Shavo Odadjian is a founding member of System of a Down, but his fans also know him as a producer, painter, director and actor. The Grammy winner can now add cannabis entrepreneur to the list as well with the launch of 22Red.
The multi-talented artist, who launched the 22Red fashion line today, will debut pre-rolls and a disposable vape line this fall with vape cartridges, battery packs and other high quality products to follow. Shavo has developed a lifestyle brand that fosters creativity, promotes community and incorporates music, fashion and activism into the 22Red experience. His ambitious new brand promises to bring an interactive and unifying vision that helps elevate cannabis culture to new heights.
"I'm a connoisseur, but that's not the only reason I'm in this game," says Shavo, a long-time cannabis advocate. "I believe in cannabis, and I believe in how it helps people." PRØHBTD spoke with Shavo to learn more.
What are the initial products that will introduce 22Red?
We are going to start with pre-rolls. My partner's an amazing grower, an O.G. Master, and we are going to grow specific strains just for 22Red. We have access to amazing genetic [seeds] so I can always have something new. I'm going to have different varieties of pre-rolls with amazing new flavors that people don't know about, and it's always going to be the best. Even when I'm traveling [for music], I'm going to be full on into this. I'm putting my heart into it, not my name.
There are a handful of music artists and celebrities who have their own cannabis lines, but they all tend to put their names on it. Why did you opt not to?
Because this is bigger than me. I'm not trying to use my celebrity to gain anything out of this. When we were coming up with names, a lot of people suggested I use my name, Shavo. They were saying, "Man, use your logo. Use your face. Use your goatee." I'm like, "Dude, this is bigger than System. This is bigger than Shavo." Fans who know me as a person know I'm all quality, bro. I don't do nothing half-ass. If I can do something, it's for real.
It's not just the cannabis, though. It's also quality clothing that we're making. I've teamed up with one of my best friends in the world, who owns an amazing manufacturing plant, so we're not buying t-shirts and printing on them—we're making t-shirts and printing on them. We're making the actual shirt with the actual fabric I like, that I wear, and the designs that I like to wear. It's about giving simplicity and minimalism. 22Red is about quality and bringing you something that you want to smoke and want to wear.
Some consumers are skeptical when someone with your fame gets involved in cannabis because they typically just attach their name and aren't involved much beyond that. How involved are you, and what added value do you personally bring to the product line?
It's quality control, and I'm artistic. It's not just the brand of weed. Everyone does that. Mine is different. Mine has creativity. We're thinking about how we can involve the public in the creativity—coming up with designs, shirts—so they can be a part of it. We might do contests where 22 people can remix one of my tracks, and the best one gets released. Stuff like that. I give them the stems of something I made, and then they can go and remix it their own way. It's not just a one-dimensional brand that sells weed. Plus, the weed that we do sell is quality. I put my artistic twist on the whole design. I love our logo, I love our design, I love our vibe. It's something I stand by.
What does the name 22Red represent?
It's not about the number 22 being red—it's about 22 and then the word red. First of all, it's my birthday. I'm born April 22. I got married May 22. System of a Down started when I was 22. I'm led by 22 always, my whole life, and I've always worn a 22 jersey on stage. It's my thing. I'm also a visual person, and my whole life, I've associated numbers with colors. I don't know why, but it's how it is. I've always seen red anytime I've seen the number 22. Then we started looking up the number 22, and [we discovered] it's a powerful number. It's been my most sustaining number. This also led to the idea of putting little secret messages about 22 inside all our clothing. We came up with a bunch of 22 taglines, and even in the boxes of our vapes and joints, there's writing inside saying something.
What can you tell me about your personal experience with cannabis? How long have you been smoking, and how has your view on it evolved over the years?
I was a good kid, even though I was from Hollywood. I was a skater, a street kid, and I never smoked cigarettes or weed. I didn't like drinking, either. I was 21 the first time I ever smoked. That's when I met [System of a Down guitarist] Daron [Malakian], and we smoked a lot together. And my view on cannabis is this: I think smoking [when younger] than 21 stunts your growth, and I don't condone people under 21 smoking. I'm not an advocate [for underage consumption], but beyond that, I think cannabis is a great alternative to a lot of things.
