System Of A Down are still together — they reconvened in 2010 after a four-year hiatus, and they have a few tour dates coming up in October — but they haven’t actually released any music in 13 years. Their last album, Hypnotize, came out in 2005, six months after its companion album Mezmerize, and their self-titled debut album just turned 20 years old in June. System Of A Down guitarist Daron Malakian is releasing a new album under the auspices of his Scars On Broadway project next week, which contains material that he’d been saving since 2012 for a new System Of A Down album. And in a new interview with Kerrang!, he discusses the reasons behind the long wait for new System Of A Down music — namely, frontman Serj Tankian.
“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,” Malakian says. “Serj was never really a heavy metal or a rock guy … I don’t know if he has the same love for this kind of music as I do. I’m the kid that grew up with Slayer and Kiss on my walls … Serj didn’t grow up feeling that way. He didn’t grow up a diehard fan. So I feel like the whole experience of becoming the lead singer in a hugely successful band was different for him than my experience was for me. To be honest with you, Serj didn’t even want to make Mezmerize and Hypnotize. We really begged him to make those records. At that time, he felt like he was out.”
In response to Malakian’s comments, as Rolling Stone reports, Tankian posted a lengthy, brutally honest message on Facebook explaining the lack of new music. “It is true that I and only I was responsible for the hiatus Soad took in 2006,” he begins. “Everyone else wanted to continue at the same pace to tour and make records. I didn’t.” His reasons ranged from artistic — “I’ve always felt continuing to do the same thing with the same people over time is artistically redundant” — to matters of group dynamics — “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.”
For those reasons, Tankian says, “I personally don’t feel as close to the music” on Mezmerize and Hypnotize. “There were songs I wanted to bring in but was hampered by unkept promises coupled by my own passivity at the time.” When the band got back together in 2010 after pursuing separate solo projects, Tankian “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.”
He suggested a four-pronged approach to moving forward as a band: equal creative input, equal publishing split, the development of a “new concept or theme so that it’s not just a record but a full experience,” and the idea of a “director’s cut” policy, in which whoever writes a song gets to make the final decision about it. “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,” Tankian says. “My only regret is that we have been collectively unable to give you another Soad record. For that I apologize.”
Drummer John Dolmayan also chimed with a post of his own on Instagram. “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,” he wrote. “Not one of us, rather ALL of us are to blame. Egomania, eccentricities, megalomania — and sometimes just stupidity all play roles.”
That doesn’t mean that the band members hate each other. “When people don’t see a record, they assume the worst about your internal relationship,” Tankian told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “But the truth is we’re actually better friends — at least I’m better friends with everyone than I’ve ever been. ohn’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.”
Malakian echoed Tankian in another interview with Rolling Stone from earlier this year. “We’re all friends,” he said. “We all still go out. We play the songs live. We enjoy it. But doing an album is a totally different thing than playing the songs we already have live. It takes a little bit more togetherness, a little bit more commitment from everybody, and I’m not sure everybody is ready to commit to that right now. And it is what it is, man. I can’t force anybody to do anything they don’t want to.”
This article originally appeared on Stereogum.