ICYMI: Serj Tankian memoir revealed secret search for new SOAD vocalist

With the band's future perpetually uncertain, perhaps it comes as no surprise that System of a Down nearlyreplaced singer and songwriter Serj Tankian.
System Of A Down Perform At Glen Helen Amphitheater
System Of A Down Perform At Glen Helen Amphitheater / Kevin Winter/GettyImages

ICYMI: Serj Tankian disclosed earlier this year that, back in 2018, System Of A Down began searching for a new vocalist after he expressed his desire to leave the band. In his new memoir, Down With the System: A Memoir (Of Sorts), Tankian shared with Rolling Stone his aversion to touring, which led him to suggest his bandmates continue without him to pursue their dreams.

Tankian recounts the event in the memoir, but also details why it would be tricky to recapture SOAD's essence, as the band is "Armenian-Americans playing a practically unclassifiable clash of wildly aggressive metal riffs, unconventional tempo-twisting rhythms, and Armenian folk melodies, with me alternately growling, screaming, and crooning lyrics that could pivot from avant-garde silliness to raging socio-political rants in the space of a single line. I'd be the first to admit it: It's not easy listening."

How many people would fit that band just like a glove? Serj elaborates on what happened:
"Toward the end of 2017, we had a band meeting at [the band’s manager] Beno’s office. When I arrived, I told everyone that I had an item I wanted to add to the agenda. We went through the rigamarole of regular business discussions, and then it came time for my item."

A going away party for Serj Tankian's role in System of a Down?

Serj continued recounting events: "‘So, who’s going to throw me a going-away party?’ I asked the group. ‘Do one of you guys want to be the master of ceremonies?’ I laughed a little, but I was serious. ‘Look guys, I’ve been very clear that I’m no longer interested in touring both due to my back and because it’s just no longer something within my vision.'"

"‘The thing is, though,’ I continued, ‘I don’t want to hold you guys back. This is your dream. This is what you’ve worked for your whole life. You deserve to have this.’ I looked at Daron, Shavo, and John, knowing what I said next would hit hard. ‘I think you guys should find a new singer.'"

Despite his serious offer, the band opposed the idea, and the topic was dropped. Yet, some time later, at a charity event, Tankian learned that the band had indeed started considering new vocalists.

A secret audition

"I sort of thought they’d forgotten about the whole idea of hiring a new singer, but a year or so later, John, Shavo, and I were at a fundraiser in Glendale, and this singer I knew got up and sang this beautiful Armenian song. Shavo was sitting next to me at the table. He leaned over and tapped me on the shoulder."

"‘By the way,’ he nodded toward the singer, ‘we tried this guy out as a singer. The only problem was that he couldn’t scream and growl.’ I was taken aback. Not that they had been auditioning replacements, but that they’d kept it a secret."

"‘Why didn’t you guys ever tell me?’ I whispered. Shavo shrugged. ‘I dunno.’ I turned toward Shavo, now looking directly at him. ‘Listen, he’s a good singer,’ I said. ‘I can literally take him in the parking lot right now and teach him how to growl. You should really consider him.'" In "more recent years," Tankian suggested a close friend as a potential replacement, but the band seemingly never took the suggestion seriously.

System of a Down's current status: Uncertain, though technically still existing

For now, System Of A Down remains committed to having Tankian in the lineup, significantly reducing their live performances.
Serj has referred to the idea of SOAD touring as "artistically redundant" (paraphrasing David Bowie).

In 2023, they played just one show and have performed only one show so far this year. Serj's memoir has been published, which is great for his superfans, but SOAD fans shouldn't hold their breath waiting for a new album from that band. Their next scheduled performance is a one-off show at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on August 17th, with Deftones, The Mars Volta, and others, which is already sold out.

In 2020, System Of A Down released their first new music in 15 years with two tracks:

"Protect The Land"

and "Genocidal Humanoidz"

The songs were created to raise awareness and funds during the conflict between Artsakh and Azerbaijan, with all proceeds supporting humanitarian efforts in Armenia. In addition, Tankian announced a new solo EP, Foundations, set to be his first project since his 2022 solo EP, Perplex Cities. The EP is said to capture the mood of the early days of System of a Down.

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