The legendary musician talks cannabis and his new brand
In the world of music, System of a Down is a legend. Their bassist, Shavo Odadjian, is a legend in his own right in the world of cannabis. Having founded the California based lifestyle brand 22Red, Shavo is looking to capitalize on the growth of the industry both on the industrial hemp side and with a full line of THC active cannabis products. We sat down with Shavo in Los Angeles to discuss what the future of 22Red is.
MRR: Thank you for sitting down with me today Shavo, being such a key part of the music scene from the last decade how did you make the transition to start a cannabis company?
Shavo Odadjian: Well, I’ve always been this creative person that always likes to have something on their plate. My band, System of a Down, we’re kind of part-time right now. We only play a handful of shows a year and we haven’t recorded much. We’ve been playing together but haven’t been recording in a little bit. So I have time on my hands and I am an avid user of cannabis. I have a lot of friends in the industry and a lot of people have come to me over the past 10, maybe 12 years asking me to jump in. I never really wanted to be involved because I just like to smoke it. I was busy and I don’t like to spread myself too thin.
Well now that I’ve got some time and I finally wanted to do a brand. It was gonna be more of a lifestyle brand with clothing and things like that. That was my taste, just put it out and see what happens. My best friend Mike and I were starting to work on that and we ended up teaming up with our third partner who is an actual grower for like the last 15 years. He specializes in OG’s, but he also specializes in putting grows together. So we went and checked out his grow and I was like: “This is someone I wanna work with, man.” I’ve known him for a long time, but didn’t really know what his capabilities were. I thought he was just a small-time grower. I didn’t know that he was so precise, so clean, so organic. So there it was: how do we include this within the lifestyle? That was the birth of 22Red. We said: “Let’s bring the cannabis in there and let’s make it full spectrum.”
Then I started working with these new guys in the studio, making a lot of new music. So I was like: “I’m gonna release it under 22Red label. I was like: “Full lifestyle! Let’s go music, clothing, events, entertainment and, now cannabis!” I started getting into it. I started learning about CBD and all its benefits. I was like: “Dude, we need to do some wellness too” And so our first thing was trying to introduce CBD .
That’s honestly what brought me into the world of cannabis. I have a passion for it, I have knowledge, and I have a lot of people around me who are really amazing that I’m working with to bring it to the public.
MRR: How long have you been using cannabis and what’s your favorite consumption method?
Shavo Odadjian: I’ve been smoking since I was 21. I’m 44 now, turning 45. As far as consumption? I used to love smoking out of glass pipes and bongs. Well that and vaporizing. But, for the last year or so it has been me and my rolls, my joints. That’s my thing. It’s the best for me.
MRR: Are you more a sativa or indica person?
Shavo Odadjian: I’m both, I’m a connoisseur. My breakfast blends would be the sativas, more a little hybrid sativas always. I don’t want to fester through the day. I got drive, I wanna do things and I’m a passionate person. I don’t wanna be like sitting on my couch watching TV. So I’ll do my sativa. I just smoked some right now. I can talk and be clear. But a couple of cool strains coming out. I just smoked Mimosa and that’s a sativa-dominant. It’s a Clementine and Purple Punch or Orange whatever. It’s a good high. That’s my go-to for the day. Also Church, which is an old school strain crossed with some Cherry stuff that I don’t wanna give away. That’s a really great strain that we have that I smoke throughout the day. It’s a lighter THC-content and tastes really nice, very piney. It’s got that frankincense vibe–earthy. I can smoke it all day and anytime. And then at night do I do an OG or I’ll do Gelato.
MRR: What’s the inspiration behind ‘22Red’?
Shavo Odadjian: I was kind of born with 22. I’m born on April 22nd, which is coming up. So 22 has been my thing. I got married May 22nd, which was coincidental. I was 22 when System got picked up, so that was kind of monumental for me. I was like: “Dude, I knew things were gonna happen when I’m 22. It was life-changing thing when we got picked up. This was for real now; it wasn’t just a band playing, not making money. I was actually gonna do something!
When that happened, I vowed that 22 years later, I was gonna do something crazy like this. I thought of this a year ago. I was 44, right? Twenty-two had to be a part of it. I didn’t wanna use my name. Everyone had their ideas, but I kept saying, “I’m really serious about 22 and it’s really worked for me. It’ll work. It’s catchy and cool.”
We were talking and then, I don’t know how it happened. I explained that I have synesthesia, which is how you relate different senses. Numbers have been colors since I was a kid, for some reason. Three is yellow, five is green, and as I was saying this, one of the guys who we were brainstorming with asked: “So what color is two?”
I said:”Red.” And there it was: 22Red.
MRR: What determines your breeders and what determines what strains actually make it into your end products?
Shavo Odadjian: Great question. It started off with me knowing what I like and having growers grow it–or finding growers who grow something that I’m attracted to smoking. I have master growers that I’ve had the past five, six years who grow specific strains for us. It has to be something I’m smoking at the time. That’s how we got the OG; it’s the OG I swear by. I’ve been smoking that same OG forever. I don’t even remember smoking another one. So, that’s my OG. I’m not selling something I don’t use.
MRR: What do your band mates think about 22Red? Are they down with it?
Shavo Odadjian: I have the best support from those guys. They’re seeing me really passionate about doing something that I love. My guitar player, he’s a stoner. He’s the one I started smoking with at age 21 and it feels great when he loves the strains. I gave him a bunch of stuff when he went on tour and he was so taken and he wasn’t just saying that to me. He’s told me he really liked it and that meant the world to me.
MRR: We’ve seen a tremendous industry shift with the US Farm Bill. What do you think about the state of the industry and the explosion of CBD in the mainstream market?
Shavo Odadjian: I’m all about the health benefits, you know what I mean? I’m just disgusted that for so long and it has been illegal and people have been going to jail. It should be illegal for it to be illegal. Because it will help people without all the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. You’ve seen how it helps with seizures and with Parkinson’s disease. No one’s acting. How could that be illegal when it helps with the effects of chemo. I have old school parents who used to look at cannabis like they looked at cocaine. Now they’re understanding. My dad uses CBD and sleeps like a puppy. For arthritis I’ve given him some of the creams and he’s l all over it. I mean it’s better than him taking norco or something worse. There’s an epidemic of Xanax and Valium, the whole Benzodiazepine epidemic going on, right? It’s crazy kids are on it.
MRR: What’s next for you and 22Red?
Shavo Odadjian: I’m making music, of course, with my little side thing that I’m having fun with and it’s coming out really good. I’m gonna launch it soon and you guys will hear it. As far as 22Red it’s taking off where we’re building and I’m trying to keep it as tame as possible ’cause it could easily backfire. I just wanna keep it so it’s still stays quality and it will always stay quality.