Sitting at a table in his newest restaurant, a dimly lit East Village joint called Black Market, Jesse Malin is attempting to outline his musical history and explain his trajectory from teenage hardcore star to singer/songwriter with a new album, "Love It to Life," out April 27 on Sideonedummy.
Malin got his start at 13 in the hardcore band Heart Attack; after the group split, he went on to front the glam rock D Generation for most of the '90s. Reinventing himself again, Malin worked with his friend Ryan Adams to produce a solo album, "The Fine Art of Self-Destruction."
"I've had a lot of rebirths," Malin says. But after seven years on the road supporting "Self-Destruction" and two subsequent solo efforts, he almost threw in the towel. "While I was out on tour, all my friends got domesticated," he says. "I came back and I was living on my sister's couch on the Upper East Side and I knew I needed a break."
Malin kept busy DJ'ing at weddings, doing spoken-word performances, working on a documentary about Bad Brains and tending to his small nightlife empire. "I opened [East Village bar] Niagara 12 years ago because I wanted a place to drink for free," he jokes. "I wanted it to be a corner bar that really treated bands well and was a place for touring acts to go." He also had a club, Coney Island High, that closed in the early part of the decade, the result of an anti-dancing ordinance passed by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. More recently, he's opened another bar, Bowery Electric, and a speakeasy, Cabin Down Below.
But he couldn't stay away from music for too long and started work on his new album. "I started rereading [J.D.] Salinger and it hit a nerve," he says. "I was inspired to start writing again and hooked up with a new band."
The result of that inspiration might come as a shock to those who know Malin as just a downtown scenester and nightlife impresario. "Love It to Life" is a smart, heartfelt rock album that recalls Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and former collaborator Adams. Songs like first single "Burning the Bowery" have anthemic choruses and driving drums, while "The Archer" is a slow, soft ode to lost love.
"Burning the Bowery" is at the center of a campaign to promote the album, according to Sideonedummy co-owner Joe Sib. "We had a great first week of adds at triple A radio for the track," he says, noting that it was added at influential alternative WRXP New York and eight others. Sib says Malin will also make a video, which he says will serve as a key promotional piece in Europe and the United Kingdom. "We'll put it on YouTube...but it's better-suited for places overseas where they still put videos on TV."
Sib adds that the promotion will center on defining Malin as an artist.
"There are no guests on this album; he really wanted to stand on his own this time around," he says. "Lots of people think they know who Jesse is, but they'll see a totally different side of him when they hear the album."