System of a Down’s Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian exchange words via the press with John Dolmayan also having his say.
System of a Down have been on hiatus since 2006 and while there was brief hope that the band would reunite to create new music, it now seems a little less likely as guitarist Daron Malakian and singer Serj Tankian have traded very public blows.
Last week there was a glimmer of hope as drummer John Dolmayan and bassist Shavo Odadjian were working on new songs in a studio although it was far more likely they were working on a non-SOAD related project. In an exclusive interview with Kerrang Magazine this week, Daron Malakian spoke frankly about the lack of new material and squarely put the responsibility on Serj Tankian, stating, “There’s just a certain way that System make albums, and there’s a bunch of us that want to make an album that way and there is, I guess, one of us that doesn’t want to make an album that way and wants to make an album his way, and not everyone is on board with that. That’s been the issue. I have material for a new System album. Right now, 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.”…”I don’t want to throw Serj under the bus, he’s my friend and he’s someone that I care about, but I don’t know how to change his mind. We’ve all sat down and we’ve had meetings, and he’s totally set in his way of thinking.”
This prompted a lengthy reply from Tankian via his Facebook page and John Dolmayan also made a statement via his Instagram. Both are included below but the crux of the matter from Serj is down to the writing process for SOAD and publishing rights with him claiming that Daron took over the creative process, in turn meaning he got the sole writing credits and therefore a lot more money than the other band members.
Publishing royalties have been a source of contention for numerous bands over the years, most notably Megadeth and The Smashing Pumpkins as the difference in money made by band members can be vastly different depending on how the music is credited. In the case of Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan wrote all of the music and lyrics and was credited as such meaning that he received 100% of the band’s share of publishing royalties with the rest of the band receiving royalties only for playing on the albums. This meant that Corgan was making approximately four times as much as the rest of the band, something the other members weren’t happy about. Like the Pumpkins, that difference in accreditation for System of a Down would mean a huge variation in terms of what the band members are paid.
With the bands’ issues being aired publicly this could result in the tension between them getting worse or could lead to a dialogue that helps heal the rift. We don’t recommend holding your breath for a reconciliation though.
Serj Tankian’s full statement and John Dolmayan’s statement follow:
Confessions about Soad by Serj Tankian
We are extremely lucky mofos for our fans to want a record out of our ragtag misfit of a crew after all these years, at times demanding it. This of course has led to numerous rumors about the band and our inability to make a record together coupled with he said/he said excerpts from each of our interviews in the past and present at times by sensationalism seeking media who are in no way, let’s say, changing the world for the better themselves
So I’m going to attempt to clarify things for all of our sake once and for all hopefully without vilifying anyone in the process.
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.
I didn’t. Why? For numerous reasons:
1. Artistic: I’ve always felt continuing to do the same thing with the same people over time is artistically redundant even for a dynamic outfit like ours. By that time I felt that I needed a little time to do my own work. I wasn’t discounting restarting the process with the band later.
2. Egalitarianism: When we first started out our creative input and financial revenue splits were close to equal within the band. By the time Mezmerize/Hypnotize came around we were at the diametrically opposite end on both with Daron controlling both the creative process and making the lions share of publishing not to mention wanting to be the only one to do press.
3. I wanted to leave the band before Mezmerize/Hypnotize for these developing reasons. This is why I personally don’t feel as close to the music on those records. There were songs I wanted to bring in but was hampered by unkept promises coupled by my own passivity at the time.
Time went by, we all did our own thing. My solo career gave me the confidence as a songwriter and later composer to re-visit Soad from a position of strength at first just to tour and enjoy each others’ company, which we did and do so still.
I knew they wanted to make a record, but given the past I was hesitant. At times there would be emotionally tinged outbursts by one band member or another mostly blaming me for the band’s inactivity.
After a long time thinking and processing, about 2 years ago, I went to the guys with a proposition for a way forward as a band.
I wanted to rectify the wrongs of the past and establish a way we can all be happy moving forward so I recommended the following:
1. Equal creative input: by this time I had released 5 of my own records and was a better songwriter musically and Daron was getting better as a lyricist, so I said let’s each bring in 6 songs that all band members approve fully and work on them along with songs or riffs from Shavo.
2. Equal publishing split: I personally feel that a band is an equal partnership and finances should reflect that.
3. Directors cut: whomever wrote the song makes the final decision after exhausting all types of ideas from anybody within the group. I did this because in the past, I’d bring in a song that would be morphed into an undesirable version that I myself would withdraw from consideration.
4. Develop a new concept or theme so that it’s not just a record but a full experience.
(Obviously I’m omitting many other details here like agreeing on the “sound” of a new record which we couldn’t do either as we went back and forth with songs by Daron and myself. I remember sending lots of notes on songs by Daron, mostly from his current Scars on Broadway record, most of which I didn’t consider applicable to Soad etc, they played around with some of my songs-suffice to say I think we tried).
Ultimately I had to draw a line in the sand because I knew I could never be happy going back to how things used to be within the band.
And as we couldn’t see eye to eye on all these points we decided to put aside the idea of a record altogether for the time being.
My only regret is that we have been collectively unable to give you another Soad record. For that I apologize.
Thanks for reading
Many theories and much speculation have circulated through the years with blame focused on one member of the band for the lack of new material, if that is true; then why is that? Every action has a cause , every reaction has a cause and the truth is, each member of the band is equally responsible for both our incredible success on our previous recordings and our unbelievable failure to get along and make music together. Not one of us, rather ALL of us are to blame. Egomania eccentricities ,megalomania-and sometimes just stupidity all play roles. To our fans, I’m truly sorry for letting you down , to the songs that could have been-I’m sorry you haven’t.
Metal Report Editor.
Ex guitarist in Zenopede, ex vocals for a goth covers band that was hailed as the future of Welsh music, former DJ, promoter and nightclub director. Writer for Gear4Geeks’ Blog4Geeks and owner of Gear4Geeks ltd. First published music critique was Kerrang letter of the Week.
Definitely has never been the future, present or past of Welsh music.