John Dolmayan: Serj Tankian Hasn't Wanted to Be in System of a Down for a Long Time | Revolver

John Dolmayan: Serj Tankian Hasn't Wanted to Be in System of a Down for a Long Time

Drummer says SOAD "probably should have parted ways around 2006"
system of a down 2020 PROMO NEW, Clemente Ruiz
photograph by Clemente Ruiz

In 2020, System of a Down dropped their first songs in 15 years, "Protect the Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz." (The dual singles raised over $600,000 for humanitarian efforts during the conflict between Artsakh and Azerbaijan.) The surprise release only intensified the question that had hung over the nu-metal titans ever since 2006, when SOAD first went on hiatus: When, if ever, will the band release a new album?

In a bombshell interview on the "Battleline Podcast," System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan opened up about the behind-the-scenes drama that has held back the band from recording and releasing new music — even though, according to him, plenty more, as-yet-unheard SOAD songs have been written. As Dolmayan tells it, System — who are rounded out by lead vocalist Serj Tankian, guitarist-vocalist Daron Malakian and bassist Shavo Odadjian — were very close to breaking up in 2006 and maybe even should have.

"Serj hasn't really wanted to be in a band for a long time," Dolmayan explained (as transcribed by Blabbermouth), speaking of the SOAD singer, who also happens to be his brother-in-law. "And quite frankly, we probably should have parted ways around 2006. We tried to get together multiple times to make an album, but there were certain rules set in place that made it difficult to do so and maintain the integrity of what System of a Down stood for. So we couldn't really come together and agree. And part of that is Serj's fault, and part of that is my fault, and Shavo's and Daron's, as well. But at the end of the day, if you have a majority of the band thinking one way and one person thinking the other, it's very difficult to come together and make music thinking that person is important. And every member of this band is very important to the overall sound of the band. And you'll know this by listening to anybody's side projects; they're never quite that good compared to System. In fact, I think a lot of 'em aren't very good at all. And when you compare that to what we do together as System, you understand why the team matters and having certain talents come together and merge matter and that magic thing captured doing that matters."

Asked to elaborate on his assertion that SOAD should have split in 2006, Dolmayan doubled down: "I think we should have moved on, and if Serj didn't wanna be in the band at that time, we should have just moved on and done it with somebody else," he said. "But that's what happens when you're loyal and you really wanna make it work; you'll put up with things that may be detrimental to the health of the band or the health of the situation. Maybe it would have been better if we moved on and got another singer for an album or two and continued to make music and brought Serj back later if he wanted to come back. That probably would have been better. But as it is, I think we wasted 15, maybe 20 years of our lives waiting."

Dolmayan noted that the chemistry is great when the band comes together to play live, but the rest of the group, other than Tankian, would love to be much more active. "When we're actually on stage, it's great," the drummer said. "It's just getting to that point that is disheartening. We have one show booked for next year. One show. That's it," he noted, referencing May's Sick New World festival.

Dolmayan added, "I think we would like to be working a lot more, but Serj also has a bad back now; he's messed up his back somehow. And he just doesn't wanna tour as much as the rest of us do. Look, if my wife told me that we were gonna have sex once a year, I'd be divorced. So you figure that out for what it is.

"I don't think this is sustainable," the drummer lamented. "The rest of us wanna work a lot more than he does. Now I don't know if that means we're just gonna break up and forget about it and call it a career or if we're gonna move forward with somebody else or if Serj is gonna come around. Ultimately, the best-case scenario for me is Serj comes around and we can do, like, 15, 20 shows a year. Even that would be enough. We'd be able to go to places that we haven't gone in a long time and play in front of fans that have never seen us play. That's important to me."

Dolmayan continued, "I don't know what's gonna happen. Even talking about System kind of bums me out, because I know what our potential is. And I know that if we make an album, it'll be fantastic 'cause we have songs that have been ready for five [or] six years now; we just have to go in and record 'em. And I don't know if that's gonna happen or not."

Listen to the full interview below.