Album: Toxicity
Label: American
Producer: Rick Rubin, Daron Malakian, Serj Tankian

Rick Rubin missed the grunge era almost entirely. His label, American Recordings, was cold when Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains were hot. A passionate foray into techno proved unfruitful, and the critical acclaim of his Johnny Cash records weren't enough to convince American's distributor, Warner Bros. Records, to pony up for Rubin's joint venture at anywhere near the rate they previously had been.

 

One of Rick's greatest moments as a producer of edge- and envelope-pushing rock music—all his creative hallmarks are present: noise collapsing into nothingness, sinister-yet-subtle lyrics, and beneath it all, the big beat.

 

Rick and his label jumped ship to Sony Music's Columbia Records just as American won a bidding war for a Los Angeles-based group called System of a Down, which Rick's A&R executive Dino Paredes then described as “kind of an Armenian Rage Against The Machine.”

This would not only be Rubin's first record for Sony; but fatefully, Rick would be producing it himself, for his own label — a rarity during the Warner Bros. days when Rick was much more likely to be off making records as a freelancer.

The combination of Rick's production and System of a Down's power and passionate, prepped fan base landed their debut album at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, and gave Rubin's American Recordings its first rock hit in years.

The musical apex of Rubin and System of a Down's partnership came on “Toxicity,” the group's second album. “Chop Suey” is, I think, one of Rick's greatest moments as a producer of edge- and envelope-pushing rock music. All his creative hallmarks are present: noise collapsing into nothingness, sinister-yet-subtle lyrics, and beneath it all, the big beat.

“Upon first hearing it was utterly confounding,” says Geoffrey Weiss. “But [“Chop Suey”] reveals a brutal and muscular logic that still seems really original.”