourself.

I'm getting ready to write another record. It's gonna be a little different. I have a lot of it written but I think I'm gonna have something different to say each time; take it to another level.

When I wrote my first (solo) record I didn't know if anybody was gonna really hear it - or how many people would hear it - I just needed to do it. I really needed to make that record.

It was a real personal time; what I was going through. Dealing with break ups and somebody who I'd lost - a certain climate in New York going through the city... The city was going through a lot of changes...

I guess in ending that other band, I just felt like - being a solo artist - I could say anything I want and not worry about it.

Kristin: You kind of already answered - without even knowing it - my next question - about where you get ideas for your characters.

I've noticed in a lot of your songs - that the women - they're really strong characters. Some of the songs seem to be love songs but some also appear to be written as though in the first person. Good Ship Down, So Messed Up, Money Runner, and Silver Manhattan are a few examples where the women seem to be speaking for themselves.

And I'm wondering - what inspired you to create or recreate these characters and to write so passionately about these women?

Jesse: They're based on people I know.

And - I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body and so...

Kristin: Hey! That's my line. Well, super close. My line is: "I'm a gay boy trapped in a girl's body."

jesse malin
mercury lounge, nyc
june 24, 2004
photograph by kristin angelique

Session 2
Jesse, NYC
Kristin, Portland Oregon

Kristin: I had been reading an article about Joey Ramone and it mentioned that Bruce Springsteen originally wrote his song, Hungry Heart, as a gift for The Ramones after he saw them play...

Jesse: Yeah, that's what Bruce told me two weeks ago when I talked to him. He told me about that.

Kristin: Oh, so you didn't know that before?

Jesse: I did, but he brought it up to me again because I recorded Hungry Heart on that album (Light of Day: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen). I guess his manager said hold on to it though, and it became his first top twenty hit. But he had a lot of kind things to say about Joey.

Kristin: I just saw the Dee Dee Ramone movie last night (Hey Is Dee Dee Home?) I'm so excited it came to Portland.

Jesse: Oh, the Lech Kowalski one?

Kristin: Yeah.

Jesse: Yeah it's good. It's sad, you know.

Kristin: Yeah, it was really sad; I cried through most of it.

Jesse: There was paranoid Dee Dee; there was different Dee Dee's you know?

Kristin: Yeah. He also seemed like he was really sweet. It's just heartbreaking watching him.

Jesse: Yeah. He had a rough life.

He'd be like one of these guys who's really nice to me one minute and then like turn on me and threaten me, you know, like, "I'll kill you!" Like you know, one day to the next you didn't know which Dee Dee you'd get.

Kristin: I read his, well not his autobiography, but some stuff he wrote, in his haze. It was pretty mind-blowing. I'm like, "I don't know if this is a true story - I really hope that you hallucinated this. This is some heavy shit!"

Jesse: He was pretty bad when he was evil. I don't want to talk bad about him...

He wrote a lot of good songs, though!!

Kristin: You wrote and recorded really incredible songs with D Generation.

Jesse: Really?

Kristin: Yeah!

Jesse: I don't know about that.

Kristin: What?! Dude you did!

Jesse: We had a good time.

Kristin: Well, first of all, the lyrics are some of the greatest lyrics I've ever read - EVER - and I've read a lot of lyrics - they're just really powerful and soulful and like totally real, and I think amazing.

Jesse: Rick is a good songwriter. Rick Bacchus - he wrote Capital Offender - that's a really good song.

Kristin: Somebody else (Trying to remember the title of a favorite song and failing) That song that goes "Whiskey sours and happy hours I know every bottle on the shelf" I like that song a lot.

Jesse: I think that's Michael: Cornered.

Kristin: Yeah, Cornered! Well, you all wrote really good songs. You were a really good band.

It seems like some things I've read that you said and, mostly, things I've read that the press has said - suggest that they (the press) didn't really get how great D Generation was musically - because they were too busy typecasting you based on your image.

Jesse: I don't think most people thought we were that great. We didn't sell that many records - but the people that liked it, I guess, liked it a lot.

Kristin: You've been quoted as saying (approximately) that people who came to see the shows were maybe more interested in your style and that the critics were dismissing your music because they couldn't see past it and weren't really listening - and I think - that's sad - but it seems like now you are finally getting the critical acclaim that you deserve and have deserved for a long time - and maybe people will - and I think already it's happening - that people are like "Oh, I should check that band (D Generation) out"

I think that you have a lot to be proud of.

Jesse: I don't know if the records are still in print. It's weird, I don't know. There's a song or two - probably - on the Internet.

Kristin: They're really fucking hard to get! They aren't really still in print. But they should reissue them all. They really should. Bellvue too.

Jesse: Yes. They should reissue them all.

We should put out some kind of bootleg you know, of stuff so people can buy them

Kristin: I sent a girl in Australia copies of everything, because it's first of all, out of print, and she's in Australia so it's going to be really hard for her to find a used copy. She said she would make copies for her friends over there.

(See - Chrysalis, Columbia, Sony - you could be making money; reissue them!!)

Jesse: We should make a one CD Best of or Worst of, Greatest Hits...

Kristin: That's a great idea!

Jesse: I don't know, there's not that many people that would be that interested.

Kristin: I think you're wrong.

Jesse: I need to get a copy of No Lunch, I think. I don't have a copy of that. But I have like the first 7" - Guitar Mafia / No way Out - I have that.

Kristin: You don't have a copy of No Lunch?! Man, I don't have anything like any of the 7"s, just the CDs (LPs)... I have No Lunch! I'll give you my copy - you have to have a copy.. It makes me sad you don't have a copy of your own CD.

Jesse: No, that's OK. I kind of like not having it. Because, then, when I get it - it'll come at the right time, I'll see it somewhere in a store in the used bin or something.

Kristin: OK. But if you ever change your mind, you may have my copy.

Jesse: Thank you, that's very sweet of you.

Kristin: You're welcome.

[D Generation "fan questions" part one]

Kristin: What's DGI?

Jesse: D Generation Incorporated or D Gen Incognito

Kristin: At the end of No Lunch - like, what's happening? What the hell is that conversation? That's awesome.

Jesse: Yeah that's me and my grandfather. He's dead. He wasn't one of the nicest men, but he was in a home and he jumped out the window and tried to kill himself and he ended up in a V.A. (hospital) he was at a payphone down the hall and he was calling me to make plans. He was a grumpy old guy, but I happened to find that answering machine tape. On old cassettes in the days before computer chips, if you kept the machine on, it just recorded the whole thing, you know.

Kristin: That's unreal. Wow. Well, that's really cool you have that on a recording. That's like a classic scene from a movie, but one that was never made.

Jesse: It sounds like it was scripted, like it's all rehearsed, but it's real.

autumn shade fanzine jesse malin and friends photo album

autumn shade fanzine facebook page
a whole bunch of neat stuff