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SERJ TANKIAN Reflects On SYSTEM OF A DOWN Opening For SLAYER In The '90s

"It was bootcamp, just surviving, learning how to work an audience."

Serj Tankian 2023

In a recent episode of The Disc Dive, System of a Down's frontman Serj Tankian opened up about the band's early days and the nerve-racking experience of opening for the legendary Slayer in the late 1990s. Tankian candidly summed it up by saying: "We were fucking scared."

"We were fucking scared, bro, on stage. It was bootcamp, just surviving, learning how to work an audience. 'Cause Slayer audiences will hate everyone else, obviously. But that brings back a lot of memories, because it was our first tour as well. And Daron 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."

Tankian recount of the band's first brush with the thrash legends matches the comments of System of a Down's drummer John Dolmayan, who some years ago reminisced about the experience in a conversation with the Let There Be Talk podcast, saying: "Our first tour was with Slayer, and after you play in front of a Slayer crowd, everything else is easy. And they were very accepting of us, very supportive, and the people were super nice to us, and they would actually listen.""

Despite their initial fears, according to Dolmayan, him and his bandmates were met with nothing but encouragement from Slayer: "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."

"I miss Jeff. He was such a good guy. He would share music with us and come hang out with us, and we were just this little band driving around in an RV. We got to know Lombardo as well at the time. He's a sweet guy, and Bostaph, of course, was a very nice guy, great drummer. Our first tour in the U.S. was with them, and they took us to Europe as well, and it was us, Slayer and Sepultura. What a great trio that was — a great experience for us." Dolmayan added.

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