SOAD's Serj Tankian Goes Solo

He is the charismatic singer/songwriter, a poet, a film composer, a highly regarded activist. Serj Tankian is what you would call a Renaissance Man.

SOAD's Serj Tankian Goes Solo
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Serj Tankian is what you would call a Renaissance Man. He is the charismatic and insightful singer/songwriter of the highly innovative and ingenious band System Of A Down, a band known for their unique sound and highly political overtones. He is a poet. During his time with System, currently on hiatus, he released a book of his poems titled Cool Gardens. He is a film composer, having written the score for the film Bug. Something he hopes to do even more of in the future. In 2001, he started his own record label, Serjical Strike, which has released a number of albums from an eclectic variety of genres. The most recent SS project is his own solo record, Elect The Dead, which he produced, and is set for an October release. Serj is also a highly regarded activist. In addition to forming the organization Axis Of Justice, with Tom Morello (formerly of AudioSlave), a foundation dedicated to raising awareness for many social and political causes, he petitions tirelessly for recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government. Those efforts were most recently documented in the film Screamers. His Armenian heritage is something that is very important to him, and prevalent in his music, politics and everyday life. Argie Plakas: Your Armenian background seems to have a great influence on you. Correct? Serj Tankian: Well, I grew up listening to my father sing traditional Armenian music. And though he couldn't make a living out of it, it was always his passion. In fact, I am looking at helping him put a record together in Armenian that I want to release myself through my label, Serjical Strike. Another influence, is the question of justice regarding the Armenian genocide. And I also still love the language, I'm fluent, I both read and write in Armenian.
"I kind of wrote every little bit of the record from A-Z, played most of the instruments."
What does the title of your record Elect the Dead mean? The title is open to interpretation, like all the lyrics, which makes it more powerful and perfect to internalize it's meaning. But when I've asked friends what it means to them, I've heard some really cool interpretations. One was, we don't many great leaders now, so we should go look at the ones from the past, who have passed away. But the best interpretation that I heard was, that the victims of the epitome of civilization should be the ones deciding who are next leader should be; those who have been unjustly led to die. But honestly, to me it has nothing to do with elections or leaders, it's about electing yourself. To really be responsible, and using the wisdom beyond the physical and material world, beyond history itself. To tap into the spiritual world, and to not only pick the right people to represent us, but to represent ourselves in the right way. If we did that, I think we would be in a much better place. Is it true you played every instrument on this record, except for drums? Yes. The way that I did the record was, I started playing the piano, then guitar with rough vocals. And then I filled everything on that and basically programmed all the drums, wrote all the drum parts with electronic samples, and did all the guitar, bass, strings, keyboards, vocals, and finished everything. And then I got a couple drummer friends to come in and replace my drums. So, I kind of wrote every little bit of the record from A-Z, played most of the instruments, and then got drummers to play the drums, and finally cellists and violinists to play a couple other things. What was the recording process like for you? Very organic. When I was inspired I would go in and work on songs. Some of the songs are from way back. And a lot of them were written last year. And most of it was recorded last fall. How is this solo record different musically wise, than System of a Down? Musically I think it's a lot more layered. It's a lot thicker. I don't want to give the wrong impression of what it is or isn't, it's hard to describe music. But there is a lot of layers and stuff. There's a lot of piano and strings. A lot of things that we couldn't do with System. And lyrically it's alittle more intimate. Even when I was writing by myself with System, I would have to consider everyone else's feelings about what I'm writing. But in this case, it's a solo record, so there's a certain extra vulnerability, the extra connection, more of a direct connection.
"The album's title is open to interpretation."
