System of a Down Drummer: The Pulse of a Revolutionary Band

When you hear the unmistakable rhythms of System of a Down, it’s impossible not to wonder: Who is System of a Down Drummer?

His name is John Dolmayan, the mainstay drummer whose beats have become synonymous with the band’s iconic sound. 

But delve a little deeper, and you’ll discover Ontronik Khachaturian, the original drummer who laid the foundation. 

As the beat of SOAD’s heart, their stories are as compelling as the tracks they’ve powered. Dive in and uncover the rhythm behind the rebellion.

John Dolmayan: The Mainstay Behind the Drums

Every iconic band has that one member whose backstory is as riveting as their music. For System of a Down, that’s John Dolmayan. Let’s dive into the beats of his life.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1972, John’s introduction to music was as dramatic as the city’s history. The sounds of war? They were his lullabies. But amidst the chaos, young Dolmayan found solace in rhythms.

His family’s move to Los Angeles was a game-changer. The vibrant music scene of the ’80s was John’s playground. 

From garage bands to local gigs, Dolmayan honed his skills, setting the stage for his future with SOAD. And as they say, the rest is rock history.

Joining System of a Down

It wasn’t just a chance encounter or a casual jam session. John’s entry into SOAD was more serendipity than planning. The stage was set after the band’s original drummer, Ontronik Khachaturian, had to bow out due to an injury. 

John stepped in like he’d been there all along. A perfect fit.

Now, this is where things get interesting. John didn’t just bring his drumming skills; he brought a distinct flavor. His beats became the backbone of SOAD’s unique sound. 

From the aggressive punches in “Chop Suey!” to the rhythmic dance of “B.Y.O.B.,” John’s influence is undeniable. The band’s sound evolved, and it reached new heights with John on the drums. Rock on!

Signature Drumming Style

When you think of John Dolmayan’s drumming, what comes to mind? Is it the raw power, the intricate patterns, or the sheer unpredictability? 

John’s style is a cocktail of controlled chaos. He’s known for his dynamic range, effortlessly shifting from soft, intricate patterns to explosive beats. 

His secret is a deep understanding of rhythm and an innate ability to experiment. Whether it’s his use of ghost notes, polyrhythms, or unexpected time signatures, John’s techniques are a masterclass in drumming.

Where to begin? “Toxicity” is a prime example, with its crescendo of beats building to a frenzied climax. Then there’s “Question!” where his drumming tells a story, moving from whispers to roaring declarations. 

And who can forget the rhythmic genius in “Radio/Video”? Each track is a testament to John’s unparalleled skill behind the kit. Listen closely, and you’ll hear the heartbeat of a drumming legend.

Ontronik Khachaturian: The Original Beat

Before John Dolmayan’s thunderous beats became synonymous with System of a Down, there was Ontronik Khachaturian. The man who set the rhythm for what would become a legendary band. Let’s rewind the tape.

His Time with System of a Down

Ontronik, or as many know him, “Andy,” was the pulse of the early SOAD days. 

His style was raw, energetic, and foundational. While his time with the band was brief, his beats laid the groundwork. Songs from their initial sessions bear the unmistakable mark of his drumming DNA.

Reasons for his departure

The rock world is no stranger to lineup changes, and SOAD was no exception. A hand injury forced Ontronik to step back from the drum throne. 

But as fate would have it, this departure paved the way for John Dolmayan to step in. Ontronik’s exit wasn’t just about an injury; it was a twist of destiny that reshaped the band’s future. Yet, his legacy still echoes in every SOAD track.

Post-SOAD Career

Ontronik Khachaturian might have left the System of a Down stage, but his drumming journey didn’t hit pause. Let’s explore the beats of his post-SOAD life, from new bands to solo projects.

After SOAD, Ontronik didn’t miss a beat. He jumped into various projects, showcasing his versatility. Whether collaborating with other artists or experimenting with different genres, his drumming prowess was evident. 

Ever heard of The Apex Theory? That’s just one of the bands where Ontronik’s rhythms shone through, blending rock with a touch of the avant-garde. Ontronik’s passion for music remains undiminished. 

He’s been involved in numerous collaborations, lending his drumming expertise to established artists and rising talents. And rumor has it, he’s been dabbling in some solo work, too. Keep an ear out because, with Ontronik, the beat goes on.

System of a Down Drummer

The Evolution of SOAD’s Drumming

The beats of System of a Down are as iconic as their lyrics. But how did their drumming evolve from Ontronik’s foundational rhythms to John’s signature beats? Let’s embark on this rhythmic journey.

Comparison of drumming styles between John and Ontronik

Ontronik’s style was raw and foundational, setting the initial pulse for SOAD. His beats were like the first strokes on a canvas, defining the band’s early sound. Enter John Dolmayan. 

What changed? John brought a fusion of power and finesse, adding layers and complexities to the band’s rhythmic landscape. While Ontronik laid the groundwork, John built the skyscraper.

From their self-titled debut to albums like “Toxicity” and “Hypnotize,” SOAD’s drumming has been a sonic evolution. Early tracks had a raw, unfiltered energy.

The drumming matured as the albums rolled out, reflecting the band’s evolving musical tastes and themes. Intricate patterns, unexpected time signatures, and a blend of traditional and experimental techniques became the norm. 

It’s a rhythmic journey that mirrors the band’s own growth, and it’s nothing short of fascinating.

FAQ Section

Why did Ontronik Khachaturian leave System of a Down?

Ontronik Khachaturian left System of a Down due to a hand injury. This unfortunate event made it challenging for him to continue as the band’s drummer, leading to his departure and paving the way for John Dolmayan to step in.

Are there any collaborations between John Dolmayan and other artists?

Yes, John Dolmayan has collaborated with various artists outside System of a Down. Notably, he formed a band called “Scars on Broadway” with SOAD guitarist Daron Malakian. Additionally, John has worked on his project “These Grey Men,” where he reimagined and covered tracks from different artists, further showcasing his versatility and collaborative spirit.

Has Ontronik ever collaborated with SOAD post his departure?

Ontronik Khachaturian has not collaborated with System of a Down since he departed from the band. He pursued other musical endeavors, but there hasn’t been a professional reunion with SOAD.


The rhythmic journey of System of a Down is a tale of two drummers: Ontronik Khachaturian, the original beat-setter, and John Dolmayan, the force that propelled the band to iconic status. 

From Ontronik’s foundational beats to John’s dynamic and intricate drumming style, the evolution of SOAD’s sound has been nothing short of mesmerizing. 

As the band’s albums evolved, so did the drumming, reflecting both individual artistry and the collective spirit of SOAD. Through injuries, departures, and new beginnings, the heartbeat of System of a Down remains as compelling as ever.

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