Daron Malakian

Daron Malakian
Daron Malakian

Malakian performing with System of a Down in 2006.
Background information
Born July 18, 1975 (1975-07-18) (age 36)
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Heavy metal, experimental, alternative metal, progressive rock
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass, drums, dulcimer, viola, piano, keyboards, organ, synthesizer, mellotron, mandolin, mandola, sitar, sarod, banjo, ukelele, tamboura
Years active 1990 – present
Labels Interscope, eatURmusic, American, Columbia
Associated acts System of a Down, Scars on Broadway
Website www.systemofadown.com
Notable instruments
Ibanez Iceman
Gibson SG
Fender Stratocaster
50th Anniversary Flying V

Daron Vartan Malakian (born July 18, 1975) is an Armenian-American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. He is best known as the guitarist, songwriter, and occasional vocalist of the heavy metal band System of a Down and as the lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and songwriter of the alternative rock band Scars on Broadway. Like the rest of the Hollywood-based band System of a Down, he is of Armenian ancestry, but is the only member to actually have been born inside the United States.[1] He is placed 30th in Guitar World's List of The 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time.[2]



Daron Vartan Malakian was born on July 18, 1975, in Hollywood, California, the only child to Vartan and Zepur Malakian, immigrants originally from Iraq and Iran respectively.[3] Vartan Malakian is a painter, dancer, and choreographer and Zepur Malakian is a sculptor who used to instruct college-level sculpture.[3] At a very early age, Malakian got into heavy metal music; his distant cousin played him a KISS record when he was four years old. Malakian started listening to Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead and Ozzy Osbourne among others. He always wanted to play the drums, but his parents got him a guitar instead because “You can’t turn the drums off.” Daron first picked up a guitar at age 11,[1] saying in an interview, "For the first year and a half, I learned how to play by ear, and did alright. After a few years I gained a reputation as being a guitar player in high school. And by 16 or 17 I actually realized it was a good songwriting instrument, and, over anything, that's what I feel like. I don't pretend to be Mr. Guitar Virtuoso."[4] During his teens Malakian listened to heavy metal bands such as Slayer,[1] Venom, Metallica,[1] Pantera and Sepultura . Malakian then began listening to The Beatles and cites John Lennon as one of his biggest influences on him as a songwriter.[1] He also cites other British Invasion bands such as The Kinks[4] and The Who[1][4] as major influences as well folk-rock such as trio Peter, Paul, and Mary and punk pioneer Iggy Pop.[1] Daron went to Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School in the Los Feliz side of Hollywood, which his future bandmates Shavo Odadjian and Ontronik "Andy" Khachaturian (System of a Down's original drummer) also attended.[1] System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian attended the school as well, but he was many years above Malakian and the others.[1] Malakian attended Glendale High School as a teenager.[1]

Malakian met Serj Tankian in 1993, while they both shared the same rehearsal studio in different bands. Tankian was playing keyboard for a band, and Daron was playing guitar and singing for another band. They formed a jam band called Soil with bassist Dave Hakopyan and drummer Domingo Laraino. Shavo Odadjian then became their manager, and then rhythm guitarist.[1] Soil broke up and Malakian, Tankian, and Odadjian (who switched to bass) formed a new band using the name “System of a Down”, based on a poem that Daron wrote.[1] The poem’s title was “Victims of a Down” but Odadjian thought "system" was a stronger word than "victims." They then recruited drummer Andy Khachaturian, who was replaced by John Dolmayan in 1997.

Malakian co-produced System of a Down’s albums with Rick Rubin,[5] as well as albums by The Ambulance and Bad Acid Trip (a band on fellow member Serj Tankian’s Serjical Strike Records).[1] In 2003, Malakian started his own label, EatUrMusic, on which Amen was the first signed band.[1] The label is now inactive and its current status is unknown.

