JOHN DOLMAYAN On SYSTEM OF A DOWN's Inability To Make New Album: 'We're Squandering' Our Gift

July 8, 2022

SYSTEM OF A DOWN has toured intermittently since ending its hiatus in 2011, but has only managed to record two songs in the last 17 years, "Protect The Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz". Released in November 2020, the tracks were motivated by the conflict between Artsakh and Azerbaijan, with all proceeds supporting humanitarian efforts in SYSTEM OF A DOWN's ancestral homeland of Armenia. Along with other donations from fans on their social pages, they have raised over $600,000.

Asked in a new interview with Sona Oganesyan what the experience of releasing new SYSTEM OF A DOWN music to the fans after so long has been like for him, drummer John Dolmayan said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Well, there's positives and negatives of it, because the road of getting somewhere is also important; how you achieve something is part of the process. So that wasn't the greatest for me. But at the end of the day, because it wasn't for me… I'll never make a dollar off those songs. I've given my lifetime publishing for those songs, any royalties, it all goes to Armenian causes. So it was never about the financials for me. So in that way, it was incredibly successful for me personally. And although it was nice to have something come out, that also reminds you of the potential, 'cause, obviously, we still have something to give to the world. And when you put something out that actually makes an impact, you're, like, 'Why aren't we doing this all the time?' And then I go down the rabbit hole of frustration and anger."

He continued: "I'm a sensitive person, so I can't just hold this stuff in; it has to come out one way or the other. And it takes me a long time to deal with it and to cope with it, because I also am realistic in that life is finite; you only have a certain amount of time. And here we are. We have this gift that came from God or wherever, and we're squandering it. It's an insult to everybody else that tries to make it in whatever endeavor they're trying to make. And here we are — we've made it, we have the talent, we have the ability, we have an adoring fanbase, we've sold, I don't know, whatever it is — 30 million albums or more — and they're hungry for it, and we just don't do it. That's like the worst — having the ability to do something and not doing it is, I think, the worst thing in the world as far as in the perspective of being an artist. You're just hurting yourself."

Pressed about whether he sees a path or a way forward where he and the other members of SYSTEM OF A DOWN can agree on how to make a new full-length album, John said: "Yeah, if my bandmembers listened to me and put everything to the side and just said, 'Okay, let's just go in and make the best album we can make and not care about where the music comes from or who wrote the lyrics or what this person did in the past.' I'm willing to put all that aside. I'm not in a band that'll do that, unfortunately."

In 2018, guitarist Daron Malakian publicly accused singer Serj Tankian of not wanting to record, with Tankian responding that creative and financial issues with Malakian led to the stalemate. In a message on Facebook, Tankian wrote that Malakian wanted to control SYSTEM's creative process, take more of the publishing money and be the only bandmember to speak to the press.

In an interview with Guitar World magazine, Malakian was asked about the chances of more new music from SYSTEM OF A DOWN in the near future. He responded: "I never say never, but at the same time, I'm not expecting to do any more with SYSTEM OF A DOWN right away or immediately after [these two songs]. It really does seem like our fans like these new songs. That's important to me."

He continued: "We've added two new songs to the SYSTEM catalog that are on the level with everything else that we've put out and our fans have accepted it that way, which means a lot to me. That's kinda where we're gonna leave it for now. If more happens later on, then we'll talk about that, but for now I will continue doing what I'm doing and everyone else will just continue what they're doing. It's all cool though, I'm really pleased with the response we got."

A little over a year ago, SYSTEM OF A DOWN bassist Shavo Odadjian discussed his band's inability to record a full-length follow-up to its "Mezmerize" and "Hypnotize" LPs, which came out in 2005. During an appearance on MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn's "No Fuckin' Regrets With Robb Flynn" podcast, Shavo stated about the overwhelmingly positive reaction to "Protect The Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz": "To me, this is all bittersweet, because I think we can still do it, but because of misunderstandings [between] bandmembers, we're not doing it. Look at us — we have a common cause. We get together, we do two songs, two videos.

"I'm that member that still everyone is like the best friend of mine, but they're not best friends with each other so much," he explained. "They are, but they have differences in opinions and stuff. I have a way of understanding each member and saying, 'Dude, we can overcome this.' It's not that big of a deal — no one fucking banged anyone's wife; no one did any of those things that can really destroy a relationship. It's just a difference in opinion of things. And I think people should be [able to] work it out. But because, I think, of what we had, I think it's, like, some people are stuck in what we had and some people wanna move forward and not do what we had and do something totally different, which is wrong too. I don't think we should do something totally different; I think we should do something that both agree [on]. And we're having a hard time [agreeing on a direction], and that's where we are.

"So, to me, it's bittersweet, because I see everybody, and everyone's, like, 'We love Shavo.' And I'm, like, 'I love you,' but then they can't work together."

Shavo went on to reiterate his belief that the differences between the SYSTEM members are not insurmountable. "I don't think anything so horrible has happened," he said. "We're all alive. We're all friends. I swear, when there's conversations going on, it's very legit, very loving. No one's hating on each other. They're very polite towards each other. Serj and Daron, when they talk, they're connected, they're nice to each other. No one's hating, no one's cussing, no one's saying 'fuck you', no one's saying 'you ruined…', 'you did this.' It's just that section that's fucked up.

"Daron brought these songs in," Shavo said, referring to "Protect The Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz". "And we've worked that way before. A song like 'War?' was brought in by Daron — that was a Daron song; Daron brought that in, and that happened. And then there's a song like 'Sugar', where I brought that in. And there's a song like 'Question!' where Serj brought it [in]. So we have different ways of writing songs, [and] it should be like that again. But because of what's happened, I feel like it's kind of like become this big issue now.

"I think at the end of things, when we're old and gray, we're gonna look back and be, like, 'Fuck, we were idiots,' for not taking the time and seizing the day. I believe in seizing the day in everything I do, and that's what I do — that's why I'm so busy nowadays.

"Like I said, I'm telling you here, there's nothing that's happened that can't be worked out. So I always have hope. I'm doing everything knowing that SYSTEM's not dead, and it hasn't been dead."

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