Enlarge Serj Tankian, 9/24/2012, The Fillmore, San Francisco, Miikka Skaffari for MetalSucks

System of a Down Reflect on Hitting #1 with Toxicity on 9/11


System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian and bassist Shavo Odadjian recently joined Apple Music’s Zane Lowe for a brief chat centered around the band’s recently released new material, their first in 15 years.

Serj and Shavo also spoke about the band’s biggest hit, “Chop Suey!” — which recently crossed the 1 billion views threshold on YouTube, one of only a handful of heavy rock songs to ever do so — and the double-edged sword of learning their new album, Toxicity, had reached #1 on the same day the World Trade Center fell, September 11, 2011.

Serj offered:

“‘Chop Suey!’ was released before September 11, 2001. And on September 11, when the whole – planes crashing into the World Trade Center, that catastrophe happened, our album was No. 1… And it felt like the whole world was exploding.

“And they took our song off the radio, ‘Chop Suey!’ – because it had the word ‘suicide’ in it – ‘self-righteous suicide.’ Everyone was calling us, going, ‘How did you guys know?!’ and all this stuff.

“And we’re all weirded out, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Meanwhile, we go on tour – ’cause we were booked to tour on ‘Toxicity,’ the record, with ‘Chop Suey!’ as the single.

“And every day, I remember those different threat levels – orange and red – the news basically saying the danger signals. And there might be terrorist attacks elsewhere. It was a daunting time…

“So when I think of ‘Chop Suey!’, I can’t think of how we actually sat in the studio and worked on it. I’m thinking of 9/11, going on tour, thinking we might die any night.”

Shavo added:

“I woke up in the morning with my phone blowing up. It was those last couple of days at home I was trying to really get, knowing I’m going on tour in a couple of days – I answered the phone, and it was my mom.

“And my mom said, ‘Turn the TV on. There’s chaos happening in America.’ I turned the TV on. It was, like, 9:15, and I saw the tower fall. My phone beeped, and I went to the other line, and it was my manager. And he goes, ‘Congratulations. You’re No. 1 on Billboard!’

“In the same thought process of what’s happening in New York – I’m in L.A. – and then, ‘Oh, whoa. We just went No. 1.’ And remember, it was our second record. We weren’t famous yet.

“We had a record, we toured and came back home and wrote this other record and we released it. This was gonna be our first tour in front of our second, sophomore record.

“Until today, when people ask me, it’s bittersweet about the No. 1. It was such a weird time.”

System of a Down released their first new pieces of music in 15 years, “Protect The Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz,” in November. The four band members put their longstanding creative differences aside to record the two new songs, which served as a political statement to raise awareness around the recently reignited conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the territory of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh). The band was able to raise more than $600k in donations from the two songs to benefit Armenians whose lives have been affected by the war. The songs landed at #1 and #2, respectively, on Billboard’s Hot Hard Rock Songs chart for the week ending November 12.

Tankian recently revealed he plans to release a solo EP in 2021 consisting of rock songs he originally penned with System of a Down in mind.

[via Ultimate Guitar]

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