Do you see yourself back with System of a Down someday? The possibility is there. We're all friends. We are taking an indefinite hiatus. We're all doing our own thing, exploring, and having new adventures, which is very important to artists. If we all feel we have something to say together, in the near future or far future, System will be there for us. The video for The Unthinking Majority was recently posted on your website, www.serjtankian.com. Will you be doing videos for any other songs as well? We will be doing MTV style videos for single songs. But we're also doing indie videos for every song on the record. I have a bunch of amazing indie director friends that are already working on it. Some of them are almost done. And some of them will be done in the next month or so. To me, the best thing about this record, besides being kind of like a direct result of very focused vision of my artistic efforts, is the fact that, in every way, we're trying to multiply the artistic factor of record out there. We are trying to get really creative with regard to publicity and promotion. We're also having every journalist that's interviewing write a little piece about a sentence that I wrote. So, we're compiling a poetry book of all the journalists that are interviewing for this record. And at the end of October, we're either going to choose the best ones and put them on the website, or do a PDF of the whole thing to download for free. Well, I'd like to throw my hat into the ring Yeah, you have to, you have to. I'm assuming there is going to be a tour involved with this? Yes, absolutely. I've put together a back-up band. We are going to be rehearsing soon. I think we're going to be doing a promotional tour first, around the time of the record release. And playing some radio shows at the end of the year. And we'll probably do a proper tour and festivals next year. You've mentioned to me and to other journalists as well, that you would like to write a book someday Is that still something you'd like to add to your resume? I think so. But I would need enough time away from music to focus and do it. But I don't really like repeating myself a lot. And I like doing different things. I've done a poetry book, and I have thousands of unreleased poems, maybe I'll put them out someday. For now I'd like try and do more. What would you like to impart if you were to write a book? Well, one of my hobbies, since music stopped becoming my hobby and became my work, is foreign policy. So, I'd like to do my own foreign policy analysis of the world. And the relationship of nations, and try to encourage a spiritual undertone to replace political ambivalence.
"If we all feel we have something to say together, System will be there for us."
Speaking of politics, what are your thoughts on the upcoming political election and the candidates involved? (laughs) I've got lots of thoughts! Well, I saw the YouTube debates with the Democrats, and I thought that was really cool. Any particular candidate that you really like? Well, there's pros and cons about a number of candidates. On a personal level, I think there's a number of candidates that have the potentiality, experience, and the know how to be able to do a decent job. My only fear is that we've gone so much toward extremism in American politics today that it's going to take an extreme person to get us out of it. So, on a personal level if I were to pick one candidate to best represent where I am politically, it would probably be a very leftist candidate, probably Dennis Kucinich. Serj, you are obviously an extremely creative person. Do you think that type of creativity is easy for everyone to tap into? I think creativity comes from the Universe. It doesn't come from us. It comes from collective consciousness. At best we're skilled presenters. So, it's out there for all of us to be able to feed on and to be able to present. But some people can be more focused on it and develop the tools and skills to be able to be presenters of that, and some people don't. And that's ok. We all have our own vision and own little part of this whole establishment of life. I would imagine you're probably really looking forward to this juncture in your life? Yes, it's really exciting. I've never done anything like this before, so it's new, it's exploratory. It's fun! Interview by Argie Plakas Photos by Greg Waterman Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2007
Elect the Dead will be released on October 23rd.

157 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    NorCalLos
    His voice is unique and distinctive and he found a way to make it work. Cheers to him. That's the difference between a pop star and a musical artist. Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Axl Rose...great artists, not necessarily great voices.
    SchitzoJoe
    blame it on me wrote: is soad gonna break up cause that would suck someone reply with the answer
    If you read the entire article (which a true fan would), you would realize that he said SOAD is fully able to come back, but it's up to the members. They're all on indefinite hiatus, but SOAD will always have the potential to arise again.
    Mr. Altoid
    systemofadownfan73 needs to come down. I like SOAD, I just said he has an annoying voice. And other people aren't going to like bands you like so don't comeback with dumb comments. It just makes you look even more stupid.
    headbanger703
    RememberMyName wrote: scooby snacks wrote: i respect serj and i am going to buy this album, but wat i dont get is if he so against george bush's political veiws why does he live in america? 'Coz he's an American? I'm Australian and I live in Australia AND I don't like John Howard. But my disdain for his political beliefs aren't enough to make me move away from my country of origin. All I can do is hope that he's voted out in the next election. That would be the same with Serj. I can't believe the Serj-bashing here. Serj does not equal SOAD. Serj is the lead singer of SOAD and therefore has creative input into their music, but this will be closer to the music that he wants to make. He records everything on piano FIRST, so it's not going to be the heaviest thing you've ever heard. Whether or not you like Serj and/or SOAD, you have to admit that the guy's an artist. And Mesmerise/Hypnotise found SOAD at the peak of their artistic careers (so far). I think that's enough proof to say that this album will be at least worth the money you pay for it. And Serj can sing. Anyone who says that he can't hasn't listened hard enough. As for his screaming, have you ever tried to do that? Chances are you sound nowhere near as good as that.
    Amen dude. you're totally right. I couldn't have put it better myself. Serj is awesome, and although his record won't sound exactly like SOAD, it's going to have many of the musical and escpecially lyrical aspects of it. And to anyone who says that Serj is a crappy singer, I got one finger for you
    killer puppy
    Mr. Altoid wrote: He has an annoying voice, and you know it.
    dude i love his voice. only reaon i listen to SOAD
    Hultan
    Mr. Altoid wrote: He has an annoying voice, and you know it.
