Even the biggest bands in the world can pinpoint certain experiences that happened in the early years that helped shape them in the long run. Serj Tankian, in particular, recalled a tour with a certain artist that he thinks “molded” System of a Down early in their career.

Just after System of a Down’s eponymous debut album came out in 1998, the fledgling band embarked on a tour with thrash giants Slayer, who set out in support of their eighth record Diabolus in Musica. As Alice In Chains did before them — who opened on the massive Clash of the Titans tour a few years prior — System of a Down felt more pressure to prove themselves to the ruthless audiences that were there to have their faces melted off.

“We were fucking scared, bro, onstage,” Tankian admitted during a conversation with Knotfest, noting that it was also a special time because it was System’s first actual tour. “It was bootcamp, just surviving, learning how to work an audience. Because Slayer audiences will hate everyone else, obviously.”

“And 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.”

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Check out the full interview below.

A few years ago, System drummer John Dolmayan offered his take on how they were treated by Slayer during that tour during an appearance on Let There Be Talk [via Ultimate Guitar].

“They were very accepting of us, very supportive, and the people were super nice to us, and they would actually listen,” he said. “Slayer audiences can be brutal. Tom Araya came up to us and said, ‘Let me know if you have problems,’ and they would watch us every night. They were so good to us and supportive and nice people, and I miss them dearly.”

System of a Down have slowed their touring down quite a bit in recent years, having only played one show in 2023 at Las Vegas’ Sick New World Festival. Their only confirmed performance for next year will be at the same festival in late April, and while Tankian’s not entirely sure that it’s the only show they’ll play, he recently said it’s likely that it will be.

Serj Tankian Recalls the Experience That “Molded” System of a Down Early in Their Career

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