Serj Tankian is one of those rare musicians that needs no introduction.
His musical exploits have seen him inspire a generation of artists and fans with his strong and unwavering stance and propensity to speak out against topics that infuriate him a highlight of a dominant career.
As frontman for System Of A Down, Tankian was given a platform from which to express his grievances and used that to bring attention to a multitude of crimes against humanity that he has stood steadfastly behind his whole career.
But he is more than a mouthpiece for the downtrodden.
He is an inspiration and an unwavering statue against oppression and corruption and political wrongdoings that has not once wavered from his art or beliefs in the face of adversity and remains a stoic beacon of hope in a musical climate that too often cares more for their own wellbeing than the plights of innocents around them.
With System Of A Down fading from the musical spotlight earlier this century and only reappearing sporadically, Tankian released four solo albums between 2007 and 2013 and has remained active in the music industry on other levels before returning last month with his five-track EP Elasticity.
Tankian sat down with HEAVY for a lengthy chat about a variety of topics, starting with the reaction to his first solo material in eight years.
“Incredible,” he summed it up in one word. “The feedback has been amazing, the videos have garnered a lot of attention which is nice and people are loving the wackiness of the song “Elasticity”. The “Your Mom” video just landed and is doing really well. All of it’s doing well. The “Rumi” song, the reaction to it has been stellar; we have a video coming up for that next so it’s cool.”
Elasticity combines Tankian’s trademark sound, accentuated by electronics and featuring two piano-driven numbers that show a musical diversity and growing maturity that may not have been expected 20 years ago.
‘I think we’ve done that with System as well,” he measured. “We’ve always had this approach of creating relationships between two seemingly different concepts both lyrically and musically and kind of marrying them in a way that totally makes sense and I think it’s a nice surprise. It’s just something that I’ve always done organically.”
With an emphasis but not reliance on politically charged music and lyrics, Tankian remains adamant that he still writes music for himself rather than to appease the fans or masses.
“I’ve always written mostly for myself,” he said. “When I write my own music it’s mostly for myself and I don’t think of anyone else when I write. I just want to be excited about it and do something cool and fun. I pay particular attention to the quality of everything; from performances through to recordings, but I also do a lot of work for hire for films so I’m a composer and I work on films so that’s not really doing music for yourself. It’s doing music for another project but I dare say that I find the challenge of being creative within limitations an incredible offering because Ie always done my own music without any limitations. For me to know that this is going to be an orchestral score or an electronic score or a jazz score or whatever it kind of makes it easy for me to go okay perfect, now I know what instrumentation I need to use I can nail it and present something that people hopefully gravitate towards – directors, producers, and then that’s the tone of the film. Once I establish a tone of the film then I can just go crazy in that direction and be as creative as I want. As long as I hit the right points and visual cues.”
In the full interview, Serj discusses his youth and how it impacted his future career, the sometimes graphic content in his video clips, the impact social media and propaganda is having on today’s culture, the ability of one person to make a difference, working with System Of A Down again on last years two singles, the future of System Of A Down as it stands currently, Armenian Genocide Recognition day on April 24 and what it means to him, fighting for change and more.
Watch “Electric Yerevan” below: