System of a Down are on a Los Angeles soundstage shooting a video for the title track to their near-double-platinum second album, Toxicity. Bassist Shavo Odadjian is taking his first turn as director with the aid of veteran Marco Siega, who, in addition to helming clips for Blink-182 and Papa Roach, also crafted System's TRL standard, "Chop Suey."
The prog-metal quartet has recalled the 200 black-clad fans who populated the "Chop Suey" video to mosh on command for this latest clip. The notion of fan involvement in a video is nothing new to Odadjian. Back in 1993, a young Shavo was himself an extra in AC/DC's "Big Gun" video -- from the soundtrack to Arnold Schwarzenegger's Last Action Hero.
While Shavo has spent months envisioning the "Toxicity" clip and working on the concept with Siega, actual execution was an entirely different animal. "It's more tiring than I thought it would be," he said on the set Wednesday. "I thought I was going to fail. For two days I've been going, 'Oh my God, I have to be in charge.' But now I'm just doing it. With the support of my band, it's happening. Everything here was thought up in my head and here it is for real."
Typically obscure, the performance-driven "Toxicity" video finds System -- Odadjian, guitarist Daron Malakian, drummer John Dolmayan and singer Serj Tankian -- moving from one entirely white world to another that's entirely black, with time-lapse trickery, zooming camera work, black lights and psychedelic projections for that eerie effect.
"I like that our videos don't explain our songs," said Malakian. "It's like those Whitesnake videos where you get to see the band jamming, but without the dancing lady."
Odadjian and Siega will edit the "Toxicity" clip next week, aiming for a January 15th air date.
Odadjian will next prep one, if not two, System of a Down live DVDs. The first as-yet-untitled video features a set captured by fans during a Pennsylvania stop on the band's recently wrapped Pledge of Allegiance Tour with masked thrashers Slipknot. Odadjian contacted area Systemites, armed them with digital cameras and offered up directorial advice. "I told them where to stand and how to film," he said. "I gave them a set list and said, 'In this part, Daron will be going nuts. In this part, focus on John or Serj or whatever.'"
Odadjian says he's hoping System can deliver the thirty-minute video by summertime even as he looks forward to an internationally live full-length DVD for Christmas of 2002. If the bassist realizes his vision for the longer home video, its menu will feature a world map where fans can click on specific nations to engage footage of the band rocking, say France and then Australia. In homage to English metal warriors Iron Maiden -- whose 1981 live EP was entitled Maiden Japan -- Odadjian's looking to call the Japan section of the long-form DVD, Downin Japan. Extended footage from the marathon sessions that yielded Toxicity -- some of which can be found on enhanced versions of the disc -- might also be included in the longer DVD.
System of a Down will begin their next touring cycle on January 18th in New Zealand, then wind through Australia, Portugal, Italy, Germany, France and England into early April. In the downtime between now and then, Tankian hopes to mix and master Serart, the world beat album he recently record with Armenian musician Arto Tuncboyaciyan, for a summer release on his own Serjical Strike Records.