System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian explains the meaning of ‘Toxicity’ lyrics

Serj Tankian has expanded on the meaning behind the lyrics “sacred silence and sleep” from 2001’s ‘Toxicity’.

While promoting his new memoir, Down With the System, Tankian appeared on the Soul Boom podcast. Hosted by The Office’s Rainn Wilson, the podcast charts various spiritual themes like the meaning of life.

During their chat last month, Wilson asked the System of a Down singer to “describe that space between the sacred silence and sleep,” referencing the chorus to ‘Toxicity’ (“You, what do you own the world? / How do you own disorder? Disorder / Now somewhere between the sacred silence / Sacred silence and sleep / Somewhere, between the sacred silence and sleep / Disorder, disorder, disorder”).

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Tankian explained: “Sacred silence alludes to Native American understanding of spirituality and it’s the place that you go to if you meditate. Everything is lost and everything is found through the different veils of the sacred silence.

“And sleep — we know what sleep is. So, ‘somewhere in between’ is a beautiful thing because I think when people go to sleep, REM sleep, when that kicks in, there’s a moment where you’re meditating and you just don’t know it,” he said. “It refers to that moment, that specific unique moment.”

Jokingly asked how he’s able to find that in his own life, he quipped: “With kids?! Get out of here!”


He referenced the work of author Tom Brown Jr., saying: “He wrote a series of books about his would-be grandfather, who was basically a Native American sage.”

Tankian’s own memoir is out now, and charts his life, music, activism and family history. He recently told NME he was shocked by the warm reception to his writing.

“There’s a lot of interesting lessons in my own life, and I hope it sparks something in young creators or would-be creators,” he said. “That would be awesome.”

Elsewhere, Tankian has hit out at Imagine Dragons for playing a controversial Azerbaijan gig, and has stated: “I don’t respect them as human beings”.