Shavo Odadjian on 22Red, Music and Cannabis

CULTURE spoke with Shavo Odadjian, best known for his work as bassist and backing vocalist/songwriter of the Grammy Award-winning Armenian-American band System of a Down. The band released the first new music in 15 years last year, after a long hiatus. Odadjian is also now quickly becoming just as well known for his work in cannabis. While some celebs simply throw their name on a cannabis brand and sit back and wait for the money to pour in, Odadjian has taken the opposite approach. His brand, 22Red, is something he is very actively involved in, and not a company that makes it immediately obvious there is star power backing it. CULTURE chatted with Odadjian about his brand and his latest musical endeavors.

What made you want to take the plunge and get into the cannabis industry?

For years and years, I didn’t smoke. I didn’t smoke when I was a teenager even, but then back in the System of a Down days, I became a big smoker. I was never a big drinker, and for me, it just worked better than alcohol. It never slowed me down, never turned me into a couch potato. Everyone is different, and it just works with my chemistry.

Then it just kind of became my thing, and people would always come up to me and ask if I wanted to have a strain named after me if I wanted to get into the business. I was happy being a musician and an advocate; I was like you grow it—I’ll smoke it. I didn’t want to get involved.

Then, in the early 2000s, we were in Amsterdam, and I got connected to someone who took us behind the scenes, showed us the grow and really treated us like gold. I tried all these strains, and I seriously wanted a little of each, and started to meet all kinds of people behind the scenes. And that kind of changed my mind about wanting to be in on the industry. 

What do you think sets 22Red apart from other “celebrity” cannabis brands?

When I start something, I go all in. I focus and make sure I’m building it right. No cutting corners, nothing fast. I don’t like fast success because then it can go down fast as well. I like to build something from the ground up, make sure it’s got legs before I build more. We’re three years in, and we’re in three states. We have about 15 new flavors; we have new products coming in; we have a new merge deal that we’ll be launching.

We have a lot of beautiful-quality apparel coming out along with cool sculpting and glass. That part is more about giving back to the artists and ensuring that people push the boundaries. I’m finding people I really admire who do graphics or glass or art, and trying to work with them whenever possible.

What do you have going on musically right now?

I have a new project called North Kingsley; it’s my new group. It’s three people, and it’s kind of a new genre. I appreciate all types of music—even though I’m a meal guy, I love rock, I also love my hip hop and I love my dance music, electro, and all that, and when it’s done well, I love my jazz. So this unit breaks it down into all sorts of stuff.

We use beats that are prgoressive trap, heavy, heavy beats, and I play music over it, so it’s my style and arrangements. It’s kind of cool how it’s a combination of hip hop and rap and spoken word and electro sounds all together. It’s definitely a melting pot of genres that I love. I’m just trying to move forward and break boundaries, put the work in, in everything I’m involved with.