System of a Down surprised fans back in November by releasing their first new songs in 15 years. Singer Serj Tankian is “extremely proud” that the band was able to put aside their differences, and offers hope that they’ll one day “get it together and do something again.”
In the past few years, the band members have made no secret about creative differences hampering their return to the studio. The multiplatinum metal act has not released an album since 2005’s Hypnotize, but came together to record the songs “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz” to raise funds for Armenia and its neighboring state of Artsakh, which had come under attack by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Heavy Consequence recently caught up with Tankian to discuss his recent documentary, Truth to Power, and new EP, Elasticity. During that conversation, we also asked the singer if it felt rewarding to get back together in the studio with his longtime System of a Down bandmates.
“Honestly, I’m extremely proud of us getting together for our people and the cause, at a time where Azerbaijan and Turkey not only attacked Armenians in Artsakh with military equipment, but they also attacked the Armenian nation with disinformation around the world, using caviar diplomacy over the years,” Tankian told us. “Azerbaijan bought off a lot of politicians and they tried to create false parody in journalism and in the media — and it succeeded for a little while.”
He continued, “So, I’m proud to say that our songs coming out, especially the video for ‘Protect the Land’, really kind of bit into that all in one day — just kind of boom, let the world know that these are people living on their own indigenous land, they’re being attacked, they’re trying to protect their families, and they’re dying because you got the second largest NATO ally Turkey basically attacking them along with Azerbaijan — both dictatorships attacking a democratic, progressive, first Christian nation society.”
Tankian went on to talk about how the attacks on Artsakh and the Armenian people weren’t being reported widely or accurately, lamenting the current state of investigative journalism. “People didn’t know — the press wasn’t really talking about it,” remarked the singer. “Investigative journalism has really suffered since consolidation of media since the ’80s. It’s become a ‘he said, she said’ type of thing, or ‘follow the leader’ type of thing where one person prints something and everyone jumps on it. What happened to the [Edward R.] Murrow days where people would actually investigate?”
He added, “This wouldn’t happen at a time of real investigative journalism. And so we had to kind of fight that and we did it successfully with the songs. And we also, obviously, not just raised awareness, but raised funds for humanitarian relief, and we’ve raised quite a bit of money. We’re basically donating it through Armenia Fund, which is a nonprofit in Armenia, to three different nonprofit organizations that deal with retrofitting soldiers with prosthetics, because of the drone attacks that they had to deal with in losing limbs, and also burn victims, laser therapy for burn victims from white phosphorus banned weapons used by Azerbaijan against Armenians.”
From a music standpoint, Tankian leaves the door open for System of a Down to hit the studio again, a notion that seemed far-fetched when the creative differences between himself and guitarist-singer Daron Malakian played out publicly in a series of interviews and social media posts a couple years ago.
“So, I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done with System of a Down, and it does give me hope that one day we might be able to get it together and do something again together,” concluded Tankian. “I think we were able to do it because we were able to put aside our philosophies and our creative differences even, and just go, ‘Who’s got a song that’ll work?,’ because at this point it’s just a weapon for truth and not about us. And it worked.”
While System took 15 years to record new music, they’ve continued to tour sporadically since regrouping in 2011 following a five-year hiatus. Last year, the band was set to headline a two-night stand at Banc of California Stadium with support from Korn, Faith No More, Helmet, and Russian Circles. Those shows have since been rescheduled twice due to the pandemic, and are currently set to take place October 22nd and 23rd.