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Interview: System Of A Down

System Of A Down
Questions Answered By John Dolmayan (Drums).
March 27th 2002
Interviewed by Brian Webb

Related Links:
Official Website
Toxicity Album Review

PRP: Your first album was recently certified platinum, while you've also achieved platinum status in other countries, not to mention debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and received acclaim from Time magazine. Does the constant wave of accomplishments ever overwhelm you?
John: For us success isn't determined by how many albums we sell. It's more about being proud of what we have created and in my opinion we are just as successful the day the album came out as we are today. We are just as proud of it and I don't think it takes away from an albums greatness if it doesn't sell a lot of copies, and I certainly don't think it adds to it if it does. As for things like Time magazine, well that's just a media source for people to learn about different things, and as we are selling a lot of copies people are interested in why. Thank you for writing about us, but whether you write about us in a positive or negative manner makes no difference as to how we are going to create our art.

PRP: With a constantly growing fan base, you've had to make the step up to playing larger venues, do you ever miss the intimacy of smaller shows?
John: We've done everything we can to keep it in the small venues, such as tonight instead of doing a huge place in London we are doing three dates at the Brixton Academy which is probably as small as we could go right now. To play any smaller venues and do like 15 nights at the Astoria just wouldn't make sense. There's positives and negatives to playing big venues. The positive being you can play in front of everyone and nobody misses out and the fans aren't taken advantage of by the scalpers. The negative is that you don't have that intimate feel but we believe that no matter the size of the venue we are still intimate with our audience. So we just try and utilize that kind of mentality.

PRP: Having been a band who toured extensively, do you plan to continue staying on the road behind "Toxicity" as long as you did with your last album?
John: I don't think we have much of a choice because the demand is pretty huge. We probably won't be touring as many years as we did on the last album, and we will take more breaks in between tours just because we want to do this for a long time and not kill ourselves.
PRP: Like you said the demand is huge and just recently you toured Australia for the first time, how was that?
John: It was great, we had a good time, Australia is a great place to tour. Having never seen us before they were very interested in seeing whether or not our live show measured up to our album and I think they were pleasantly surprised at how well it does.

PRP: The band has been branching out as of late, with Serj's side projects, Bad Girls And Serart, plus his label Serjical Strike Records, Daron producing The Ambulance and Shavo Djing and directing videos. Do you personally have any side projects on the go at the moment?
John: I do but I don't really like to talk about it because I feel it takes away from the band. Most of the things I do, you'll never know that I did it. Right now I'm concentrating 95% on the band and 5% on myself.

PRP: With the band now having established a massive amount of fans through your recent success, you've definitely been able to create a solid platform to express yourselves more feasibly through other projects. Do you see side projects becoming more prevalent in the future for the band?
John: Everybody will dabble in things, we all have intentions of taking our respective talents into other realms of doing things that maybe System Of A Down is going to approach in the near future.

PRP: Have you heard either of Serj's upcoming projects, perhaps offer up a description on what fans could expect?
John: Yeah of course. We are very proud of what we do and we respect and admire each others talents so we want to know the opinions of the other band members. Expect the unexpected as usual, it's kind of wacky.

PRP: It is said that the band is working on an upcoming home video release, is there any time frame for it to hit stores yet, or even perhaps a rundown on what fans can expect to see on it?
John: We are looking at having that out in December of this year. A lot of live footage. Not so much backstage stuff as we just want people to get an impression of what we are like live and this being are first DVD, it will be like our first album in that it will be very raw.

PRP: It is quite respectable to see that despite being successful enough to take out bands who would offer a load of money to open for you, you instead choose to take out the smaller acts you guys personally like such as Mindless Self Indulgence and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Having spent a considerable amount of time on the opening circuit with acts of all sizes, how does it feel to be able to tour with and benefit the bands you admire?
John: I don't understand bands paying to be on tours. That doesn't make sense to me, I don't think its the right way to approach things. We pick bands that we like to watch everyday. We don't want to have a band up there that disgusts our taste in music, that we have to sit there everyday and put up with. I enjoy watching Dillinger Escape Plan and maybe they aren't the biggest band in the world and don't have a huge draw, but we are introducing something a little different to our audience and I think we have an audience that understands a little bit more about different kinds of music and being open to music whether you like it or not. We don't want to let them down by bringing the newest rap metal band whose label would pay 50 grand to have us take them out on tour.

