Jesse Malin Links The Clash and The Grateful Dead
Jesse Malin has done it all, or most of it at least.
In his barely-teens he was fronting Jersey-based hardcore ensemble Heart Attack, then spent the '90s in glam-punk wreckers D-Generation. In the early 2000s he struck out on his own, crafting a string of heartbroken singer/songwriter records with friends like Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers.
His dual 2010 releases, Love it to Life (recorded with scrappy combo St. Marks Social) and covers record On Your Sleeve (featuring tunes by The Hold Steady, Jim Croce, Paul Simon, and many more), represent something of a fork in the road, both embracing a more rock 'n' roll approach (the former) and digging in deep to Malin's classicist interpretive skills (the latter).
Yesterday would have been Joe Strummer's 60th birthday, and when we caught up with Malin, he had just finished mixing and recording a Strummer memorial program for EastVillageRadio.com, where he was joined by unlikely (seeming, at least) Clash fan Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. Malin is out on the road with his friend Alejandro Escovedo ("A survivor," Malin says, "and so stylized."), though his Sunday, August 26, stop at Pub Rock finds him veering away from the Escovedo tour for a headlining gig.
As you get older, punk rock or rock 'n' roll, or alternative, or whatever bullshit label you want to give it, it's really just an attitude and it's about people and a lifestyle, and living different outside the mainstream. [It's about] having a place to create, and [the] creative process is something that needs to be fucked with often...
-- Jesse Malin
Up on the Sun: I imagine that in terms of the whole "three chords and the truth" thing, Joe Strummer influenced you a lot.
Jesse Malin: Yeah. As a kid it might have been KISS first and then you grow out of that and need something a little more edge and more intelligence. Somehow The Ramones mixed Fonzi and aggression, and they came from my town, Queens, New York. So I went down to the Village to see Rock 'n' Roll High School, and these kids in line waiting for the film are talking about The Clash, and I didn't know them, so I went to the local record store and I figured out what I needed to do. I found the first record, "the green record," and it changed everything. The Clash turned me on to other kinds of music, politics, a certain kind of rebellion. It wasn't just "smash up the room because you've got a lot of testosterone." It was like, "we're gonna do this because we're pissed off about this, and if you do this you could actually affect people in some way."
They were a band that made me want to run out on the streets with my friends like a gang. Form a band and you know, do something. Make something happen. Wake up in the morning and do something: fall in love, go somewhere, do something that's meaningful. That's kind of stayed with me through all my bands. The [latest band] St. Marks Social, that's a bunch of friends of mine, and we get in a van on a mission from God or something bigger. [Laughs.] Really to have fun, but also to connect with people, you get out there and make a few bucks, be able to sleep in different places, get free beer, and also do your life not working for the fucking awful job that you hate, telemarketing or selling pet food or whatever.