Friday, February 23, 2007

Jesse Malin interview

In something of an exclusive, About The Music sat down with Jesse Malin to chat about the new album, Glitter in the Gutter.

Glitter in the Gutter is much more of a band feel, what's the reason behind that?

I wanted to create a bunch of bigger songs that would be fun to play with the whole band. The songs felt better for that. It's about keeping on and the things we do to stay alive. About power and passion and anger and keeping your attitude. It's a fighting record.

Was that a conscious decision that you would write songs with your drummer?
Previously i used to write a lot along, you know in a room, just me and my acoustic guitar. I'd always liked to bounce ideas of people but with this record I enjoyed having my drummer there and playing the electric guitar which i loved. I really wanted to push my songwriting to a new level. I wanted bigger choruses with more hooks, I wanted something better, brighter and more optimistic. I recorded most of it in New York and then went to LA to finish off the vocals.

You're a New Yorker through and through. Did the move to LA influence the record much?

Yes and no, all the songs were written before going out there. I was thinking of moving over there but it was a really lonely time. I didn't know anybody and was just going from air conditioned car to air conditioned studio and back and forth. I was getting annoyed with the commercialization of New York with a Starbucks on every corner but I think I'll stay there for now. I'll go back to what I know.

When you recorded the Heat it seemed to be very much in post-9/11 America. What's the change between then and now in relation to the record?
Well now in America people aren't so afraid and they're not just staying indoors and ordering in some fast food. I think the mood has changed. I think people are fed up with our awful government, and people are a lot more optimistic now, feeling better about themselves. I think that's felt on the record, I didn't want to write songs about crying into my beer glass or slitting my wrists.

The next presidential race is heating up already, who are you going for?
I don't know man, I'm not sure how good any of them are. I mean Hilary has got herself up and running and she's good but there are some things about her I'm not so sure. The Democrats are going to have to mobilise themselves properly otherwise it'll just be another Republican win and that'll be bad for everyone. I really hope [former mayor of New York] Rudy Giuliani doesn't get in. He's a real tough fascist. I got in trouble with him for putting up some posters in the City for my gigs, and again for having a drink just outside a gig. Man, he hasn't said he'll run yet but it would be bad if he did.

Would you lend your musical support to promote anyone?
I don't think there's anyone I feel that strongly about yet.

There's an incredible line up of guest appearances on this record. How did that come about?

After The Fine Art Bruce Springsteen invited me to do a week of benefit shows with him and that was really fantastic. I sang with him on some songs and his band played some of my songs and we sung them together. It was great and he said 'listen, if something else comes up give me a call', and so I sent him a demo of 'Broken Radio', it just seemed like his type of song. He called and said that he would love to sing it as a duet, so I went over to his place and and worked on it.
As a songwriter I'd met a lot of other people along the way at shows and Jacob Dylan (Wallflowers) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) were around so I got them in to play a little.

Tell me a bit about the track 'Lucinda'.

It's for Lucinda Williams. If anyone deserves a song written about them, it's her. She's just such a great figure in music, such a wonderful talent with an amazing voice, one of the true poet outlaws of our age. I met her a while back and wanted to write a song about her.

You've had 5 Star reviews in Rolling Stone and Uncut magazine for your previous records. Is it frustrating that you're not selling out stadiums by now?

The press can help you or hinder you but they don't sell albums. It's nice to get some good reviews and it's nice for some recognition but I think I need to keep on touring and building up a fan base. I can put food on the table and I don't have to work a job that some of my friends do, 9-5 which I would hate. I'm glad that I'm able to do what I love.

Do you feel the weight of the previous records on your shoulders when you start to write a new album?

When I'm staring at a blank sheet of paper with a Dictaphone and my guitar and nothing in my head then yes, I do think how can I do it all again. But then when the songs start to flow and the album comes alive the I forget about them and concentrate on making something new.

What song are you most proud of in Glitter in the Gutter?

Oh man, all of them I guess. No I change my mind all the time. I really like Black Haired Girl and Don't Let them Take You Down.

What was going on when you wrote that song?

I was going through a bad time, my record company in America was going broke and I had lawyers fighting with them and I was going broke and I was sick and tired with it all. So I just tried to encourage myself by writing that song. I grew up in Queens and my mother died when I was young and my father left so music has been really good to me and given me so much.

No comments: