With a now-13-year wait for new SYS­TEM OF A DOWN music, song­writer ex­traor­di­naire DARON MALAKIAN has res­ur­rected SCARS ON BROAD­WAY for a long-over­due LP, DIC­TA­TOR…

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S trik­ing while the iron is cold, this sum­mer Daron Malakian will re­turn to the world of recorded music for the first time in a decade. Ten years af­ter un­veil­ing the band Scars On Broad­way with a crit­i­cally-ac­claimed de­but al­bum of the same name, in July he launches Dic­ta­tor, the sec­ond LP re­leased un­der the group’s name (well, sort of… they’re now re­branded as Daron Malakian And Scars On Broad­way, to be more pre­cise). We trust you weren’t hold­ing your breath.

Devo­tees of this most con­sis­tently in­no­va­tive writer will have no­ticed that the ra­dio si­lence of­fi­cially ended last month with the re­lease of Lives, Dic­ta­tor’s lead-off teaser track. More an ear-boa con­stric­tor than ear­worm, in un­der four min­utes the track en­cour­ages lis­ten­ers to dance, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously com­mem­o­rat­ing the 1915 Ar­me­nian Geno­cide, and cel­e­brat­ing the sur­vivors of all types of con­flict. Half of the pro­ceeds raised by the re­lease will be used to buy first aid kits for those in need in the Ar­me­nian strong­hold of Art­sakh, a coun­try presently in con­flict with its neigh­bour Azer­bai­jan. “Peo­ple were be­ing shot and lit­er­ally bleed­ing out on the street,” Daron says, “which, in the 21st cen­tury, is such an avoid­able thing.”

Lis­ten­ing to Lives – and to Dic­ta­tor, too, when it comes – it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine it hav­ing come from any other song­writer in Ker­rang!’s world. It’s also dif­fi­cult to imag­ine any other song­writer ask­ing to be in­ter­viewed at 2:30am, ei­ther, which Daron does. Since it’s so late – or is it early? – without fur­ther ado, we’ll give him the floor to talk about this, and about the usu­ally con­fused fu­ture of Sys­tem Of A Down, the band with whom he made his name and to this day plies his trade. Af­ter a rather lengthy ab­sence, your Scars On Broad­way project has fi­nally re-emerged. How and why? “I haven’t put out music for a long time. I recorded this al­bum a few years back and I didn’t re­lease it ’cause Sys­tem started tour­ing around the same time and there was al­ways talk af­ter every tour about, you know, how maybe we’ll make an al­bum. But we just never got on the same page with that. But now enough time has passed by that I thought, ‘I’m just gonna re­lease this al­bum and not wait on Sys­tem.’ I needed to get out and do my own thing. It’s been too long since I’ve re­leased some­thing and it feels re­ally good to fi­nally be do­ing that. I guess you could say that it’s Sys­tem-re­lated why I haven’t re­leased any­thing for such a long time. I’m the main song­writer in the band, so if there’s talk about an al­bum, that would put a lot of pres­sure on my shoul­ders.” How pro­lific a writer are you? “I write a lot. I don’t re­ally write for peo­ple, and if no-one heard what I wrote I would still write songs. It’s just what I do. If I’m not writ­ing I feel like I’m not do­ing what I’m here to do. So I have a lot of music that’s still to be re­leased in the fu­ture, whether it’s with Sys­tem or Scars. I have a lot of ma­te­rial.” In an ideal world, would you be re­leas­ing al­bums with both Sys­tem Of A Down and Scars On Broad­way? “Yeah. I think the Scars stuff tends to take more of a rock di­rec­tion, even though I would say there’s a lot of ma­te­rial on this al­bum that I think has more of a Sys­tem Of A Down flavour in it than maybe the first Scars al­bum did… As of right now, Sys­tem’s not mak­ing al­bums, so this is the project through which I’m re­leas­ing my songs.” Is it frus­trat­ing that the com­pli­ca­tions with SOAD af­fect the timetable on which you re­lease your own music? “It is. But it is what it is also. I can’t force any­one to get on board with some­thing that they don’t want to get on board with. It’s been frus­trat­ing not to re­lease music and to be in limbo and not to know where ev­ery­thing is go­ing. I’m try­ing to fix that path for my­self right now and take mat­ters into my own hands.”


You played every in­stru­ment on Dic­ta­tor. That’s rather pro­fi­cient… “It was the eas­i­est way of do­ing it. At the time that I recorded this, I just re­ally wanted to get into the stu­dio. I re­mem­ber there was some kind of tur­moil go­ing on in my per­sonal life, so I al­most went into the stu­dio as ther­apy so I could tune out the world for a week or two. I had th­ese 12 songs that I re­ally wanted to record, and it was eas­ier for me to go in and do that in­stead of gath­er­ing a bunch of mu­si­cians and teach­ing them the songs, etcetera etcetera. It was fun, too. I’ve al­ways wanted to play drums on an al­bum.” The only song we’ve heard from Dic­ta­tor so far is its lead sin­gle, Lives. Can you tell us about the sound of the whole al­bum? “I think it has a more ag­gres­sive tone to it than the first Scars al­bum… I think this al­bum has a lit­tle bit more of a punk rock, heav­ier feel to it. But all in all, it still has my style. It has a lot of mo­ments that are very Sys­tem-es­que, but that’s my style. I can’t get away from that, even if I tried. If you’re a fan of what I do, whether it be with Sys­tem or with Scars, I think you’ll re­ally en­joy this al­bum.” Peo­ple pre­dicted big things for the first Scars On Broad­way al­bum, but to­day it re­mains some­thing of an undis­cov­ered gem. Why do you think that is? “Be­cause I stopped. I didn’t con­tinue with Scars: I didn’t tour, I didn’t put out music. As proud as I am of that al­bum, I think it might have been the wrong time for me to have done some­thing new. I was still kind of in shock that Sys­tem had stopped, and it was too soon for me. I was just in a dif­fer­ent place in my life at that time. But now it feels dif­fer­ent; it feels right. I feel like I have more of a clear pic­ture of what’s go­ing on in Sys­tem that gives me more con­fi­dence in what I’m do­ing with Scars. But I agree. I think if I’d con­tin­ued to pur­sue Scars and put out al­bums and toured and did all the things that peo­ple do to break bands, I think Scars would have been a big­ger group than it is right now. But it’s never too late!” Will there be a big cam­paign in sup­port of Dic­ta­tor? “We haven’t booked any tours yet, but it’s not out of the ques­tion. I have a third Scars al­bum, ac­tu­ally, that I’m go­ing to go into the stu­dio to record over the next few months, so that’ll be hap­pen­ing in the next year and a half. [But] when it comes to tour­ing, I’m not 100 per cent sure what we’re do­ing yet.” If you were a bet­ting man, which would you gam­ble on emerg­ing first – the third Scars On Broad­way al­bum or the sixth Sys­tem Of A Down record? “The third Scars On Broad­way al­bum, for sure. As things stand right now, Sys­tem have no plans to go into the stu­dio and write any­thing to­gether… We don’t have any plans to do any of that right now. Scars is pretty much the only project that I’m work­ing on right now.” You have a tour with SOAD com­ing up in the au­tumn. Might that be a time for the band to dis­cuss a time for break­ing its now-13-year boy­cott of new music? “Not this time around. We’ve al­ready had those con­ver­sa­tions. The door is not closed, but at the same time we’ve al­ready had those con­ver­sa­tions and we’re just not on the same page about do­ing that to­gether.” DARON MALAKIAN AND SCARS ON BROAD­WAY’S new lp DIC­TA­TOR IS DUE OUT ON JULY 20 VIA SCARRED FOR LIFE

Daron on Sys­tem Of A Down: “The door is not closed…”

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