Despite being hailed as a genius, Rick Rubin has often found himself at the center of controversy. Esteemed musicians like Black Sabbath‘s Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi, Josh Klinghoffer, and Corey Taylor have openly criticized his contributions, while Rubin himself has admitted that he “knows nothing about music.” Yet, his unparalleled ability to elevate artists from Slayer to Johnny Cash highlights his genius, a sentiment echoed by System Of A Down‘s Shavo Odadjian.

Reflecting on his experiences working with Rubin, Shavo told the Nik Nocturnal Podcast (as transcribed by Ultimate Guitar): “When it comes to arrangement and songs, I learned that through watching Rick work with System and how everyone kind of worked with Rick on the first couple of records. I watched that. I was there. I was very present for all that. So, the Rick mentality of songwriting kind of lasts with me.”

Shavo elaborated on how Rubin’s methods have become ingrained in his creative process: “And to this day, I write thinking of how Rick would arrange [a certain song] — not how Rick would do it, but how I was taught. It’s kind of become a part of my DNA. It’s mostly Beatles-style song origins, where you have the chorus, verse, and then the chorus, and then the middle breakdown, the chorus, and it’s over.”

Addressing common pitfalls in song arrangement, Shavo noted, “You can’t just shove it in there. It needs to work. There’s always that little section you need to build, that links two sections together to make it sound like it belongs there, not you put it there. I’ve heard song bands that have cool riffs, but they put them back to back, and you just can’t follow, and you don’t remember. You don’t remember a riff. After you’ve heard the song, there’s like 10 riffs, and you don’t none of them become memorable.”

The key, according to Shavo, lies in thoughtful arrangement: “It’s just because of how they arranged it. If you have that out and arrange three, four of them in a really good way where they complement each other, then you get something that, when the song is over, either the person wants to re-listen to it, or they are humming it already. It’s all about the presentation.”

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