System Of A Down Talks Next LP, Sets Benefit Date

Sonicnet Music News

Psychotic groupies, "Knight Rider" reruns, and the U.S. prison system: All are inspiration for the forthcoming second album from System Of A Down.

"[The press] kind of boxed us in our first album and stereotyped us as this and that, so we decided to completely break out of those things," singer Serj Tankian said Saturday, shortly before performing at the Smoke Out festival in San Bernardino, California.

On the more serious side is a tune tentatively titled "Prison Song," about what Tankian sees as injustices in the U.S. prison system.

"It's about the unfairness of mandatory minimum sentences and how there are about 2 million Americans in jail, and a lot of them are in there for marijuana possession and things of that sort," Tankian said. "Instead of rehabilitating men who have drug problems, they're throwing them in prison. That's not really solving anything."

Tankian, who said the song also addresses

"how drug money is used to rig elections in other countries by the CIA," said he has read extensively about the U.S. prison system.

"Prison has its own culture -- it has its own laws, its own institutions," he said. "And once someone goes to prison, they're already brainwashed in a different type of a world. I know people need punishment who have done crimes, and I agree with that. There are a lot of people who definitely do belong in prison, but there are a lot who necessarily don't.... The whole prison system has turned into an infrastructure of terror, and it sucks away tax dollars as well."

Though known for heavier subject matter, System Of A Down has written several humorous songs for the still-nameless follow-up to its 1998 self-titled debut.

The tentatively titled "Psycho," a song about groupies, and "K.I.T.T.," about the talking car in the '80s television show "Knight Rider," are two examples of the group's lighter side, Tankian said. The band is also

working on a "pretty heavy song about pajamas," he added.

Tankian said this is a particularly inspired time for System Of A Down, which only recently found time to reflect after a long stretch on the road.

"Even if you write while you're on tour, you're kind of spitting things out while you're absorbing things," he said. "When you're home, you're given a chance to maybe stop absorbing for a while, and just spit things out and relax and have your own space, which is essential to the growth of any person."

System Of A Down -- Tankian, guitarist Daron Malakian, bassist Shavo Odadjian, and drummer John Dolmayan -- hopes to release the album in March or April, according to a management representative. The band has completed about six or seven songs so far but hopes to have 20–25 by the time it heads into the studio in late November. Producer Rick Rubin "most likely" will produce the LP, the representative said.

The Los Angeles group debuted four of the

new songs, including "Prison Song" and "K.I.T.T.," during its well-received set at Smoke Out.

In other SOAD news, the band announced Tuesday that it will headline a benefit concert for the Armenian National Committee of America on November 4 at the Palace in Los Angeles. Dubbed "Souls - A Benefit For Recognition Of The Armenian Genocide To Stop Crimes Against Humanity," the concert will also feature Buckethead and other acts to be announced.

ANCA supports legislation in Congress to recognize the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I. System Of A Down's members are all of Armenian descent.

"It's important for people to be aware of the atrocities inflicted on the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and that those actions continue to be covered up by the Turkish government, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Administration, and Turkey's allies in the defense and oil industries," Tankian said in a statement. "The Armenian genocide

happened, it was very real to the 1.5 million Armenians who were murdered or deported from their homeland. Had the Armenian genocide been deemed a crime against humanity in the books after World War I, Hitler might not have thought he could get away with the Jewish holocaust."