In a recent interview with Billboard Magazine, Zayn Malik sat down and got open, honest, and a bit uncensored about his time in One Direction, what’s been happening since he left, and how he wants his solo career to be different from what he did with Liam, Harry, Louis, and Niall.
One of the first quotes Malik gives to Billboard is a bit brash but expected as he’s has said, on more than one occasion since he left One Direction, that he’s going to be himself now, he’s going to be free, and the music is going to reflect who he is and has always been.
“I genuinely enjoyed [the band] and did whatever I could to be myself within that, but it’s just not where I sit as a musician,” Zayn says. “The other boys’ taste was generally indie rock. It’s good music, but I don’t f— with it. That was never cool where I was from.”
The interviewer solidifies this as the type of music played for her during her time with Malik is described – The Weeknd and Drake are brought up as musical references and not the “indie rock” that One Direction seemed to draw their motivation from. There are references made to his former band mates through the piece – Peter Edge RCA CEO/Chairman is read commenting on speculation of Harry Styles making a solo record while another comment is made by Malik himself as he describes what he thought would be lasting friendships for life.
“The truth of it is, you can think one thing about a situation and the total opposite can happen. I had every intention of remaining friends with everybody, but I guess certain phone numbers have changed and I haven’t received calls from a lot of people. I’ve reached out to a few of them and not got a reply. Certain people have pride issues, but it’s stuff you overcome in time.”
Malik’s stress in the band was built up overtime and started to become too much towards the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 – after a rough show in Hong Kong, Malik says he knew he had to go home and see his mum. He ate well for weeks, spent time with his family, and put on his father’s sheepskin where he looked so much like him that he could walk around Bradford and be unbothered – it was healing for his soul – and the final acknowledgement he needed within himself to know that being in the band was no longer suitable to him, mind, body, or spirit.
Malik says of his time in One Direction that “It was like a f—- machine going constantly.” while his manager calls it “grueling” and relates it to being in the army. This comes as no shock to fans of Malik or One Direction as they’ve always said the boys were severely overworked, as did Simon Cowell in a 2015 interview.
His last comment about One Direction is one fans of not only Zayn, but the rest of the lads expected – and almost hoped – to hear once the boys were outside of the strict restraints of their management team.
“We weren’t allowed to say certain things, or word lyrics the way we would want to. I’d sit and wonder, ‘If the fans knew how it worked, what would they think?’ My argument was: People are more intelligent than that. They want to hear what’s real, so why don’t we write some stuff that we’re actually going through?”
The conversation switches to focus more on Malik’s solo music/career after that which is a breath of fresh air for readers and Malik himself.
Malik says he’s different now than he was in the band, he’s found a way to channel his anger, found out that he’s stronger than he gave himself credit for, and generally seems to have a better handle on his own life.
He began work on his solo music by going to the Angeles Forest with James “Malay” Ho for a week where they got away from the city to track.
Malay says of the week: “It was the complete opposite of what he’d been doing. We had the gas grill, BB guns, bows and arrows. It was a shittin’-in-the-woods-type thing”.
This approach to music seems to have worked for Malik who can’t wait to show fans his solo material and by the sounds of it; everyone who listens is going to be in for a treat. The interviewer speaks of ‘finely wrought details’ as she describes a synth, snare, and sweep of strings in three tracks she previewed.
Malik moved to LA in September of 2015 – Bel Air to be exact where he has a bungalow. Before he furnished the home he recorded in the empty space and even outside, where he and Malay set up a microphone under the stars. After enough recording was done he began to decorate his home with his signature graffiti touches – he states from one angle the walls look white and plain but from a different he’s painted them all – even adding ‘Fresh Prince’ to one.
Malik also has a room in his home with a mixing board where he spends time working on his craft. “I’ll come down here and record maybe seven songs a night, that’s because I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m not censoring myself anymore, so I’m not tired. I love it.” Malik says of his desire and drive for music. He’s also found himself in the studio instead of getting drunk and tagging walls when he’s upset or angry – a show of maturity or maybe being a bit more mellow. Malik smokes, but only sativa, because it’s deemed the “creative weed”.
Malik hasn’t lost parts of himself, even with his grueling schedule and boxed personality during his time in One Direction, that keep him happy. Fans are able to see that stand out in this interview and it is almost healing for those who’d been worried about him since his departure.
Malik says of his fans that he has more of a drive to be someone who reaches out to them now. During his time with One Direction there were other lads the fans were there for – now it’s just him – he wants to do it. On the topic of fan girls he states that there’s nothing they could have taught him that he didn’t learn growing up around a number of women. He saw his aunts and sisters fan girl over certain celebrities and knows the appeal.
In closing Malik makes two remarks that hit a little bit close to home but have obviously shaped who he is over he past year.
When asked what he took away from his time in a boy band, what he gained, his response was status. “Status. The capability to restrain certain things I would want to do. I also learned it’s good to keep friends. Because you don’t know when you’re going to make new ones, so you should probably just keep the old ones”.
Reflecting then on his time as a solo artist thus far Malik says he’s very disciplined. “I’m incredibly disciplined. I realized I can push myself through situations I might not necessarily want to do, but can overcome by being in the moment. No matter what, I can smile and do whatever I got to do.”
Malik’s solo material is set to debut this spring and after this honest interview fans are anticipating it more than ever. The full interview, plus a heap of lovely photos of Zayn can be found on Billboard.