system news September 23, 2005 9:29 PM
Black Sabbath were spawned on the gloomy streets of Birmingham. Guns
'N' Roses clawed their way up from a Hollywood gutter. Metallica's
James Hetfield rebelled against a restrictive Christian Science
Most metal bands are raging against something or other.
But a band forged in the fires of genocide? Now there's a formula
for intensity. It's that intensity that a million-and-counting fans
tapped into this summer as they flocked to buy System of a Down's
fourth album, Mezmerize, rocketing the disc to No. 1 on Billboard
charts the week of its May 17 release.
In an interview in advance of the Armenian-American band's Sept. 19
concert at Pengrowth Saddledome, System of a Down's bassist Shavo
Odadjian, 31, talked about how the Armenian genocide that occurred
between 1915 and 1923 has shaped the group. In that time an estimated
1.5 million Armenians were expelled from the Ottoman Empire by the
Turkish government in a campaign of murder, deportation and torture.
"When the genocide occurred, our families had nowhere to go," says
Odadjian. "A bunch of countries helped the Armenians out. We were a
Christian nation and even the Muslims were like 'Dude, this shouldn't
be happening,' and they saved us. They took us into their countries.
That's why there's Armenians all over the world today."
Odadjian was born in Armenia. His bandmates, singer/keyboardist Serj
Tankian and drummer John Dolmayan were born in Lebanon.
Singer/guitarist Daron Malakian was born in Hollywood, but his
grandparents are currently living in Iraq.
"I feel for Daron," says Odadjian. "Every time he hears something
about Iraq (and its conflict with the United States) he trips out,
because his family members are still there. It drives him nuts. It
really does inspire his songwriting."
Odadjian, Malakian and Tankian attended an Armenian private school in
Hollywood together, and when they became musicians on the Los Angeles
rock scene in the '90s, this unique background drew them together. "I
don't have a family tree," says Odadjian. "No one knows about my
family's roots before my grandpa. No one knows his birthdate even.
(In System of a Down) we all share this common bond."
That consciousness often creeps into the band's funky, thrash-metal
stew. This has led critics to dub System of a Down the most political
metal band since Rage Against the Machine. Fierce protests against the
Iraq war and portraits of a disgraced Statue of Liberty on Mezmerize
contribute to that notion.
But Odadjian insists System of a Down is not a political band. "We
are a life band," he says. "We are a social band. We are a band that
raises awareness about issues we confront every day. But we don't wake
up every morning trying to write songs about how Bush screwed up our
country. . . . It's just that right now, politics plays such a major
role in all of our lives that we can't help but speak about it."
On Mezmerize, Malakian has stepped up as the band's primary
songwriter. Still, Tankian remains a strong creative force, with
the two balancing each other out perfectly. "Serj will write a song
and it will be all metaphors. I won't understand it. He won't even
understand it," Odadjian says. "While Daron is more straightforward.
. . Serj is more political, but if you sit down and listen to.
Daron, he's got some crazy views on life."
Another unique aspect of System of a Down is the way the band
incorporates the music of its native Armenia into its attack.
"Nothing is contrived," Odadjian stresses. "We never say 'This part
needs an Armenian beat.' Actually, we're big Iron Maiden fans and
they used a lot of Middle Eastern sounds. That's our main influence.
Mix that up with ABBA, Led Zeppelin and Frank Zappa and you get System
of a Down."
It's that sort of adventurous spirit that led the band, along with
producer Rick Rubin, to create Mezmerize. The original concept was
to release a double album. Ultimately, System decided against that,
convinced that today's MTV-weaned rock fans don't have the attention
spans to appreciate a double album anymore. "You can't release (an
album like Pink Floyd's) The Wall right now," he says.
To remedy the situation, the band divided the album into two.
Mezmerize was released last May, and the second half, Hypnotize,
is expected to hit stores in November. "Individually, each one is a
piece of art, but together, they complete one another," he says.
