“We were auditioning for bass players, but most of the guys who came in were too good. One day I just said, ‘What if I play bass?’” Shavo Odadjian on why he switched from guitar to the bass

Shavo Odadjian, bassist of the band System of a Down, in concert at Firenze Rocks Festival. Florence, Italy. 25th June 2017
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Heavy metal has been through a tumultuous time in the last few decades. Before 1990, or thereabouts, you either wore spandex or denim, and you either liked Poison or Metallica. You only had two basic directions and everyone was happy. After that, grunge came along and wiped most of the slate clean, after which many metal musicians found themselves flipping burgers and waiting impatiently for MTV to start playing 80s metal again. Sadly for them, grunge begat alternative metal, which itself morphed into nu-metal, a hip hop-influenced variant which dominated the airwaves until 2002 or so.

But it wasn't all bad news. Although nu-metal quickly faded from view, a handful of completely different bands had slipped into the public consciousness simply because of the general open-mindedness of the metal scene at the time. The Los Angeles-based Armenian-American quartet System of a Down were more progressive, more confident and more head-scratchingly unlike any of their contemporaries, and quickly pulled in several nations' worth of fans with their self-titled debut album in 1998. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Joel McIver

Joel McIver was the Editor of Bass Player magazine from 2018 to 2022, having spent six years before that editing Bass Guitar magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV.