WRITTEN IN THE SCARS…
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…
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.”
“THIS ALBUM HAS A PUNK ROCK, HEAVIER FEEL TO IT…” DARON MALAKIAN
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…”