Scars on Broadway

In 2003, Daron Malakian (lead guitar and vocals), Greg Kelso (rhythm guitar), Casey Chaos (vocals), and Zach Hill (drums) recorded a demo tape entitled "Ghetto Blaster Rehearsals" credited to the name Scars on Broadway. However, in 2007, an official letter appeared on the band's website that stated that these tracks are not in any way affiliated with Malakian's later project Scars on Broadway. Incidentally, these demo sessions produced "B.Y.O.B.", which would be a major hit for System of a Down in 2005.

Following System's hiatus, Malakian announced his latest project — Scars on Broadway — a band which would include System of a Down bassist, Shavo Odadjian, and himself. Ultimately, Odadjian was not involved with the band, and instead System of a Down drummer, John Dolmayan became a member. After Malakian and Dolmayan experimented with different musicians (for a period of nine months in 2007 - 2008) the band took form and forged its sound in intense rehearsals and recording sessions (under Malakian’s direction at his home studio and Sunset Sound) with musicians Danny Shamoun on keyboards, Dominic Cifarelli on bass, and Franky Perez on guitar and backing vocals for live performances (in the studio Malakian played nearly all the instruments with the exception of drums which were played by Dolmayan and some overdubs provided by the other members). The group released an eponymous album in 2008, which featured the hit single "They Say" (written by Malakian). However, shortly before the tour supporting the album, Malakian cancelled all scheduled concert and TV appearances, blaming a lack of enthusiasm and that his "heart wasn't into touring."[6] This sudden cancellation prompted speculation and rumors that the band had broken up. It was the last that would be heard of Malakian for more than a year.

In August 2009, Scars on Broadway, minus Malakian, traveled to Iraq for a USO tour across the U.S. army bases. Their setlist consisted of covers as well as a few Scars songs. Guitarist/vocalist Franky Perez stated on his Twitter that "the Scars tunes sound amazing but they're not the same without D..." He also stated before they left that Malakian had given them his blessing. In 2009 Franky Perez mentioned on his Twitter that he and the D-Man (Malakian) were going into studio to jam, this was the first news people have heard about Malakian's whereabouts for about a year.

On May 2, 2010 Malakian reunited with Scars on Broadway at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. It was the first time he had performed with the band since October 2008. The group played songs from their album as well as new songs. Odadjian performed with the band for two songs, playing guitar.

Recent activity

Malakian stayed out of the public eye following his cancellation of the tour in support of Scars on Broadway's debut album in October 2008. In 2009 Malakian made a surprise appearance (his first in a year) at Shavo Odadjian's Halloween Party and played "Suite-Pee," "They Say," and an unknown song with Odadjian, Dolmayan and Scars on Broadway's Franky Perez on guitar. It was the first time that the band members (minus Tankian, who was working on his second solo album) performed together in more than three years.

On November 20, 2009, Malakian played at the Chi Cheng Benefit concert along with Deftones and also performed with Odadjian and Dolmayan. Malakian, Odadjian, and Dolmayan played "Aerials" and "Toxicity."

He appeared on Cypress Hill's 2010 album Rise Up, on one song, "Trouble Seeker", which he also produced.

On July 29, 2010, Scars on Broadway released their first new studio recording in exactly two years, a Malakian-penned song called "Fucking."

On August 20, 2010, Malakian played in Hollywood with Scars on Broadway.

On November 29, 2010, it was announced that System of a Down would reunite for a European tour to take place in June 2011.[7] They played at the Download Festival on the 11th of June 2011. Despite playing a number of reunion shows, the band has no plans to record new material.

Personal life

Malakian now lives in Glendale, California. He has relatives in Iraq and Iran, where his parents were born, and has visited both countries.


He has used multiple guitars and amplifiers in the studio and live.


All guitars either have Seymour Duncan SH-6 Distortion pickups and/or Gibson pickups.

