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System Of A Down’s John Dolmayan: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

(Image credit: Greg Watermann)

As the backbeat that powers System Of A Down, one of the most unique and eclectic bands in the history of rock and metal, you would expect John Dolmayan to have been exposed to a great varied number of musical genres. We spoke to him and asked him to talk us through the records that have inspired him the most, and helped to create his own personal rhythmic style.

Pink Floyd – The Wall

“I listened to this album every day for one year straight, it used to take me half an hour to walk to school and half an hour back, and when I was a kid I had a little Walkman with this album on, and I listened to it literally every day. I love Pink Floyd in general, not so much the early stuff, that’s not really my taste, but once they got in to albums like Animals I was in. But, if Pink Floyd only had to exist for one album, it would be The Wall, it’s such a groundbreaking album, moving, touching in every way possible. I watched the film fifty times! I could talk for a day on this album, the depth of sorrow and experiences that made that album! I just think Roger Walters is a genius and this is a perfect record.”

Radiohead – OK Computer

“One of the most complete albums I’ve ever heard, another album that I’ve just listened to hundreds and hundreds of times over the years. It’s given me so much every time that I listen to it, so much inspiration for what I want to do, and so much surprises and new sounds each and every time I put it on.”

Iron Maiden – Powerslave

“The first Iron Maiden album I heard that made me love Iron Maiden. It took me on an adventure, it took me to a place that music had never taken me before, I’d never heard music like that before, I’d never heard singing like that before, the package, the artwork and the concept are all perfect. When people think of what is great about metal music, they mean this.”

Faith No More – Album Of The Year

“A fantastic album, my favourite Faith No More album, although obviously I love all of them. It’s their most morose collection of songs, and I like morose music, and one of the best singers of all time singing exceptional songs. In 1998 I must have listened to that album every day.”

Slayer – South Of Heaven

“Had a huge effect on me as it is the most melodic Slayer album. I think that Slayer and Metallica were on the same point when this record came out, but Metallica were always more melodic, and I think the reason that they got so much bigger over the years is because Slayer abandoned the melody and went off into so many other directions, whereas Metallica just went further with the melody. Which leads me to...”

Metallica - ...And Justice For All

“Apart from the fact that there is no bass on it, it is the most complete set of songs that that band has ever written. The most complete, the most complex, there was so much fire in their bellies as they had just lost Cliff Burton. So, I think emotionally it was where they were at their best. But, for me, it’s them at their most perfect, nothing can come before, and nothing has come since where they nailed it. They extended everything and for me it is their apex.”

Chicago - VII

“This is a special album for me because my Dad used to play it for me when I was a kid in Lebanon. We’d sit in his car and I’d mimic the drummer, it’s always reminiscent of the time I spent with my father. He introduced me to a lot of great jazz albums, and back then Chicago were much more experimental, this was before the sickly, cheesy 80’s stuff they started doing, it’s a real pure aggressive, jazz rock band.”

The Beatles – John's Personal Beatles Mix Tape

“It’s really hard to pick one Beatles album, because everything is so great. So, I’m going to use a little bit of artistic license here and create a compilation album which features everything from the beginning of their career to the end. With my preference being the psychedelic stuff that they did towards the end of their career.”

Rush – Hemispheres

“My favourite Rush album, my favourite Rush story, this is Neil Peart writing lyrics that could be turned into a movie. Incredible music, three of the best musicians of our era, certainly one of the best drummers of our era, it was a big loss losing him this year. It’s not a lot of people’s favourite Rush album, but it is mine just because of the concept, the lyrics and the high calibre of the players involved. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about that album.”

The Who - Quadrophenia

“I’ve got to end it with the one and only; The Who. There has never been a band like The Who, there will never be another band like The Who, and it was all because of one person, and that person’s name is Keith Moon. The Who are nothing without him, they made worthless albums without him. It’s all about Keith Moon. Quadrophenia is the quintessential album and movie concept. The best drummer of all time, he plays drums the way a painter paints, he’s a artist, everybody else was in awe of him, impossible to duplicate or replicate, because even he didn’t know what he was doing! He soloed from the first track to the last track of every one of their albums, we were lucky to have him for the short time that we did. The Who would have been a B-League band without him, he doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit!”