29 January 2003

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We caught up with Jesse in Leeds to find out "what gives" in Malin world & to find out how the current tour has been going.

Your album is called 'The Fine Art of Self Destruction', which is a superb title. What is the last self-destructive you did?

I just think that everyday we walk through life doing things that aren't always the best for us. When I grew up watching my parent's marriage fall apart if someone gave me a real nice gift, guitar or toy I'd just want to smash it. You have something really good and you have the urge to kind of mess your life up. I don't know where that really comes from. The record deals with a lot of that kind of conflict, but in the end despite all the sad songs and dark stuff I like to think of it as a soulful record

You recorded the album in 6 days. Would you like to record like that again?

It really helped this record. It gives it a real vibe, a snap shot of what was happening, an urgency, a rawness. The lo-fi recording adds to the sincerity somehow. I think down the line I'm going to do it differently and make a more sonic record. It's definitely a lesson in what you can do on a low budget. You don't have to order in the sushi and the dancing poodles, you can actually bang it out if you have only a certain budget and a certain amount of time. At the time we were doing it I thought it was rubbish, but the way Ryan (Adams) had me work has really brought something up that has given it a uniqueness.

One of the tracks on your album is called TKO. What does that stand for?

It's a boxing term, technical knock out. Iggy Pop and The Stooges had a record called 'Metallic KO'. 'TKO' is about a girl, but it's really a boxing term.

Why was your album released in Europe months before the release in the USA?

The record company felt they had a lot of other new releases around the Christmas holidays and they wanted to put it out fresh. Then I got this tour opening up for Ryan Adams (in the UK), so we figured let's get a jump on it over here. People are buying it on import in the States, so I don't think the American record company is going to be too happy. I'm excited to have it out in the States at the end of the month, because you want to do it in your own town too.

Are you surprised about how positive the reaction has been to your performances?

It's nice I don't want to think too much about it. You expect to have some levels of success and you work hard. Anybody that says they don't want to be a star is full of shit. It happened real fast and it's exciting. The best part of it is that the crowds seem to be digging it for the right reasons. I've been in bands before and fans misunderstood what I was singing about and where I was coming from. I think that here people really get the record, they are connecting to the sentiment. The crowds have been great on this tour every night has been sold-out.

When did you start performing?

Aged about ten or eleven I started playing Kiss covers at a talent show. I'd put on my make-up to go to grade school. Then I had a hard core band in the late eighties called Heart Attack. We toured with the Dead Kennedy's, TheMisfits, Black Flag and put out some records. There is a CD out there somewhere you can probably find on the Internet called The Last War. Then I was in DGeneration for about seven years which was a rock n' roll punk band. We did records for Sony and EMI and toured around with the likes of The Ramones, Offspring and Green Day. We had a cult following, but we never kind of happened because our records weren't distributed well.

I am really hoping that you have had to do some shitty jobs or has it been constant rock n' roll?

There were definitely some shitty jobs. I'd do anything to not put on a suit. I pumped gas for a long time, after that I worked in a health food store. I ended up eating the out of date yogurts and sneaking the stuff out of there to my friends who were living on the floor of a rehearsal room.
I was the man with a van for a while. I'd move furniture and rock groups equipment. I moved everyone from Barbara Streisand to NYU students to The Ramones. It costs money to rehearse and buy guitar strings. You don't make any damn money that's the thing. Right now it's nice, but you have to go through something you hate to find a way to put a roof over your head and to feed yourself. Getting yourself a free beer and doing what you love that's like a blessing. I'm grateful that I'm getting a taste of that. Hopefully I'll stick around for a while so I won't have to go back to humping gear.

I don't think that's too likely to happen.

I don't have any money in the bank, but right now someone's paying for the tea I'm drinking and there should be a couple of beers in the dressing room. At least I don't have to get up at 7am and put on a monkey suit and ride the subway.

On your web-site you have a monthly list of the top 25 things you love. Are you running out of positive things to add?

One of my ex-girlfriends would say to me that I only like a handful of things, but what I like I really know about. Its kind of true, but I'm trying to expand the palate a little bit by trying to find some different artists and stuff. In films, culture and music there is good stuff but it's harder to find than it was in the 1950's, 60's and 70's. I'm not saying it's not out there, but there is just less of it. We have to comb through it, it's not like you've got to choose between The Beatles, The Kinks or The Stones. If you don't like that you've got The Who and The Yardbirds. It's like maybe I'll get Wilco or Oasis, and Flaming Lips are pretty cool, but there's a lot of shit.

But there was a lot of crap in The Beatles era, it's just that we remember the good stuff.

I remember being a kid in the late 1970's and early 80's and it seemed like there were a lot of choices for good records. What you heard on the radio in America was a lot better music. It had guitars and drums. I hated The Bee Gees at the time because it was disco but there was bass guitar, drums and harmonies it's not some electro computerised nightmare.

Do you not think it would be easier to start on your top 25 things you hate list?

The worst art, that's a good idea. I'll do this for the next few months and then I'll put a venting list on the web. That'll be fun. I'd make a lot of enemies but at least I'd be honest. It could be a top 2500.

You'll have to give up making music to devise the lists?

I have friends in New York who do just that. They've given up everything to just say how bad everything is on the radio. Everything sucks, fuck it all, don't go out, play the old records and sit at home.

I've heard you say that Manhattan has become sanitised. Is that true?

Giuliani took the sleaze out. That mayor came in and sold it all to Disneyland and made it very corporate. There's still old elements of it that are there, but you have to seek them out. Before it was a 24 hour fun city, full of decadence and a necessary red light district. Even though I'm not one to promote it, I think it's a necessary outlet for people, otherwise it surfaces in uglier ways. Every area needs to have that I think. They just swept everything away, sold it out to big money. New York used to be a lot more unique.

It's a shame that some of the character has gone from New York, because I was desperate to go to the city and wander around pretending I was Woody Allen.

I still try to do that and there are places to go. Chinatown's great and you can go out to Coney Island. There's some cool old man bars, there's still pieces of it. It's still New York, and I love living there and I'm happy when I'm back. There's still definitely ways to pretend your Woody Allen. Right now I'm enjoying just living out of a suitcase.

Is it true that you and Ryan Adams have recorded an album together?

(I imagine Jesse has his tongue poised to disappear into his cheek) There's a chance that might happen and there's a chance I heard about this record. We're not allowed to record for anyone else. A guy that looks just like me named Irving Plaza did the bass on a record called 'The Finger' and a guy they said looked a lot like Ryan played guitar and his name was Warren Peace. I heard it's pretty good. Like a Black Flag or Germs punk rock record.

Interview by Gavin Eves.



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