Scars on Broadway: A Scar is Born
Originally printed in Guitar World, July 2008
With System of a Down on life support, Daron Malakian takes his act to the next stage with Scars on Broadway, his new rock-inspired band.
Kicking back at Steakhouse Studio in North Hollywood, California, Daron Malakian bobs his Los Angeles Dodgers–capped head while “Funny” tumbles out of the control room speakers. A deliciously hooky pop song with a minor-key melody worthy of the Kinks or the Zombies, “Funny” is one of the tracks featured on the forthcoming selftitled debut from Scars on Broadway, Malakian’s new band with fellow System of a Down-er John Dolmayan. “I think my Sixties influence is bleeding through on this record,” Malakian says.
But anyone who has followed System’s decade-plus career knows that Malakian is capable of changing musical directions and influences multiple times, often in the same song, and Scars on Broadway’s music is as cheerfully eclectic as anything he’s done with his “other” band. On the hard-hitting, politically charged “3005,” he rages like Arthur Lee mixed with Alice Cooper. Over the giddy disco sequencer groove of “Chemicals,” he tries to lure a love interest to “eat some chemicals with me.” Other songs recall System (“Universe,” “Kill Each Other”), the Dead Kennedys (“I Like Suicide”) and the Sex Pistols on a garage-rock holiday (“They Say”). Overall, System’s herky-jerky time signatures and chugging guitars are largely absent, replaced by a more swaggering and straightforward musical attack.
“I’ve tried at times to get away from the System sound with this record,” explains Malakian, who handles the album’s vocals and performs guitar and bass. “But I didn’t want to completely get away, because that’s a part of me. And I don’t think I can. But I’m definitely more into the rock vibe right now, much more than I’m into metal.”
GUITAR WORLD Were these songs written specifically for Scars on Broadway, or are these just the songs that you happened to come up with at the time?
DARON MALAKIAN This is just where I’ve evolved as a writer. Since it’s a new band, it’s made me feel even more free to go in different directions. But I think that even if this were going to be a System of a Down album, these songs would be my contribution. Whatever I write has to evolve around my taste in music at that moment, because that always changes.
GW There are several tracks that sound as if you’ve been listening to a lot of Sixties garage and psych lately.
MALAKIAN Yeah, I’ve been listening to the Nuggets boxes and a lot of weird Japanese psych. A lot of that stuff came out in what I did with System, but since there is less metal in Scars on Broadway, I think you can hear those influences more.
GW There’s also a classic Seventies punk vibe coming across on this record.
MALAKIAN I’ve always been into Seventies punk, whether it’s the Dead Boys or the Damned. That’s my favorite kind of punk rock. I like [San Francisco post-punk group] Chrome; they go into these synthy types of moments, and it doesn’t really fit in the song! [laughs] I like what they did a lot, but I also like Fleetwood Mac, I like Yes. I’m just all over the place.
GW The guitar tones definitely have more of an organic, Seventies rock sound than anything you’ve recorded previously. There’s not a lot of processing or effects.
MALAKIAN Effects-wise, I’ve never really used anything. I’ve always gone right through the amp.
GW Were you using more amp distortion in the past?
MALAKIAN No, I think it’s what I’m playing on guitar, the kind of chords and the kind of riffs. If I played more in that ku-chunk-chunk style in the past, I think it’s the songs making the guitars sound like that, rather than the guitars.
GW Do you see Scars on Broadway as a new band or as a System side project?
MALAKIAN The creative force and the drive and everything that goes on with the band is me and John, and we take this pretty seriously. This is not my side project—this is my band right now. I’m not doing anything with System, we don’t have any plans on doing anything with System, and I would expect another Scars album before another System album.