PRP: Are there any other bands you hope to take out on the road with you on upcoming tours?
John: Lots of bands. Queens Of The Stone Age, Rush. Too many to really mention.

PRP: From starting out near the bottom of the bill to landing the headlining slot on the Ozzfest, how does it feel to have come this far and are you looking forward to seeing or hanging with any of the bands on this years bill in particular?
John: It's definitely a progression. We started out on the Second Stage being one of many, and then we graduated to being first on the Main Stage and now we are last on the main stage. You could call it an interesting graduation.

PRP: Serj is said to have been pushing to get Mindless Self Indulgence on this years Ozzfest bill, with all the extra support System has shown to MSI, is there any special connection between the bands or is it more along the lines of admiration or mutual respect?
John: Yeah I don't think its going to happen though. We just think its an interesting type of music and we enjoy it for what it is. It's not for everybody but then neither is System Of A Down.

PRP: A wealth of material is still left over from the "Toxicity" recording sessions, are there plans to release it as another album or EP perhaps later this year?
John: You'll see some of them on flip sides (b-sides), some on soundtracks, but the bulk of it will be saved for who knows. First of all we are going to write this next record as if we have no songs but you might see a few of them pop out.

PRP: Prior to 9/11, most albums with political content were generally ignored by the mainstream. However, since those tragic events, the consciousness of the public as a whole has been much more acute. Do you notice that the bands lyrical content is perhaps taken more to heart now than it was in the past?
John: I don't know if we are really a politically motivated band. We definitely are not afraid to address political issues and social issues though. However, I have no idea whether its being taken more to heart now.

PRP: Soon after the events of 9/11 Serj wrote an essay titled "Understanding Oil" which you later had to pull from your website after receiving threats. Was it frustrating to have an opinion on the events so grossly misunderstood?
John: Well its a typical thing to happen when you're afraid which a lot of the American public were as indeed we were. Its easy to just look for something to blame and sometimes people mistake patriotism with fear and they try to show how patriotic they are by putting something else down that they haven't figured out yet. before you condemn something, at least understand it. That's all we are saying.

PRP: Controversy seemed to follow the band quit closely around the album release, what was it like to live through the riot which took place at the ill fated show you were to play in Hollywood late last year?
John: It was a terribly hectic time and I'm sure that the record company was pleased with the free press that they got but we were not pleased. We felt humiliated and that a lot of our fans, and we don't even know if they were fans of ours or just wanted to see a free show didn't give a damn or show any respect. We basically felt humiliated by that and expected more from our fans.

PRP: Having first signed to a major label in '97, it could be said that you've paid your dues to get where you are today, rather than many of today's current artists who break big not long after releasing their debut album thanks to a hit single. What are your thoughts on the bands development over this time?
John: We broke a lot of barriers, as did a lot of bands like Korn, The Deftones and Rage. These bands do something that's not being done by anybody else and are then imitated by 50 bands who sensationalize what they are imitating and they make a lot of money and sell a lot of albums out of it. However, the cream will rise to the top and we'll see who's still around in 5-10 years. Bands that break big quick, I wish them luck because sometimes the star that shines twice as bright, lasts half as long.

PRP: One of the things truly lacking in most of today's music scene is a lack of support and artist development for up and coming bands. It wasn't long ago where a non commercially oriented band would get a video and a year or two of touring support no questions asked. However, most labels now instead just pull the plug on a band at the first sign of failure. Do you think that music as a whole may suffer from this as these practices become more commonplace?
John: Maybe 20 years ago. Artist development has not been a real issue for labels for 20 years. There was time when if you sold 10,000 copies of your album the label would be just as behind you had you sold 100,000. The reality is that these labels are no longer owned by artists but corporations who have a bottom line and that's all they are concerned with. They have to adhere to their stockholders basically.

PRP: Are there any current bands out there today whom you enjoy personally?
John: There's a lot of good music and there's a lot of crap and its not really for me to dictate what is what. It's up for people to decide for themselves.

PRP: What can we expect from System Of A Down in 2002?
John: For us to tour our asses off.
PRP: Pledge Of Allegiance tour perhaps?
John: It's possible. With the right line-up and situation we will do it. We wont do anything cheesy.

PRP: That's about it, any shoutouts or shameless self promotion?
John: Thanks to anybody that's supported us and for the people that hate us thank you too.

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