With a signature sound and style, musician, artist and entrepreneur Shavo Odadjian of popular heavy metal band, System of a Down, has made his mark in rock music.
His path to success was not always an easy one.
Odadjian’s family fled from Armenia as refugees when he was five, moving to East Hollywood with parents who didn’t speak the language. His mom and dad each worked two jobs to give him a chance for a better life in America.
“What attracted me the most were bands and musicians and skateboarding,” he recalls.
Going behind his parent’s back, his grandmother bought him his first guitar.
“That was like my prized possession. Once I had it, I locked myself in my room and just played and played and played,” Odadjian says.
In those days, it kept him out of trouble.
In high school, he started working on managing and putting bands together.
“It was always really hard finding a base player,” he reflects. “At some point, I said what if I put the guitar down … and I do the base?”
And so he did. He played and he promoted. That’s how he met the guys from Soil — Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian.
Turns out, they all went to the same Armenian school in Hollywood.
They reconnected and in 1994, System of Down was born.
At the time, Odadjian was working at a bank while also managing the band. He said he would juggle two phones, one doing wire transfers for his job, and the other — “Hey Troubador, this is Shavo from System of a Down … I’m gonna call you everyday until I get a show.”
Finally, a booker asked if he could even sell enough tickets to perform there.
“I said, ‘I’m sure we can, we’re Armenian. We got a lot of friends here.'”
They were supposed to sell 75 tickets but sold 150.
Something definitely stuck. In 1997, drummer John Dolmayan joined the group and they quickly became one of the hottest rock bands around.
Selling 40 million records, multi-platinum, with four Grammy nominations and a win for their song B.Y.O.B., System of Down became the first Armenian American band to make it in the big leagues.
“No one even knew we were Armenian. It was like Albanian? They’re Iranian?” he said. “They came up with everything but Armenian.”
Now, at every show, no matter where, their Armenian American community is there, waving tricolor flags while rocking out.