Monday, 13 October 2008

System of a Down: The Definitive History

System of a Down (commonly referred to as System or abbreviated as SOAD) is an Armenian-American rock band, formed in 1994[1] in Glendale, California. Consisting of Serj Tankian (lead vocals, keyboards, and occasional rhythm guitar), Daron Malakian (vocals and lead guitar), Shavo Odadjian (bass), and John Dolmayan (drums), the band has released five albums since 1998. A staple on mainstream rock radio, their works have earned them three Grammy Award nominations, of which they won one.
System of a Down is very politically active and are noted for the liberal political views expressed in their songs, tackling several subjects including the Armenian Genocide, War on Drugs, religion, and censorship. The band is a part of the Axis of Justice, a non-profit organization co-founded by Tankian and fellow musician Tom Morello, dedicated to bringing together musicians, music fans, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice.
In 2006, the group went on an "indefinite hiatus", and all four members are currently working on various side projects.
1 History
1.1 Soil (1993–1994)
1.2 In the beginning (1994–1997)
1.3 Debut album (1998–2000)
1.4 Breakthrough and success (2001–2003)
1.5 Mezmerize / Hypnotize (2004–2005)
1.6 Hiatus and future of the band (2006–present)
1.7 Future and reunion
2 Style and influences
3 Band members
3.1 Current members
3.2 Former members
3.3 Stage and Studio Extras
4 Discography
4.1 Studio albums
5 References
6 External links

[edit] History

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[edit] Soil (1993–1994)
Daron Malakian met Serj Tankian in 1993, while they both shared the same rehearsal studio in different bands. Serj was playing keyboard for the Lords of Acid, and Daron was singing lead vocals for another band. They formed a jam band called Soil (Serj on vocals/keyboards and Daron on guitar [2]; not to be confused with SOiL) with Domingo Laranio (drums) and Dave Hakopyan (bass). Around this time, they also met Shavo Odadjian. After about a year, with one supposed jam session recording and one live show, Dave and Domingo left, thinking the band wasn't going anywhere. [3]

[edit] In the beginning (1994–1997)
The band later broke up and Tankian and Malakian formed a new band "System of a Down," adapting the name from a poem Daron wrote entitled "Victims of the Down". [4] Shavo Odadjian thought that the word System appealed to a much broader audience than "Victims," and they wanted their albums to be stored near the band Slayer's. Odadjian was the band's original manager and promoter, but joined as the bassist, and managerial duties were taken over by the Velvet Hammer Music and Management Group and founder David "Beno" Benveniste. Daron then asked his friend Ontronik "Andy" Khachaturian (who had played in his first band with Daron at age 15 [5]) to join the band as the drummer. [6]
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 a song called "Flake," 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.[7] After this, the band recorded three public demos, which have been numbered as Demo Tape 1 to 3, as the early 1995 demo was not discovered until much later. Many of the songs featured on the demos would eventually make their way onto the band's debut album. In mid 1997, Khachaturian left the band (before the recording of the third demo tape [8]) 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 yet another demo 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, System of a Down began to record in his studio. In 1997, the group won the Best Signed Band award from the Rock City Awards.[9]

[edit] Debut album (1998–2000)
In the summer of 1998 (June 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, the band 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. Durst has since admitted that he was a "complete wanker" in relation to this "oversight."[citation needed] The band has yet to comment on Durst's involvement or commentary. In 2000, the band contributed their cover of the Black Sabbath song "Snowblind" to the Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black 2.

[edit] Breakthrough and success (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 the top album 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. 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. The cover of 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. 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.

[edit] 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[citation needed]. The Grammy Award-winning single "B.Y.O.B.," which questions the integrity of military recruiting in America, 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, System of a Down 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.

[edit] Hiatus and future of the band (2006–present)
In May 2006, the band announced they were going on hiatus. Malakian has confirmed the break will probably last a few years, which Odadjian specified as a minimum of three years in an interview with Guitar magazine. 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!"[citation needed] However, Malakian announced he was forming a band called Scars on Broadway, which was joined by Dolmayan, their debut album (Self-Titled) was released in July 2008. 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, was released on October 23, 2007. Dolmayan, as well working with Scars on Broadway, planned to open a comic book store online by November 2007.[10]
System of a Down's final performance before their hiatus took place on August 13, 2006 in West Palm Beach, Florida. "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."[11]
System of a Down's songs were used in the 2006 film "Screamers" by Carla Garapedian. They appeared in the movie, in an interview talking about the importance of helping create awareness and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. "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 December 8, 2006. Also, "Lonely Day" appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Disturbia.
System of a Down was honored at the USC v. Cal game at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA in 2006. The Trojan Marching Band, along with Dolmayan and Odadjian, performed three System of a Down songs: "Toxicity," "Sugar," and "Hypnotize."
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."[12]
Bassist Shavo Odadjian was recently revealed to be directing the first video for the comeback of the hardcore punk band, Bad Brains.[13]
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.[14]

