System of a Down Almost Broke Up While Recording Toxicity for a Ridiculous Reason

System of a Down photo via Upset Magazine
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It almost seems impossible these days for System of a Down to try and release new music. Though they may be playing some festival dates next year and have made a few charity singles with “Protect the Land,” there’s still no certainty that we’ll ever get another full-length from these guys again.

And if you think it’s just tension that happens as the guys get older, you’re sadly mistaken. This has been going on since the glory days.

When talking about the origins of the album Toxicity, there was originally a lot of creative compromise going on at the time, even down to extremely specific lines of a song.

When producer Rick Rubin reflected on making the album with System recently, he had talked about the infamous line from “Needles” about a tapeworm being pulled out of someone’s ass, which led to a huge argument in the studio about whether it was going to stay.

Going back and forth about which lines to keep, Rick recounts the massive fight that went down in the studio regarding that line, saying I felt like, it seemed like, the band could have broke up over the lyric. It was so extreme, but it speaks to the passion in the band.

There’s real passion that’s amazing. The fact that a lyric, an insignificant… one word and arguably comical line is enough to potentially break up a band or discard a great song.

In the studio, Serj Tankian talked about the disagreement, saying: Originally, the chorus was Pull the tapeworm out of my ass.’ Daron and Shavo didn’t like ‘my ass.’

They were like, ‘No, no, no, that doesn’t sound cool, that sounds bad, that sounds vulnerable,’ or whatever it was. Whatever word you want to use as an adjective. I’m like, ‘What I’m trying to say is philosophical. Take this negativity out of me.”

When asked further about the song though, Serj talked about the argument being more about the band’s respect in the minds of metalheads, saying:

“I think it’s the metal attitude versus the non-metal attitude, as well. For me, I like showing vulnerability in our music.

“I don’t mind showing it, because I think, as an artist, you’re vulnerable either way. You either show it or you don’t. But the metal attitude is, ‘No way, dude. No way, we’re metal!’ I think that’s what it was more than anything else.”

For the rest of the metal crowd, we were more than happy to jam along with “Needles” regardless, having a killer riff and a definite comedic edge to it. It might not be taking itself that seriously, but there’s nothing wrong with headbanging and laughing at the same time. 

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