    +1 there, really. It was never meant for singing at all.
    NorCalLos
    Serj (in the picture) looks like the love child of Ed Kowalczyk and Weird Al Yankovich.
    rebreh
    Serj is not a great singer but for what he sings to it go greats. Like lets face it, serj is no anthony kiedies or manyerd but he does good for what he sings. And why is he against the american system. Did not the sytsem get him rich
    bortbort
    Never liked System.... I heard a song from this on the radio yesterday..... Don't like this either. I was hoping it would be different from system, it basically the same he still sings (if thats what you want to call it) in that ridicules manner.
    ticklemeemo
    It's good that he is a thinker, everyone should be, but some of the stuff he has said is moronic.
    immortal_stone
    i dont mind system of a down, although i think there shining moment was with the 'toxicity' album after that i think they went a bit drug ****ed,obviously not serj though that guys pretty talented.
    j-walk
    System of a down are amazing. Serj can sing and daron compliments it all so well. So shut up about it, all you goofs that are shooting off about them.
    NorCalLos
    rebreh wrote: Serj is not a great singer but for what he sings to it go greats. Like lets face it, serj is no anthony kiedies or manyerd but he does good for what he sings. And why is he against the american system. Did not the sytsem get him rich
    Not everyone is so self-absorbed that they automatically fall in love with a system that makes them rich. Your statement actually says more about you than it does about him. Also, it could be that his political views were formulated before "the system made him rich." In fact, I don't think any system made anyone rich. He became rich through his talent and creativity. The system probably took more from him than he gets to keep for himself. One other thing. It could be that he is exploiting the angst of America's youth and lower and middle classes by pandering to them (gasp)! The American Way.
    RememberMyName
    scooby snacks wrote: i respect serj and i am going to buy this album, but wat i dont get is if he so against george bush's political veiws why does he live in america?
    'Coz he's an American? I'm Australian and I live in Australia AND I don't like John Howard. But my disdain for his political beliefs aren't enough to make me move away from my country of origin. All I can do is hope that he's voted out in the next election. That would be the same with Serj. I can't believe the Serj-bashing here. Serj does not equal SOAD. Serj is the lead singer of SOAD and therefore has creative input into their music, but this will be closer to the music that he wants to make. He records everything on piano FIRST, so it's not going to be the heaviest thing you've ever heard. Whether or not you like Serj and/or SOAD, you have to admit that the guy's an artist. And Mesmerise/Hypnotise found SOAD at the peak of their artistic careers (so far). I think that's enough proof to say that this album will be at least worth the money you pay for it. And Serj can sing. Anyone who says that he can't hasn't listened hard enough. As for his screaming, have you ever tried to do that? Chances are you sound nowhere near as good as that.
    tamborineshaker
    [quote]TooFast wrote: musicology wrote: He's a singer? How? All he's doing is destroying his vocal chords with his "singing". There is nothing that dictates talent, just a abuse of the body is already washing his career right down the toilet. Most singers take care of their voices.....screaming doesnt neccessarily mean they are thrashing their vocal cords...there are ways to train your voice for that type of music....how do you think james hetfield (lead singer of metallica) can still even talk after almost 26 years of their kick A*$ metal.
    mizzark
    serj really is a great songwriter...i hated the last 2 SOAD albums (especially daron's singing), and i hope this album is like the old system
    bucketned
    him and jimmy urine and mike patton should do an album thats all accapella it would be orgasmiclly silly
    joeybones
    i have a feeling that this isnt going to go be a good idea. Hes nothing without all of the other ppl in SOAD
    Clypse
    MR. Altoid, no he doesnt. he just sounds a little british. listen to his concert vids or interviews. Hes actually pretty funny....
    carlsbad
    Heck yeah. Serj writing a book. I have Cool Gardens. That's hs poetry book. Good stuff.
    Rockwillnevrdie
    musicology wrote: He's a singer? How? All he's doing is destroying his vocal chords with his "singing". There is nothing that dictates talent, just a abuse of the body is already washing his career right down the toilet
    what the hell is the matter with you, like someone else said above, compare him to any of the "huge" rock singers of today, they dont got shit on Serj, He can actually hold a note
    systemofadown73
    TooFast wrote: musicology wrote: He's a singer? How? All he's doing is destroying his vocal chords with his "singing". There is nothing that dictates talent, just a abuse of the body is already washing his career right down the toilet.
