SYSTEM OF A DOWN drummer John Dolmayan, who is currently promoting his "These Grey Men" solo album, spoke to SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation" about the band's stalled attempts to record a follow-up to its "Mezmerize" and "Hypnotize" LPs, which came out in 2005.
"The reality is none of us should have time to do other projects." John said. "We should be so focused on the band and working on the band and exploring our talents within it, making music that people can listen to within the confines of SYSTEM OF A DOWN that we shouldn't have time for anything else. I shouldn't have time to be here [giving this interview] right now."
Asked why SYSTEM hasn't been able to release any new music in a decade and a half, John said: "Why do marriages break up? Why do friendships that you've had for 20 years dissipate? It just happens. Especially when you're talking about four individuals that are artistic-minded, you're gonna have rifts.
"The bottom line is the bigger you get as a band, the more people tell you how great you are in the band and how your role is the most important role, and some people listen a little more than others and become enamored with their own ideas and kind of have to have an identity outside of the band, and other people don't," he continued. "That's just the bottom line. And then you also have the natural progression of people where they tend to grow in their own ways. We have four very distinct members in SYSTEM… We're very different — not better or worse; just different… So, I think it's natural for some bands to do that and really just get in their own way. And that's what I think we did."
Pressed about whether the dysfunction within SYSTEM OF A DOWN is something that was there from the beginning or whether it developed with the band's success, Dolmayan said: "I can't speak on the original formation, because I was a late member — I'm the newest guy in the band. Three years [after the band formed], I joined. Yeah, there's always been dysfunction. I was friends with the guys before I was in the band, and it was there then. But like everything else, the more money and fame you have, the more complicated it becomes. And I feel somehow you lose sight of that mentality that got you there, which is us versus them.
"I'm not the first person to say this," he added. "It's the same thing that happens in every single band. It used to be us versus everybody: 'We've got something to prove. We're gonna get our music out there. We're struggling. We're broke. What are we gonna do with our lives if this doesn't work out?' And those types of challenges, that's what makes the sword resolute; that's what makes it strong. And then when you don't have those things, you have to come up with different motivations to still have that fire. Otherwise you just become a greatest-hits band."
The Serj Tankian-fronted outfit has toured intermittently since ending its hiatus in 2011 but has yet to record any new music.
In 2018, guitarist Daron Malakian publicly accused 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 band member to speak to the press.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN will team up with KORN and FAITH NO MORE for two shows at Banc Of California stadium in Los Angeles, California in May.
Photo credit: Greg Watermann