System of a Down achieved a new level of massive success with their 2001 album Toxicity, though its release timing was awful. The album came out on September 4 and hit the No. 1 spot unfortunately on September 11. The album's single "Chop Suey!" was pulled from airplay and the band learned of the album's success at the same time they learned about what was going on in New York.
Vocalist Serj Tankian and bassist Shavo Odadjian recently spoke to Apple Music's Zane Lowe about that day, and how they can't really disassociate one from the other.
"'Chop Suey!' was released before September 11, 2001," said Tankian. "And on September 11, when the whole – planes crashing into the World Trade Center, that catastrophe happened, our album was No. 1… And it felt like the whole world was exploding. And they took our song off the radio, 'Chop Suey!' – because it had the word 'suicide' in it – 'self-righteous suicide.' Everyone was calling us, going, 'How did you guys know?!' and all this stuff.
"And we're all weirded out, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Meanwhile, we go on tour – 'cause we were booked to tour on 'Toxicity,' the record, with 'Chop Suey!' as the single. And every day, I remember those different threat levels – orange and red – the news basically saying the danger signals. And there might be terrorist attacks elsewhere. It was a daunting time…
"So when I think of 'Chop Suey!', I can't think of how we actually sat in the studio and worked on it. I'm thinking of 9/11, going on tour, thinking we might die any night."
Odadjian later recalled how he remembers the day as well.
"I woke up in the morning with my phone blowing up. It was those last couple of days at home I was trying to really get, knowing I'm going on tour in a couple of days – I answered the phone, and it was my mom. And my mom said, 'Turn the TV on. There's chaos happening in America.' I turned the TV on. It was, like, 9:15, and I saw the tower fall. My phone beeped, and I went to the other line, and it was my manager. And he goes, 'Congratulations. You're No. 1 on Billboard!'
"In the same thought process of what's happening in New York – I'm in L.A. – and then, 'Oh, whoa. We just went No. 1.' And remember, it was our second record. We weren't famous yet. We had a record, we toured and came back home and wrote this other record and we released it. This was gonna be our first tour in front of our second, sophomore record.
"Until today, when people ask me, it's bittersweet about the No. 1. It was such a weird time."
System of a Down is… maybe going to do another album? Tankian isn't explicitly saying no to the possibility anymore, though he is releasing a bunch of stuff meant for the failed album next year. So who knows.