Watch: Rick Rubin Explains Why System of a Down’s ‘Chop Suey!’ Lyrics Make No Sense

Serj Tankian: Photo credit: Travis Shinn / Rick Rubin: jasontheexploder, CC BY 3.0, Wikipedia
Published on:

During a recent appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast, music producer Rick Rubin shared how an incredibly random piece of advice shaped a portion of the System of a Down song “Chop Suey!”.

“Chop Suey!” is, without a doubt, the most iconic song that System of a Down has ever put out. Along with being a producer on the album, Rubin provided an idea to band frontman Serj Tankian that would end up impacting the lyrics of the song.

While talking to Rogan, Rick Rubin shares details about the creation of “Chop Suey!”, and how his super random idea helped Serj out of a lyrical rut.

“My experience is, when you are open and looking for these clues in the world, they’re happening all the time. And they’re happening, often right when you need them. There’s a story, there’s a song – this System Of A Down song called ‘Chop Suey!’, I think. You know that song? It has this big bridge section in it where Serj, the lyric writer — the singer — didn’t have words for this one part of the song.

“And we’re sitting in the library in my old house and he said, ‘I don’t have words for this,’ and we were finishing and it’s like, ‘Okay, any ideas?’ He didn’t have any ideas. So I said, ‘Okay, pick a book off the wall.’ He picked a book randomly off the wall, I said, ‘Open it to any page, tell me the first phrase you see.’

“He opened it, first phrase he sees – that’s what’s in the song. And it’s a highpoint in the song. It’s incredible, like magic.”

Rogan then asks Rick what the phrase was that helped Serj out of his lyrical rut. This is what Rubin said:

“It’s the part, ‘Father, into your hands. Why have you forsaken me?’ It’s wild… The context, it doesn’t really make sense to what’s going on, it’s rad.”

Isn’t that fucking surreal? Sometimes writing up a profound lyric just takes picking up a book randomly and pulling from the first phrase you see in it. Below is a video that involves Rick Rubin talking about this experience.