Speed Reads

'Do I get excited?'

System of a Down members look back on the 'guilt' of their album hitting No. 1 on 9/11

Members of System of a Down are looking back 20 years later on learning their iconic album Toxicity debuted at number one on the charts — on Sept. 11, 2001. 

The heavy metal band released Toxicity, their second studio album, in September of 2001, and the group discussed it in an oral history published in Vulture on Wednesday focused largely on the song "Chop Suey!". At one point, they recalled the strange feeling of receiving the news that the album had topped the charts on such a tragic day. 

"I answered the phone, and it was my mom saying, 'Put on the TV,'" bassist Shavo Odadjian told Vulture. "I turn on the TV, and all of a sudden, the second tower falls. At the same time, my phone beeps again, and I pick up. It's my manager, and he says, 'Congratulations, you're No. 1 on Billboard.' It's like, f---: Do I get excited? Am I sad? What is it? And is the tour still happening?" 

Drummer John Dolmayan also reflected on this as being both the "best and the worst day" of their lives, asking, "How do you find happiness when other people are suffering? You have to deal with the guilt of that." The subsequent period was "one of the most uncomfortable, stressful times in our lives," singer Serj Tankian noted. For one, Tankian recalled the blowback the band dealt with after he subsequently wrote an essay criticizing U.S. foreign policy "mishaps," noting, "At the time, there was a lot of reactionism, there was a lot of fear. So people didn't like that." Guitarist Daron Malakian added that "to this day, I think it could've been done in a more tasteful way." Read the full oral history at Vulture.