If you're at all a fan of metal music, then you know System of a Down.
The platum-selling band recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of their debut self-titled album, and, alongside this celebration, the group's bassist, songwriter and video director Shavo Odadjian launched his new cannabis lifestyle brand 22RED, a brand he says is just as much a love letter to Los Angeles' skateboarding and music scene as it is a celebration of quality weed.
"I'm not just selling weed, that's not how I see things. I'm a lifestyle brand that has a cannabis on the menu. It's a boutique quality cannabis brand that involves the aspect of music and clothing and culture. Skateboarding, I love skaters, I skated when I was a kid—I skated for about 15 years, that was my thing. So bringing that culture into it a little bit is cool."
Odadjian had just come off a short string of shows, which were among the first the band has played on US soil in several years. Odadjian told Civilized that while he would have loved to have been out on the road much longer, the shows they did play were great—and so too was the response to the 22RED products a handful of lucky concert-goers got to preview.
"Tour was amazing, bro. I mean it wasn't really a tour—we only had six shows. I don't count that a tour myself because I'm a workaholic and I want to go out for like five, six months," she said. "I watch the crowd a lot. That's my show. Your show is you watch me, and my show is I watch the crowd. After the third, fourth song they fell in to this groove, they were kind of in a trance. It was like we danced, they danced. We yelled they, yelled back. We made funny faces, they make funny faces. It was kind of a cult vibe that was amazing."
And you brought some some of your 22RED stuff along with you?
Yes, I did. We set up secret booths at some of the shows. We set it up at a certain place where we were playing, whether it be an arena or an actual venue. We would set up and then from my Instagram we would show where we are in the last half hour of the show and be like, 'be here at this time, the first hundred people get to meet Shavo and get free t-shirts and stickers and lighter and lanyards,' so we had a bunch of give-a-ways happening to the first 100 people who gave a crap to come and see me. It was great, the response was amazing.
I'm doing this organically, I'm not just trying to put my name on a brand because I have a name. I'm not doing that. This is really coming from my heart, man. I always like to have something going on and I've always wanted to start something that was kind of part of me that I could make quality. Like, this is a piece of clothing I actually wear and it'll fit me perfectly and I could swear by it and I can talk to you about it and I could tell you how good I feel about it. And mean it, not just looking forward to the check.
What would you say 22RED is doing differently than a lot of other cannabis lifestyle brands?
One, none of them have me guiding them. In the last 25 years I've met a lot of contacts, lot networking. I know a lot of growers, I know a lot of the greatest growers, ones that are legends. And they know how I feel about flower, they know how I feel about cannabis. They know how connoisseur-like I am with it.
I had these guys growing for me and I have specific strains that I smoke. I'm having that available to the public, exclusively, limited supplies. I'm not mass, I don't have acres growing, I have rooms growing. And I'm dropping room by room. There are specific strains, like our OG, that I'll always have, I have Church22 that we're going to always have.
Church22 is a strain I brought back from 1996, when I smoked a lot of whatever was available in LA at the time, because nothing was legal. So there was this strain that in Armenian we called 'kndruk'—that word just means frankincense, you know, that scent in churches. Christian Armenian churches, they do this thing and they spread that scent around and we smoked this weed that when you exhale smoke its frankincense!
I was looking for this stuff for, literally, no pun intended, 22 years since '96. Just to smoke, not to sell, I wasn't in the business yet. We were doing this one screen test maybe a month and a half ago and the third one I smoked filled that room up with frankincense so we're bringing the Church back. We're calling it Church because that's what we called it back then, calling its Church22. And I'll have it for sale 11/11.
Our first drop is 11/11. We're dropping just two of our flavors and I'm gonna be doing meet-and-greets from where we're doing it. I haven't announced where we're doing it, we're announcing Wednesday the two places that I'm going to visit on Sunday. It's gonna be really cool man, I'm really looking forward to it.
So there's that, having to do with the quality. Also, clothing-wise, we're not buying t-shirts and regular merch—it's not merch. This is merch versus apparel. Our's is apparel. I'm actually designing, I'm not just putting a name on it and saying 'let's go.' We're being really specific with everything. Everything is very thought-out.
Third, I'm also putting out 22RED music which is going to be all my new music coming out in the future. So, it's also going to be an imprint. So that separates us from the bunch completely.
This is a company with a lot of limited edition things, so if you keep in touch with me, stand by on the website and Instagram, you'll know more about how we're doing it. Like I said, we're dropping 11/11 for our first drop, it's very limited. We're gonna have a limited supply of stink, so you gotta come in to buy it at that time, because I don't know how long we're gonna have what we're going to have. Then we're gonna move on to the next flower, go onto the next thing. We're gonna have limited amount of t-shirts and hoodies—it's gonna be really cool.
There's a lot of exciting things coming out of 22RED.
What what was your first first-time experience with cannabis?
I can't remember how old I was exactly. It was probably '93. I was maybe 19, 20 years old. I was at a Metallica and Guns N' Roses concert at the Rose Bowl here in Pasadena. People were smoking around me and I was with some friends. We hadn't smoked before, none of us had. I was a good kid—but the reason why I was a really good kid was I was raised with the whole misconception of marijuana being like cocaine and heroin and it being a crazy drug. But the truth of the whole thing, I wasn't told that, so I was always very careful with it and I didn't smoke cigarettes or anything. So, I was at the Metallica concert, people we're smoking around me and I kind of had the balls to be like, 'hey, pass that.' Kind of half joking, half not—and then they passed it. It was that moment of truth where I was like, 'do I take it, do I not?' And I took it, I took a hit. And it didn't really do much to me, I was like, 'is that it?' I thought this thing was gonna make me fly and get crazy! You know, reefer madness. None of that . So I was like, 'sick, I could do this.'
And then I had met Daron Malakian. We had started System of a Down and he was an avid smoker and hanging out with him everyday I became an avid smoker and that's how it all started. So then I became a connoisseur of it. It became a bit less about getting high, but about the taste and the smell and the feel and all of it. The way it looks—it's really a beautiful flower.
What are you and 22RED doing to push the stigma, remove some of those negative connotations?
I'm being very vocal about everything, I'm being vocal about how I feel about things. I'm being vocal about the facts. I'm explaining myself to people, let them know why I'm in the industry. I have kids, so if it was so terrible I wouldn't be. I care about my family.
It's something that is just starting out it, for me it's day one still. Even though we've been working on it for the last year it's just staring.
I see brands all the time going for that MedMen aesthetic, why did you choose to do something different?
You mean the Apple Store vibe? I'm not that. I wanted to add my edge to the brand. I do have an edge, I've always had one. So I've got a color scheme that I was about. And the '22' it stands for a lot man. 22 is my birthday first of all, so I was born with the number. April 22nd I was born. April is the 4th month, four is divisible in two and two. So I was born two-two-two-two if you break it down. I got married May 22nd. System of a Down broke in '96—that was when I was 22. That's 22 years ago by the way, I'm 44 now. There's a lot in that number for me. That's my number.
On top of that, my whole life I've had this thing where I see colors when I think of numbers. It's called synesthesia—it's like the association of two different senses. So that's why it's 22RED, man. This is part of me, I stand for it.