Their original name was Victim Of A Down. They changed "victim" to "system" so they could be close to Slayer in the record racks. When they were on the rise, they opened for Slayer, whom Daron Malakian idolized.
Formed in the Little Armenia section of Southern California, all four members have lineage in the Middle East. Dolmayan is Lebanese-Armenian, Odadjian and Tankian are Armenian, and Malakian is Iraqi-Iranian. They are all of Armenian descent and their families were affected by the Armenian Genocide, which began in 1915 at the beginning of World War I when the Turkish military began deporting and killing about 1.5 million Armenians.
They were never a cover band. When they started performing in 1995, they did all original songs, many of which (including "Sugar
" and "P.L.U.C.K.
") were included on their debut album three years later.
Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and Serj Tankian all attended the Rose And Alex Pilibos Armenian School in Hollywood at various times (Tankian is several years older than the other two). From the playground, they could glimpse a derelict Hollywood of homelessness and decay that helped form their worldview. This is heard most literally in their 2005 song "Lost In Hollywood
System Of A Down have some very political songs, but they cover a lot of ground lyrically, exploring religion, interpersonal relationships, death, and many other topics. A common theme throughout is their opposition to oppression and aggression in any guise.
SOAD was going to sign with Universal Music, but went with Rick Rubin's label, American Recordings, instead. When they looked at the artists Universal was promoting, it was mostly R&B acts like Erykah Badu and Lost Boyz. Rubin had worked with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Slayer, which was a better fit. He not only signed System Of A Down, but produced them as well.
Tankian has his own record label called Serjical Strike. In April 2006 he signed the band Fair To Midland, which gets their name from an old Texas play on the term "fair to middling."
Angela - Sacramento, CA
Their hairstyles and fashion choices could be rather outlandish, but the best we can tell, the band has no piercings or tattoos.
They had two #1 US albums in 2005 (Mezmerize
), but then called it quits the following year because they couldn't agree on a creative direction. They started touring again in 2010 and sometimes recorded together, but didn't release any new music until November 6, 2020, when they released the songs "Protect The Land
" and "Genocidal Humanoidz
" in support of the Armenian people, who were fighting to keep control of a disputed territory. According to Tankian, much of their strife comes from control of the songwriting - they don't distribute writing credits evenly, so Malakian ended up earning a lot more because he wrote most of their songs.
Tankian was part of the traditional workforce for a while before forming the band. After graduating California State University, Northridge, in 1989 with a degree in Marketing, he started a successful software company, which he says helped him prepare for the pressures of fame.
Malakian likes to collect candles, Persian rugs, instruments, and skulls.
Amanda - Carthage, TN
Malakian's father, Vartan Malakian, is an artist; he painted all the artwork that was used on their Hypnotize
album. He also painted all of the custom Ibanez Icemen guitars that Daron used in the Toxicity
/Steal This Album
Dax - San Diego, CA
When Dolmayan was a child aged 5, he was lying in his bed when he heard a noise and got scared. He left his room asked his parents if he could sleep with them for the night. A few minutes later, a bullet came through John's bedroom window and hit the bed where Little John would've been sleeping. Soon afterwards, John's father decided that they had to move out of Lebanon.
Max - Postcombe, England
The band members have all taken on various side projects. In the fall of 2007 Serj Tankian released his debut solo album, Elect The Dead, and he's released a series of solo albums since; for a few years, Shavo Odadjian had a band called Achozen with RZA from Wu-Tang Clan; Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan formed a band called Scars On Broadway, which released their first album in 2008; Dolmayan also released an album of covers songs with his band These Grey Men in 2020.