Special preview of Clash 104 cover story...

As announced earlier today, ZAYN (AKA Zayn Malik) is the fourth and final cover star of the latest issue of Clash. Though currently available to order (here, in case you were wondering), the magazine won't hit stores until next week, but rather than keep you waiting with just a steamy cover pic for company, Clash is treating you to a teaser extract from the cover story itself.

Speaking with Clash’s Editor-In-Chief, conversation largely focused on the further development of ZAYN as a solo artist as he continues to redefine himself following his liberation from the creatively stifling conditions of One Direction. We find him in New York where he’s wrapping up his second album, mindful of the commercial and critical success of its predecessor - 2016’s sex-dominated ‘Mind Of Mine’ - and considering the progress he’s made since.

Talk turns to the work/life balance, chilling with his girlfriend, his recent collaboration with Versace and his new life in LA... But all of that is yet to come - be patient! In the meantime, here is a sneak peek at a little of what you can expect...

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You’ve spoken before about how you feel like your evolution as a songwriter only really began to develop after leaving the band. How do you think you’ve changed in the space of time between your debut album and this new one?

Even though it has been a short space of time, I think you can definitely be able to see a progression in my writing - well, I’m hoping so, anyway. But I feel that way when I listen to it: I feel like there’s definitely a bit more organisation with things, if that’s the way to explain it. Things kind of make a bit more sense to me. I feel like on the first record things were a bit experimental - I was just trying to find my feet - and with this one, I feel like I’ve found that pocket a little bit more and it’s a bit more developed. I’m just a bit more organised and a bit more structured with the way I’m songwriting now, I think.

Is that because you’re a bit more confident with what you’re doing?

Yeah, I definitely think the reaction to the first record has fueled a bit of confidence in the second one, and helps just understanding what people wanted to hear and what people were enjoying. So yeah, it’s definitely made that easier, I guess, and just knowing where I fit in the market and where I want to sit vocally, and where I want to take it with the music and the production. It’s just more assertive and knows what it’s about this time.

When you were trying to figure out who you were as an artist, you were coming out of a band that obviously had a lot of limitations on what you could and couldn’t do - musically or otherwise. Was the consequent freedom so overwhelming that you just wanted to try everything, or did you want to set your own restraints to remain somewhat focused?

It wasn’t even so much I wanted to try everything. That was just I had a lot of ideas that kind of amalgamated over the years of me just writing different things down whilst my music was changing and my musical taste was developing and evolving. I had a load of different things and I just wanted to show people that I could do all them different things and that it was all of them different genres that had influenced my musical tastes, and that’s why I called it ‘Mind Of Mine’, because I just wanted it to represent the different types of music that I liked, and the different kind of music that I wanted to use to portray me. So, I think it was more that than just being like, ‘I want to try everything!’

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Are there any overriding themes or emotions running through the new album?

I wouldn’t say there are overriding themes; it’s more about the music this time, I think, and more about the melodies and the singing than it is specifically about the message of the lyric of the song. I’ve just tried to show different things on this album, and, again, it doesn’t really all cohesively fit together, even in terms of sound - it’s not like one body of work; it’s all different things and different types of music. It’s just things that inspired me, like odd times and places in that exact moment recording that feeling and getting it down.

I ask because, let’s be honest here, the first record was undoubtedly a shagging album. It had very sexual themes in there. What I think everybody wants to know is: will your second album produce even more babies?

Maybe! (Laughs) Who knows! I hope people like to listen to it and do whatever they do - they can listen to it and do normal activities too; they don’t just have to have sex to it. But there’s some sexual references in the second album too, for sure.

I don’t know whether you faced any criticism for having those kind of adult themes, but if so, it must be difficult for you as someone who’s trying to grow up and learn and move away from what you were, yet at the same time, your fans are growing up as well, so you hope that they’ll develop with you, but there’s always going to be that younger demographic there. Are you concerned by having to clean up what it is that you want to say, or are you always completely honest with it?

There’s some songs that I wrote and I didn’t put on my record because they were just a bit too…risqué, shall we say. (Laughs) That is something that I do think about. I never really want to be vulgar, if you understand what I mean. I don’t want to be the guy that’s just talking about sex distastefully. I try to do it in a way that has a bit of class to it. I have sisters and I have females in my family, so I don’t ever want to be too disrespectful, if that’s the word. I just try to keep it creative, and hopefully people don’t get too offended.

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You can read the full, unedited interview in Issue 104 of Clash. The magazine is available to buy here.

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Interview: Simon Harper 
Photography: Nabil 
Fashion: Jason Rembert 
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers

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