Serj Tankian ~ above his return to rock v his new EP, his brilliant brand-new documentary and also his relationship with system Of A Down


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For a guy who had significant back surgical treatment a mainly ago, Serj Tankian is in surprisingly an excellent spirits. Because that the past couple of months, he’s been dealing with a pains herniated bowl – partially the result, that says, of the relentless activism that has actually gone hand-in-hand v his musical job for practically three decades.

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“You know just how in music you should never take it yourself too seriously? as an activist, I could have take away myself a tiny too seriously,” he states wryly, speak via Zoom from his residence in Los Angeles. “Pain is an excellent teacher in the sense.”

Recently, much of his energy has been devoted to elevating awareness that the war and subsequent humanitarian situation in Artsakh, one Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan that has actually been under siege from the Azerbaijani authorities v the backing the the Turkish government. It was that problem which prompted system Of A down to surprise-release 2 songs, Protect The Land and Genocidal Humanoidz, in so late 2020 – their very first new music in 15 years.


Those 2 sides the Serj – musician and activist – space inextricably tied together, yet each is getting its very own separate spotlight now. He’s simply released a new solo single, Elasticity, the title track to a brand brand-new EP the end in March. The EP’s 5 songs find the singer in ‘rock’ mode for the first time due to the fact that 2012’s Harakiri album, swinging native the shapeshifting, System-esque title track to the heartfelt Rumi, a tribute to both his six-year-old son and a 13th century Sufi poet, both named Rumi.


The 52-year-old is also the focus of Truth come Power, one insightful and also genuinely inspiring new documentary that charts his journey from Beirut-born Armenian émigré to vocal political and also social activist who simply happens to be a member of one of the greatest rock bands the the 21st century.


The movie is centred approximately one basic question: deserve to music actually readjust the world? clip of device playing a landmark gig in the Armenian capital Yerevan ~ above the 100th anniversary the a genocide committed on the Armenian people by Turkey – a show which sparked a chain of occasions that finish a series of relaxed protests and also the resignation of Armenia’s widely loathed president, Serzh Sargsyan – says the price is: Yes, it can.

“Most activists are never ever privy to the results of your activism in your lifetime,” he says. “With mechanism Of A down I have lucky to be able to see some of it.”


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Let’s talk around the EP first. You created the songs numerous years ago. Why has actually it take away so lengthy to release them?

The songs come around approximately the same period of time, 4 or five years ago. I tried to see originally if we can work top top them with the guys in device Of A Down, because that a system record. And also of course there are plenty of factors involved in that. Suffice to say that we didn’t view eye to eye in regards to the route forward, creatively and in regards to responsibilities.

So the song just… stayed. Climate at one point, a friend of mine was, like, ‘Dude, friend gotta release these songs. They’re great songs. And I was, like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’

There is frustration in mechanism Of A Down, due to the fact that we don"t all view the very same vision. However it is a family members thing.

Serj Tankian

The music was prepared by early last year. We didn’t desire to self-release, we want to job-related with a bigger label for publicity and all the stuff. That’s one reason it took a little longer come release than we would have liked.

There are 5 songs top top the Elasticity EP. What associate them?

There’s a couple of reasons I called the EP Elasticity. Part of that is due to the fact that it did remind me the System, and also we"ve offered terms favor Toxicity and Mesmerize and Hyptonize on ours albums. However that"s likewise the type of basic outline of the song themselves – they go from really hefty to beautiful and also melodic, indigenous socio-political to very personal, fragile stuff. It’s elastic. I guess that’s the basic theme.

The track Elasticity itself starts through a burp. Was the a first-take burp, or go you have to do it number of times?

No, the was a first-take burp.

What’s the catalyst behind that song?

You know, I"m not specifically sure, since it"s been so long. Ns can"t really remember what relocated me. Yet I deserve to tell you that my child was usually jibber-jabbering in ~ me while ns was play the song. Where my piano is and where my playroom is, it"s the very same room. I"d be working on something and he would certainly be jibber-jabbering, and also I’d kind of shot to obtain his fist by repeating it back at him. That’s wherein the little that goes, ‘Da-da-da-da-da!’ come from – the really crazy part.

The tune Rumi is part love letter to your son, Rumi, component advice to him, but it referrals a 13th Persian love poet additionally named Rumi…

My child was yes, really young - one, possibly not even that. Again, ns was play my piano and he to be making sounds. I was talking to him, , ‘Oh to ~ Rumi’, and he"d smile. That was simply a demo, and I didn’t think the was what that would come to be lyrically, however then i realised the the core emotions that the tune are to do with my son.

From that we extrapolated the reality that we named him Rumi since of the poet. It ended up being this hybrid the a letter to my son and advice, and also Rumi’s advice the human being - love and also knowledge and also this beautiful global message.

