“Chop Suey” remains one of the more recognizable, sing-along songs in heavy music, but did you know that one of the song’s lyrics was just pulled randomly from a book? That’s what producer Rick Rubin revealed while speaking about working with System of a Down on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast (heard below).
Rubin reveals that frontman Serj Tankian was having trouble with a lyric when a moment of true spontaneity led to what you hear today.
“My experience is, when you are open and looking for these clues in the world, they’re happening all the time. And they’re happening, often right when you need them,” said Rubin. “This System of a Down song called ‘Chop Suey!‘ … You know that song? It has this big bridge section in it where Serj, lyric writer—the singer—didn’t have words for this one part of the song.”
The producer continued, “We’re sitting in the library in my old house and he said ‘I don’t have words for this’ and we were finishing and it’s like, ok. ‘Any ideas?’; he didn’t have any ideas. So I said, ‘Ok, pick a book off the wall.’ He picked a book randomly off the wall, I said ‘open it to any page [and] tell me the first phrase you see.’ He opened it, first phrase he sees: that’s what’s in the song, and it’s a highpoint in the song. It’s incredible, like magic.”
When pressed on which lyric that was pulled from the library book, Rubin recalled, “It’s the part, ‘Father, into your hands. Why have you forsaken me?’ It’s wild… The context, it doesn’t really make sense to what’s going on, it’s rad.”
So there you have it. According to Rubin, the moment where Tankian seems most vulnerable and inviting a melodic sing-along in the crazily chaotic “Chop Suey” came from an act of spontaneity picking a book at random and opening it to the “Father” line.
“Chop Suey” would go on to hit No. 7 on the Alternative Airplay chart and No. 12 for Mainstream Rock. It’s a gold certified song and the lead single from the band’s hugely successful Toxicity album.
Rick Rubin Reveals How Serj Tankian Came Up With Lyric for “Chop Suey” on Joe Rogan Experience
Rick Rubin on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast
System of a Down, “Chop Suey”
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