  • Multiple Ibanez Icemans (all in Drop C tuning) - Used during the Early/Mid years of System of a down, each one with different custom finishes and artwork done by his father, Vartan Malakian. His father also did custom graphics on the 1978 Iceman, as well as making the horned bridge replacing the stopbar. The known models Daron Malakian used are two IC-200s, five IC-300s, and an ICX-120. He has also recently used an Iceman for the Scars on Broadway reunion concert at the Troubadour on May 2, 2010.
  • Multiple Gibson SGs - Used during the Mezmerize/Hypnotize Era and reunion of System of a Down (2005–2006, 2011), along with the 3rd incarnation of Scars on Broadway (2007–2009). Malakian alternated between playing SGs with cherry finish (Drop C tuning) and SGs with white finish (Drop C# tuning). In Scars on Broadway he used a black Gibson SG in Drop C# tuning, which is seen in the video for "They Say". He now uses this SG in Drop C tuning since the System of a Down reunion.
  • Fender Stratocaster (Drop C tuning) - Used in the earlier years of System of a Down and the recording of the self-titled album. It was originally black with a white pickguard and 3 single coil pickups. The white pickguard was later replaced with a red pearloid pickguard, 2 white humbucking pickups were installed and the middle singlecoil was removed. Serj Tankian used it to play the rhythm guitar in "Aerials" and "Mr. Jack" during live performances, but he no longer uses due to his endorsement with First Act.
  • Gibson ES-335 - Only used once. Was used for the Chi Cheng Benefit concert on November 20, 2009.
  • Jackson RR5 Rhoads - Used in the studio while recording Toxicity and Mezmerize/Hypnotize. This guitar had Gibson Burstbucker pickups on the bridge at this time. It may have also been used live as a backup, since there have been a few photos with him using it on stage.[8]
  • Gibson Flying V (1980's Korina Flying V or 50th Anniversary Korina V) Used on stage for his show with Scars on Broadway at the Avalon.

Amplifiers and effects

  • Marshall Amplifiers - He has multiple models. Some known are the ModeFour heads, JTM45 Bluesbreakers, JMP Heads, JTM heads, and 1987XL Plexi heads. He used the ModeFour heads live before Mesmerize and still uses them as a backup, 1987XL heads for Scars on Broadway, the JMP and JTM heads in the studio, and the JTM45 Bluesbreakers live for the Mesmerize/Hypnotize tour and in the studio.
  • Mesa Boogie Dual and Triple Rectifiers - Used live and in the studio during System of a down, Toxicity and And Steal This Album albums.
  • His only known effects pedals are a Fulltone Clyde Wah Pedal, a Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler/Looper, a MXR Phase 90, a Boss MT-2 Metal Zone and a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay.


System of a Down

Scars on Broadway

Other appearances

Year Artist Song Release and/or explanation
Live performances
2000 Metallica feat. Jonathan Davis and Daron Malakian "One"
Metallica feat. Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian "Mastertarium"
2003 "Creeping Death" Reading Festival 2003
The Ambulance feat. Daron Malakian "Stop"
2010 Cypress Hill feat. Daron Malakian "Trouble Seeker"

Production credits

Malakian has also produced a number of albums.

Year Album Artist Credit(s)
1998 System of a Down System of a Down Producer, credited as System of a Down
2001 Toxicity Producer
2002 Steal This Album!
2004 Death Before Musick Amen Executive producer and A&R
Lynch the Weirdo Bad Acid Trip Producer
2005 Mezmerize System of a Down
2008 Scars on Broadway Scars on Broadway


  • In 2002, System of a Down was nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Metal Performance for their song Chop Suey! but lost to Schism by Tool
  • In 2003, System of a Down was nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Hard Rock Performance for "Aerials" but lost to All My Life by Foo Fighters
  • In 2005, System of a Down won for Best Alternative Act in the Europe Music Awards
  • In 2006, System of a Down won their first Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for B.Y.O.B.
  • In 2006, System of a Down won the "MTV Good Woodie Award" for their song Question!
  • In 2006, System of a Down's song Toxicity was #14 on the VH1 Top 40 Metal Songs list
  • In 2007, System of a Down was nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Hard Rock Performance for their song Lonely Day but lost to Woman by Wolfmother


External links

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