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John Dolmayan: System of a Down “Should Have Moved On” Without Serj Tankian in 2006

"If Serj didn't wanna be in the band at that time, we should have just ... done it with somebody else"

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System of a Down move on without Serj Tankian
System of a Down, photo by Clemente Ruiz

    It’s now been 17 years since System of a Down released a new studio album, and drummer John Dolmayan thinks they may have been better off moving on without singer Serj Tankian at the time the band went on hiatus in 2006.

    While System of a Down continue to be an active band, playing sporadic shows and releasing a pair of surprise singles in 2020, the multi-platinum act’s internal conflicts have been well documented. A few years back, Tankian and guitarist-vocalist Daron Malakian each opened up about the creative differences that led to a dearth of new music from the acclaimed metal band.

    In the summer of 2018, Malakian told Kerrang! magazine, “If everyone got together and was ready to play ball, I have an album ready. If it was up to me, System would have never gone on hiatus. … To be honest with you, Serj didn’t even want to make [the 2005 albums] Mezmerize and Hypnotize. We really begged him to make those records. At that time, he felt like he was out.”

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    Shortly thereafter, Tankian took responsibility for the band’s hiatus, writing in an open letter, “It is true that I and only I was responsible for the hiatus SOAD took in 2006. Everyone else wanted to continue at the same pace to tour and make records.”

    In a new interview with the Battleline podcast (as transcribed by Blabbermouth), Dolmayan delivered some brutally honest opinions on how System should have proceeded, saying, “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.”

    The drummer continued, “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 [bassist] Shavo [Odadjian’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.”

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    When asked to elaborate on what he meant by “parted ways around 2006,” Dolmayan clarified, “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.”

    For his part, Tankian did tell Heavy Consequence in 2021, a few months after the band had released the new songs “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz,” that he felt there was a chance for additional new music. “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,” he told us at the time.

    System of a Down did get back together to start playing shows again in 2011. As of now, they only have one show scheduled for 2023, a headlining gig at the massive one-day Sick New World festival in Las Vegas on May 13th.

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    The lack of shows on the band’s itinerary is also a point of contention for Dolmayan, who remarked, “When we’re actually on stage, it’s great. It’s just getting to that point that is disheartening. We have one show booked for next year. One show. That’s it. … 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.”

    He summed it up with a one helluva comparison: “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.”

    Watch John Dolmayan’s full appearance on the Battleline podcast in the video below.

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