System of a Down is an Armenian American alternative metal band, formed in 1994 in Los Angeles, California, USA. All four members are of Armenian descent, and are widely known for their views expressed in many of their songs confronting the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by the Ottoman Empire and the ongoing War on Terror by the US government. The band consists of Serj Tankian (vocals), Daron Malakian (vocals, guitar), Shavo Odadjian (bass, vocals) and John Dolmayan (drums).
System of a Down has achieved commercial success with five albums, and many singles such as their breakout hit "Chop Suey!", "Toxicity", "Aerials", "B.Y.O.B.", "Question!", "Hypnotize" and "Lonely Day". Their works have earned them one Grammy Award amongst three nominations.
The band has been influenced by heavy metal, punk rock and Armenian folk.
System of a Down went on hiatus in 2006, with Serj Tankian pursuing a solo career and Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan forming Scars on Broadway. Shavo joined together with RZA from the Wu-Tang clan to form Hip-Hop group Achozen.
System of a Down is a part of the Axis of Justice, a non-profit organization formed by band member Serj Tankian (along with Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine), dedicated to bringing together musicians, music fans, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice.
The roots of System of a Down lie in the band Soil (not to be confused with the current band SOiL), a group from Los Angeles that included Serj Tankian on vocals/keyboard, and Daron Malakian on vocals/guitar, as well as Dave Hakopyan (Bassist for Mt. Helium) on bass and Domingo Laranio (Local Hawaii Drummer) on drums. Shavo Odadjian joined Soil near their end as a guitarist. After three years, only one live show, and one jam session recording, the band split up.
In the beginning (1995–1997)
After Soil split up, Serj and Daron formed a new band, System of a Down, based on a poem that Daron wrote. The poem's title was "Victims of the Down", but Shavo Odadjian, who was originally the band's manager and promoter, didn't like the word and thought the word "System" sounded better. Ever since Shavo joined as bassist, managerial duties have been undertaken by the Velvet Hammer Music and Management Group and founder David "Beno" Benveniste. The band then found a drummer, Andy Khachaturian. System of a Down quickly made what is known as their early Untitled 1995 Demo Tape, which had very early recordings of "Mr. Jack" (called "PIG"), along with songs called "Flake", "Toast" and an early recording of "The Metro", a cover of the Berlin song of the same name. It is rumored that there are other tapes made, which contain early recordings of "Friik", "36" (called ".36"), and "Roulette". Two other songs, "X" (called "Multiply") and "Honey" were live demos at the time and were played at very early shows. After this, the band recorded Demo Tape 1, which had early versions of "Sugar", "Suite-Pee", and "P.L.U.C.K.", as well as "Dam." Demo Tape 2 was released in 1996 and had a rough demo of the song "Soil" as well as the most known unreleased tracks such as "Honey" and "Temper." At the beginning of 1997, SOAD recorded their final publicly-released demo tape, Demo Tape 3, which had rough versions of "Peephole", "War?", and "Know." In mid 1997, Ontronik Khachaturian left the band due to a hand injury. Soon after playing at the Whisky-A-Go-Go and Viper Room with new drummer John Dolmayan, producer Rick Rubin caught the band's attention and told them to keep in touch with him. Showing great interest, they recorded Demo Tape 4 near the end of that year. This demo, however, was made only to be sent to record companies. The tape was not released to the public until years later when it was leaked onto the Internet. After Rick helped them get signed onto American/Columbia Records, SOAD began to record in his studio. In 1997 SOAD won the Best Signed Band award from the Rock City Awards. Prior to 1998, SOAD's live shows were called "The Dark Red Experience".
Debut album (1998–2000)
In the summer of 1998, System of a Down released their debut album, System of a Down. They enjoyed moderate success with their first single "Sugar" becoming a radio favorite, followed by the single "Spiders". After the release of the album, System of a Down toured extensively, opening for Slayer before making their way to the second stage of Ozzfest. Following Ozzfest, they toured with Fear Factory and Incubus before headlining the Sno-Core tour with Puya, Mr. Bungle, The Cat and Incubus providing support. System was scheduled to play the 1999 Family Values Tour, but were kicked off by Fred Durst over his inability to sign the band Taproot. Fred Durst has since admitted that he was a "complete wanker" in relation to this "oversight". The band have yet to comment on Durst's involvement or commentary. In 2000, the group contributed their cover of the Black Sabbath song "Snowblind" to the Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black 2.
Toxicity, Steal This Album! (2001–2003)
The group's big break arrived when their second album Toxicity debuted at #1 on the American and Canadian charts, eventually achieving multi-platinum certification. The album has since sold 6 million copies worldwide. It was still on top in America on the week of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the political environment caused by the attacks added to the controversy surrounding their hit single "Chop Suey!" causing it to be taken off the radio as it contained politically sensitive lyrics at the time such as "(I don't think you) trust in my self-righteous suicide." Regardless, the video gained constant play on MTV as did the second single, "Toxicity". Even with the controversy surrounding "Chop Suey!" which earned a Grammy nomination, System of a Down still received constant airplay in the United States throughout late 2001 and 2002 with "Toxicity " and "Aerials". In May 2006, VH1 listed Toxicity in the #14 slot in the 40 Greatest Metal Songs.
