System Of A DownClemente Ruiz

John Dolmayan Laments The Current State Of System Of A Down: “I Don’t Think This Is Sustainable”


At this point the long-running creative divide within System Of A Down has been well documented. The multi-platinum nü-metal/alternative metal favorites have long been at an impasse amid a rift that developed amongst Tankian and his bandmates. As Tankian himself spelled it out back in 2018, he had grown unhappy with the lack of creative input and the financial revenue splits, along with his own desire to pursue other musical avenues.

While the band did manage to issue two new tracks back in 2020 to raise funds for the people of Artsakh, neither song was an entirely ‘new’ endeavor. “Protect The Land” had been repurposed from Scars On Broadway—the side project of guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian. Likewise, the origins of “Genocidial Humanoidz” came about some 3-4 years prior amid some group jam sessions of which Tankian did not take part in.

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As we approach it being two decades since the band’s last studio albums, Tankian himself has expressed his lack of interest in full-scale touring, due to both personal and health reasons.

In a new interview with the Battleline Podcast, System Of A Down drummer John Dolmayan spoke at length about the band’s complicated past and his desire to push the band forward, be it without Tankian or not.

Dolmayan stated:

Serj hasn’t really wanted to be in the band for a long time. 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 [Odadjian, System Of a Down bassist] 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.”

He continued:

“No matter what, Daron is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever seen in my life. What he does with Scars will never be on the same level or league as System. That doesn’t mean Scars is bad; it just means it’s not System. ‘Cause at the end of the day, he doesn’t have me playing drums; he doesn’t have Shavo playing bass and bringing in certain riffs and adding to Daron‘s music, and he doesn’t have Serj bringing his melody and lyrics into the play. So it’s all those things that make us System.”

When asked why he felt that the band should have parted ways in 2006, he explained:

“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. 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.”

While the band are currently booked for next year’s first-ever ‘Sick New World‘ festival in Las Vegas, NV, Dolmayan feels that the group should be on the road more:

“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 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.”

“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.”


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