In 2016 System of a Down headlined the Hollywood Bowl and toured Europe, performing at many festivals. Several members of the band talked openly about a new SOAD album, that was being prepared for release in 2017. Sadly, the year has come and gone and no new album. In a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone, vocalist Serj Tankian sheds light on what the hold up is.
The band toured in 2016 and 2017. Serj has been focusing on movie scores and soundtracks, and rarely signing except for a few guest appearances, and a recent performance at Linkin Park’s One More Light Tribute To Chester Bennington concert.
When asked about the status on new SOAD music and if the band have attempted any writing of late:
“We have. We’ve discussed it and we’ve played each other songs, but we still haven’t come eye to eye on how things should be done for us to be able to move forward with it. And that’s where it’s been.
You all seem to be having fun touring though.
That’s the funny thing. When people don’t see a record, they assume the worst about your internal relationship. But the truth is we’re actually better friends – at least I’m better friends with everyone than I’ve ever been. John’s my brother-in-law; he’s in my family. We have a great time together touring. But sometimes putting together a record, and that creative output and how things should be done, is different in four people’s heads and it doesn’t always come together. Fortunate or unfortunate, however you want to call it, that’s the truth. But touring is easy, because you’ve done all these songs. You have fun, you go out and tour, and that’s it.
You must have gotten a real kick then out of the way the Internet picked up the “Screw vocals” story then, as if you were quitting System.
Everyone’s looking for headlines. I hate that. I hate when they take something and they just go with it. If you’re going to print that, at least send us an email asking, “Hey, did you say this?” And I’d say, “I probably did, but it was in this context.” At least check with me. Don’t take an interview that was translated from Russian from five months ago on the set of a film without checking. Everyone’s picking it up and going, “Oh, my God, that means he’s not doing System again?” It’s kind of funny. You want to negate all these things, but then you’re like, “Well, I didn’t start it in the first place.” Why do I have to put out fires every two weeks? I’ve got shit to do. I’m working on music [laughs].
You’re doing what they’re reporting you’re not doing.
Yeah, exactly. I’m actually even doing vocals, funny enough.
And you’re writing your own music, too.
Yeah. I was writing this one song a couple of months ago that is piano-based with orchestral strings, and I was like, “Wow, I need to sing this because it requires vocals,” and the words came to me in Armenian. I did it because it came to me; I don’t even know where to place it but it’s one of my favorite new songs I’ve written. Is it a System song? No. Is it a Serj Tankian solo song? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe I’ll put it at the end of a soundtrack somewhere. I write the music that comes to me. I don’t predict what I’m going to do.
For me as an artist, it also speaks to the need to not be repetitive. I started out doing music more as a lyricist and as a poet. I put out two poetry books, and I was mostly a lyricist when I started. I played some guitar and piano but I wasn’t a phenomenal songwriter when I first started. Throughout the years I learned my trade, as we all do, and now I think I’ve gone there beyond songwriting and into composing.