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The Vampire Diaries' Michael Malarkey: The 10 Records That Changed My Life

Michael Malarkey
Michael Malarkey (Image credit: Chelsea Lauren)

Michael Malarkey might be best known for his role as vampire Enzo St. John in The Vampire Diaries, but he’s not just an actor. An obsessive music fan and record collector since youth, he released on EP, Feed The Flames, in 2014, and now has a debut album in the shops.

Mongrel is out now — it’s available to stream it on Spotify and available to pre-order in physical formats (opens in new tab) — and is a collection of spooky, compelling stories that mix blues, folk and rock into package that fits nicely on the fringes of the Nick Cave/Tom Waits Venn diagram.

Mongrels represents the many-faced animal within us that is here but never quite from here,” says Malarkey: “The dreamer within us, stricken with wanderlust, who is tuned to the frequencies of change; the nomad within us whose roots grow not in the ground, but in the wind. It represents the mystery of our vagrant nature, at times a source of weakness and at times a source of power.”

He’s also released a new video from the album, Uncomfortably Numb, as song that nestles somewhere between Screaming Trees and Depeche Mode, with a chorus that sounds like the kind of soaring, stadium-friendly chorus that U2 specialise in.

“Uncomfortably numb is about a feeling of unrest and disconnect,” says video director Adam Loveday-Brown. “It’s the itch under the skin to break the mould of society’s expectations. Numb walks that beautifully fine tightrope between self-destruction and artistry. It’s about the world’s eye and its insatiable thirst weighing down on a soul that neither wants or needs to be boxed.

“Struggle is one the overriding themes of the record, lightness vs darkness, the animal vs the man, the reclusive artist vs the public performer and these themes are explored across these two connected and artistically unusual films.”

Michael Malarkey is currently filming The Oath, a 50 Cent production, with Sean Bean. Mongrels is out now (opens in new tab), and Malarkey tours The UK in October (full dates below), before returning to mainland Europe in November.

Below, Michael chooses the 10 Records That Changed His Life.

The Clash - London Calling

The Clash have always been one of my favourite punk bands and I’m pretty sure this is the first vinyl I ever bought. They had the perfect amount of political subtlety and their eclectic influences are all over this record. I love all of their records, but this one is flawless.

Converge - Jane Doe

In some ways this record changed my life more than any of the others on this list. I worked in a record store for about five years after high school and we used to get these promo copies of new albums and when I saw this one I was initially drawn to the artwork. Their singer, Jacob Bannon, does all of their artwork and runs Deathwish records, which to this day is putting out some of the most groundbreaking heavy music out there.

Anyway, I’d been stuck in the more mainstream punk world up until I stumbled upon this record and it literally blew my mind. There’s nothing like it, nor will there ever be. A complete contrast of aggression and beauty, of lightness and darkness, dichotomies I explore in my own musical world. Its success is the sum of the parts of all the musicians involved - who all deserve so much credit - and also the fact that it encompasses the whole DYI ethos of the punk world that I grew up in with Jake doing the artwork, Kurt producing it - his touch in the studio is unrivalled in heavy music.

Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West

I actually had this album for a whole year before it actually hit me how good it was. I think I bought in on a whim in a used bin because I’d heard they were good. I hadn’t heard Pavement and the Pixies yet, so I didn’t get it at first. The angular quirkiness of it. The messy charm. It was also what I call one of my buddy albums. Me and my friend Travis would play the shit out of this album together, singing along to every word, finding Isaac Brock’s turns of phrase charming and clever. It was the soundtrack to our Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid young adulthood.

There were several of these albums for us, but if you were to ask him too, this one would probably be at the top of his list as well. Trailer Trash was my favourite song for the longest time.

The Doors - LA Woman

I used to spend a lot of time as a teenager at Ye Olde Trail Tavern in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where I grew up. We used to sit there drinking copious amounts of coffee and shooting the shit. They had this old jukebox which had so many hippie gems: The Grateful Dead, Hendrix and of course The Doors. I would sometimes just play this whole record from front to back, I loved it so much.

