Shavarsh “Shavo” Odadjian is a Soviet-born Armenian-American songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, music video director and editor, and music producer. He came to prominence as the bassist, vocalist, and songwriter of System of a Down, the Grammy Award-winning metal band. So far, the band has churned out five studio albums, three of which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. He has also formed a side project named AcHoZeN in collaboration with RZA, the founder of Wu-Tang Clan. The group contributed a number of songs to the movie ‘Babylon A.D’, in which Shavo did the musical scoring as well, along with RZA and Hans Zimmer. Shavo is a popular DJ in Los Angeles, and has taken part in prestigious events like the Rock/DJ Explosion in Hollywood. He is also the executive producer for the band Onesidezero. He has directed music videos for System of a Down and Taproot using innovative methods in filming. In addition, Shavo Odadjian is a passionate painter, and his artwork has been featured in many of his band’s videos and live shows. His painting style is abstract with loud, bright colors that bleed into each other.
Childhood & Early Life
Shavarsh Odadjian was born on April 22, 1974, in Yerevan, Armenia in the Soviet Union. At a young age, he moved to Los Angeles where his grandmother raised him.
He attended an Armenian parochial school, Alex Pilibos Elementary School, in Los Angeles. His future band mates Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian were also in his school. In college, he majored in psychology.
During his youth, he spent most of his time skateboarding and listening to punk rock and heavy metal music. He credits Dead Kennedys, KISS, Slayer, The Beatles, and Black Sabbath for impacting his musical development and career.
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In 1993, while still in college and also working in a bank, Shavo Odadjian joined the band Soil as the manager. Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian, who were members of the band, had met him at a recording studio and had called upon him to assist them.
In 1994, he became the band's bassist, and renamed the band as System of a Down, after a poem written by Daron. They also hired Velvet Hammer Music for managerial responsibilities.
Shavo not only plays bass in the band, but also sings live backing vocals. He also writes songs for the band; his songwriting credits include ‘Toxicity’, ‘Sugar, ‘Jet Pilot, ‘Bounce,’ ‘Mind,’ ‘Dreaming,’ and ‘U-Fig.’ He has directed the majority of the band's music videos, and also designs the stage and lighting for their live performances.
In June 1998, the band released their debut album, ‘System of a Down’, which enjoyed moderate success. In November, the band was credited for providing music for the song ‘Will They Die 4 You?’ on South Park's ‘Chef Aid’ album. In 2000, the band contributed the song ‘Snowblind’ to the Black Sabbath tribute album ‘Nativity in Black 2’.
The band released their second studio album ‘Toxicity’ on September 4, 2001,which featured elements of multiple genres of music like folk, progressive metal, progressive rock, jazz, Middle Eastern music, and Greek music.
On May 17, 2005, they released their third album, ‘Mezmerize’, which was critically acclaimed and was commercially successful. The first week’s sales rocketed to over 800,000 copies worldwide. Their fourth album, ‘Hypnotize’, was released on November 22, 2005, which was also a hit. System of a Down was on a hiatus between 2006 and 2010, with the group members focusing on outside projects.
Shavo Odadjian started a musical alliance, AcHoZeN, in May 2006, along with RZA, the founder of Wu-Tang Clan, and Killarmy member Kinetic 9. Although the band’s debut album has been completed for several years now, it hasn’t been released as yet due to Shavo’s commitments to System of a Down, which reunited in November 2010, and embarked on tours for the next three years.
In July 2015, AcHoZeN released a digital collection of eight songs recorded over the last few years. The group has released two singles—‘Deuces’ and ‘Salute/Sacrifice’. ‘Deuces’ was used in the action sci-fi, blockbuster film ‘Babylon A.D.’
In 2008, Shavo Odadjian founded Ursession, an online art platform and networking site, which aimed at bringing artists of all genres and styles from around the world on the common forum. Ursession started off by announcing ‘The 100K Battle’, an online contest in which the artist with the most votes by the community would win a round-trip ticket to Los Angeles to perform on Power 106's The World-Famous Wake-Up Show, along with other prizes.
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He is a popular DJ in Los Angeles, and has played in events like Rock/DJ Explosion in 2001 at The Roxy in Hollywood. In September 2008, he played guitar in a live performance on ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ with Clinton. He also appeared on Clinton's 2008 album ‘George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love’.
The band System of a Down has sold over 40 million records worldwide, and their singles, ‘Aerials’ and ‘Hypnotize’, reached number 1 on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. The singles ‘Sugar’ and ‘Spiders’ from their debut album became radio favorites and the music videos for both songs were frequently aired on MTV.
Their second album, ‘Toxicity,’ debuted at number 1 on the American and Canadian charts, and eventually achieved 3x multi-platinum certification in the US. It has sold over 12 million copies worldwide. The second single ‘Toxicity’ was repeatedly played on MTV. In May 2006, VH1 listed ‘Toxicity’ in the number 14 slot in the 40 Greatest Metal Songs.
Their third album, ‘Mezmerize’, debuted at number 1 in the US, Canada, Australia and many other countries. The single ‘B.Y.O.B.’ which questions the integrity of military recruiting in America, reached the Billboard Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts. The single, ‘Question!’ was released with a video, co-directed by Shavo.
Their album, ‘Hypnotize’, also debuted at number 1 in the US, making System of a Down at par with The Beatles, Guns N' Roses, and rappers 2Pac and DMX, to have two studio albums debut at number 1 in the same year.
Awards & Achievements
Shavo Odadjian’s band System of a Down has been nominated several times for the Grammy Award. In 2002, it was nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Metal Performance for their song ‘Chop Suey’. Next year, it was nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Hard Rock Performance for ‘Aerials’.
In 2005, the band won the Europe Music Awards for Best Alternative Act. In 2006, it finally won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for ‘B.Y.O.B’. The same year, it earned the MTV Good Woodie Award for their song ‘Question!’
In 2007, System of a Down was again nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Hard Rock Performance for the song ‘Lonely Day’.
In February 2009, Odadjian received AGBU's GenNEXT Community Hero Award for his outstanding work as a role model for young Armenian-Americans.
Shavo Odadjian married a lady called Sonia in 2009.
He is a human rights activist as well and has protested against human atrocities. He actively involves himself in youth mentoring, and participates in charitable events to support research for cancer-stricken children.
He uses Gibson Thunderbird basses, Fender Jazz Bass, Ibanez BTB bass guitar, Music Man StingRay and Warwick basses.