Jesse Malin: "I like to get under those lights and sweat out the poison"

Jesse Malin portrait
(Image credit: Vivian Wang)

Twenty years after his solo debut The Fine Art Of Self Destruction, Jesse Malin will be playing the whole of that album and more, on a short UK tour that kicks off on May 30 at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham and climaxes on June 2 at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, before heading back across the pond for a run of dates. The first US show is on June 15 at Club Cafe in Pittsburgh, PA, and things wrap up on July 15 at the Ardmore in Philadelphia, PA.  

The Fine Art Of Self Destruction was about the "personal wreckage when I looked back on my life," says Malin. "From my parents' divorce to failed relationships, broken up bands, dropping out of school, crashing cars, breaking things. It was more of a spiritual journey in some sense. This record is definitely one of my favourites."

Tickets for the UK shows are on sale now, while US tickets go on sale on March 24. 


It hardly seems possible that The Fine Art Of Self Destruction, your first solo record, was made two decades ago. How does it seem to you? 

It’s surreal. It feels like it was just yesterday in one way, and then feels like it’s a very long time ago – a lot of lessons, gigs, a long journey, and a lot of records, but many of these songs have stuck with me and they stay in the set over the years. 

That album was recorded in just six days

I was paid to leave my apartment on the safest block of New York – the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club New York City Chapter was on that block. I paid off some debts using the money, and the rest we used for the record. I didn’t know if anyone was gonna hear it but I had to make it. We had six days because that’s all I could afford. 

The album was produced by Ryan Adams, who had no previous experience of producing. Why do you think it worked so well? 

Seems like Ryan can kinda do anything. It was so generous of him to help me. I don’t think he had produced any records before, or played guitar, but he had a lot of knowledge and a lot of creativity and a lot of excitement. 

Your career has been pretty firmly entwined with that of Ryan, although he is now somewhat disgraced following allegations of sexual misconduct. Are you still in contact with him?

Ryan is family, and Ryan will always be my family. We talk often. I’m also grateful for the gift that he gave me producing this album.

The new expanded edition of Fine Art adds a second disc of reimagined re-recordings. 

A lot of these songs were taken on the road and toured and gotten dirty in front of audiences, and some of them grew up and some of them regressed, and I just thought that we’d have some fun changing things up. I’m really happy the way Riding On The Subway came out, in particular. 

Last time you spoke to Classic Rock, discussing your lyrics, you said: “I don’t like to candy-coat the horrible things in the world. I confront the darker side of life and turn it into something positive.” Has it become more difficult to retain that outlook?

Keeping the PMA can be challenging. It’s been a crazy couple of years, but having good people around you, having some kind of art form to go to, they definitely help. 

What can you tell us about the set-list you have planned for these anniversary shows? 

It’ll be the full album in order, plus opening up with some favourites and other fun stuff. 

What else do you have mapped out for 2023? 

I’ve been working on an idea for a book, also on a new record. I’m excited to get back out there again and see people. I like to get under those lights and sweat out the poison.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.