For many bands, the period surrounding the release of their biggest album is usually thought of with joy. But that is not necessarily the case System of a Downas Serj Tankian reveals in a new interview that the period around the release of Toxicity was “really, really discreet.”
Admittedly, a lot happened around the time the album was released, adding to the stress of the situation. Tankian narrates Metal injection“Just being on tour the week after 9/11 for months at a time in itself, even if you weren’t a political band, would be challenging because there’s the kind of daily threats that were on TV and orange, the red threats, all the different calibers of terrorist threats and things like that. And yet we were also threatened by many elements because of our outspokenness. So it was a very, very difficult time.”
Speaking more about their own experience, he also recalls: “The publication of Toxicity itself was a riot in LA. We inadvertently ended up having a riot in Hollywood because of our release event where we basically had too many people. And the fire marshal shut it down and people responded and fights broke out. We lost our equipment, our crew was beaten, and then there were LA riots and we had to explain what was going on to the media, and it was a bloody mess.”
He goes on to add, “So when I think about Toxicity, everybody thinks, oh, that’s your kind of best record or your best selling record, whatever you want to call it. And they say, ‘How was it? How did it feel?’ As if they expect some really positive kind of memory or response. It was damn stressful. That’s what I remember. I didn’t feel like a musician. I didn’t feel like I was making music. It was damn stressful. It was really, really pissy. This is what I remember, these are the emotions that prevail.’
Toxicity pushed 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 back and see that there were some lessons learned from the experience. “I think there’s something about success where it’s not just monochromatic, no matter what your creative output is. And the other layers, the other possibilities can build into what we know as this successful time and this successful record for this band in itself. So it’s really interesting to me.”
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