Shortly after System of a Down wrapped up their latest release, Steal this Album, drummer, John Dolmayan, took sometime to chat with us about his gear, the band's musical influences, and shopping at Guitar Center.
GC: What kind of kit are you playing now?
John: I've been playing Tama for a couple of years now. And I use Paiste cymbals, Remo heads, and Bickford sticks, all of which you can get over at Guitar Center this Friday, Saturday and Sunday only!
GC: What's the coolest recent addition to your kit?
John: A pair of Timbales that I put on just for a couple of songs in the set I felt needed it. I try not to bring in stuff I don't use all the time because it becomes really convoluted. I think you can express more when you use less sometimes. But right now I have a really big drum set so maybe I'm full of sh*t! My current Tama kit has five toms and the kick. I have a double pedal for whatever double bass stuff I need. And then I use the little Timbales on the side. And I have like eleven cymbals! But some of my cymbals are like tuned cymbals and really small sounding, splashes, that kind of stuff.
GC: Is there anything you want to get next?
John: Whatever the music calls for pretty much. If I need it, I'll get it. There are no parameters as far as what I'll use or what I won't use. Maybe my next set up will be like a five piece! You never know. Whatever it takes!
GC: What's your background like, your music training and influences?
John: Mainly listening to whatever I can get my hands on! We incorporate a lot of different kinds of music into what we do and we've all been influenced by many types of music. We've derived some influences from our heritage, incorporating different elements of jazz, funk, rock, metal, and traditional Armenian music, Middle Eastern music as well as Latin music and putting it all into this soup and then seeing what comes out!
GC: Do you have a home studio?
John: As far as the IRS is concerned, I do! Seriously though, I do have a home studio. I have a keyboard, a guitar, a bass, and a drum set. Out of those instruments, I know how to use the drum set, that's about it! I'm trying to get into keyboard a little more. It is a percussive instrument so I might be able to pick that up a little faster than guitar or bass. But I have them all just in case I have an idea in my head and I want to get it down I can do so.
GC: Do you warm up before performances?
John: You know, I should but I don't because we don't usually have time before the show. Sometimes I'll massage my wrists though. You know, after the first two songs, I'm warmed up so it's no problem anyway.
GC: What advice would you have for a young drummer who is listening to your stuff and wants to model their playing after yours?
John: Don't do that! Don't model your playing after me or anyone else. Be influenced by as many people as possible and not just drummers! Check out as many musicians as possible! Take your influence from art in general. If you admire things that I do, pick them up and incorporate them into your own style. But also keep your mind open to different things.
GC: Do you shop at Guitar Center
John: They're pretty cool. You guys always have musicians working there so they understand where you're coming from!