Serj Tankian Stunned By System of a Down Show Riot


Serj Tankian recently explained the reason as to why he has few positive memories from System of a Down’s breakthrough “Toxicity” era, and said that the period was “stressful as fuck” for himself and his bandmates.

Serj Tankian talked about System of a Down being threatened

System of a Down’s “Toxicity” is nowadays widely regarded as a landmark album that changed the course of heavy music in the early 21st century, and many metalhead kids growing up in the early ’00s remember the album as a formative listening experience. However, being kids, few of us could grasp the real extent of the controversy surrounding S.O.A.D’s sophomore LP.

Released mere days before 9/11, “Toxicity” drew heavy criticism from the mainstream. The song “Chop Suey!” was held up as the main offender, and became a notable example of the Clear Channel memorandum list of songs that radio stations were suggested to avoid.

Moreover, riots infamously erupted during the band’s free promotional concert held one day before the album’s release once the LA parking lot where the gig was being held filled up way beyond capacity in a matter of seconds, making the band primed for more controversy. Looking back on the period in a recent interview with Metal Injection, Serj Tankian said:

“Just being on tour the week after 9/11 for months at a time by itself, even if you weren’t a political band, would be challenging because there’s these daily kind of threats right, that were on TV and the orange, the red threats, all those different calibers of terrorism threats and stuff. And yet we were also being threatened by many elements because of our outspokenness. So it was a very, very difficult time.

“And the release of Toxicity itself was a riot in L.A. We unintentionally ended up having a riot in Hollywood because of our release event that, basically, we had too many people. And the fire marshal closed it down and people reacted and fights ensued.

“We lost our equipment, our crew was punched, and then L.A. riots occurred and we had to explain what was going on to the media, and it was a f***ing mess.

“So when I think of Toxicity, everyone thinks, oh, it’s your kind of best record or your best selling record, whatever you want to call it. And they’re like, ‘How was it? How did it feel?’ Like they expect some really positive kind of memory or response. It was f**king stressful as f***. That’s what I remember. I didn’t feel like a musician. I didn’t feel like I was doing music. It was f**king stressful as f***. It was really, really dicey. That’s what I remember, that’s the emotion that prevails.”

However, it is also undeniable that the era remains an integral part of S.O.A.D.’s identity. Tankian concludes:

“But I think there is something to that. I think there is something to success where it’s not just monochromatic, whatever your creative output is. And those other layers, those other possibilities might be building into what we know as this successful time and this successful record for this band per se. So that’s really interesting to me.”

Serj Tankian’s solo EP “Perplex Cities” is out now via Serjical Strike Records.