System Of A Down—the longtime LA-based multi-platinum mega experimental metal act—has been on hiatus for a couple years now, but Coachella will bring three-fourths of the original line-up to its stages in a couple distinct varieties. There’s lead vocalist Serj Tankian, who’s scheduled for a Friday appearance as a solo act. And then there’s Scars On Broadway the next day, featuring System guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan. Officially, the band’s just Malakian and Dolmayan, but on stage, it actually transforms into a five-piece ensemble, featuring keys, a second guitarist and a bassist. S.O.B.—gotta love that abbreviation—played a secret warm-up show for its official debut at the Coachella festival earlier this month. And for System fans, well, they’ll be in for a real treat. “It’s its own thing,” Malakian explains. “If you saw it, you wouldn’t be like, ‘Wow, that band sounds like System Of A Down.’”
What are some of the objectives that you’re seeking to accomplish with Scars on Broadway that perhaps you’ve been unable to do with System Of A Down?
Malakian: I find that Scars is more of a—although there are still metal overtones there—I find that it kind of revolves more around a rock sound than it does a metal sound. I’m really into that. I wanted to get some of my more rock influences out in my songwriting, people like Iggy [Pop], David Bowie, you know, just different people who have inspired me for over 15 years. It was just time to make this move with my career.
You’ve been singing on more System songs as the band’s progressed, but is this the first time you’ve fronted a group?
Malakian: No. It’s interesting because when Serj and I met in the early days of System, he was a keyboard player and I was the frontman of a group. I wanted to get more into songwriting and producing and that vibe, as opposed to being the frontman. I also didn’t want to be in front of a microphone at the time. I wanted to get off on stage and run around, do all that stuff. But being a frontman and singing, to me, it’s second nature.
So, now that you’ve done one show with Scars, can you tell us what it’s like?
Malakian: A lot of people told me that they thought it was a professional looking band. They’re like, “It sounds like you guys have been touring for years.” That’s how tight people thought we were. We play our songs, we play them honestly, and we just try to go off.
Coachella is going to be your first announced public appearance. What are you looking forward to this year?
Outside of playing, perhaps?
Malakian: I swear to God, bro, I don’t want to sound arrogant, because I’m not, it’s just that I’m kind of nervous about the show. I’m just like so focused on the show that it’s like, that’s all that I kind of think about.
You’re really nervous about it, seriously?
Malakian: Yeah, because, I don’t know, I get nervous before certain things and then once I’m there, that nervous energy turns into great things on stage. But when I’m there my brain’s going a hundred miles an hour. Rogers Waters, I’d love to see, but he’s not playing the night we’re playing and I’m not sure if I can stick around—but what I’m focused on is the show.
Scars on Broadway perform on Saturday