In 2001, the band went on tour with Slipknot in the United States and Mexico. After seeing the success of the tour, System and Slipknot went on a Pledge of Allegiance Tour with Rammstein in 2002. In late 2001, a few unreleased tracks made their way onto the Internet. The group released a statement that the tracks were unfinished material. Soon after, the band released the final versions of the songs, which were recorded at the same time, but hadn't been used for Toxicity. The result was Steal This Album!, released in November 2002. Steal This Album! resembled a burnable CD that was marked with a felt-tip marker. 50,000 special copies of the album with different CD designs were also released, each designed by a different member of the band. The name of the album is a reference to Abbie Hoffman's counter-culture book, Steal This Book and as a message to those who stole the songs and released them on the Internet. "Steal This Album was the lowest rated album that we had ever made" Dolmayan said in an interview. The song "Innervision" was released as a promo single and received constant airplay on alternative radio. A video for "Boom!" was filmed with director Michael Moore as a protest against the War in Iraq.
Mezmerize / Hypnotize (2004–2005)
From 2004 to 2005, the group produced a double album, Mezmerize/Hypnotize with the two parts released six months apart. The first album, Mezmerize, was released on May 17, 2005, to favorable reviews by critics. It debuted at #1 in the United States, Canada, Australia and all around the world, making it System of a Down's second #1 album. First week sales rocketed to over 800,000 copies worldwide. The Grammy Award-winning single "B.Y.O.B.", which questions the integrity of war, worked its way up the Billboard Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts. The next single, "Question!" was released with Shavo Odadjian co-directing the music video. Following the release of Mezmerize, the band toured extensively throughout the United States and Canada with The Mars Volta and Bad Acid Trip supporting.
The second part of the double album, Hypnotize, was released on November 22, 2005. Like Mezmerize, it debuted at #1 in the US, making System of a Down, along with the Beatles, Guns 'N Roses, and rappers 2Pac and DMX, the only artists to ever have two studio albums debut at #1 in the same year.
In February 2006, the band won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for "B.Y.O.B.", beating out other established artists such as Nine Inch Nails and Robert Plant. Their second single off the Hypnotize album, "Lonely Day" was released in March in the United States. System of a Down released "Kill Rock 'N Roll" and "Vicinity of Obscenity" as their next promo singles. The band headlined Ozzfest 2006 in cities where tour founder Ozzy Osbourne opted not to appear or wasn't playing on the main stage. These shows turned out to be the bands last performances together to date.
Hiatus and Future (2006–present)
In May 2006, the band announced they were going on hiatus. Daron Malakian has confirmed the break will probably last a few years, but it was Shavo who in an interview with Guitar magazine said it will last at least 3 years, but insists that the band would not be splitting up. He told MTV, "We're not breaking up. If that was the case, we wouldn't be doing this Ozzfest. We're going to take a very long break after Ozzfest and do our own things. We've done System for over ten years, and I think it's healthy to take a rest."
During their performance in Houston, Texas, Malakian also took a moment to say, "There's been a lot of rumors about us breaking up. Well, don't listen to them. Us four right here, we will always be System of a Down!" However, Malakian announced he was forming a band called Scars on Broadway, which has since been joined by Dolmayan, and will work on its debut album during autumn. Odadjian will be working on a project with RZA of Wu-Tang Clan named Achozen as well as his UrSession website/record label. Tankian plans to keep recording as a solo artist/producer with his first single being Empty Walls off his first album Elect the Dead which was released on October 23, 2007, while Dolmayan, on top of Scars on Broadway, plans to open a comic book store online, which should be up online in November 2007.
System of a Down's final performance before their hiatus took place on August 13, 2006 in West Palm Beach, Florida, as part of the 2006 Ozzfest Festival. "Tonight will be the last show we play for a long time together", Malakian told the crowd during Sunday's last performance. "We'll be back. We just don't know when." It was stated by Sharon Osbourne that System of a Down was paid "about $325,000 a show."
System of a Down's songs were used in the 2006 film "Screamers" by Carla Garapedian. "Screamers" debuted in theaters in large city markets such as New York City, Detroit, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Fresno, Providence, and Boston. An earlier engagement started exclusively in Los Angeles on , 2006.
System of a Down was honored at the USC v. Cal game at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA in 2006. The Spirit of Troy also known as the Trojan Marching Band performed three System of a Down songs. The marching band was honored to play "Toxicity", "Sugar", and Hypnotize" along with John Dolmayan and Shavo Odadjian.
