Daron Malakian would not be the musician that he is today if it were not for a little band out of Huntington Park, California, called Slayer. From System of a Down, who are playing a slew of tour dates later this year, to his solo project Scars on Broadway, which has a long-awaited new album, Dictator, soon to drop, the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter has always pulled from a wide range of influences, including traditional Armenian folk and, of course, blistering thrash metal, to create his unique and groundbreaking sound. So when we interviewed him recently about the return of Scars on Broadway, we had to ask him about Slayer's impact on him and his feelings about the band's current farewell tour. Here's what he had to say.
HOW MUCH OF AN INFLUENCE HAS SLAYER BEEN ON YOUR MUSIC?
DARON MALAKIAN Their early stuff was happening when I was just starting to learn to play guitar. Slayer is one of the bands that taught me how to play the guitar. I would sit there and listen to Reign in Blood, Show No Mercy and South of Heaven. It was like religion to me at that time of my life — when I was like 14 years old. When System first came out, people asked me to explain our music, and I would say, "It's as if Slayer and the Beatles had a baby." [Laughs] They're a big part of my style.
HOW DID YOU REACT TO NEWS OF THEIR FINAL TOUR?
I'm sure they have their own reasons why. I have to say, the earlier Slayer was the big influence on me — all the albums up until Seasons in the Abyss were when Slayer really impacted my life. Jeff [Hanneman, Slayer's original guitarist] died, and Dave [Lombardo, Slayer's original drummer] doesn't play in the band anymore — so it's just two of them [Tom Araya and Kerry King, from the original band]. They've been at it for a really long time. When we were touring with them [in 1998], they were back to playing theaters and club-sized venues at that time. They really kept doing it regardless if they were playing arenas or playing theaters and then playing arenas again.
It's tough being on tour. People don't realize being on tour is one of the toughest things that you do as a musician all the time. They've been at it for 30 or 40 years. That's a long time. And the kind of music they play, the older you get, it starts to get difficult. It's not like they're playing Rolling Stones–style rock. To play Slayer songs is real stressful on your body.