System Of A Down Bassist Helms Star-Packed 'Toxicity' Clip

Shave Odadjian makes his directorial debut with the help of music video veteran Marcos Siega.

MANHATTAN BEACH, California — System of a Down are turning their fans into stars with their next video — literally.

The clip for "Toxicity," the title track and second single from the Los Angeles rock band's latest album, will use special effects to morph a mosh pit into a star galaxy for its final scene.

System bassist Shavo Odadjian, making his debut as a video director (see "System Of A Down Pick Toxic Single, Bassist To Direct Clip"), came up with the sequence to go along with one of the final verses in the song. "Now, what do you own the world?" singer Serj Tankian growls. "How do you own disorder, disorder/ Now somewhere between the sacred silence/ Sacred silence and sleep."

"So the universe is the sacred silence and sleep, and the kids are the disorder," Odadjian said on the set of the video. "So how do you control the disorder in that universe? You can't. To me, that's 'Toxicity.' To Serj, it might be something totally different, but he liked the idea. I'm directing, but I have my band's approval on everything."

System of a Down filmed the clip Wednesday and Thursday at a studio lot in Manhattan Beach. Several of the band's fans (one tenth of the kids from the "Chop Suey!" video, according to Odadjian) were on the set Wednesday, dressed in black and dancing on an all-black lot.

"That stage is a hydraulic stage, and it's going to raise really high, and we're going to be on it," Odadjian said, pointing to a small platform set up with instruments. "The stage is going to start lowering, and the kids are going to be pitting under us like a whirlwind. We're going to have the camera on us so it will look like the kids are rising. That's the effect we are going to do.

"There's visuals involved also," he added. "In the black world, we'll have projections on our faces and bodies, Hollywood streets and slums — where our childhood was — that I found stock footage of."

On Thursday, just the band was captured performing on an all-white stage, which Odadjian said will look like an endless matrix. The clip will open with footage of some sort of Hollywood landmark and then go from the white to the black world.

"I want to make it a good performance [video] where you can see System, and have it tie in with 'Chop Suey!' a little bit," Odadjian said. "I love tying stuff in so you see the second one and right away know what band it is. It's different but it has that vibe."

Odadjian assisted director Marcos Siega (Papa Roach, Blink-182) with the concept for "Chop Suey!," so when it came time to do their next video, Odadjian's bandmates suggested he direct.

"I have the vision of the band," Odadjian said. "I have a lot of ideas for videos, and I want to pursue directing. This is one of the goals I have always had. I want to do [videos for] other bands, I want to do hip-hop acts. Later in life, though, after System."

Other rock bands have asked Odadjian to direct their videos, he said, but he hasn't had the time. "There's never been anything I wanted to do so badly I would take time out," he said. "This is my life, my band. I'm just helping my band out right now, I'm not trying to be 'Shavo the director.' "

Odadjian spent Wednesday pacing from the stage, where he was instructing fans, to behind the cameras, where he'd view the footage, and back to the stage, where he also had to perform.

"I didn't know you had to do so much to be a director," he said with a sigh of exhaustion. "I thought, 'I can do it. I can write a treatment.' I didn't know about shot lists. [At previous shoots,] I wasn't here when the band wasn't. Now when the band takes a break, I'm here watching shots."

Luckily, Odadjian had some help. Siega was on hand to assist and teach him the tools of the trade.

"He's helping me so much," Odadjian said. "We're totally bonding. We understand each other's ideas. We hired his production company, and they're not treating me like 'that dude.' They come to me with everything. I feel like they give a sh-- about the band, and the band is giving a sh-- back. This time everyone is more cooperative. I think everyone is having fun, too. It's one of their boys saying, 'What about this? What about that?' It's kind of cool."

The way Odadjian tells it, making the video for System's next single has been easier than choosing the song. Every track on Toxicity was considered.

"['Toxicity'] is a good transitional song," Odadjian said. " 'Chop Suey!' was really heavy, but it had a lot of melodic parts. It was fast and frenzy. This one is melodic and heavy, but it is slower. From here we can go anywhere. We can go to a song like 'Aerials.' That shows the growth of the band, instead of saying 'Look, we have a slow song.' "

If "Aerials" does become the third single, expect to see Odadjian behind the camera again. He and guitarist Daron Malakian have already came up with a concept for it. "We have the bomb video [idea]," Odadjian said. "A lot of things that used to happen in the '80s mixed with some stuff no one has ever seen before."

Odadjian apparently has his sights set high. Taped to his director's chair was a piece of paper with "Shavo" printed on it. Below it, scribbled in pen, was "Spielberg."