System of a Down are a four piece band of Armenian descent based in Los Angeles. Their music is heavy, powerful, and emotional, but offers an extra dimension, both musically and in the vocals of Serj, to the normal style associated with this type of music. They've been touted by a few, if you must, check the credits on the Coal Chamber CD, but as it turns out, are still unsigned. This will likely change in the coming months.
This interview was with Serj, singer for System of a Down, and took place on July 29 1997
Q: What is 'System of a Down'.
A: System Of A Down is a band, it's a grim view of the world we live in, as well as the power structures (system) that put us to work, it's a 9 to 5 indentured servitude, it's an overlooked genocide, it's a shit load of people suffering, it's a class struggle, it's Armagetton, it's anything to the eye of the beholder.
Q: How would you describe your music.
A: Our music is versitally emotional; at times sad, happy, wacky, zany, aggressive, horny, alive and extra crispy.
Q: I only have a copy of the latest demo. What struck me was the quality of the songs. Often I hear something, and pick out one song, or part of a song to focus on, this demo though I just play the entire thing all the way through. So given this quality, how many demo's have you done to date.
A: We've done 3 demos; the first, a garage recording, the second a better sounding one than the first, in the first year of the band, produced by Alex Newport of Fudgetunnel, and the last, well you have it.
Q: Have you signed a deal yet.
A: NO, we have not, as of yet.
Q: If yes, or even no, what are the plans for recording an album, and touring after that, maybe the UK and Europe.
A: We plan ot record our album by the end of this year, release it in early 98, and start touring as soon as possible. We definitely plan to tour Europe and the UK, of course, when I can't really say (don't know) as of now.
Q: What influences do you have, both musically and in life? What annoys and inspires you?
A: Musically, we have very diverse types of influences, including, but not limited to, Goth, metal, rap, new wave, traditional, classic, death, thrash, blues, R&B, lounge, foreign, jazz, punk, etc.
Q: Is there any Armenian influence in your sound. The begining of Peep-Hole on the latest demo has a sound (both vocally and musically) which is different to the norm, the 'when your stars are baked, and your rivers fly ...' bit and I was wondering if this was an example of any influence.
A: Our Armenian influence exists, mostly indirectly, as well as other influences, however peep-hole is not really influenced by Armenian music, whatsoever, rather, it's more of Beatles, Tom Waits, with a dash of Bahaus, or so.
Q: Are there any singers who have influenced you. At times I think about a more aggressive sounding Jonah from Far mixed with say Robb Flynn or Max Calalera, and then something else again, which just makes your vocals, and the whole SOaD sound standout from the norm.
A: Vocally, I've been also influenced by a diverse group of music/singers, anywhere from death, punk, thrash, to Sinatra, but Mike Patton, and Chris Cornell, I guess would be my top two, if asked. In fact, I downloaded Faith No More's lyrics off your webpage, thank you.
Q: Should music have a message, be it political, spiritual, moral, or should music just be almost nonsensical entertainment.
A: Both, and all of the above. A song can be for anything (multi-functional existence)
Q: Do you want the band to be successful?
A: You're right that is a dumb question, Yes.
Q: That may seem like a bit of a stupid question. Bands want success right? But then they say something along the lines of 'it really doesn't matter to us how many albums we sell.' If that's the case, then what is success to the band and how can it be achieved without sales. How is success defined?
A: We consider success the ability to play our music for a living, to spread our message, and to make a difference to music, and the world, in general. Why would I complain if the whole world bought our album, and listened to us, and gave us the tools to venture even further in our artistic endeavors. Those that say they don't want it are the ones confused about it. Don't get me wrong, we're obviously not a commercial band, and so we have a lot of conquering to do to get people to get us.
Q: I found out about the band via someone at Immortal records (Rick) who has worked with Korn in the past. Korn, and their sound, appears to be the latest thing. Would you consider yourselves to be a part of that 'scene', ie Korn, Deftones, Limp Bizkit etc.
A: We never really fit in any music scene, here, at all. At first, people would be confused as to what type of bands to line us up with. We've played with Deftones, and a bunch of other cool bands from the area. We hope that our sound will be diverse enough from anyone elses that we can be considered standing on our own two feet.
Q: If so, is that a good thing. I mean, I like Korn and a lot of the associated bands, but I think that the same is begining to happen that happens to all scenes. Record labels are simply looking for a 'new Korn'. Bands are being signed, but being dubbed with a label which might discourage some people. It seemed to happen in Britain in the early 80's, then the thrash scene, then the 'funk metal' thing, then grunge, then the new wave of punk, and now we're at the Korn thing. And somewhere down the line, the bubble bursts, and bands are dropped. The problem is, that a lot of good bands, who are individual in their own right, get dragged in and then spat out. So is there a danger that you could get dragged into that scenario.
A: There's always a danger of a new band getting dropped by a label. We hope that we chose the right one for us, that believes in the band, and follows our long-term musical goals along with us, and has enough faith to stick it out with us.
Q: What would be your dream gig lineup. Would you be the headliners?
A: A gig with the bands, Sabbath, Kiss, Bahaus, and N.W.A.? I don't know. We've listened to so many artists and bands, that that would probably have to be the hardest question to answer.
Q: And finally, has to be asked, Spice girls. Good or bad.
A: GOOD IN BED, BAD IN MUSIC? I don't like to bag, so out of courtesy to us, don't publish this one. I know you probably won't anyway.
Q: If people wish to contact you, what's the best way and address.
A: You can email us at email@example.com, or our management company, Velvet Hammer MGT. at Benoloc3@worldnet.att.net, you can get a mailing address from our manager David Benveniste, if necessary.
Just as a footnote sort of thing, Serj said that the band has now committed to Cherry / Universal Music (MCA) and are off to play the CMJ music festival in New York. Watch out for them.
If anyone is interested in hearing the latest SOaD demo, then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll set you up with a dub.