MICHAEL MALARKEY | INTERVIEW
Michael Malarkey, the multi-talented star of The Vampire Diaries and solo artist, embarks on a tour of the UK next week to promote his debut album Mongrels. Buzz caught up with him for a chat.
You are due to hit the UK for a tour next month in support of your new album Mongrels, which includes a date in Wales [Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Mon 23 Oct]. Is this the first time you’ve been to Wales?
I’ve been one other time for a friend’s wedding. I can’t remember where it was exactly but it was a stunning hills and valley situation. We were blessed with the most beautiful, sunny weather and I still have that image in my mind of the magical Welsh countryside on that weekend. Excited to return and play in a grimy club.
Will you be playing with a full band on this tour, or will it be a more intimate affair with just you and your guitar?
There’s a few solo dates on the European leg of the tour, but the majority of the tour – and the entire UK leg – will be with a full band. Alex Eichenberger (cello) and Tom Williams (bass) will be joining me again from the Knots tour. Alex also played cello and did BVs on Feed The Flames and Knots, so she’s actually been on the Malarkey squad from the beginning. My good buddy Robert Britton Lyons (lead guitar), who I worked with on Million Dollar Quartet in London, will also be hitting the road with us. I’m also excited to have Brandon Bush (keys/synth) who co-produced Mongrels and Paul Stone (drums) on board. I can’t wait to get all these amazing musicians in the room together and start working.
Mongrels is a very moody album and takes us on a thorough examination of the human psyche. What were your influences when writing it?
I get these images in my head – things I’ve seen or imagined – that I start stringing together. It’s always pretty free-association at the beginning, based on what the music I’m picking on is making me feel. Sometimes certain words or phrases jump out and I riff on those themes. It’s like painting. Throwing paint on the page, stopping to look at it and adding more and more until I realise what I’m actually trying to paint or what I’m trying to understand about myself. I’m often surprised at what comes out, as I’m never trying to write a song about a particular thing. Often times the song seems to write itself, like it needed to happen. It’s usually quite a frenetic and crazed process when I write, like an exorcism or something. But look, as much as it may be a ‘moody’ ride, I’m not overburdened with melancholy. I feel a lot of joy when I work in that dark space. I see the beauty in it. It’s part and parcel to every songwriter in my opinion.
You also play Enzo in The Vampire Diaries so I was wondering what came first. Did you initially want to be a musician or an actor?
Music came first, but I had no intention of pursuing it as a career per se, I was just super into collecting music and going to shows and just decided to start my own band after high school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. All I did know was that I didn’t want to waste time and money at a university. I was a singer/screamer in hardcore bands at first, but I taught myself how to play guitar and started writing more acoustic songs in my free time. Around then, I randomly auditioned for a play at the community college down the road and that was when I fell in love with acting.
What were the influences that first made you want to sing or pick up an instrument?
At first, it was definitely heavier music. I was into punk rock when I was younger. Rancid was my favourite band as an adolescent and Tim and Lars were my heroes back then – also Ian MacKaye. I graduated into the more hardcore side of things through high school: bands like Converge, Grade, Fugazi, they all had a big influence on me. Mike Patton was one of my biggest inspirations as the frontman of a heavy band. The thing is, my music may be very different, but the way all those guys would write was definitely the foundation for my songwriting back then and surely bleeds into how I write now.
What made me first want to start writing my own solo material though, I can probably trace back to two musical pillars: one is Tom Waits and the other is the 90s emo scene. That’s where I came from really, that world. If I had to narrow it down to the actual albums that made me want to make my own shit, this was the progression: Rancid, …And Out Come The Wolves,” Grade, Under The Radar, Cursive, Domestica, Bright Eyes, Fevers And Mirrors, Converge, Jane Doe, Joan Of Arc, Live In Chicago 1999, and Tom Waits, Rain Dogs. I could go on… but I’ll spare you.
You’re touring Europe for the rest of the year. What are your plans for 2018?
I’m almost wrapped filming a new drama series, The Oath, for Sony’s Crackle Network which will be out next year. It’s a brilliant series with an excellent cast. While I was filming it, I wrote a whole album’s worth of new material which I can’t wait to get back in the studio to record. I’ve already got an EP lined up to drop early next year made up of some Mongrels B-Sides and a brand new song.
I also played a rather colourful character in an episode of Jean Claude Van Damme’s new comedy series out next year which will probably have you pissing yourself. We’re already in talks about some more touring next year as well. Lots going on. Watch this space…
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Mon 23 Oct. Tickets: £12.50/£50 VIP. Info: 029 2023 2199 / www.clwb.net
words CHRIS ANDREWS