SERJ TANKIAN Open To SYSTEM OF A DOWN Continuing With A New Singer

Serj Tankian 2020

In a recent interview on the “Broken Record” podcast, SYSTEM OF A DOWN lead singer Serj Tankian was asked if it saddens him that he and his bandmates haven’t been able to produce a new studio album nearly two decades after the release of their 2005 LPs, Mezmerize and Hypnotize.

“Creatively, I keep on making music and making art and doing creatively what I’m meant to do,” Serj responded (as transcribed by Blabbermouth). “And if the opportunity arises for us to work together in an egalitarian fashion in the right way with the right vibe and the right influence, then we’ll do it.

“In 2020, we put out two songs because there was the invasion of Artsakh and Armenia happening by Azerbaijan during COVID, and people didn’t know about what was going on so we used the band and putting out new music as an opportunity to spread awareness and we were successful in doing so. So hopefully it’s not just the decimation of our people that’s gonna take SYSTEM OF A DOWN writing new music, but I think when that time is, and I don’t know if it is ever or if it will be, that would be amazing. But I don’t get sad by it, because to me it is what it is. When it’s right, then it happens. When it’s not, it shouldn’t happen.”

When asked if he would be okay with SYSTEM OF A DOWN continuing without him and having a different singer, he responded: “Absolutely. I’ve offered them that opportunity and been very supportive of it many years. If they wanted to do that, if they wanted to continue in a way that I didn’t — for example, if they wanted to tour a lot and I just wanna do a couple of shows here and there, because I’m not into touring a lot, to be fair to them, if they wanted to do that, I’m totally open to it still. I’m not sure they want to do that. They haven’t until now, and I think it would take something away from the prestige and legacy of the band itself, but as friends and as someone who cares very much about my partners, I would be okay with it.”

In his new book, Down With The SystemTankian mentioned that he offered to quit the band in 2017.

As revealed by Rolling StoneSYSTEM OF A DOWN secretly auditioned potential new vocalist(s), and despite Tankian‘s willingness to coach the candidates in scream and growl, the replacement plan never materialized. Tankian also reveals that he proposed a friend as a potential replacement, a suggestion that SYSTEM OF A DOWN ultimately disregarded.

Tankian said: “Toward the end of 2017, we had a band meeting at [SOAD manager] Beno‘s office. When I arrived, I told everyone that I had an item I wanted to add to the agenda. We went through the rigamarole of regular business discussions, and then it came time for my item.

“‘So, who’s going to throw me a going-away party?’ I asked the group. ‘Do one of you guys want to be the master of ceremonies?’ I laughed a little, but I was serious. ‘Look guys, I’ve been very clear that I’m no longer interested in touring both due to my back and because it’s just no longer something within my vision.

“‘The thing is, though,’ I continued, ‘I don’t want to hold you guys back,” he continued. “This is your dream. This is what you’ve worked for your whole life. You deserve to have this.’ I looked at DaronShavo, and John, knowing what I said next would hit hard. ‘I think you guys should find a new singer.’

“For the longest time, SYSTEM OF A DOWN was about the four of us. We’d built it up from nothing, we’d been through all the battles together along the way, and if any one of us left, it simply wouldn’t be the same thing anymore. A couple of years earlier, I’d even tried to codify this with a legal document that stated that if someone left the band for any reason — other than, God forbid, dying — that the remaining members couldn’t use the band name without him.

“Everyone else resisted that idea, probably because they sensed I was looking for a way out of the band at the time, and they weren’t ready to kiss it goodbye. I’d initially been upset that they didn’t see SYSTEM the same way I did, but after a while, I stopped being so precious about it, and just thought of these three guys not as my bandmates but as my close friends.

“When I first met John, we got along due to our mutual sensibilities. We both appreciated reading and reason. By the time we all sat down together in Beno‘s office in 2017, John and I weren’t just friends and bandmates; we were brothers-in-law. In a fairly unlikely turn of events, he’d married [my wife] Ange‘s sister, Diana.

“In a somewhat more concerning development, he’d also grown into a fervent Trump supporter,” Tankian added. “Yet even though I was at the far opposite end of the political spectrum, backing Bernie Sanders at the time, we could always sit at the dinner table and laugh with each other. No matter what happened, John always had my back, and I had his.

“And Daron and I … well, we have always had a long, complicated relationship. The love of music welded our unique friendship early on despite our age difference. Artistically and even politically, we were like-minded partners at first. We both had a punk-rock ethos from different sources and experiences.

“Musically, we’d often finish each other’s sentences and had this incredible harmonic resonance in our voices. But it was almost impossible to separate our personal relationship from our creative one. It got messy at times, though neither of us ever let it fall apart.

“He had a possessiveness I didn’t always understand or appreciate, especially when it started affecting my relationships with others. I think he viewed me like an older brother, and I was protective of him, as I felt he was emotionally vulnerable. He has always made music the priority in his life and remains stubbornly true to his own artistic vision.

“Even though that has sometimes put us at odds, I have a lot of respect and love for him. So what did I want for these three people whom I was closer with than anyone outside my own family? I wanted them to be happy. I wanted them not to have to depend on my health, my back, or my willingness to spend months on the road each year for them to have this band that they wanted so much. These three guys meant more to me than SYSTEM OF A DOWN had ever meant — and they still do.

“Of course, I wanted me to be happy, too. It seemed like the solution was to ease myself out of the band while they invited in a replacement. I told them I’d even help train a new singer.

“‘Think about it,’ I said. ‘We can be the unique band that’s able to make this transition amicably, where the member of the band who’s leaving is 100 percent on-board with the new direction. I’ll do press and talk about it positively. I’ll make it clear that I support you guys.’ I don’t think the guys were totally shocked by my announcement.

“In fact, I almost sensed they’d expected it, or at least something like it. They didn’t dismiss the idea outright, but their collective response at the time was for me to essentially pump the brakes. They asked me not to announce that I was leaving the band. They promised not to pressure me into touring anymore. Management would merely present show offers as they came up. If I said yes, we’d do them. If I said no, we wouldn’t. End of story.