System of a Down Bassist Recalls Learning ‘Toxicity’ Hit No. 1 During 9/11 Attack
Your first chart-topping album should be a moment of celebration for a band, but System of a Down's Shavo Odadjian recalls the surreal moment in which he learned the band's Toxicity album claimed the top spot just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks were happening.
The bassist recalled to Kerrang!, "I found out on 9/11 itself. I remember my mom phoning me and telling me to turn on the TV, and right when I switched on, one of the Twin Towers fell down live. I didn’t know what was happening, or if it was real or not, and so I’m watching in horror and the phone bleeps, and it’s my manager, and he says, ‘Congratulations, you’re No. 1 on Billboard,’ at the same time my mom is saying that the world is going to end. Crazy. I just got chills talking about it.”
It was an interesting period for the band. Odajian started to realize the band was becoming a big deal just a short period earlier. “I actually know the exact date I knew that, because it was early September 2001, Labor Day, and the album was coming out the very next day, so we decided to do a free show in Hollywood. We expected to draw maybe 4,000 or 5,000 people, so we had security to deal with those numbers, and 15,000 people showed up, and were going crazy. The fire marshal took us aside and said, ‘Look, we can’t let this show happen, there’s too many people out there.’"
The bassist says the band wanted to address the crowd, fearing that not doing so would incite a riot. But they were not allowed to speak, and the audience did turn rowdy, destroying gear and fighting with crew members.
"We got driven away to a hotel. I was sitting in my room with my friends, and within two hours, every news station in LA was talking about the System of a Down riot. We couldn’t have paid for that kind of marketing," says Odadjian.
Then, one week later, the album skyrocketed to the top of the charts, but 9/11 caused the band's music to be pulled from some airwaves amidst heightened sensitivities following the terror attack. "It was 9/11, and our record was banned because we had songs like 'Chop Suey!,' singing about 'self-righteous suicide' and Toxicity was the country’s No. 1 record."
Toxicity went on to become a huge album for the band and has been certified three times platinum by the RIAA.
Where Does Toxicity Rank Among the Top 100 Hard Rock + Metal Albums of the 21st Century?