System of a Down Had a Massive Fight Over That ‘Tapeworm’ Lyric While Making ‘Toxicity’
When System of a Down were creating “Needles” from their iconic Toxicity album, the band members got into a huge fight over the lyric, “Pull the tapeworm out of your ass.” Producer Rick Rubin remembers the verbal spat being so intense, he imagined it could actually break up the young band.
SOAD frontman, solo artist and activist Serj Tankian recently spoke with Rick Rubin for an episode of the legendary producer’s Broken Record series. While reminiscing about the lyrical content of Toxicity, Rubin brought up the fight over “Needles,” getting a rich laugh out of Tankian.
“Originally, the chorus was ‘Pull the tapeworm out of my ass.’ Daron [Malakian] and Shavo [Odadjian] didn’t like ‘my ass,’” Tankian remembers. “They were like, ‘No, no, no, that doesn’t sound cool, that sounds bad, that sounds vulnerable,’ or whatever it was. Whatever word you want to use as an adjective. I’m like, ‘What I’m trying to say is philosophical. Take this negativity out of me.’”
“I felt like, it seemed like, the band could have broke up over the lyric,” Rubin jumps in. “It was so extreme, but it speaks to the passion in the band. There’s real passion that’s amazing. The fact that a lyric, an insignificant… one word and arguably comical line is enough to potentially break up a band or discard a great song. That was another possibility.”
“And all we had to do was change it to ‘your.’ ‘Pull the tapeworm our of your ass.’ ’My’ became ‘your’ and then in the middle part where I’m singing nicely, ‘Pull the tapeworm out of me,’ they were okay with that,” Tankian remembers. “You probably thought, ‘These guys are fucking nuts.’”
“I think it’s the metal attitude versus the non-metal attitude, as well,” Serj expands. “For me, I like showing vulnerability in our music. I don’t mind showing it, because I think, as an artist, you’re vulnerable either way. You either show it or you don’t. But the metal attitude is, ‘No way, dude. No way, we’re metal!’ I think that’s what it was more than anything else.”
20 years later, "Pull the tapeworm our of your ass" is one of System's most memorable and quotable lyrics, while Toxicity has sold over four million copies around the world. Listen to Rick Rubin interview Serj Tankian below.