Were it not for the warped, hyper-wacky sensibility that comes through
in much of their music, one could definitely conclude that System of
a Down is a band that takes itself very seriously. It's been called
on that too.
Odadjian defends System's stance. "We're not politicians and we're
not heroes," he says. "Serj wrote in one of his lyrics 'You must
enter a room to destroy it.'
"We've entered the corporate room of Sony-BMG and Columbia.
"And for songs like Cigaro and B.Y.O.B to hit the radio or get played
on MTV -- no way would that have happened 10 years ago even -- we've
pretty much destroyed the room."
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September 23, 2005 9:31 PM
System Of A Down has set November 22nd as the release date for Hypnotize, the second new System album to come out this year. The first, Mezmerize, arrived on May 17th. Bassist Shavo Odadjian told The Zone that the two records really do form one single body of work: "Well, it's one record. Like, imagine if an artist draws on two canvasses that were combined, does some kind of crazy, abstract art involving a lot of colors and a lot of contradictions, and then splits the canvasses up and you have, like, two different pieces of art that separately are their own entity. But when you put 'em together, they become one. It's exactly that."
The artwork for both discs combines to form one unified image, while the last song on Hypnotize, called "Soldier's Side," completes "Soldier's Side Intro," which opens Mezmerize.
A DualDisc version of Hypnotize will feature behind-the-scenes footage from the making of both albums.
Hypnotize will also feature artwork by Vartan Malakian, father of System guitarist Daron Malakian.
The title track, for which Shavo Odadjian is directing a video, will arrive at radio stations in early October.
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Band explains reason for releasing 2 albums September 23, 2005 9:32 PM
Songs are like people.
Or so said System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian when explaining why the creative group decided to release two studio albums six months apart, instead of, say, a double disc or two albums simultaneously.
"We thought about doing a double record," said Odadjian, calling from his home in Los Angeles. "Then we decided the attention span of kids and people nowadays is not that strong. It's like you meeting 30 people at once or you meeting 12 people at once. You'll remember those 12 people more than you would the 30. And those people are songs."
Those people are also very surly and bi-polar with multiple personalities and quirky demeanors. As for the albums, "Mesmerize" was released in the spring, while "Hypnotize" is due out this November. The double release is somewhat of a daring approach for this alt-metal band that scored a breakthrough in 2001 with the release of "Toxicity." While nearly four years passed between studio projects, considered a lifetime for a lesser independent and confident band than System of a Down, the outfit's following remained loyal.
Lead by enigmatic frontman Serj Tankian, System of a Down — which headlines a show Monday at the Tower City Amphitheater in Cleveland — walks a fine line between melodic moments of bliss and toxic fits of rage, all of which speak to Odadjian on an artsy level.
"The music is creating a painting," Odadjian said. "And our band to me is an abstract painting with all of our crazy time changes and arrangements that are not pop arrangements."
System of a Down has combined such unpredictable music styles with lyrical content that eschews metal tendencies of obligatory doom and gloom. Sure, the picture may not be pretty, but it comes across rooted more in social relevance and commentary and less in science fiction and artifice.
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take action October 02, 2005 8:04 PM
Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, has it in his power to accomplish one of System's goals - official U.S. recognition of Turkey's destruction of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923.
On September 15th, a major Congressional committee - rejecting attacks from Turkey and the Bush Administration - approved legislation recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The next step is for the full House of Representatives to take a final vote on this legislation. But this is only possible if Hastert lets it happen. The choice is in his hands.
By allowing Congress to vote on this legislation, Hastert can end U.S. denial of this crime and open the doors to justice - to the restoration, reparation, and restitution owed to the victims of genocide.
By continuing to block a vote on this legislation, Hastert effectively joins in the denial of this crime against humanity, and the denial of justice to an entire nation.
Join with System. Click hereto take action and send a free WebFax urging Hastert to hold a vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
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