How did a quartet of heady Armenian-American freaks from Los Angeles, with their prog-metal arias on everything from police brutality to coke-crazed groupies, go from egghead outcasts to Ozzfest headliners? For System of a Down – like the rest of us – everything changed last September….
When they released ”Toxicity” (Columbia) on Sept. 4, 2001, the band was poised for success. Their eponymous debut had already won over scads of in-the-know metalheads back in 1999. Still, ”Chop Suey!”, the new album’s potent first single, hit modern rock radio hard. How hard? On Sept. 3, influential L.A. rock station KROQ helped promote a free outdoor gig – 4,000 or so of the band’s local fans were expected. When 10,000 of L.A.’s rowdiest overwhelmed the police barricades, cops pulled System’s plug, sparking a riot of shattered windows and smashed cars.
”It makes me feel very strange that we have that kind of power,” says drummer John Dolmayan, 30, ”when people are destroying things because of the lack of our presence. I mean, who are we?”
One week later, the world had changed – and ”Toxicity” was the best-selling album in America. ”The whole Sept. 11 and System of a Down thing scares the f— out of me,” says guitarist Daron Malakian, 27. ”A lot of albums came out that week. But everybody talks about us.”