System Of A Down

As the band prepare to release the new album "Toxicity" we caught up with drummer and spokesman John Dolmayan. Taking it from the debut album up to the present we talk about how the band set out to destroy all pre-conceptions the press tried to make. With "Toxicity" they have just about done that with a broader range of songs covering subjects such as the American Prison system ("Prison Song") all the way through to groupies ("Psycho").

Q: With "Toxicity" you set out to destroy the stereotypes that people have of the band. Do you think you've done that then?
A: I think we already have. In the beginning a lot of people tried to generalise the band and put us in categories basically because they didn't have any fucking idea of what we were. But I think we've pretty much broken it down - I feel pretty good - its almost as if were in our own little genre now. We've broken away from everyone else and were just doing our own thing.

The stereotypes are generally from the press because they have to explain you to people. I totally understand and I sympathise with it, but we knew that the 2nd album would totally break us apart from everyone else.

It really depends on the band and how the band treats itself. So no, I don't feel like were one dimensional at all and I don't think the press see's us as that.

Q: I read before in an interview that you never judge anyone before meeting them. If I recall correctly it was referring to the Backstreet Boys and how people perceive them.
A: You know what it is. Who am I to decide for people what is good and what is bad? Like  everyone should judge for themselves, whether i am a fan of the Backstreet Boys is really irrelevant, because if you like the Backstreet Boys or anybody else you like them and that's your personal taste.

People don't judge people on the food they eat - whether they like it or dislike it. Its only because its music that your judged for liking something or not for liking it. I don't give a fuck what people like - If they like what we do as a band then great and if they don't like it then I'm not offended cos' its not for everyone.

I was always into everything from jazz to hard rock to disco to fucking rap. People would be like this sucks and I was like "Well, did you listen to this?". Did you listen to anything or are you just assuming it sucks. I was never into the stereotypes and the older you get the less you care about what people think anyway.

Q: Back to "Toxicity". You had about 30 songs. How did you narrow it down to the final tracklisting?
A: We had written 40 song - we've been busy little beavers. We recorded 33 of the 40 which we thought were the essential songs. And then from there it really was a difficult choice narrowing it down to 14 songs. Some songs we agreed on, some songs we didn't. So we voted on all the songs and finally it was for the vibe of the album. We wanted to keep it under a certain amount of time - around 45 minutes - and thats what you have on the album.

All the rest of the songs in my opinion are definately worth being on the album, but there was only so much room and some of those songs didn't manage to fit the vibe of the album as much as those that were on it.

Q: "Prison Song" talks about the injustices of the US Prison System. It must be a subject you're all close to?
A: Its the closest we've ever been to prison. What it is though - we don't believe in putting someone in Jail to get rid of them. You should work on people's problems and help them to get through it. Its the government or society which causes the problems in the first place so to just put them away in a box and just forget about them is the wrong mentality.

It can be anybody's child, it can be anybody. We need to help people, we need to inform them, we need to teach them - from a young age so we can avoid this. What does Prison serve anyway? It doesn't serve any purpose. Its just demoralising, de-humanising and it really doesn't rehabilitate people. You get out of prison and you go right back - thats the tried and true way.

Q: And the CIA / drugs theories are.....?
A: Well we all believe that the CIA is paramount in the drug trafficing of the world - that's no secret though. Pretty much anybody could tell you that, but the point is we shouldn't be such hypocrites. Everybody does something that they find is wrong in their lives and we not here to judge anybody basically because were no better than everybody else no matter what your status in life is.

I believe its more social commentary than political because were not politicians. I think its easy to label us as a political band but we speak about some ridiculous subjects like Pogo sticks - what the fuck does that have to do with politics!!! But sometimes songs that may not seem political are, and sometimes songs which seem political aren't.

"Toxicity" is out 20th August