Presumably the heat ‘Stay far from God and crime’ is yours, no the original Rumi’s…

Yes, you’re right about that. I don’t like the indigenous ‘God’, because it’s been abused throughout the centuries. I prefer more indigenous words like "spirit the moves throughout all thing", "creator". That makes an ext sense to me as a human being than words "God." since God is also the god the revenge – God is the reason we"ve had established religions that for so many years have actually been yes, really oppressive. Come me, saying "God and crime" method any organisation. Be your own man. Don"t be a component of anything that your vision can not be precipitate from.


How did the Truth come Power documentary come about?

In 2011, i shot everything I did. Ns literally strapped a camera to my head, wore spy glasses – I believed it would be good to do a POV film. However the way I shot it to be ridiculous – i was like a bird . You’re not an alleged to perform that. There was a many fun footage, however it wasn’t yes, really a movie.

With this, i was going earlier to Armenia during the revolution, and also my great friend Garin Hovannisian and also I finished up making two documentaries virtually together. One is about the Velvet change in Armenia, dubbed I Am not Alone, which i executive-produced, and the various other is Truth come Power.

I had actually done a score because that Joe Some type Of Monster and more> referred to as Intent to Destroy, and was in the film together a talking head. So when I essential a good executive producer, i tapped Joe. He has been remarkable in terms of his aid on both films.

Were girlfriend comfortable gift the centre of attention?

I wasn’t. Ns was not interested in the performer, the artist, the backstage footage. I was interested in the activism. I was interested in what happens to a man who has very small voice and very tiny projection, and then, v the success that his music and his band, the voice becomes larger and also larger, and it has affect in the actual world, and likewise repercussions.

One that the many memorable moments in the documentary is when system Of A down played in the Armenian resources of Yerevan. What did it feel prefer up onstage?

April 23, 2015, the 100th anniversary commemoration the the Armenian genocide by the ottoman Turks. We"re outside, it"s raining choose crazy. It"s a beautiful feather day, however it"s raining since we"re every commemorating one and a half million deaths of our ancestors.

There"s this electric energy in the group - it"s a young audience, and it"s beautiful since I witnessed the future that Armenia. I saw the transformation that came in 2018, I witnessed it in your eyes, without discovering when it was gong top happen or exactly how it to be going to happen. And also I obtained inspired by just seeing a nation with a lot of youth that simply wanted change.

I always say the if mechanism Of A under was created for one show in ours career, that would be it. The was prefer we to be designed to it is in there. It was beautiful moment.

There’s a point in the movie wherein you’re talking about the impact that gig at some point had on the transformation that followed a few years later, and you start crying, Did friend have any kind of reservations around putting that onscreen?

I did. It"s sort of interesting when you"re shoot a documentary around your very own life and experiences. Because that a month or so you space revisiting her past, you" e making relationships you"ve never made about your life, about your path and also the things approximately you and also the obstacles you challenge in every that.

When it involved that one minute where I"m talking about the revolution, I just felt this tremendous overwhelming emotion of pride, however mixed through joy and sadness. It to be the weirdest thing. I gained overwhelmed.

Why sadness?

Pride and also joy since I saw a little country, Armenia, do something nobody else has done, which is accidentally produce something dubbed Decentralised civil Disobedience. It’s a technique to overwhelm any dictatorship in the world, which had never been supplied properly in a tranquil revolution, i beg your pardon Armenia happened upon. That made me proud.

I was sad, due to the fact that I had actually seen the struggles of being in a nation where girlfriend feel prefer your voice is never going come matter. Not simply that it doesn"t matter now, however that it will never matter. And also that is a really sad phenomenon for anyone.


Your system bandmates man Dolmayan and also Shavo Odadjian appear in the documentary. Lock talk about you through love, but with flashes of disappointed too. It’s favor watching household members talk about each other…

There certainly is frustration, due to the fact that we don"t all see the same vision. Yet it is a household thing. Technically, the is a family thing, since John is mine brother-in-law and also my drummer and my great friend. And also we have actually two totally opposing American political views, therefore it"s an exciting dynamic. But we love each other and also we respect each other.

Same v Shavo - our children play together. Exact same with Daron. Us love each other, we have tremendous respect because that each other, we"ve been with each other as friends for 25, 30 years. No matter what, us see points through. But, yeah, the is challenging when everyone wants to pull this thing in a different direction.

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Aside native the Elasticity EP and Truth come Power, what walk 2021 organize for you?

There’s one more film that i scored and also helped produce, I Am no Alone. And also during lockdown ns was in new Zealand, in my studio, and I perfect a the majority of music that i had. I had the ability to finish an additional EP, much more of an digital rock EP. I’ve got two records full of cinematic important music that I want to release, and a 24-minute piano concerto as well.