“I’ve been waiting for this year, it’s my lucky number,” Shavo Odadjian says, on a call from the studio where he’s recording an album with his band North Kingsley.
The rockstar bassist for the band System of a Down, Shavo has been in the spotlight for decades. In 2018, based on his love and passion for smoking weed, Shavo founded his own weed brand, 22Red. The brand’s name references Shavo’s lucky number 22. It’s a number that follows him around. He was born on April 22nd, among other coincidental associations with the number.
For our 4/20 special issue, Visit Hollyweed got the lowdown on what’s coming up for 22Red, what weed Shavo is smoking right now, his bong collection, and new music to look forward to.
22Red Takes on 2022
Shavo told us that 22Red is now in three states and is slowly expanding this year. The brand began in California but has also set up shop in Nevada and Arizona, where Shavo says interesting things are happening in weed.
But, of course, California is king. “Weed culture is California, he said. “Everyone strives to be California. It’s the mecca in the whole world,” Shavo says, of what makes California weed special.
“We’re trendsetters for the rest of the world,” he said.
In the year 2022, 22Red got a big upgrade: Shavo partnered with Cali weed brand Stiiizy for grow and distribution, giving them access to larger grow facilities so that 22Red can start to offer their boutique flower at a larger scale. They’re now positioned as Stiiizy’s premier top-shelf brand in all of its California dispensaries.
Shavo has been waiting to get to this point, having kept the brand fairly small to preserve its quality.
He says he was able to trust Stiiizy because one of 22Red’s founders, Sean Oganesyan aka Surreal Yields, is the consultant to Stiiizy’s grow facilities.
Shavo says that 22Red wouldn’t be a brand if it wasn’t for Oganesyan.
“He was the reason I turned 22Red into a cannabis brand,” Shavo said.
“As much as I’m a cannabis advocate and fan of it, throughout my past I didn’t really want to get into the business. It’s really tough if you’re not a grower yourself to do something correct and expect people to do it right for you,” he said.
“But when him and I teamed up, I knew I had the right person,” Shavo said, which allowed him to form a team and launch 22Red in 2018.
“I didn’t want to hire someone. I wanted someone to be in the brand, to feel as much of an owner as I am and do the job well. He’s done that and then some,” Shavo said.
Now he’s working with his partner inside of Stiiizy’s facilities, where Surreal Yields has consulted on the build out and growing methods for the brand.
“He’s a crazy engineer and he does it so well. The [Stiiizy] partnership makes it just perfect,” Shavo said.
22Red has always offered top shelf nugs in jars, but Shavo says they’re soon dropping a new product, pre-rolled joints. He says it’s the same nug, just rolled for convenience. Called Personals, the joints will come in a pack totaling an eighth oz.
The new product is in line with how Shavo prefers to smoke.
“I’ve been planning on doing these since the birth of 22Red because that’s how I smoke my weed. I roll them in little joints and I finish it because I don’t want to share. I’ll give you a preroll for you to smoke,” he said.
“With the whole Covid, and just in general, it’s clean to have your own little J,” he said.
For Shavo, 22Red has been about gradual growth, building a great foundation, and now moving forward.
“That’s what I’ve been aiming for is to get to the level we’re at now,” he says, noting that finally finding a dependable distributors and growers has changed the game for the brand.
“We have a home in all three states, we have distributors I trust, growers I trust, and brand ambassadors I trust. We can move forward now,” he said.
Into the Weeds with Shavo
22Red’s genetics are, in part, sourced from Shavo’s own seed collection that he’s been building for a couple of decades.
“Since I was in Amsterdam 20 years ago, I’ve been collecting seeds,” he said. “I didn’t even know what I was going to do with them, but I’m a collector.”
He’s also part of the grower community and always has access to innovative genetics and top cultivators.
“I have a lot of grower friends and people that do genetics. People always want me to try their stuff, their cuts, their seeds,” he said.
Shavo’s experience has led him to be extremely skilled at testing and selecting strains and phenos (phenos being the various versions of the seeds when they grow, which are then selected for their ideal traits).
“I love the process of phenohunting myself. I love being a part of it. Even though I’m not the one doing it, I love curating it,” he says.
He doesn’t plan on being a grower himself. “You gotta leave that to the masters. But I do know what I love. I know what’s good. Having that kind of taste, I’m good at what I do,” Shavo said.
He’s extremely involved in the process, which is different for all three states since he cannot take his genetics across state lines.
“I try it all. The hardest part is that I have to smoke all these,” he said, laughing.
“I have strains coming at me, 10-15 a month from each state for me to try so I know if it’s the right one, if it did well, are we going to go further with it or are we going to kill it,” Shavo said.
In the end, all final decisions about phenos and strains go through his lungs.
“I have to do that. That’s part of the R&D and quality control I do,” Shavo said.
He says he’s learning more about terpenes and the scientific side of analyzing weed, but ultimately, it’s his personal taste that makes the decision.
“It just comes from me, you know? I personally have to love it to put it in our jars.”
He’s not worried that he’s not following trends in weed.
“A lot of people just put whatever’s popular. I’m not doing that. I can make something popular,” he said.
It’s not arrogance on his part. It’s true knowledge combined with passion.