We're in a country that slangs pharmaceuticals. Big Pharma's here, and that's why weed is criminalized. Wrongfully, wrongfully criminalized. I'm glad that, finally, we have some politicians out there that are seeing that, if they [legalize cannabis], there's going to be more money coming through and creating jobs. But it's also saving a lot of people. My dad has arthritis all over his wrist—his fingers, his thumb—and he has a hard time moving it. They gave him some one-to-one CBD-THC, and now he sleeps like a puppy at night. It's something amazing. In all the states that legalized, there was a huge drop in opiate deaths. That's amazing. You have a pain, you go to a doctor, and they prescribe you Norco, Vicodin, Oxycodone. Come on, that's shit that creates an addiction after four uses, and it can kill you. That's fucked up.
Do you have a strain that is particularly high in CBD, or particular terpenes, that's focused more on medical care or wellness?
We have two big pens coming out that are one-to-one THC-CBD, and I might make it two-to-one with more CBD. Right now dispensaries can't sell a pen that's all CBD, but if that changes, I would like to have an all-CBD pen. For future products, I'm developing a tincture that's one-to-one because that's what I use to help me sleep. My father asked me about it, I got him one, and he's swearing by it. If my dad, who doesn't smoke weed, is swearing by it at 68, 69 years old, that's something I want to have as part of my products. I'll also develop rubs, the balms, and I want to do some CBD-THC microdosed gummies in my own style.
When you’re checking out different strains to decide what could be one of your signature strains, what qualities are you looking for?
Number one, taste. Then type. And then something that I'm personally passionate about. There's a smell that you smell when you're smoking a joint, right? But then there's another smell that people smell around you when you exhale. That smoke, that smell, has to be good. I look forward to people being like, "Dude, what are you smoking?" I want the package to look good, but the most important qualities are how it smokes and what the high is.
I'm also looking for flavors for smokers who don't want to get too tore up but who enjoy getting high and enjoy some good flavors. We also want to give the stoners, the ones who like to get high, the good OG. I'm looking for a strain still today that I will make sure I find. I'm on the hunt for the strain that I used to smoke in L.A. back in the 90s. I called it Church because the exhale smells like frankincense, like that shit you smell in Catholic churches. Once I get that, it's going to be a feature strain for 22Red.
In what ways do you think 22Red allows you to express yourself creatively in ways that maybe you weren't able to express yourself in your other projects?
I'm in control—I've been in bands, and you're a collaborator in bands—but more than anything else, it's because I'm an artist. I'm a creative guy so I brought that to my partners, and that's special because they let me do what I do. They are like, "If Shavo says it, let's do it." That right there means the world to me. I know there are certain things I know how to do, and I'm going to come through. Bet on it. I'm lucky, honored and blessed that the people working with me in this are confident with me.
When you add in the idea about music remixes, 22Red might be the only brand that has something for all five senses.
I love how you say that, man. Even in music, I always wanted to appeal to different senses. For example, I directed the majority of System videos and did all of our stage production. I planned everything you see on stage. I don't hire anyone to do that because I can do it. Before I touched your hearing and your visuals, but with 22Red, I'm also touching your taste and smell and touch.
What experiences have you had with cannabis on the road? Have you ever come close to being arrested?
Oh, yeah. One time we landed in Italy. I had no weed on me, bro, but my tour manager had it wrapped up in his balls, right? In his ball area. This is way back when it was really illegal. We landed in Milan and got our bags at baggage claim, and then we're going through the door at customs. All of a sudden, the dog goes, "Ruff!" and they pull me into a room. They were going off on me like, "You've got some…!" and I'm like, "Dude, I've got nothing, I swear." They take my bag and go through it and keep saying, "We smell weed. We smell cannabis." They were about to freaking give me a cavity search. I was a hair away from getting abducted. I swear, bro. It was weird, but I offered it. I was like, "Come on, motherfucker, go. Search." All of a sudden, he didn't go for it. They let me go after two, three hours.
It was my tour manager in front of me! He was walking the scent in front of me, and I was behind him, so I'm the one who got popped, right? Good thing because he would've been screwed and our tour would've been messed up if he got arrested.
Photo credit: @gregwatermann.