Where The Down Boys Go.
System Of A Down play the Orange Stage from 3.50pm at the Big Day Out, Gold Coast Parklands on Sunday, and the Arena on January 22.
When Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman raves about a band, chances are they’re going to deliver. I know this sounds like wank, but System Of A Down first came highly recommended by the aforementioned metal legend during an interview for their own Diabolos In Musica opus. It was not to be long before I too saw the light.
“We already had a little cult following around the world who made it easier for people to find out about us when we had a record deal,” muses guitarist Daron Malakian. “It was more of a surprise knowing people understand our music rather than knowing who we are. People knew who we were before we really got out of L.A.”
Three years later, the band are finally coming to Australia, and I finally get an interview just prior to their last show before Christmas 2001.
“Breaks for me just mean more work,” laughs the self confessed workaholic when I enquire as to the nature of their downtime. “During the break we’re shooting a video for Toxicity, and I’ll be in a recording studio with a band called The Ambulance, and I’m pretty much working on stuff for System all the time…”
System Of A Down’s dedication to their craft is evident in the bands two recordings, their self-titled debut back in 1998 and the devastating Toxicity opus of last year. It’s this second release, and its haunting single Chop Suey! that finally brings the band to out shores for the Big Day Out, although the kudos the album continues to receive are not creating rock star egos.
“We’re getting a lot of compliments for Toxicity, but when we wrote this record I felt like I was still learning how to make our music. The fact people give it praise just makes me feel like I’m not done yet. I’m still a student, and I don’t feel like we deserve that much praise just yet.”
“What we write comes naturally to us. I don’t really sit there and look at what anybody else is doing. I try to find a new way to outdo System Of A Down before I try and outdo anybody else, you know. I’m not really a fan of much stuff that’s really popular. I try to keep more underground things as my influences, not bands that are platinum selling.”
“We just get in a room together, and you can feel it. You don’t even have to say anything to each other to know when something works. It’s just a feeling in the room. With me, I write songs for the band at home and bring them in to the band, and it takes me up to a year to work on a song. I have to feel it’s right at home. Sometimes I feel like I have a great song, and it took me nine months to work on it at home, and I’ll take it to the band and they won’t vibe off it, so I’ll just take that song and put it in my pocket. I’ll use it somewhere else.”
You mentioned going into the studio to work with another band. Do the successes you’ve had with System Of A Down give you the opportunity to help some underground acts that your fans of to get some more exposure?
“The reason I do it is because I have an artistic itch to produce. I love to produce, but if that happens afterwards that’s cool. (laughing) If I’m some sort of big name guy that can help out then that’s cool, but it’s not really the reason I go in there. It’s sort of like me being a musician in the band when I’m producing.”
Daron’s musical drive runs deep, as he confirms.
“I’ve wanted to be a musician ever since I’ve been alive. My first recollection of it is when I was three or four years old. Ever since then I’ve been putting shows together for my family of my friends. I was always into music and I used to take my mom to the record store and make her buy me like all these records and stuff. It’s something I’ve always been obsessed with.”
“I used to be a singer, and drum were my first love. Guitar is something I sort of fell into. I’m a more rhythmic player than a solo player. I think the fact I love the drums so much affects the way I approach the guitar. I think I’m a better dancer that I am guitar player.”