Jul 28 2006 12:00 AM
Doing their own thing
System Of A Down plans to take break after Ozzfest

By David Friedman

System Of A Down
includes, from left,
singer Serj Tankian,
bassist Shavo Odadjian,
drummer John Dolmayan
(foreground) and
guitarist Daron Malakian.

Growing up, John Dolmayan collected comic books featuring popular
superheroes the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spiderman, Superman, Batman
and the Incredible Hulk -- plus lesser-known series like the Watchmen by
Alan Moore and an early, more serious and dark version of Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman.
So what does this have to do with Dolmayan's primary job and passion of
the past nine years -- playing drums in the multi-platinum, Grammy
Award-winning alternative metal band System Of A Down?
Well, when System takes a much-deserved hiatus after headlining on the
Ozzfest 2006 tour, which includes a July 30 show at New England Dodge
Music Center in Hartford, Dolmayan plans on opening an online comic book
super store.
"Oh, dude, I'm into almost every kind of comic book you could think of,"
Dolmayan said in a July 21 interview from Columbus, Ohio, after putting
in a dinner order for barbecue chicken pizza. "Right now, I've got
almost 6 million books. By the time I'm up and running, I'll probably
have about 20 million. The company's gonna be called
Right now there's a mailing list. People can sign up and get information
as I have it. There's gonna be a lot of pop culture stuff too, as well
as comic books."

What kind of "stuff" exactly?"You know what, if I tell you everything
I'm gonna have, we might be doing this interview for about eight hours
because I have so much stuff it's just ridiculous," said Dolmayan,
declining to disclose specifics for fear of being beaten to the punch.
"But it's cool, man. People that are fans of music will be able to find
cool stuff there too. Like I said, it's gonna be a lot of pop culture,
so it's gonna encompass all kinds of different things. If I ever had a
dream store that I would go to to buy stuff, I'm building it basically.
But it's gonna be online because it's a little easier these days to do
it online."
Before revolutionizing heavy metal with a string of top-selling albums
and MTV and radio hits that included "Chop Suey!" and "B.Y.O.B.," the
members of System Of A Down came from far more humble beginnings.
Dolmayan, singer Serj Tankian, guitarist Daron Malakian and bassist
Shavo Odadjian are all of Armenian descent.
Born July 15, 1973, Dolmayan, like Tankian, is originally from Lebanon.
His father played saxophone and cut hair during the day to pay the
bills, while his mother was a teacher. The couple also had a daughter.
When John was 4, his parents left Lebanon, where a battle was raging,
for Canada. They lived there for four years before moving to the Los
Angeles area.
Growing up, Dolmayan listened to The Who, the Rolling Stones and jazz
greats Maynard Ferguson, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Stan Getz. The
musical variety prepared him for his role in SOAD, where "there's so
much happening in the music that you have to have a wide range of tastes
and styles to bring that out and give the music what it deserves," he
Dolmayan, who began playing drums at age 15, was in six or seven bands
before joining System. He also worked at a variety of jobs before
focusing on music full time. He was employed at a summer camp and by
Pepsi-Cola, UPS and Robinsons-May Company.
System Of A Down formed in 1995 and shared a rehearsal studio with
Dolmayan, who replaced original drummer Andy Khachaturian in 1997.
In late '97, System signed to American/Columbia Records. The following
year, they released their self-titled debut, which has since gone
platinum and includes the Mainstream Rock hits "Spiders" and "Sugar."
Working with producer Rick Rubin once again, the band released its
followup, "Toxicity," in 2001. The triple platinum CD featured the No.
7, Grammy nominated Modern Rock smash "Chop Suey!" and a No. 3 hit in
its title track. Meanwhile, the song "Aerials" reached No. 1.
While metal bands rarely get radio play, System had a knack for writing
catchy songs.
"I think that's a natural part of System Of A Down," Dolmayan said.
"What you're talking about is melody. And because we have melody, I
guess it seems `catchy.' But it's just melody. We just have our own
thing going on. We don't write for the sake of radio. We don't write
toward appeasing (the public). We just do our own thing. And it's worked
out well for us because people have accepted it. It could just as easily
have not been accepted and we'd still be doing the same thing."
In 2005, System released companion albums that hit store shelves within
roughly six months of one another. The first, "Mezmerize," contained the
No. 4 Mainstream Rock hit "B.Y.O.B.," which won the Grammy Award for
Best Hard Rock Performance; and the No. 7 hit "Question!"
The title track to "Hypnotize," meanwhile, was a No. 1 hit. Another song
from that album, "Lonely Day," hit No. 10.
The big news, though, was that -- like "Toxicity" before them -- both
"Mezmerize" and "Hypnotize" reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. In
fact, the 2005 releases made System only the third act in history, along
with the Beatles and DMX, to debut two studio albums at No. 1 in the
same year."That's one of the reasons we're taking a hiatus -- (because)
that was a lot of work," said Dolmayan, who lives in Las Vegas. "We just
felt like we had too many songs to put them on one album and we didn't
feel like there was anything that we could necessarily leave off. We had
another maybe 10 songs. We probably could have put out three albums had
we made that decision."
After Ozzfest, System's members will keep busy with other projects:
Malakian with the rock band Scars On Broadway, Odadjian with RZA of
Wu-Tang Clan and Tankian with a solo CD. They'll also likely continue
posting links on their Web site to articles on political and social
issues affecting people across the globe, including the pursuit of
recognition by the Turkish governments of the Armenian Genocide in
1915."I don't know if you can call us political activists," Dolmayan
said. "We definitely are not afraid to bring up topics that are not
necessarily comfortable for other people, but we just try to tell the
truth. We try to enlighten people to the truth. Just to have them expand
their mind and learn as much as they can about something before they
judge it -- that's what we're trying to tell people. It's not so much
about `You have to vote for this or that.' It's about before you make a
decision, make sure it's an educated decision."'
The show begins at 10 a.m., with 18 bands performing, including
Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Hatebreed and Zakk Wylde's Black Label
Society. The venue is at 61 Savitt Way. Tickets are $85.50, $65.50 and
$35.50. Call (203) 744-8100. y.php?id=1008137