Serj Tankian reveals System Of A Down auditioned a new singer in 2018 after he offered to quit the band

Serj Tankian has revealed that System Of A Down began looking for a new singer in 2018 after he offered to quit the band.

In an except of his new memoir Down With the System: A Memoir (Of Sorts) shared with Rolling Stone, Tankian reflected on his disdain for touring, leading to his decision to tell his bandmates in System Of A Down to carry on without him so they could continue living their dream.

Tankian detailed in the memoir: “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.”

“‘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.'”

Serj Tankian. Credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

“‘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.'”

He carried on, later adding that the band pushed back against the idea and they dropped the topic altogether. However, some time later, the band would gather at a charity event, where Tankian was informed that the band had begun looking at new singers.


“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.”

serj tankian system of a down los angeles postponed covid-19
Serj Tankian of System Of A Down. CREDIT: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Tankian continued, writing: “‘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.'”


Serj Tankian also shared that in “more recent years”, he had pitched a close friend as a potential replacement but he doesn’t think the band ever seriously considered the offer.

It seems that for the time being, the band are standing strong on their decision to have Tankian in the band, and have drastically cut down the number of shows they perform live. The band performed just one show in 2023, and have only played one show so far this year. They are next due to play a one-off show with Deftones, The Mars Volta and more in August. The show is now sold out.

Singer Serj Tankian, front man of the band System of a Down, in concert at Firenze Rocks Festival. Florence, Italy. 25th June 2017 (Photo by Francesco Castaldo/Archivio Francesco Castaldo/Mondadori via Getty Images)

Back in 2020, System Of A Down returned with their first new release in 15 years – the double A-side single ‘Protect The Land’ and ‘Genocidal Humanoidz’ – in a bid to raise awareness and funds amid “a dire and serious war” between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. All proceeds supported humanitarian efforts in SOAD’s ancestral homeland of Armenia.

In other news, Tankian recently announced a new solo EP, ‘Foundations’, which will be his  first project since releasing the solo EP ‘Perplex Cities’ in 2022.