System of a Down, the heavy metal band that hit the stratosphere of rock stardom in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, is still around after over two decades of existence. Best known for hits like “Sugar”, “Chop Suey!”, “Toxicity”, and “Aerials”, the band’s members still perform and tour together, maintaining a professional relationship and friendship. However, they haven’t released any new music since their 2005 double album “Mezmerize/Hypnotize”. This has given bandmember Shavarsh “Shavo” Odadjian, who plays bass for System, space to pursue other interests and a need for a new creative outlet—which he is satiating with his new cannabis lifestyle brand, 22Red.
“I was born April 22. I got married May 22. System of a Down started blowing up when I was 22. That's 22 years ago. I'm 44 now. So there's a lot of 22 in my life. That always followed me and has always been good to me,” Odadjian told Forbes. “I also have a condition that is synesthesia, where you relate different senses with each other. So every time I think of numbers, since I was a kid, each number has had a color in my head. One is white, three is yellow, five is green, and two has always been red. So, 22Red is the name of the brand.”
Starting a cannabis company and managing a band requires many of the same business skills, Odadjian told Weedmaps. “I used the same business model. Instead of a club, it's a dispensary. Instead of another band we're playing with, it's another brand we're collaborating with.” And just as he would with his bandmates, Odadjian revels in the collaborative spirit of starting his new company. “I love to collaborate. I know how to take ideas and put them together to make something great happen.”
Cannabis goes way back for Odadjian. Although, as a child, he grew up with a strong fear of weed instilled in him by his Armenian parents, he started smoking it in his early 20’s when he met System of a Down’s future guitarist and songwriter, Daron Malakian. While smoking they would dream of the band they would soon form. This was perhaps his first great collaboration.
“I started smoking daily after I became close with Daron. He was a stoner. I hung out with him every day, so I became a stoner,” Odadjian told Weedmaps. “We were masterminding the whole thing from day one,” Odadjian said. He remembers smoking the legendary strains associated with West Coast stoner culture. “You would put $50 in the [dealer's] door, and a little baggie would come out, the Kush. Or it might be Bubba,” Odadjian recollected.
One strain reminded him of the smell of frankincense he smelled in the Catholic churches of his youth. The aroma stuck with him, inspiring him to select a strain for Red22 that reminds him of it. He calls it Church22. Other cultivars offered by Red22 include Mimosa22, Caramel Gelato, and 22 OG, which WeedMaps calls an “apparent descendant” of the legendary OG Kush strain. Their product line includes bud, pre-rolled joints, vape cartridges, and disposable vapes. Right now 22Red’s products are only available in dispensaries in Southern California, “moving north” says Odadjian, with some CBD products also online.
Although 22Red is a cannabis brand, it’s not limited to just selling cannabis and cannabis-related products. “We have a production unit,” Odadjian told Forbes. “We've been just making music. All these riffs are coming out of me, basslines, and it's kind of a musician's hip-hop, where it's all electronic hip-hop beats, but it's done with bass-heavy, real live bass. I play guitar a little bit. It's not like rap metal or nothing. It's really hard and heavy, dark.”
They’ve talked about producing music too. “We could produce other people's stuff and we can make our own that we could perform.”
“During the birth of the brand, I was always going to the studio and doing music at night. As the brand and my vision grew, it became that lifestyle brand. I didn't just want to have a weed brand. I wanted to have something that has all aspects of what my day consists of: music, fashion, and cannabis. So I said, ‘Instead of giving my music to someone else, why don't I release it through my own imprint?’”
“We're already setting that up, so the music now will have a home. It becomes a complete lifestyle brand at that point because now we have music. And not just my music. I have demos being sent to me left and right and I'm listening. When I find something that I want, I'm gonna drop it off that label, too.”