Video: Recreating System of a Down's "Chop Suey!" on Drums | What's That Sound?

Serj Tankian of System of a Down (2002). Photo by Scott Harrison, Getty Images

Drums in the style of System of a Down's
Drums in the style of System of a Down's "Chop Suey!"
By Reverb
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A thundering tom-fueled intro into a lightning-fast, thrasy verse—why, that sounds a whole lot like System of a Down's legendary "Chop Suey!"

Today, Noam and Jessica are back at Rax Trax Recording in Chicago to recreate this essential masterpiece of a tune for a new episode of our What's That Sound? series. These drums were originally performed by John Dolmayan, produced by Rick Rubin, and mixed by Andy Wallace.

For our recreation today, Jessica used our go-to vintage Gretsch kit outfitted with its original toms as well as an additional Ludwig Neusonic 7x10-inch tom. Jessica also uses a Ludwig Acrolite snare, 14-inch Zildjian K-Sweet hi-hats, an 18-inch K-Sweet Crash, and a 21-inch Zildjian Ride.

Chop suey hats chop suey Kick in chop suey kick out chop suey Overhead chop suey room chop suey snare bottom chop suey Snare top chop suey toms

As Noam explains in the video above, a lot of the technique and production that was employed to capture the original performance is really down the middle. That's to say that for its time, the most traditional processes were being used—this isn't a drum sound that was accomplished through a lot of creative studio trickery.

That means that what really ties this drum sound together and makes it iconic is that every single person involved was doing what they do at the absolute best that it could be done. The performance is tight and strong, the recording is meticulously captured, and the mix is clean.

In our episode above, Noam and Jessica had to do their best to recreate the same conditions. One of the most important parts of that process is the phase relationship between gear in the recording room, which Noam details above. Be sure to check out the whole video to see how we did and download the free sample pack via the listing above.

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