The title of System of a Down's upcoming Steal This Album is no doubt a nod to radical '60s figure Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book," but it's also a reference to fans who downloaded unreleased System songs leaked online last year.
Many of the tracks on Steal This Album, due later this year, were recorded during sessions for System's 2001 breakthrough LP, Toxicity. The band had planned to release them on various future projects, but after the leak (see "System Of A Down Frazzled Over Leaked Outtakes") the group decided to put them all out at once, along with other previously unreleased tracks that span the band's career (see "System Of A Down To Release Toxicity Outtakes").
"We had a bunch of songs in the vault left over from Toxicity as well as before and we've always wanted to do something with them," singer Serj Tankian said. "When the songs were leaked onto the Internet in an unfinished and unmixed form, it made me want to not wait another two years to release them. It compelled me as an artist to say, 'This is not how it's supposed to sound. I want you to hear how it's supposed to sound.' "
The packaging for Steal This Album will look like a home burn. There will be no CD booklet or tray insert in the clear jewel box. Album credits can be accessed only by inserting the disc into a computer drive and visiting a special Web site.
Steal This Album was produced by Rick Rubin and System guitarist Daron Malakian and is being mixed in Los Angeles by Andy Wallace, who worked on Toxicity.
The record will feature between 12 and 17 songs, some recorded before the band signed with American Recordings in 1995. One acoustic cut, "Roulette," was written by Malakian more than seven years ago and features just the guitarist and Tankian.
The track list won't be determined until mixing has been completed, but songs likely to make the cut include "Innervision," "F--- the System," "Pictures," "American Dream" and "Boom."
"To me, one of the highlights of the album is 'Boom' just because of its timing," Tankian said. "It almost feels like it was meant to come out right now because of what it says. 'Boom' talks about all of the different parameters and psychologies involved in having somebody bomb somebody else, and all of the interests involved and all of the globalist schemes that are involved and what it actually does."
While most of the songs on the disc were recorded while the band was working on Toxicity, the bandmembers emphasized that Steal This Album isn't just a collection of throw-aways.
"There's some really, really cool new stuff," Tankian said. "There are a lot of interludes, which makes the presentation more interesting than just a host of songs that go well together. So it's gonna give a different taste than System albums. It's also gonna give new colors and [a taste of] things that might possibly come from System in the future.
"Some of these songs are better than some songs on Toxicity, but when you're doing a record you gotta form a picture. When you've got 30-something songs and you're planning to release only 12 or 13 of them, you gotta see which ones fit together. So a song that might be great, like 'Innervision,' didn't make the album because it didn't fit as well as another song."
Jon Wiederhorn, with additional reporting by Iann Robinson