Serj Tankian Recalls The System Of A Down Hit Turning Into A Disaster

Everyone can feel the rebellious spirit in the heart of rock music. However, there are moments when a crowd overflowing with this emotion can cause problems, which was the case when ‘Toxicity’ first came out in an already politically-chaotic context. Even though it’s been 20 years since their album came out, frontman Serj Tankian’s memories of the chaos they created with their songs are still vivid, which he recalled while speaking to Ultimate Guitar.

“And the release of ‘Toxicity’ itself was a riot in L.A.,’ the frontman said, remembering the times they released their breakthrough album. “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 f*cking mess.”

He continued, “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 f*cking stressful as f*ck. That’s what I remember. I didn’t feel like a musician. I didn’t feel like I was doing music. It was f*cking stressful as f*ck. It was really, really dicey. That’s what I remember. That’s the emotion that prevails.”

‘Toxicity’ became one of the highlights not only for S.O.A.D. but also for heavy metal history. However, especially considering its political context, the band members didn’t really enjoy their breakthrough much at first; on top of that, it became a source of stress for them. The album was released a few days before 9/11, and in the following period, not only the U.S.A. but the whole world would enter a politically turbulent period. Touring in promotion of their new album turned out to be quite a stressful experience for the band members.

The story about which Tankian shared his feelings is one such example. While their albums weren’t even officially released yet, S.O.A.D. encountered a chaotic audience that even they themselves couldn’t grasp. One day before the release of ‘Toxicity,’ their free promotion concert in L.A. had turned into a riot field. The concert venue had already exceeded its capacity, filled with an angry crowd hurting each other and the band members. S.O.A.D. members probably expected heavy mainstream criticism when compositing this album, but the chaos they encountered was an unexpected and bad experience.