Jesse Malin is a songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist who has more than one musical personality, having made a name as a thoughtful and introspective singer/songwriter in his solo career as well as playing raucous, over-the-top rock & roll with the band D Generation, though heartfelt and street-smart songwriting is the common element in all of Malin's work.
Born January 26, 1968, in Queens, New York, Malin was just 12 years old when he joined his first band, handling vocals and guitar for the New York hardcore outfit Heart Attack. Though Heart Attack released a single and a pair of EPs between 1981 and 1984, Malin fared better when, in 1991, he and fellow Heart Attack alum Danny Sage formed D Generation, who fused old-school punk and glam rock guitars with a heavy dose of New York Dolls influence blended in. Though some critics dismissed D Generation as Johnny Thunders copycats, their teased hair and glossy wardrobe were just a part of the act, and substance and song structure were always a part of their music. As one of New York City's more talented bands of the '90s, D Generation released three albums before disbanding in April 1999. Malin, always a punk with the heart of a poet, kept writing music as he explored a new creative direction. His love for Neil Young, Tom Waits, and Steve Earle influenced his work, and he spent the next two years working on a fresh, rootsy sound.
Ex-Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams, who'd been a friend of Malin since the D Generation days, was impressed with Malin's new approach. Adams offered to produce Malin's debut album, even though he'd never produced a record before. The two headed into Loho Studios in New York in January 2001 and made an album in just six days. A deal with Artemis Records soon followed, and The Fine Art of Self Destruction appeared in the U.K. in October 2002. The first single, "Queen of the Underworld," was a moderate hit in England, where the press quickly hailed Malin's debut as one of the year's best. Stateside fans finally got their hands on The Fine Art of Self Destruction when Artemis gave it an American release in January 2003. Road dates followed, both in America and the U.K. Malin contributed a version of "Hungry Heart" to the benefit album Light of Day: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen; he also picked up a nomination for the Shortlist Music Prize. (Malin and Adams would reunite in the studio later in 2003 when they recorded a hardcore punk album, We Are Fuck You, under the band name the Finger, with Malin billed as "Irving Plaza" and Adams as "Warren Peace.")
By November 2003, Malin was back in the studio, laying down tracks for his second long-player. The Heat appeared in June 2004, accompanied by a string of tour dates on both sides of the pond. Malin's third album was recorded in Los Angeles during the summer and fall of 2006, which marked his first time making a record outside of New York (or even above 14th Street). Featuring guest spots by Bruce Springsteen and Jakob Dylan, among others, Glitter in the Gutter eventually surfaced in March 2007 via Billie Joe Armstrong's Adeline Records label. (Armstrong was a D Generation fan who had brought the band along as Green Day's opening act in the '90s.) Malin spent most of the year on the road with his backing band, the Heat. With that group, Malin released Mercury Retrograde in 2008, which was recorded live in New York City. That same year, Malin followed up with the One Little Indian release On Your Sleeve, a gutsy set of covers that featured imaginative readings of songs by the Bad Brains, the Rolling Stones, Fred Neil, Paul Simon, and others.
In 2009, Malin founded a new band called St. Mark's Social, who released Love It to Life in 2010 on the Side One Dummy label. In 2011, D Generation reunited for a handful of live shows, and Malin found himself dividing his time between his solo career and occasional road trips with the band, including a few dates opening for Guns N' Roses. In March 2015, Malin released a new solo effort, New York Before the War, while D Generation announced they were recording new material. Only seven months after New York Before the War hit the streets, Malin was back with another solo effort, the gritty and straightforward Outsiders. The prolific Malin returned in 2017 with another studio effort, Meet Me at the End of the World. After a few years in talks with Lucinda Williams, they eventually collaborated on the tracks "Room 13" and "Dead On," both of which appeared on Malin's 2019 album Sunset Kids. ~ MacKenzie Wilson & Mark Deming