Even the most prominent bands in the world can trace their evolution back to specific early experiences that played a pivotal role in shaping their trajectory. Serj Tankian, in particular, reminisced about a tour with a certain artist that he believes profoundly “molded” System of a Down in the early stages of their career.
Shortly after the release of System of a Down’s debut album in 1998, the emerging band embarked on a tour with thrash metal giants Slayer, who were promoting their eighth record, Diabolus in Musica. Following in the footsteps of Alice In Chains, who opened on the Clash of the Titans tour a few years earlier, System of a Down faced heightened pressure to prove themselves to the unforgiving audiences assembled for a face-melting experience.
Tankian candidly admitted their apprehension during a conversation with Knotfest, emphasizing the significance of this period as System’s inaugural tour. “It was bootcamp, just surviving, learning how to work an audience. Because Slayer audiences will hate everyone else, obviously,” Tankian recalled. Describing the scene, he added, “Daron [Malakian] was all glammed out. I had, like, weird shit on my face. And they would look at us, like, ‘Who the fuck are these fucking idiots?’ And we had to impress from, like, not just base zero point, but negative point. We had to get up there and score points. And that, my friend, was incredible bootcamp as touring artists. That really, really kind of made us, it molded us.” For a glimpse of the full interview, refer below.
Several years ago, System’s drummer John Dolmayan shared his perspective on how Slayer treated them during that tour in an appearance on Let There Be Talk [via Ultimate Guitar]. Dolmayan expressed gratitude for Slayer’s acceptance, support, and the kindness of the people. Recognizing the challenging nature of Slayer audiences, he recounted Tom Araya approaching them and offering assistance if they encountered any problems. Dolmayan fondly reminisced, saying, “They were so good to us and supportive and nice people, and I miss them dearly.”
In recent years, System of a Down has significantly scaled back their touring activities, with only one show in 2023 at Las Vegas’ Sick New World Festival. Their sole confirmed performance for the upcoming year is slated for the same festival in late April. While Tankian isn’t entirely certain if it’s their only show, he recently indicated that it’s likely to be the case.