“I think if I love it, I can make it popular by telling people because I have a really good track record with quality. I have never second handed myself, ever,” Shavo said.
He doesn’t want to follow what’s hot, he wants to lead.
“I can start a trend,” he said.
Since Shavo is currently involved with developing strains in three states and testing them all along the way, he’s got a lot to report on what’s good in weed right now.
“Since we’re multistate, I’m seeing the trends come and go. Right now, especially in Nevada, the terpene profiles are looked at more than the THC at this point,” Shavo said.
He’s learning how to analyze weed using technology and science. “It’s crazy. It’s a whole new world of figuring out what you’re smoking. I really enjoy it,” he said.
As far as what he’s developing for 22Red, fans can look forward to new flavors on the way.
“Recently I’ve been really into crossing Skittlez with things. And Mimosa, which is a Purple Punch crossed with an Orange Cookies, something about that for daytime I really like,” Shavo said.
He finds Mimosa strains to be widely useful as a Sativa-dominant Hybrid for functional activities.
“There’s a lot of wack Mimosas out there, but if it’s done well I think it’s a wonderful smoke and a wonderful all day for all smokers out there, even if you’re a heavy smoker or if you’re not. I think it’s a great comfortable high,” he said.
“Skittlez, I love for the flavor,” Shavo says, shouting out the strain’s creator Green R Fields/Terphogz. “He’s a really nice guy.”
He says he has a Mimosa x Skittlez strain coming out in the next year. “I really think it’ll be something special,” he said.
And being a true original So Cal smoker, Shavo says he makes a point to keep at least one OG strain on the menu.
“I’m really into Pre-98 OGs. I tend to go for the heavier stuff. I think the Oaksterdam OG is amazing,” he said.
“We’re in the middle of perfecting one with tissue culture, so I’m hoping to have a really nice one coming to you in the next 6-8 months,” Shavo said.
He’s got other strains on the way, which are 22Red’s own versions of strains on the market.
“We use different phenos. We hunt for the phenos, so even if it’s the same name, we use our own proprietary seedlings,” Shavo said.
These days, it’s about the terps.
“I’m really enjoying flavors lately,” he says, mentioning new Sherblato (Sunset Sherbert x Gelato) and Jelly Mintz (London Pound Mintz x Jealousy) strains.
Being into tasty terpene profiles, Shavo mentions a 22Red classic with genetics that he keeps secret called SoDelicious.
“It’s the nicest tasting. People trip out on it since it’s so delicious. Hence the name,” Shavo said.
Shavo’s Glass Collection
“I have so many friends that blow and they’re amazing,” Shavo says, explaining how he came to collect dozens of hand-blown glass bongs and pipes, some of which are valued at tens of thousands of dollars each.
“You need to collect these things if you’re a collector and you smoke and you’re around such great artists,” Shavo said, citing artists like Darby Holmes, Buck Glass, Jason Harris, and Jerome Baker.
He came to acquire upwards of 40-50 hand blown glass pieces, many of which remain untouched.
Shavo stopped collecting at a certain point after he tragically lost a handful of original pieces during an earthquake.
“When that happens, your heart breaks. I don’t want to feel this again. I stopped displaying it.”
He previously displayed his collection in glass cases, but after the incident, and now that he’s raising a family, he’s moved much of it to storage. He says he hopes to find a way to display the collection again at some point, perhaps at the 22Red main office.
North Kingsley Album Drop
After recently doing a tour with System of a Down, Shavo is back in the studio working on his first solo music project with his band North Kingsley. The band started during coronavirus and has selectively put out songs since then. They’re now in the studio recording a full-length album.
“We’re close to being done. There’s a record in the next 5-6 months coming from North Kingsley,” Shavo said.
So far, it’s a self-funded project. “We don’t have any record support. We’re not signed with a label yet,” he said.
It’s a new sound that Shavo hopes listeners will appreciate.
“The new music is heavier, grimier, more guitar. It has a hip-hop flavor, but electronic,” Shavo said. “It still has the heavy bass that I play. It’s live instruments with electronic beats and crazy vocals. And great lyrics. The guy reads books, the guy’s smart,” he says of the band’s lead singer Ray Hawthorne.
It’s not the only time he’s worked with Hawthorne. The singer has been known to write “22isms,” thought-provoking messages that are hidden throughout 22Red packaging.
But the band is really founded on Shavo’s experience. The name North Kingsley is a reference to the street he grew up on in Hollywood after his family emigrated as refugees from Armenia when Shavo was 5.
He says growing up on North Kingsley Drive made him who he is.
“That was my foundation, as a person. It was all built on that street,” Shavo said.
“I saw everything on that street, from drugs, to homelessness, to gangbangers, to hookers, to rock stars, it was the mecca of how I was formed as a human. What drove me,” Shavo said.
“What better name than what built me, made me, that street,” he said.
He says the band’s sound represents L.A., with a bit of New York flair in the vocals.
For people who know him from System of a Down, he thinks they’ll hear something familiar in North Kingsley’s sound. “It’s not System, but it has the DNA,” Shavo said.
22Red is available at dispensaries throughout California, Arizona, and Nevada and can now be found at all Stiiizy locations in California. Follow 22Red on Instagram to keep up on their year-long monthly giveaway in celebration of 22Red.