Broken Record Serj Tankian Talks Toxicity and Activism

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System of a Down’s classic Rick Rubin-produced album, Toxicity, turns 20 this year. Released in 2001 one week before 9/11, the politically charged and wildly bizarre album provided the perfect soundtrack for a world descending into chaos. Serj Tankian, the lead singer of System, is no stranger to conflict. His family is Armenian and migrated to Los Angeles from Lebanon to escape a civil war when Serj was seven years-old. Today we’ll hear Rick Rubin talk to his good friend Serj about how hearing bombs drop outside his childhood bedroom turned him into a lifelong activist. Serj also explains how a funny line about a tapeworm almost caused System to break up, and why the first time Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine heard System play, he called it music for crazy people.

Subscribe to Broken Record’s YouTube channel to hear old and new interviews, often with bonus content: https://www.youtube.com/brokenrecordpodcast and follow us on Twitter @BrokenRecord.

Check out a playlist of our favorite System of a Down songs HERE. And hear a playlist Serj put together of his favorite tracks HERE.

Get Serj’s new solo EP Elasticity HERE.

The Hosts

Rick Rubin

In addition to being a podcast host, Frederick Jay “Rick” Rubin is an American record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, he is the co-founder…

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is president and co-founder of Pushkin Industries. He is a journalist, a speaker, and the author of six New York Times bestsellers including The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers,…

Justin Richmond

Justin Richmond is producer and co-host of the music podcast Broken Record with writer Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times editor Bruce Headlam, and music producer—and Def Jam co-founder—Rick Rubin. Justin…

Bruce Headlam

Bruce Headlam is one of the co-creators of the music podcast Broken Record. He worked at The New York Times for 19 years, including two years running the 50-person Video…