Zayn Malik’s first major interview since leaving One Direction in March 2015, with The Fader, revealed several things about the newly solo pop star, the huge boyband he quit, and his reasons behind doing so. Here are its five biggest talking points…
1. HIS HOUSE IS A BIT ODD
Well, not his house exactly – it’s the backyard that’s quite strange. On the porch he keeps a Predator CarbonLite crossbow, which he uses to shoot a dummy in the centre of the garden. If that wasn’t We Need To Talk About Kevin enough, there’s graffiti on boards saying things like ‘Fuck this life’. The garden shed has been styled like a pirate-themed pub and is covered with paintball shots. Graffiti on the wall reads: ‘I pissed inside’. There’s also a 25-foot Native American teepee, and his several vehicles – motorbikes, a go-kart, a vintage Mini Cooper among them.
2. HIS EXPERIENCING PERFORMING IN ONE DIRECTION IS PAYING OFF IN THE STUDIO
Producer James ‘Malay’ Ho compares him to people like Frank Ocean, who he says “have been in studios for years and years and years developing skills as songwriters.” Unlike Frank, Malay says, Zayn’s been doing that hard work while performing, which makes his time in the studio easy, and songs have been recorded in just a few takes. “That’s powerful right there. His 10,000 hours or whatever have been invested as a performer. He has the tools physically and mentally to deliver at the drop of the hat.”
3. HE LEFT BECAUSE 1D’S MUSIC WAS ‘GENERIC AS FUCK’
Zayn, who is doing all of his album’s writing himself, says it was the lack of creative control that drove him out of the band – not necessarily disagreements with the other members. “There was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band,” he says. “If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop, generic as fuck, so they could use that version.
“Whenever I would suggest something, it was like it didn’t fit us. There was just a general conception that the management already had of what they want for the band, and I just wasn’t convinced with what we were selling. I wasn’t 100 percent behind the music. It wasn’t me. It was music that was already given to us, and we were told this is what is going to sell to these people. As much as we were the biggest, most famous boy band in the world, it felt weird. We were told to be happy about something that we weren’t happy about.”
If you want that in a metaphor, Zayn has one: “It’s like I stood in front of a canvas for about five years,” he says, “and someone said like, ‘You’re not allowed to paint on this canvas.’ I’ve got the paint, I’ve got the fucking brushes, and I can’t get it on there. Now someone removed the plastic and was like, ‘Alright, you can now paint.’”
4. HE’S STILL IN TOUCH WITH HIS OLD BANDMATES – A BIT
It was over six months after he left the band that he first talked to Liam again, he says. “He said that he didn’t understand it at the time, but he now fully gets why I had to do what I did. He understands that it’s my thing, that I had to do that, and that basically he wants to meet up and sit down and have a good chat in person, and he wants to do some music and work on some stuff aside from being in the band, which we always wanted to do anyway.” Still #friendz then, despite some arsey Twitter interactions…
5. HIS DEBUT SOLO ALBUM IS OUT IN EARLY 2016 AND IT’S A BIT OF EVERYTHING
It has a name, but Zayn won’t reveal it yet. Still, he can talk about the music, which sounds like it’s a bit of everything. “All the songs are different genres,” he says. “They don’t really fit a specific type of music. They’re not like, ‘This is funk, this is soul, this is upbeat, this is a dance tune.’ Nothing is like that. I don’t really know what my style is yet. I’m kind of just showing what my influences are.”
Producer Malay estimates that just 20% of the album was recorded in a proper studio, because a lot of it was recorded in the woods. That’s where he took up archery, shooting his crossbow bolts into trees while waiting for the studio generator to recharge.