[edit] Future and reunion
In an interview with Hollyscoop at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2007, Serj explains:

System of a Down we have been a band for 12 years, we have put out 5 records, we are all friends and we're still friends and we decided to take time to pursue our artistic and personal goals. . . . We're artists, we're friends we don't have to do necessarily the same every year and we have left the door open.

Towards the end of the interview, Serj was asked if a reunion was possible. He stated that "It is very possible."
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 new 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.[15]

In an April 2008 interview with Kerrang magazine, guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan gave their takes on the band's 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 RV's together!

There are rumors that Serj has expressed the desire to have SOAD represent Armenia at Eurovision 2009. However, in his interview for Asbarez newspaper August 22, 2008 edition Serj has confirmed that the rumors were false. It was a result of a journalist in Finland who misquoted Serj and took his statements out of context. Following the widespread rumors, Serj asked that the Finnish journalist retract his statements.[16]

[edit] Style and influences
The stylistic variety and level of experimentation[17] in System of a Down's music has made it difficult to describe. Though they have evolved their sound with each album, System of a Down has, for the most part, maintained a single style throughout their body of work. This style mixes elements and influences from a wide variety of genres such as alternative rock, punk rock, folk music, psychedelic rock, classic metal, symphonic metal, thrash metal, funk metal and progressive rock.[citation needed] Even some electronic influences can be heard in songs such as "Old School Hollywood." This has made them difficult to categorize, prompting the press to describe them with several different genre handles, among them alternative metal,[18] hard rock,[18][19] nu metal[20][21] and progressive metal.[22]
The band has used a wide range of instruments, including electric mandolins, baritone electric guitars, acoustic guitars, ouds, sitars and twelve string guitars.[23] Furthermore, a variety of keyboards and synthesizers have been used on live shows. Drop C tuning was used exclusively on the first three albums, with later records mostly relying on drop C# tuning. Their vocal style has also remained fairly consistent over the years. The band frequently used alternating vocals, switching between near screaming followed by softer singing. Also, many of the same harmony and chord structures are frequently utilized in vocals in their songs, giving them a distinct sound.
The band has cited Middle Eastern music as one of its influences[4] and mentioned on several accounts that they appreciate The Beatles[4][24] and Kiss.[25] On their own style, Odadjian said:

I don't think we sound like anybody else. I consider us System of a Down.

and Dolmayan stated:

You can compare us to whoever you want. I don't care. Comparisons and labels have no effect on this band. Fact is fact: We are who we are and they are who they are.[26]

[edit] Band members

[edit] Current members
Daron Malakianvocals, lead guitar (1994 - 2006; hiatus)
Serj Tankian - lead vocals, keyboard, rhythm guitar (1994 - 2006; hiatus)
Shavo Odadjianbass, backing vocals (1994 - 2006; hiatus)
John Dolmayandrums, percussion (1997 - 2006; hiatus)

[edit] Former members
Ontronik "Andy" Khachaturian – drums, percussion (1994 – 1997), vocals (filled in for Serj (while he was sick) for one show [27]; this was after he had left the band)

[edit] Stage and Studio Extras
Harry Perry
rhythm guitar
Played rhythm guitar live on the Ozzfest 2006 Tour
Abe Cunningham
Played drums during a live performance of "Science" in Sacramento, CA - October 1, 2005
Charlie Benante
Played drums during a live performance of "Bounce" at the Allstate Arena - September 30, 2005
Ben Weinman
Played guitar during a live performance of "Aerials" at Festimad in Madrid, Spain - May 28, 2005
Kirk Hammett
Played guitar during a live performance of "Aerials" at the Hollywood Palladium - November 15, 2003
Arto Tunçboyacıyan
vocals, additional instruments
Toxicity ("Science" and "Arto") and Steal This Album! ("Bubbles")
Joey Jordison
Replaced Dolmayan playing drums live on October 31, 2001
Rick Rubin
Sugar E.P., System of a Down, and Toxicity
RZA (credited as Wu-Tang Clan)
Featured on "Shame" on the Loud Rocks compilation and the Lonely Day EP
Lynn Strait
Featured during a live performance of "War?" at The Roxy Los Angeles, CA - August 22, 1998
Vanik Vartanian
played drums during a live performance of "Arto" at The Roxy Los Angeles, CA - August 22, 1998

