Serj Adam Tankian (born 1967 August 21) is a Lebanese-Armenian-American singer–songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, poet, and political activist. He is best known as the lead vocalist, songwriter, keyboardist, and occasionally live rhythm guitarist of the Grammy Award-winning rock band, System of a Down.
In 2002, Tankian and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello co-founded a non-profit political activist organization, Axis of Justice. During his musical career, he has released five albums with System of a Down, one with Arto Tunçboyacıyan (Serart), as well as his debut solo album Elect the Dead. He was named the 26th-greatest metal vocalist of all time by Hit Parader magazine.
Early life and career
Serj Tankian was born on 1967 August 21, to an Armenian family in Beirut, Lebanon. He and his family emigrated to Los Angeles in 1975. Although Tankian disliked school, he maintained a 4.0 grade average. When Tankian got older he started his own software company before beginning his music career; he began performing music in 1992.
Soil and System of a Down
Daron Malakian met Serj Tankian in 1992, while they both shared the same rehearsal studio in different bands. Serj was playing keyboard for a band, and Daron was singing lead vocals for another band. They formed a jam band called Soil (Serj on vocals/keyboards and Daron on guitar; not to be confused with the Chicago band Soil) with Domingo Laranio (drums) and Dave Hakopyan (bass). Around this time, they also met Shavo Odadjian. The next year, in 1994, after one supposed jam session recording and one live show, Dave and Domingo left, thinking the band wasn’t going anywhere.
The band later broke up and Tankian and Malakian formed a new band “System of a Down,” based on a poem that Daron wrote entitled “Victims of the Down”. Shavo Odadjian thought that the word System appealed to a much broader audience than “Victims,” and they wanted their albums to be stored near the Slayer band’s. Odadjian was the band’s original manager and promoter, but joined as the bassist, and managerial duties were taken over by the Velvet Hammer Music and Management Group and founder David “Beno” Benveniste. Daron then asked his friend Ontronik “Andy” Khachaturian (who had played in his first band with Daron at age 15) to join the band as the drummer. Andy was later replaced by their current drummer, John Dolmayan, due to a hand injury.
During System of a Down’s days, Tankian was the vocalist in other bands for certain songs such as Mushroom Cult by Dog Fashion Disco and lent his vocals to the song Mein by Deftones. He also sang backup vocals on a song for Hed PE called “Feel Good”. He produced “Enter the Chicken” by Buckethead, and provided vocals to the Buckethead songs We Are One, Coma, andWaiting Hare. With Serjical Strike Records, he endeavors to offer those musicians often ignored by the mainstream a possibility to release their music and be heard. The first release of Tankian’s new label was Serart, an album by Tankian himself, and Arto Tunçboyacıyan, an Armenian friend of Tankian’s.
In 2007, Serj composed and wrote “The Essence of Tequila” and “Chicakong” for the video game soundtrack of John Woo Presents Stranglehold. He also helped with “Stranglehold Rough 2” and “Pianoimprovstrangle 2”.
More recently, he sang with Les Rita Mitsouko on the song “Terminal Beauty”. Also, he sang with the band Fair to Midland during a live improvisational version of their song “Walls of Jericho”, from the album Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True, which was a massive hit with fans. He often collaborates as well with his close friend, director Diran Noubar on various projects, including the voice-over of Noubar’s “Armenia, a Country Under Blockade”. Noubar played some guitar on Tankian’s Elect the Dead album on the track “Saving Us” and directed the music video for “Baby”.
Tankian is also politically involved. Together with Tom Morello, he founded the organization Axis of Justice. Tankian is a New Zealand resident and has a secondary vacation dwelling there. There has been a misconception that he intends to stay in New Zealand until the Iraq War is over, but as stated in an interview, Tankian has no intention of doing so. He often speaks publicly against violence and injustice in the world.
Tankian is at work on a second album, due in 2009. It is said to be more of a jazz and orchestral based sound. A new song, “Sounds of War”, has shown up in recent concert setlists, it has a jazz fusion style, it is unknown if it will be on the second record. Said Tankian of the second album, “I’m structuring the next record kind of like a jazz orchestral. I’ve got a full orchestra interested, so I want this giant electric guitar in the air to be played by a full orchestra. I want the orchestra to be the electric guitar. I want to make an orchestra do what it’s never done before, like a GG Allin type orchestra. Think of that.” Tankian released a new song “Fears” in November 2008 exclusively in support of Amnesty International’s Global Write-A-Thon
Tankian told The Pulse of Radio that the highlights of his last eight months on the road may soon be documented in a DVD featuring videos, live performances and behind-the-scenes footage. Serj is also set to release a CD/DVD of his recent performance with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, tentatively titled Elect the Dead Symphony. Whether the original DVD is still planned on being released is unknown. However, Elect the Dead Symphony is currently to be released October 2009.
Tankian is currently co-writing a musical with the American playwright Steven Sater. It is based on the Ancient Greek tragedy Prometheus Bound. He stated that eight songs have been completed and that there will be a record.
Serj Tankian, in recent years has taken a stance supporting animal rights. He also has become a vegetarian who has strong feelings against the establishment of industrial slaughterhouses. In an interview with PETA, he also claimed his change due to “touring and its variety of edible crap”, and also he felt it was “instinctive somewhat”. Furthermore, he also feels the need for respect towards ‘mother earth’.
In July 2009, Serj signed a PETA petition against the slaughtering methods of chickens in KFC slaughterhouses.
Serj Tankian and The F.C.C.
- Serj Tankian — lead vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, piano, guitar
The F.C.C. (Flying Cunts of Chaos) is Serj’s backing band when he plays live. 2009 will be the last year that The F.C.C. will be Serj’s backing band.
- Mario Pagliarulo — bass, vocals
- Erwin Khackikian — keyboards, piano, synthesizers, vocals
- Troy Zeigler — drums, vocals
- Dan Monti — guitar, vocals
- Jeff Mallow — guitar, vocals (2008–present)
- Larry “Ler” LaLonde — guitar, vocals (2007–2008)
- Serj Tankian, MTV
- Exclusive Interview With Andy Khachaturian (ex-SOAD) :: The Official Unofficial System of a Down Site
- Chris Schulz (17 December 2008). Serj Tankian to perform with APO. Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- Music for Human Rights
- Serj Tankian Co-Writing a Musical, Spinner, Last accessed 2008 May 22.
- Serjical Strike Records – Serj Authoring New Poetry Book