    You probaly can't even sing yourself, faggot
    CapnKickass
    aleckillscobra wrote: Serj's voice is an aquired taste. when i first heard system of a down on the radio, it thought they were a joke. now they're one of my favorite bands.
    Yeah, when I first heard B.Y.O.B I laughed pretty hard. Serj looks like he needs a nappy time in the pic with him at the keyboard hahaha.
    rebreh
    This just seems like he is just goin to play exactly like system. I think it won't sell. And why do these people against capitilisim sell records. Isn't that the idea of it.
    mr freezy
    According to wikipedia(so it could be wrong) he's making a videos for every song.
    josh_ri22
    immortal_stone wrote: i dont mind system of a down, although i think there shining moment was with the 'toxicity' album after that i think they went a bit drug ****ed,obviously not serj though that guys pretty talented.
    musicology wrote: He's a singer? How? All he's doing is destroying his vocal chords with his "singing". There is nothing that dictates talent, just a abuse of the body is already washing his career right down the toilet.
    washing his career down the toilet? he started serjical strike records, was part of system of a down, a highly successful band, and now hes making a solo album that most people here are probably gonna buy... how does that make his career go down the toilet? id love to know.
    RHCP603
    strong_wizard wrote: political overtones "overdone". political bands need to get a clue tbh.
    Yeah, they might be overdone by bands like Rage against the Machine, but System and Serj always make you think to figure out it's political, like, "Holy Mountain"=Armenian Genocide? Serj is most likely one of the most intelligent musicians today and his lyrics show that. I've already heard two of the songs and it sounds like what system was before Daron freaked out and took over the songwriting. Bravo Serj, Bravo. WE WILL FIGHT THE HEATHENS! (SP?)
    bilgehanengin
    He uses the Armenian Genocide subject to make more people talk about himself and lyrics. I am sure, like other people, he has no knowledge about what did Armenians do in Anatolia and killed how many Turkish people in 1910's. I think, writing about a touchy subject with RACISM and using it to popularity IS NOT THE JUSTICE!
    RHCP603
    I am sure, like other people, he knows what he is talking about. Serj Tankian is was born in Lebanon, and was raised in an Armenian school system. Serj is in Axis of Justice, which fights against the horrible things humanity does to one another. We talk about Serj not because we like the controversy surrounding him, but for the fact that he is a great musician and his lyrics are thought provoking. Most likely, you wouldn't even know Holy Mountain was about the Armenian Genocide if i hadn't posted it. His lyrics might be a bit on the racist side, but words have no power by themselves. If I asked somone to go screw themselves, they have the power to, or to not do that. The definition of Genocide is "the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group." That is exactly what happened in Germany, and exactly what happened to the Armenian people. So if anyone can honestly look at the Nazi regime, and no racist, hateful, or vulgar words come to mind, send me an email on here, and i'll tell you why your a liar.
    moosedaman
    cant wai for serj'album. i cant believe he did so many different instruments and wrote all the music!
    TwistedLogic
    He seems like a straight up cool guy. Looking forward to hearing and seeing more of his work.
    bilgehanengin
    Firstly, my band used to play SOAD songs and i used to sing their songs, so i certainly know what lyrics about. Secondly, if you would have a wide viewpoint, you'd see the backround of the genocide assertions in the today's political world and notice the effects of it to Turkish Government and people in relationships with European Union. French Government have acceptted a law, which punishs people who refuses the Armenian Genocide. And do you have any idea how many Turkish peole live in France? And did you know, the Turkish authors who write positive about the genocide, become suddenly "One of the Best Authors Ever" and nominee to the Nobel Prize! And did you know, whenever this discussions calm down in public opinion, suddenly the most known Armenian author in Turkey killed by anymous. Do you see the connection between these events and discussion about the genocide, now? If you see it, write it to me. But if you did not understand the issue, then do not call me liar! I did not wrote these to tell you there is no genocide and start an argument, i did write these things because you all get used to look at the issue from only the one side.
    bilgehanengin
    bilgehanengin wrote: And did you know, the Turkish authors who write positive about the genocide, become suddenly "One of the Best Authors Ever" and nominee to the Nobel Prize !
    Correction: And did you know, the Turkish authors who write positive about the genocide, become suddenly "One of the Best Authors Ever" and nominee to the Nobel Prize by EUROPIAN PUBLIC OPINION!