With Serj Tankian taking practically all the spotlight since the temporary disintegration of System of a Down there have been questions as to the whereabouts of the remaining members - guitarist Daron Malakian, drummer John Dolmayan and bassist Shavo Odadkjian. Would we have something like Paul Weller leaving Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler in his wake or are we set for yet more glittering solo projects? The answer may very well be the latter, as Gigwise discovers when we encounter Scars On Broadway.
An amalgamation of two fourths of the System ashes sees Malakian and Dolmayan emerge to join forces in their new band. What quickly becomes apparent while talking with Malakian is his impetuous desire to return to the stage as a member of a new band. He’s even stayed up till two in the morning to adhere to the British time zone to tell us all about it.
“It’s funny how sometimes in life you have to go backwards to feel satisfaction,” explains a judicious Malakian who is fighting off obvious signs of sleep deprivation. He adds: “Starting playing in clubs again and having a brand new label and doing things fresh is definitely filling the void that was inside.” The void he talks about is the lack of passion encompassing his life after being in a band that has achieved great longevity.
It was May 2006 when System announced they would be going on hiatus for an unspecified time. During these early stages any comments of a reunion insinuated the likelihood of this commencing in the near future. However, it seems the prospect of a reunion is more of a dubious claim now.
Malakian puts it plainly and honestly: “Hiatus is not a word I like to use – other members of System like to use that word but I don’t. I use separation, and we’re separated. There has to be four people that want to get back together, not just me. I’m not the guy that pushes that button (laughs).”
He doesn’t completely dismiss the definite possibility of his old band getting together, adding: “ If someday it feels right for us to do then we’ll do it but as of right now I’m really focussed on this and I want to take this to different levels and so does John. We don’t talk about System, we don’t talk about doing System. If it does happen I see it being very very far down the line.”
Now that’s System out of the way attention must be focussed solely on Scars On Broadway. Malakian takes centre stage as frontman while Franky Perez provides additional guitar and vocal work, former Pulse Ultra member Dominic Cifarelli takes up bass duties, Danny Sharmoun tickles the keyboards and System drummer Dolmayan remains fixed to his seat and skins.
Scars On Broadway are a pertinent creation that has allowed Malakian to explore his creative mind. The main songwriter for System remains as focussed as ever. “I hope I’m never at the top of my game because that would mean I’d be satisfied and when I’m satisfied that means I should stop. I always want to write the song I’ve never written before and I think I’ve just made an album full of songs that I’ve never written before.”
Produced by Malakian himself and Rick Rubin, their self-titled debut album is a collection of 15 tracks that the frontman is gravely proud of. “It’s a pretty eclectic album with a lot of attitude.” I ask if it differs greatly from the sound of System to which he replies: “It links to it because you can hear my style in the songs, but at the same time it has evolved from it.”
The foundations of the band’s name is a somewhat artistic creation. Malakian takes his time to explain the story of how the words and the meaning differ in relevance, yet merge through a unifying of the music. He says: “I got the name from these light posts. Where I live - the light posts have swastikas engraved in the design. It’s something that if you lived in the city I live in when you went to high school you’d always hear kids talk about it. And they’re on Broadway. Their kind of scarred into the (posts), which is how I got the name.”
And the meaning?: “When it comes to relating what the songs are about, it’s almost like all the world is a stage and we are the scars on Broadway. The name sparked a different vision in my head for what it meant.”
The trepidation that Malakian’s musical reputation is on the line is not something even taken into consideration by the Scars On Broadway frontman. He submissively explains: “I don’t think about that too much to be honest with you. I mean reputation, I’m not sure what my rep is as it is. My goal is to continue to write songs that I’m proud of and hopefully in turn will touch somebody out there.”
By coming under the radar and being almost shadowed by the publicity and acclaim that Tankian received, Malakian and Dolmayan can make an impression more suited to their humble ways. A string of live shows already under their belts and a forthcoming headline tour in Europe should satisfy adequately. Malakian wants people to come to see the live shows to prove he and his band can step up to anyone’s anticipations. “We get up on stage and people see this is a for real band and something to be taken seriously on its own away from System.”
Pastures new have not led Malakian to forget the impact he made with his former band. He speaks fondly if not subtly about his role in people’s lives. “There is songs for me that are like the fabric of my life – like if those songs didn’t exist then I couldn’t imagine my life without them – they’re such a big part of my existence since I was a kid.
“So for my music to do that to people, it’s special to me. It’s cool to be apart of so many people’s lives even if I don’t know them. I feel like I’m contributing something positive to the world in my time that I’m here through my songs.”