System of a Down

System Of A Down is a heavy band, not just in its aural quality, but also in the group’s sense of emotion, meaning, thought, planning and drive. From its music to its displays of visual art to its career development, nothing is forsaken, rushed or compromised in the name of earning a buck.

It’s especially evident when speaking to the group’s members and representatives.

“I think the most important thing that System Of A Down stands for is that they are true. Their music is feelings and views articulated onto instruments. They are true artists. They play, they sing, they speak for what they believe in … that there is a savior in music,” band manager David Benveniste said.

“It’s not just about, ‘Hey, sell 10 million records and jump on spring break.’ It’s more about art. It’s more about believing in yourself and perseverance.”

To some, System Of A Down is just another rock band that’s too loud and too fast with a manic singer spouting who knows what. But in Benveniste’s words, there’s more. Crack the surface and one can find poignant, insightful lyrics accompanying the thought-provoking music.

The investment is worth it and anyone associated with the Los Angeles-based fourpiece, the fans, agents, label reps, the group members themselves, knows it.

“We love the band,” said ARTISTdirect’s Marc Geiger, who shares the group’s touring reins with Don Muller. He proudly told POLLSTAR: “We think Dave is a star, and we are in the System Of A Down and Dave Benveniste business, or as we call it, the Beeno business.”

The Beeno business has a bright future. Already, the band’s sophomore American Recordings effort, Toxicity, has earned platinum status since its late August release.

System of a Down

“While you see the sales differences in these metal bands, where System lies compared to these other bands is once that record hit the streets, the proof is in the pudding,” Benveniste said. “Obviously, radio is great, but the most important thing is the kids have embraced this record and that’s why it’s maintaining.”

System Of A Down, which has toured with the likes of Black Sabbath, Ozzfest and Metallica’s Summer Sanitarium, recently finished its Pledge of Allegiance co-headlining tour with Slipknot. Upcoming tour plans include radio shows in early December followed by a U.S. tour and international dates next year.

While the Pledge tour, also featuring Rammstein and No One, was the typical headbanger’s dream, the band’s upcoming road trips may not be as black and white, Geiger said.

“For us, what is critically important is to get System Of A Down positioned really to be a standalone ticket seller and people’s band, but also not have them be perceived really as a metal band. … We see System more like Rage Against the Machine than we do Slipknot. So the focus for the next year is to start to manage that transition and have System Of A Down be as comfortable playing K-Rock and the Jane’s Addiction type of vibe as metal, so to speak,” he said.

“I think that’s the challenge. I think that where the band’s head is at, what they stand for and what they’re writing about, their music and who they package with are somewhat of a dichotomy, which is what makes it so interesting.”

Further demonstrating that dichotomy, the band for its next single will release two tracks, one for metal stations and one for alternative. Expect both videos to be directed by the band, said System bassist Shavo Odadjian, the band’s visual arts person who arranged the film backdrop that played during the band’s Pledge set. He’s also working on a live DVD due for release next year.

“The thing with our band is we try to do everything ourselves. We’re a team; whoever’s strong in whatever they do, they do it so we can get everything from the band’s point of view. Like the music, the production, the vibe of the shows and everything from the album packaging to the minuscule layering of every track, I want it to be a band. We all give each other space to do whatever we like doing and are good at doing so it’ll come out the way we want it to come out. That’s our band’s motto … we do it our way,” he said.

Having full control of their destiny is an important freedom cherished by the performers, who wouldn’t have it any other way. System singer Serj Tankian summed up why it’s important for people, especially musicians, to not relinquish control.

“I remember before we got signed, people from major labels were coming up to me going, ‘Don’t growl. You’ll never get signed by a major label.’ … The industry doesn’t know. Industry people generally don’t have their four fingers on the heartbeat of what the kids want. It comes through to artists through the universe and it’s whatever is happening, whatever is going on,” he said.

“That’s my point, the growl thing. You can’t really listen to what people want; you’ve got to just do what’s in your heart.”