System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian is about to unleash a new album, Dictator, with his Scars on Broadway project. During our recent interview with Malakian, he reminisced about SOAD being suddenly catapulted to fame with Toxicity, an album which infamously came out right before 9/11 (it was released on September 4, 2001) and topped the album charts shortly after that awful day.

Before Toxicity, System of a Down were an eccentric and mildly successful underground band who caught the ear of Rick Rubin, who signed them to American Recordings and produced their albums as well. System's 1998 self-titled debut only reached No. 124 on the Billboard chart, but eventually went gold due to a rapidly growing cult fan base. Toxicity would be their welcoming party into the mainstream, but the album's release date caused some strange reactions.

"We had songs on the album like called 'Jet Pilot,' lyrics that were singing 'Self-righteous suicide,' 'Aerials in the sky,' so fans at the time thought that we had predicted what was gonna happen," Malakian remembers. "It was this very... I guess the Beatles would have fans that would look into the lyrics a little too much like these guys are prophets or something. That was crazy how people would take that seriously because those songs we had written way before anything happened to the Twin Towers."

Malakian discussed writing one of System of a Down's definitive songs, "Chop Suey!"

"I remember when I wrote ‘Chop Suey!’ we didn’t even have a tour bus yet,” Malakian recalls. “We were still in an RV and I was playing my acoustic guitar in back of the RV where there was a bed. I never write on the road. That’s one of the few, very few songs that I wrote while I was on the road, I remember writing the song when the RV was on the highway. I don’t know where we were, probably [driving] to the next gig, and it all came to me just hanging out in the back of the RV playing my acoustic guitar."

Malakian continues, “I can always feel when I write something good and I can always tell when I write something that needs a little work. I thought it was really good, but did I think it was going to turn into this huge song that was gonna get on MTV and become a huge hit for System of a Down? No. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that it was gonna be our first [hit] single. I didn’t think it was gonna be so huge, but at the time I thought it was good. I was a fan of it."

"All of a sudden I’m walking in the mall, and there are people who recognize me and know who the hell I am through the video asking for pictures, asking for autographs," the guitarist remembers. "So life kind of changed. [Laughs] On a flip of the coin there it just changed. People don’t realize that it’s a big life-changer whenever you get fame. I feel like it changed me, I became more of a private person, less outgoing. You always think you’re gonna like the attention. I’m not sure I was in love with the attention. I was a big famous rock star, yet I was still living with my parents."

Scars on Broadway will unleash Dictator on July 20. To pre-order a copy of the album, click here.

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