How A Single Lyric Almost Broke Up System Of A Down

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Stuart Sevastos, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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All of the best art in the world comes from intense passion.

When it comes to System Of A Down, their hair-trigger personalities and wildly differing opinions are integral to their vitriolic dynamic.

In an interview with Serj Tankian on Rick Rubin’s Broken Record podcast, the producer recalled how a simple lyric in the song “Needles” almost broke the band up during the Toxicity sessions.

“Originally, the chorus was ‘Pull the tapeworm out of my ass.’ Daron [Malakian] and Shavo [Odadjian] didn’t like ‘my ass,’” Tankian said. “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.’”

“I felt like, it seemed like, the band could have broke up over the lyric,” Rubin recalled. “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. That was another possibility.”

The frontman said: “And all we had to do was change it to ‘your.’ ‘Pull the tapeworm out of your ass.’ ‘My’ became ‘your’ and then in the middle part where I’m singing nicely, ‘Pull the tapeworm out of me,’ they were okay with that. You probably thought, ‘These guys are fucking nuts.’”

“I think it’s the metal attitude versus the non-metal attitude, as well,” Tankian mused. “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,” he concluded.