RZA and System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian on Long-Delayed Duo Achozen
I know that Shavo is Armenian-American, but how does the Armenian genocide connect you two?
RZA: We both come from struggle. We come from oppression. I didn’t know Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity as its national religion. And I didn’t know about the Armenian genocide. I knew about the black man’s struggle in America from slavery to civil rights to whatever we still go through, but you think that that struggle is just personal. You don’t realize, “Oh, wow, the Asian brothers went through a struggle. The Armenian brothers went through a struggle. Now the Pakistani and the brothers in the Middle East is going through a lot of struggle based on situations.” Right? So, I became aware and that helped connect us.
That led to our second song, which is called “Fabricated Lies” and is about the Armenian genocide. He gave me a couple of books as well, but I was moved by the struggle enough that I wrote a verse.
Where did you two first meet?
Odadjian: At a Method Man show.
RZA: Then we were reintroduced when we recorded the song “Shame” for Loud Rocks [in 2000]. So we met and we was cool. We smoked some good weed. We chilled, took a few pictures, but when did the rekindle come? There was a rekindle.
Odadjian: I can’t remember either, but it was around 2005 so I said, “Come over.” He saw my studio, and he said, “You got everything to make a freakin’ record.” And I go, “I do? I didn’t even know.” He showed me a couple of little tricks.
RZA: Shavo’s a great DJ. He has that “in and out” that DJs gotta have to make the party bounce. So it came together organically. We didn’t think of making a band or none of that shit, but after about two or three songs we recorded, “Deuces” being one, we worked on the score together for [the 2008 movie] Babylon A.D. and then we started writing more and more, like, let’s make a band.
One thing I did say was that I wanted to be the lead singer [laughs]. That means I don’t gotta sit there like I do for Wu-Tang and make the beats, and they go home and I got to stay up all night. I got to go home and he had to stay there all night.
“Shavo’s voice had a classic hip-hop feel” – RZA
Shavo, some of your fans will be surprised to hear your rapping. How did it feel to step up to the mic?
Odadjian: I’ve never rapped. I karaoke-d “Paul Revere” from Beastie Boys when I was 15, 14 years old, but that’s it. “That’s the Zone” was the first thing I ever wrote and I handed it to RZA and I clearly remember verbatim what he said. “These swords, you should swing them. These are strong swords.”
RZA: What I liked about Shavo’s voice was that it had a classic hip-hop feel, not Beasties, but an Eighties hip-hop vibe.
Odadjian: I listen to a lot of Eighties hip-hop. I listened to a lot of Ice-T.
RZA: OK, it has an Ice-T vibe to it to. “Colors.” I could hear that.
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