December 4, 2022
Serj Tankian - 'Toxicity' Release Period Was 'F--king Stressful'


For many bands, the period surrounding the release of their biggest albums is usually thought of fondly. But that’s not necessarily the case for System of a Down, as Serj Tankian reveals in a new interview that the period surrounding the release of Toxicity was “really, really dicey.”

Admittedly, there was a lot going on surrounding the period in which the album was released that added to the stress of the situation. Tankian tells Metal Injection, “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.”

Speaking more to their own experience, he also recalls, “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 fucking mess.”

He goes on to add, “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 fucking stressful as fuck. That’s what I remember. I didn’t feel like a musician. I didn’t feel like I was doing music. It was fucking stressful as fuck. It was really, really dicey. That’s what I remember, that’s the emotion that prevails.”

Toxicity did push the band to new heights, with the record hitting the top of the Billboard 200 Album Chart and spawning the hit singles “Chop Suey!,” ‘Aerials” and the title track.

That said, Tankian can now look in reflection and see that there were some things learned from the experience. “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.”

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