Daron Malakian: 21st Century Schizoid Man
An only child, Malakian grew up in one of Hollywood’s dicier neighborhoods, near the intersection of Vine Street and Santa Monica Boulevard. Across the street from the family’s apartment was a hotel where local prostitutes conducted their business. Memories like these are reflected in “Lost in Hollywood,” Mezmerize’s rumination on the “city of broken dreams,” a latter-day successor to songs like the Kinks’ “Celluloid Heroes” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”
“In the early Eighties, all you’d see on Sunset Boulevard were prostitutes,” Malakian recalls. “That was before it got cleaned up. So that’s how I think of Hollywood. People who don’t live here see it as a fantasy land. But I see people giving up their morals, giving up their lives, giving up everything for this town. All the girls who came here to be actresses and ended up as porn stars; all the girls who came here to be models and ended up strippers… You talk to six or seven out of 10 porn stars and they’d probably rather be doing something else. Strippers, too.”
Reminded of all the guys who come to Hollywood to be rock stars only to end up working in music stores, Malakian replies, “They can end up on the street selling their asses too. It doesn’t have to be in a physical way, either; you can actually feel like you made it and still be selling your ass. I sold my ass before.”
At times Malakian seems to have conflicting emotions about his success: on the new song “Radio Video,” he contrasts vivid memories of his fifth birthday party—at a So-Cal Shakey’s Pizza—with a bittersweet image of hearing himself on the radio later in life. “It’s almost like someone saying, ‘Hey, I’m on the radio,’ but they’re not happy about it,” he explains. “So it’s another song with that party mood, but not happy to be partying.”
Still, Malakian’s childhood wasn’t an unhappy one. He remembers being taken to museums every weekend and participating in political discussions with his parents’ bohemian friends at a very early age. “My dad is my biggest inspiration when it comes to what I do,” he says. “I don’t look at music through the eyes of a musician; I look at songs and music through the eyes of a visual artist, ’cause that’s what I grew up with. The way I saw it, I really had to focus on music, because I feel like my parents had to give up a lot of shit. And I’ve always believed, since I was a kid, that my destiny was to play music.”
His fate was sealed at the age of four when a cousin played him a Kiss record. “I was a little heavy metal kid when I was five and six. I had Van Halen, Ozzy and Judas Priest albums. I played with toys like a normal kid, but I’d drag my mom to the local record store, Wherehouse Records, more often than I’d drag her to the toy store. I also liked stuff like Depeche Mode—a lot of the popular music of the Eighties—but once I was 12 or 13 years old I started getting into what was then more underground metal, like Slayer…all this heavy, dark stuff. My friends used to hate the bands I liked, ’cause they were into Yngwie Malmsteen and stuff like that.
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