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East Village rocker Jesse Malin fronted bands like hardcore trio Heart Attack and 90s glam punks D Generation before embarking on a successful solo career, even collaborating with the likes of singer-songwriter luminaries Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen along the way. Lately, however, it seems like the punk rocker has garnered more press for the bars he co-owns -- intimate hangouts and hotspots like Cabin Down Below and Black Market, which recently hosted a celeb-stacked Fashion Week party for Rodarte.
Niteside chatted with the East Village fixture about his new record, being inspired by J.D. Salinger, Cabin Down Below's door policy and what it's like to be labeled the new Paul Sevigny.
What can we expect from the new record, Love It To Life? It's more of a band record with my new group, The St. Marks Social. It's short, sad and sweet. Ten songs, recorded quickly, very live and raw, a little more rhythmic, some gang war choruses, produced by Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem, Lucero, Flogging Molly).
How long did you spend writing and recording it? It was written over a period of two years. Not much during the first year, just some songs that were inspired by being asked to write for a J.D. Salinger film. The rest were written in the second year, after I realized there was nothing else I really wanted to do. I tried standup comedy, wedding DJ, house boy, Rasta Rabbi, film maker and moving man.
In the past you've collaborated with Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen. Can we expect any future collaborations? I loved working with Bruce and Ryan. I even got to sing with Shane McGowan (The Pogues) once in a London pub while he drank booze out of a Pringles can. It's great to collaborate with your heroes or friends, but sometimes you got to do it alone in a hotel room, a bathroom or sometimes even on a stage.
Do you think collaborations yield the best music or is working solo more productive? I like doing both country and western. ... It is great to be part of a band and bounce ideas off of others. Sometimes it can be like being in a gang, but I don't think it's ever really democratic. More like a benevolent dictatorship. I like being able to do either. This year it's about The St. Marks Social. In the past it was D Generation, and sometimes, just Jesse Malin. You can't really break up with yourself, unless you're a true schizophrenic.
You're popular in the UK. What's the difference between playing a show in London as opposed to New York? The folks come out earlier in London, and they come to get their money's worth and see the opening acts. In New York, they get bombed at some other bar and come out late. Both are great, loud-mouthed audiences. I don't run into as many people in London as I do living in New York.
Given the amount of East Village bars you co-own these days, has it been difficult to balance the time between business and working on your new album? We have a great team of people that help us run these joints. Me and Johnny T. can do our music, art and be able to show up intoxicated. It's a family affair, a clubhouse and can even inspire some songs now and then.
Some people are arguing that you're the new Paul Sevigny. As a musician, are you also comfortable being labeled a top dog of New York nightlife? I don't know who Paul Sevigny is. I thought I was the new Paul Stanley. I don't usually talk too much about the clubs. They carry themselves. But it was a good idea to take some publishing money years ago and pump it into the neighborhood you hang out in. We can play records there, dance and commiserate, and nobody tells us to go back to our room and be quiet.
Warren Zevon claimed to have penned "Lawyers Guns and Money" on wet cocktail napkins; have you ever written a song while drinking in a bar? I'm usually the guy who's scribbling song ideas on my hand, a bar napkin or a popcorn bag. Sometimes you get great ideas being out at night watching people socialize. I get more writing ideas in strange bars where nobody knows me and I can just watch.
Without playing favorites, what bar of yours would you be most likely to frequent on a night off? Which fits your sensibility the most? Black & White or Manitoba's because I don't own them, and that's truly a night off. Our spots are like our kids, I love 'em all. Niagara just turned 12 and it's about to get a facelift.
Lastly, what's your opinion on door policies in general and would you say that Cabin Down Below has a criteria for getting in? It's just a private clubhouse, not really a door policy.