System of a Down surprised fans in November when they released their first new songs in 15 years. The band had been stagnated by creative differences, but singer Serj Tankian offers hope that more new music could be on the way, as long as the members are “on the same page.”
For a while it appeared that System of a Down’s recording days may have been over. While the band continued to tour occasionally, the members just couldn’t see eye to eye when it came to creating a follow-up to their last album, 2005’s Hypnotize. Tankian and guitarist-singer Daron Malakian made headlines in 2018 when they publicly aired their grievances about their creative differences, with Tankian accepting responsibility for spearheading a band hiatus that lasted from 2006 to 2011.
A further divide seemed to happen this year when drummer John Dolmayan continuously posted pro-Trump rhetoric on Instagram, at the same time Tankian was condemning the president and calling for the Trump regime to resign. At one point, Tankian admitted that Dolmayan’s posts were “frustrating”, but still remained loyal to the drummer, who also happens to be his brother-in-law.
That all was brushed aside as the band came together to record two new singles, “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz”, as a show of support for their “cultural homelands of Artsakh and Armenia”, which had come under attack by Azerbaijan and Turkey. The two songs helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Armenia Fund.
Now, in a new interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, Tankian and bassist Shavo Odadjian both suggested that System of a Down can continue making new music, if everyone’s on the same wavelength.
Odadjian, who has always pushed for the band to continue making music, said, “Personally, man, from day one, even when we disbanded for a little while in ’05, ’06, I’m always a supporter. I’m always on the side of like, ‘This needs to be going on forever. We never will call it quits. I will refuse. I don’t care. I’ll refuse if anyone else does … I’m not going to call it quits.'”
The bassist added, “As long as we’re all still alive, we’re going to be the unit that we are. I am still in. I think I’ll always be in. Look. I’m 47 years old. This has been a part of my life more so than not.”
Tankian followed with, “[Recording the new songs] felt beyond special. It felt very natural and it’s something we’ve done for so long together and especially having a cause that, for me, that was the most important thing … It’s one thing to do something for yourself and for your band and for music itself or whatever you want to call it, for your career or for your business. It’s another thing to do it for something completely outside of yourself in every way, donate the proceeds and the song or the group of the songs become a part of the activism, a strong part of it. I think that’s unique that we’ve done that with this band.”
The singer continued, “I’m really proud of what we’ve done. It felt really great. The future is unseen. We will see what happens. The vibe is very positive. As long as we’re on the same page, we can continue doing stuff, if we’re on the same page.”
In the same interview, the pair also reflected on the band’s 2001 album, Toxicity, and its massive hit “Chop Suey!”, which turn 20 years old this year. The LP debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart the week of the 9/11 attacks, with Tankian recalling, “Our album was No. 1. It felt like the whole world was exploding. They took our song off the radio. ‘Chop Suey!’ was … because it had the word suicide in it, self-righteous suicide. Everyone was calling us going, ‘How did you guys know,’ and all this stuff. We’re all weirded out and figure out trying to figure out what the hell is going on.”
Watch Serj Tankian and Shavo Odadjian speak with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe below.