You’ve played in Armenia as a solo artist. How was that experience for you?
It was really amazing. The first time was with my band, the F.C.C., on my solo tour throughout Europe. We played a show in a beautiful, large theater. The second time, I played with an Armenian orchestra called the Opera Orchestra of Armenia. We played at the opening of a non-profit technology center called Tumo. There were about 11,000 people in this beautiful courtyard by a park, on a built stage overlooking this gorgeous gorge. It was truly amazing. A lot of youth, a lot of excitement. It was really very encouraging as to what the future of Armenia has to embrace.
Have you gotten a sense of how people there feel about the band doing this concert?
In Armenia, our status is unparalleled. I don’t want to use any monikers like the Beatles or anything, but it’s a unique kind of thing. So we want to go there and play for the people, which we’ve never done as System of a Down. It’s quite exciting.
How is it that System of a Down have never played Armenia?
You know, that’s a really good question. I don’t have a direct answer to that. We’ve been asked to play, but it’s never transpired either due to timing or the challenge of investment in infrastructure. It takes time for any of the large performance infrastructure to take place.
Has the band ever played in Turkey?
No. We were looking into Turkey as one of the dates of this Wake Up the Souls tour. We needed to get permission from the government, based on our outspokenness about the genocide and against the actions of [then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep] Erdoğan’s government in particular. At the time, the new prime minister had just stepped in, which was the old foreign minister, and of course Erdoğan became president and left the prime minister’s post. We waited a while, but we never got a response, so we planned the rest of the tour.
What is your relationship with Turkish fans like? It must be hard for you not to be able to play for them.
Totally. I personally want to go play there. Our relationship with them has been really cool. Years ago, someone planted things in the Turkish press trying to denounce us, I’m assuming an agent of the government, saying that we’ve done things that we’ve never done. So we put up something on our website saying that all of this is misinformation, please don’t listen to it. It’s all lies. Our fans were the ones that protected us in Turkey. They wrote to the editors of those newspapers who were planting this misinformation, this disinformation, and fought for us. Our jaws dropped. Here we have fans in Turkey that are protecting System of a Down. No society is unipolar.
Do you think Turkey will ever recognize the genocide?
I think it’s very possible. I just read that there is a resolution for recognition for all past crimes, including the Armenian genocides – named specifically – that was just introduced to the Turkish parliament by a minority Kurdish MP, Sebahat Tuncel. Although I’m sure they don’t have majority to pass it, that’s an amazing sign not just of courage for her to bring that up, but that times could be changing, and that’s a positive thing.
Speaking of times changing, there are Armenian celebrities drawing attention to the genocide lately.
Absolutely. For all the flak people give Kim Kardashian, I could say that with her yearly commemorations of the Armenian genocide and spreading that word, she’s been valuable. She’s been great.
She can raise a lot of awareness.
Absolutely. She’s got more Twitter people than I do, that’s for sure [laughs].
Shifting topics, it’s been 10 years since the last System of a Down album. Are you guys talking about making a new one yet?
There has been talk, and we are going to play this tour, come back and we’re going to see where we are. If we have songs that work for System, if I have them and Daron [Malakian, guitar] has them. The openness is there to work together, but we haven’t made any particular plans that we can announce.
Have you personally written songs with System in mind?
I have a few that could apply, but I’m not sure until the time comes where I can actually play them for the guys and see if it’s something that vibes off them.
Right now, I’m actually focusing on a film score. It’s actually a really cool score, and it’s for a film based on, again, the genocide. That’s all I’m dealing with right now. It’s called 1915. It’s a very interesting drama that’s actually shot in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Theater, a very old and distinguished theater. It’s a really, really interesting psychological thriller, modern story. It deals with denial and the psychological impacts of a genocide rather than the physical aspects of it.
Getting back to a new System album, I’m sure your fans are curious where you’re at.
They will be the first to know. Fans will know before the press knows, I assure you.