ALL SYSTEMS GO (Part 2 - The Daron Malakian Interviews)

Have you had any professional guitar lessons?
No, I've had no formal training. I just learned by practicing … hours of practicing. It was like my homework. I've been playing for 16 years now, since I was around 11, but you never finish learning.

If you weren't a musician what would you be doing?
I'm asked that a lot. Being a musician is all I've ever dreamed of being and playing the guitar or drums is all I've ever done. I don't have a plan B. I don't do anything else. I can't repair a car. I can't fix a leaky faucet. I couldn't even build a box when I was in wood shop there. But I can write you a song. I realized early on that I could do something not many people could do. No one taught me how to do it -- I just did it.

Your second album, "Toxicity," had more of a "pop" feel to it. When it debuted at #1 and sold millions of copies in a very short time, many of your original "heavy metal" fans thought the band had sold out to gain a more mainstream audience. What is your definition of a sell out?
A band that sells out is a band that is only in it for the money or the fame rather than the music. If people say System is a sell out because we've sold millions of albums, they're wrong. I can't control how many CDs we sell or how popular we become, but I do have say in how we are marketed and where we appear. We turn most mainstream things down. System of a Down is not here to sell you Coca-Cola or sneakers; we are here to take music to a different level with our integrity fully intact. Our albums are a progression of who we are as a band and who we are as individuals. The next album will sound different from the last album. If it doesn't, then what was the point of making it?

How do you write songs?
I don't know. Songs just come to me. Sometimes the music comes to me first and sometimes the words come, sometimes both at once. I am blessed that way.

What is your all-time favorite album?
"Reign in Blood" by Slayer.

Tell us something about you that fans would be surprised to hear.
I think they might be surprised to learn that I'm actually shy and kinda quiet. I'm not the crazy person they see running all over the place in the videos.

What did you do on April 24 this year?
Quiet reflection and prayer.

Has fame changed you?
I don't have that big of a social life, I don't walk around being "famous" and trying to get noticed, you know. I think if anything, fame has made me less social. I have the same friends I've had since high school. When I walk by on the street, people stare, and that's really uncomfortable for me. I wish they would just approach me.

How did your "Boom!" video come about?
There weren't a lot of other artists commenting on the war so we decided to make a pro-peace statement. I had seen "Bowling For Columbine" three times. It's such a great movie and I knew that Michael Moore, who directed that movie, would be the perfect person to put together the "Boom!" video for us. It turns out he knew our stuff -- he's a System fan -- so we all got along great.

Would you ever do a song in Armenian?
We have made such a big deal about not being an "Armenian Band" that it would be weird to all of a sudden sing a song in Armenian. That would also exclude a lot of people who wouldn't understand what we were singing about. But I've learned to never say never.

Who are your biggest musical influences?
The Beatles, heavy metal music … stuff like Metallica and Slayer. I'm more into drums than guitar. Keith Moon from The Who, Iggy Pop. I respect anyone that gets on an instrument and gives 100% of themselves.

What are your thoughts on TRL and the disposable "television friendly" music of today?
We have made a point not to be there. We don't want to be like their guest hosts. We are careful not to be clowns. I have band meetings to discuss where we want our band to be. That kind of stuff just isn't us. It's not what we do.

Boys love cars, especially at Glendale High, what kind of car are you driving nowadays?
I have two Corvettes. An old one and a new one. I use the new one to get around most of the time because it's more dependable.

Would you do a free concert at Glendale High?
We've done the free concert thing and it just seems to get us in trouble (Hollywood riot, 2001). The minute we do something like that then it seems there are always people who want to ruin it for everyone. Our first and foremost priority is the safety of our fans. We have become so big that we can't do the little events and appearances we could do five or six years ago.

Is there a System of a Down fan club?
There is an e-mail list you can join at our website,

What are you doing with all of your time off between albums?
I've been doing some producing and also some songwriting. I just signed the first band to my own label (the punk-metal band Amen) and I'm also producing the debut album for Bad Acid Trip, which is signed to Serj's label.

What can we expect with the new System album?
Expect the unexpected.

Any words of advice for an aspiring rock star?
Don't be an aspiring rock star, be an aspiring musician.