It was the first Doors record that I bought and have always been inspired by the way he wrote. He didn’t have “the perfect voice” and I appreciated the way he conducted his lyrics with his wounded baritone and lazy delivery. I still probably take a lot of inspiration from Jim Morrison as a singer.

Cursive - Domestica

If you look at the cover of this record, it looks like the soundtrack to a movie. Upon listening to it, it almost feels like you’re watching one. It’s conceptual. It’s emotional. Angsty and poetic. The movie is literally happening in your ears.

I’ve always been a fan of records that are tied together thematically but not being too on-the-nose about it; I definitely wove my own personal story into this album and in a way it got me through my first bad breakup just after high school. These guys - especially the unconventional way they’d structure their songs - were also a huge influence on the first band I started after high school, and this was their seminal album.

Rancid - …And Out Come The Wolves

I bounced around a lot in high school and was always an outsider. The first group of people that I really felt connected to was the punks and the skaters, the other outsiders, I suppose. We were just kids, confused and angry that we had to go to school and wanted to have a good time and have our voices heard.

Punk Rock was the key to bringing me out of my shyness and connecting me to a social group where I felt accepted and understood. This album is the seminal album from that time period and every time I listen to it, I still get this feeling of empowerment and excitement. I’ll never forget singing along to these songs in front of the mirror, dreaming of singing in a band. I loved all these guys but Tim Armstrong’s drunken delivery has always been an influence on me even to this day, in fact you may hear an inkling of it in my song Dog Dreams off of Mongrels.

Cap’n Jazz - Analphabetapolothology

This album will forever be on my list. Once I discovered these guys, my whole world changed. It was my baptism by fire into the indie world and that Chicago 90s Emo sound which was so influential to me as a singer and guitarist. The quirky hooks and colourful, beatnik lyrics of The Kinsella Brothers were something I resonated with so strongly at that point in my life - just after high school - when escapism was my go-to method of grounding myself. It’s hard for me not to mention one of their other projects, Joan Of Arc, as they were almost more influential in a way, but this record was the gateway to that world.

Faith No More - King For A Day

When I first started out as a screamer for a hardcore band, Mike Patton was one of my biggest inspirations. The mastery he has over his voice is completely unrivalled in the genre; it’s schizophrenic, yet contained. At the time, I had a lot of demons of my own and when I first heard this album after I had been listening to a lot of predominantly hardcore and punk stuff it literally blew my mind. It was equally poetic, sardonic and explosive. This album was the pinnacle of that era of change as a singer for me.

Radiohead - OK Computer

I don’t believe there’s anyone from my generation that doesn’t consider OK Computer as one of the greatest albums of all time. I had heard a couple of the radio songs which initially drew me to the album, but listening to it as an entire journey was another thing entirely. This was one of the first albums that I fell in love with as a whole. It’s flawless, beautiful, disturbing, thought-provoking. Like a series of moving images or paintings. I’d never really been transported into another world through music like that before this point.

Michael Malarkey Tour Dates

Oct 23: Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, UK
Oct 24: Epic Studios, Norwich, UK
Oct 25: Star and Garter, Manchester, UK
Oct 26: Studio2, Liverpool, UK
Oct 27: Brudenell Community Room, UK
Oct 28: Thousand Island, London, UK
Oct 29: Thousand Island, London, UK
Nov 21: Live Club, Sofia, BG
Nov 22: Viteculture Quirinetta, Rome, IT
Nov 23: La salumeria della musica, Milan, IT
Nov 24: Sala Bikini, Barcelona, ES
Nov 26: Hybrydy, Warsaw, PL
Nov 28: Privatclub, Berlin, DE
Nov 29: Luxor, Köln, DE
Dec 02: Quai de Valmy, Paris, FR

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