In a recent interview with Bass Player, long-time System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian explained how he became the band’s bassist and revealed that it was practically an accident. Apparently, he was only supposed to take on the role temporarily until they found a permanent bassist. That turned into three decades as a “temporary” bassist for the band. So I guess, technically, they might still be looking.
In the interview, Odadjian explained that he had been a guitarist from a young age, but picked up the bass at age 18 because the competition for guitarists to get into bands was too stiff. While he never intended to be the bassist for System of a Down, Odadjian explains that the band struggled to find a permanent bassist who wasn’t over or underqualified:
“We were auditioning for bass players, but most of the guys who came in were either too good for the job – they all sounded like Les Claypool! – or they sounded like they just picked up the bass a month ago. There was no middle ground for guys who just grooved, where the bass is supposed to be.”
Frustrated with not being able to find the right bass player, Odadjian decided to fill in as the band’s bassist:
“One day I just said, ‘What if I play bass guitar while we’re looking for a bass player?’ And so I hit the bass right away. It didn’t take long.”
And thus, history was made almost by accident. In his other projects—such as his group AcHoZeN with RZA from Wu-Tang Clan and his brief stint working with George Clinton’s backing band—Odadjian has sometimes played guitar instead of bass. Still, he’s been the System of a Down bassist since 1994 and played on all five of their albums, earning him a reputation, first and foremost, as a bassist.
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