In the Studio: System of a Down Side Project Scars on Broadway Trades Metal for Melodic Rock

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John Dolmayan thought he'd have a few relaxing years when System of a Down went on hiatus in 2006. It didn't work out that way: He appeared on bandmate Serj Tankian's solo debut, and now he's behind the drums again in sessions for Scars on Broadway, his new band with SOAD singer-guitarist Daron Malakian. Surrounded by flickering candles at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, Dolmayan is pounding a forceful, brooding beat that's heavy on the cymbals. Watching nearby, Malakian calls it "the Dolmayan shuffle."

Most weeks, Dolmayan drives into L.A. from his Las Vegas condo for rehearsals at Malakian's house. "I look forward to it," says Dolmayan. "I'm very proud of what we're accomplishing." Malakian has shifted his songwriting away from SOAD's frazzled metal to more song-based work, inspired by Neil Young and David Bowie. "I don't feel we're the mosh-pit band," says Malakian. "That's just where I'm comfortable as a writer right now."

Recording started in October, with Malakian producing the disc himself. Rick Rubin was an early visitor, offering feedback on the new songs. "World Gone Wrong" has a churning rock sound, and "Universe" is forlorn and melodic. Scars aren't overtly political but still provocative. On "3005," Malakian sings, "Let's clap our hands for the president and Jesus Christ/And don't forget Charles Manson."

"I feel more pressure — people have expectations," Malakian says of the new tunes. "I'm a little nervous to let people in just yet." But the wait for another System album could be a while. "I would expect another Scars album before another System album," says Malakian. "You can't quit family, though. I'll always feel some kind of bond with Serj, and I'm sure he will with me."

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