System Of A Down’s Shavo Odadjian: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Metal Hammer

Shavo Odadjian’s musical tastes reflect the cultural and musical melting pot of Los Angeles, the city he grew up in. The System Of A Down bassist has been equally influenced by metal and hip hop – a mix evident in his current side project, North Kingsley. “Good music is good music, I don’t care who makes it,” he says as he prepares to steer us through the albums that shaped him. Such is his enthusiasm, that we asked him for 10 records, but he gave us 11. “And I could have given you 11 more,” he says.

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Kiss – Creatures Of The Night

That was the first record I ever had in my hands that was mine. After we moved to America [from Armenia] in the 70s, I saw Kiss on a TV show. I was blown away by the fact that they were wearing all this crazy shit and playing this crazy music. That was it for me: “Wow, I want to do that.”

My dad used to drive a lunch truck, and one of the stops was at a record company. And he met Gene Simmons – Gene Simmons ate at his lunch truck. My dad said, ‘My son’s six or seven years old, he’s a Kiss fan.’ And Gene gave him the record they were mixing, and it was Creatures Of The Night.

I wore that record out. I knew every word to every song. Even my mom knew the songs. I’ve met Gene Simmons and told him I was a big fan, but I’ve never told him that story.

AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

When I was young, there was an old store in Hollywood where you could buy regular household stuff, but they also sold records. My birthday was coming, and my mom said, “I’m gonna buy you a record, which record do you want?” I said, “Anything by AC/DC.” She chose that record because the cover was clean – there wasn’t any blood or that kind of thing. She didn’t know that the first track I was gonna listen to was Big Balls! But Problem Child, The Rocker, Squealer – that’s just a great record.

Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard Of Ozz

Immortal record. I got into when I was starting to play guitar, and [Ozzy’s guitarist] Randy Rhoads just killed me. The Crazy Train riff is such a complex riff but it’s so cool. If I grab a guitar then I’ll play that riff to just warm my fingers up.

The Beastie Boys – Licensed To Ill

Licensed To Ill was a huge record for me. It’s another record that I listened to over and over to where my mom knew it all. She’d sing Girls and Brass Monkey.

Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back

It’s hard, it’s dark, it’s not happy rap. It’s: “I got something to tell you and you better listen to me.” I didn’t think of it as a black/white thing, I thought of it as a badass thing. Colour never mattered to me. Come on, I’m Armenian. I’m someone who came to America as a foreigner. I’m always on the side of the underdog.

Pantera – Vulgar Display Of Power

When I was 17, I had job in this whole food place in Glendale. I was a dairy clerk, filling the milks and stuff. My manager was a big metalhead, and he said, “Go buy this album, if you don’t like it, I’ll pay you back for it.”

I didn’t know Slayer’s stuff at this point, and it was the heaviest thing in the world to me. Mouth For War, A New Level, Fucking Hostile – that was the biggest thing.

I saw them on that show at the Shrine Exposition Hall. I was in the pit and my shoe flew off, so I went and found some other shoe for the same foot, put it back on and ran back in the pit. And then I swear I found my old shoe when it was done, so I put it on and went home. It came back to me!

Slayer – Reign In Blood

I had the cassette, and the best thing was the album fit on one side, so it finished then would start again. You could hear it over and over again.

When we toured with Slayer, I had to be in the pit whenever they played Raining Blood and Angel Of Death. It didn’t matter what I was doing – I could have been in the back doing an interview, but I would out front, listen to the song, then run backstage and finish the interview.

Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Misfits – Walk Among Us

There were four punk rock bands I really listened to – Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains and Misfits. With the Misfits, I got into Danzig, then went backwards. This album is amazing – it’s almost like these old doo-wop singalongs, but punk rock style: ‘Momma, can I go out and kill tonight?’ Come on, you can’t help but go crazy to that.

Wu Tang Clan – Enter The Wu Tang Clan (36 Chambers)

Go listen to that record. That record is heavy metal, punk rock and hip hop, with lyrics that are poetry. The word play on those songs is amazing – the way those nine guys from Staten Island get together and do it is amazing. I happen to be friends be [Wu Tang mastermind] RZA. That guy is a genius, who inspires me to be a better artist.

North Kingsley’s Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 EPs are out now

The Beatles – Revolver

I knew The Beatles growing up, but it was Daron [Malakian, System guitarist] who was a big fan. He said, “Go and listen to these albums.” The songs from this record are incredible. Eleanor Rigby, Tomorrow Never Knows… they have these weird dreamlike vibes. I don’t know how a human wrote them. It changed my life, because it made me a better songwriter. Artists inspire artists. You gotta listen and grow your brain.

Louder – System Of A Down’s Shavo Odadjian: 10 Albums That Changed My Life
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February 14, 2021

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