[edit] Discography
Main article: System of a Down discography

[edit] Studio albums
Date of Release
U.S. Billboard peak
RIAA Certification
June 30, 1998
System of a Down
September 4, 2001
3× Platinum
November 26, 2002
Steal This Album!
May 16, 2005
November 22, 2005

[edit] References
^ Exclusive Interview With Andy Khachaturian (ex-SOAD) :: The Official Unofficial System of a Down Site
^ Soil 1993-1997 :: The Official Unofficial System of a Down Site
^ Soil 1993-1997 :: The Official Unofficial System of a Down Site
^ a b c Nalbandian, Bob. "Interview with System of a Down". Retrieved on 2007-07-21.
^ Exclusive Interview With Andy Khachaturian (ex-SOAD) :: The Official Unofficial System of a Down Site!
^ Exclusive Interview With Andy Khachaturian (ex-SOAD) :: The Official Unofficial System of a Down Site
^ "The History Of: System of a Down". (2005-10-25). Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
^ Soil 1993-1997 :: The Official Unofficial System of a Down Site
^ "Rock City Awards 1997". Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
^ "SOAD talk about side projects". (2006-07-13). Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
^ "West Palm Beach, FL - August 13, 2006 Review". (2006-07-13). Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
^ "System of a Down's Future Uncertain". (2006-12-28). Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
^ "System of a Down Bassist to Direct Bad Brains Video". (2007-05-15). Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
^ "System of a Down Is 'Alive and Well'". (2007-07-20). Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
^ "System of a Down — Malakian: 'System of a Down Will Never Reform'". (2008-02-19). Retrieved on 2008-02-21.
^ "Interview with Serj Tankian". Retrieved on September 26, 2008.
^ Nettleton, Chris. "System of a Down review". Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
^ a b "System of a Down at the All Music Guide". Retrieved on 2007-07-24.
^ Strauss, Neil (2003-03-26). "The Pop Life: MTV is Wary of Videos on War". Retrieved on 2007-07-24.
^ "American Recordings/Columbia Records press release for the release of Toxicity", PR Newswire (2002-04-23). Retrieved on 2007-05-06.
^ Armoudian, Maria (2003-02-06). "Rock's Axis of Activism". Retrieved on 2007-05-06.
^ Serpick, Evan (2005-12-15). "System of a Down — Prog-metal Radicals". Retrieved on 2007-07-24.
^ "System of a Down biography". Retrieved on 2006-06-26.
^ "Interview with System of a Down". Retrieved on 2007-07-21.
^ Griwkowsky, Fish (2006-06-23). "System of a Down Fight the Fight". Retrieved on 2007-07-21.
^ "Official System of a Down MySpace". Retrieved on 2007-07-21.
^ Exclusive Interview With Andy Khachaturian (ex-SOAD) :: The Official Unofficial System of a Down Site

[edit] External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
System of a Down
Official website
System of a Down's article at the Music Wiki
System of a Down on Velvet Hammer site
System Of A Down at LyricWiki
System of a Down at the Open Directory Project
vdeSystem of a Down
Daron MalakianSerj TankianShavo OdadjianJohn DolmayanOntronik "Andy" Khachaturian
System of a DownToxicitySteal This Album!MezmerizeHypnotize
SugarLimited Edition Tour CDLonely Day
"Sugar" • "Spiders" • "Chop Suey!" • "Toxicity" • "Aerials" • "Innervision" • "B.Y.O.B." • "Question!" • "Hypnotize" • "Lonely Day" • "Kill Rock 'n Roll"
"War?" • "Sugar" • "Spiders" • "Chop Suey!" • "Toxicity" • "Aerials" • "Boom!" • "B.Y.O.B." • "Question!" • "Hypnotize" • "Lonely Day"
Related artists
Scars on BroadwayAchozenSerartBucketheadMt. HeliumVoKee
Related articles
DiscographyAxis of JusticeElect the DeadSerjical Strike RecordsScreamersVartan Malakian
System of a DownMembersAlbumsSongs

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