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System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian: “We Have Material That Tops Everything We’ve Done”

on December 19, 2018, 12:17pm

It’s been more than 13 years since System of a Down released a new album, and this past summer, fans were given insight into the obstacles and internal conflicts that the band has faced during that time.

Long story short, guitarist-singer Daron Malakian told Kerrang! magazine back in July that he had material for a new album, but that vocalist Serj Tankian wasn’t on board creatively. He also revealed that Tankian was responsible for the band’s hiatus from 2006 through 2011, and that Serj didn’t even want to record the band’s 2005 albums, Mezmerize and Hypnotize.

Tankian responded in an open letter, confirming there are creative differences holding up a new album, and that he was indeed responsible for the band’s hiatus. He also admitted that his heart wasn’t in the band when they recorded Mezmerize and Hypnotize. He even apologized to fans for not being able to give them a new album.

All the while, both members said that beyond the creative differences, they do get along, with Malakian telling Metal Hammer, “We’re not enemies in System of a Down.”

That brings us to our own conversation with SOAD bassist Shavo Odadjian, who recently checked in with Heavy Consequence to talk about his new cannabis and music-production company, 22 Red, which will be detailed in the upcoming second part of our interview.

Both Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan have each expressed their frustration with the band’s inability to get together to create a new album, but Shavo tells us he still has confidence that it will eventually happen, and that the band is sitting on its best material to date.

The bassist also talks about the state of rock music, including System’s potential role in proving that rock is not dead, as well as the upcoming Sonic Temple festival and one of his most memorable moments in System of a Down, who celebrate 25 years as a band in 2019. Read Part 1 of our interview with Shavo Odadjian below:

On whether System of a Down will eventually get together to record a new album

I think so. I think we can. Nothing between us has happened that’s so terrible that people can’t get in the studio and work. Nothing! Everything is just [a matter of] taste, and they just gotta get in and forget the past, and kind of move forward. And I think that will happen. I’m not worried. I’m not worried at all.

Everything that you heard over the summer, that they kind of brought into public, was stuff that was in the past. That stuff happened a long time ago. So, it’s like, 10 years later, something new came up, but it wasn’t really new. It was something that was really old, and they were just hashing it out. Because one person did an interview, and I guess in the interview they paraphrased his words and it came off wrong. And I read that, too, and it wasn’t like him. He wouldn’t blame anyone.

I spoke with Daron, and he was like, “Dude, I didn’t say those things, I said it this way.” Anyway, that kind of made someone else [Serj] think something, and then that person had to tell their point of view. It was just point of views.

We’re not even fighting. When we see each other, we’re so happy and we’re cool. It’s weird that we don’t have a new record, or many records, and it’s weird that we don’t go on world tours. We tour, but it’s so little.

On whether it’s important for bands like System, Tool and Rammstein to release new albums to help bring rock back to the forefront of music

One-hundred percent! Bro, if it was up to me, we would have done that already. I think it kind of started with us singing that “Kill Rock N’ Roll” song, and then it kind of happened [laughs]. I would love to bring it back. And, can I be honest with you? Between you and me and this world, and to the people who read this interview, we have material that tops everything we’ve done. And that’s me telling you, honestly. I can’t wait to record that and drop it.

It’s just a matter of time. I just hope it happens sooner than later. But we’ve written stuff together. Daron’s brought a lot of stuff in. I’ve brought stuff to Daron and we’ve worked it out. I have so much more stuff that is ready to go out. I’ve told Daron this, too. I’ve said, “We’ve gotta get this done,” and he’s like, “Yeah, I’d love to.” So, we all want to, and I think Serj is kind of doing his own thing, and I get it.

I don’t think we owe it to anyone [to bring back rock music to the forefront], but it would be nice if we did that, because we’re capable of it.

On the recently announced 2019 Sonic Temple Festival featuring System of a Down, Foo Fighters and more

Dude, how could rock be dead with all those bands blasting in Ohio? Tell me that! Rock’s not dead. It just needs more creative bands busting their balls right now. The time will come. The industry is so oversaturated with these fly-by-night rappers who come in and come out. People who say “rock is dead,” it’s because of that. It’s because of what’s out there saturating the industry. But it takes a couple of good bands to come with some good albums, and some great tours and festivals to bring it back.

On his most memorable moment with System of a Down, who celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2019

There are many, but I’ll tell you one. In 1999 or 2000, Black Sabbath was going to play their last show in Birmingham, their hometown. And they flew us in just to open for them in Birmingham. And at the time we had covered a Black Sabbath song, “Snowblind”, and I remember being in the dressing room, and were young at this time. There hadn’t been Toxicity, nothing like that. It was just all off the first album. So, to be in Birmingham with Black Sabbath was just out of control. I’m a huge fan of the band. So, we’re like these kids who can’t believe it, and all of a sudden [Sabbath drummer] Bill Ward comes in to our dressing room. Bill Ward goes, “We need you to play ‘Snowblind’.” We looked at each other like, “No man, that’s blasphemy!”

When you open for a band, you don’t play one of their songs. You just don’t do that. We said the only way we’ll do it, Bill, is if you guys get out onstage and play with us. Bro, right before “Snowblind”, Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill walk onstage, and Ozzy sings with us and does it with us. Oh my goodness, bro, chills from head to toe — one of those amazing moments in life. Is this happening? Is it a dream? It really happened. There’s no video of it, nothing. It’s crazy, because the funny part is that I had given my old-school big-ass video camera to one of the crew guys to record. He’s recording, and right when the guys walked onstage he gets a shock, and he drops the camera down. We have the audio, but no video. You only see the floor. But it still remains in my head.

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