Tankian recently said that he has wanted to work on his "solo record for years". As for the future of the band, he said that he does not know whether System of a Down is over or not. He also stated that "maybe in a few years" the band would "want to make another album. It's impossible to tell right now. It'll be later down the line; then we'll be able to tell what might happen."
Bassist Shavo Odadjian was recently revealed to be directing the first video for the comeback of the hardcore punk band, Bad Brains.
For the 2007 Grammys, System of a Down was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance for "Lonely Day", but lost to Wolfmother and their song "Woman".
Shavo Odadjian recently told Launch Radio Networks that System of a Down is "alive and well".
“We're just not working together right now. We kind of like split up at first, but you know, we're brothers, man, we'll take bullets for each other. So it's like, you kind of miss each other after a while and you, one guy makes the first move, then another starts making phone calls….this is a juggernaut, man. System of a Down is my lifeline. It'll never go away. We could not make a record for 10 years — that's not gonna happen, but I'm just saying we could — and we'll come back strong.”
Future and possible Reunion
When asked in February 2008 if a reunion was planned any time in the future, Daron Malakian had admitted that System of a Down may never get back together again. He had this to say: “There's no talk of System doing anything. We're not planning on doing anything. If anyone's holding their breath for a System record, they're going to turn blue and pass out. It's a long ways away, if it ever even happens. We don't even talk about it - none of us. This (Scars on Broadway) is my band right now.”
On September 14, 2007 an American TV interview video with Shavo Odadjian was posted online, and subsequently embedded on the MySpace profile of his current working band, Achozen. He commented on System of a Down's status and future, saying: “We're taking a break. It got to a point where we we're kinda…not implode but like, y'know, I saw something and … Thirteen years of non stop y'know, so- and we all have things we wanna do… Everyone and their mother wants to say that we are breaking up, that we broke up. It's like, everyone talks to me 'Oh you guys broke up' no we didn't break up, why d'ya want us to brea- you want us to break up, we'll break up!”
In a September 13, 2007 interview, frontman Serj Tankian offered his take on the band's future by saying: "It's very simple. System of a Down, we've been a band for 11 years, or 12 years. We've put out five records, we're all friends. We're still friends. And we decided to take time to pursue our own artistic and personal goals. And unlike a company like Nabisco that puts out crackers every year, or cookies every year, we're artists, we're friends. So we don't have to necessarily do things the same way every year. So we took time to do our own things and we left the door open. We're all friends. If we ever want to get together and speak to the world as System of a Down, then we will. If not, then we'll…the door is open.”
When asked if there could be a possible reunion one day, he responded by saying: "It's very possible".
In an April 2008 interview with Kerrang magazine, guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan (who have recently formed a side project known as Scars on Broadway) gave their takes on the bands future. When told that many people are going to wonder what the future of the band is, Malakian responded by stating that: "We'll all know when the time is right". Dolmayan added: "It'll just happen". Malakian went on to say: “Yeah. It'll feel good and happen. I can respect this situation (System's hiatus) more than I can respect the situation where two people are like, 'The lead singer fucked my girlfriend!' and that kind of bullshit. Nah, man. The lead singer is a special person to me and I am to him. And that's how we ended off. Same with Shavo, same with John. And it will always be. It was a big part of my life. We were onstage together for a long time, man. We went through shit as a band and friends – we slept in RVs together!”
In an interview with Tankian about Big Day Out 2009 (a show which involved playing his Elect the Dead album live with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and a few songs from his then-upcoming second studio album) Tankian stated, "Every few months I am honored to hear interesting rumors about whether the band is going to tour or break up permanently. I find them all to be very entertaining."
On October 31, 2009, Odadjian threw a Halloween party at the Roxy during which he, Malakian, and Dolmayan performed "Suite-Pee" (off System of a Down), Scars on Broadway's "They Say," and an unknown song. This performance was followed by another partial reunion of the band on November 20, 2009, at the Avalon in Hollywood during which Malakian, Dolmayan, and Odadjian played "Aerials" and "Toxicity."
On Monday, November 29th, 2010, System of a Down announced on their website that they would reform for a string of large European festival dates in June 2011. Among the announced tour dates included UK's Download Festival, Switzerland's Greenfield Festival, Germany's Rock am Ring/Rock im Park and Sweden's Metaltown festivals. In their reunion statement posted on their website, the band was unclear as to the extent of their reformation. It read, "We have no master plan of sorts – we are playing these shows simply because we want to play together again as a band and for you, our amazing fans."
From late February to early March 2012, they headlined five dates at Soundwave festival. This was the band's first visit to Australia since 2005. The band have continued playing around the world. On August 11 and 12, 2012, they played the Heavy MTL and Heavy T.O. music festivals in Montreal and Toronto, respectively. On February 4, 2013, it was announced that System of a Down would play the UK's Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2013, among other festivals and venues.