System of a Down, one of the more famous, edgy bands from the late 1990s into the 2000s, is famous for having a very rapid style. The lead singer, Serj Tankian, contributed much to that style, and Serj is famous for his music ability. Serj Tankian is much more than a musician; he is also a huge activist and human rights member. Read on more to learn about Serj Tankian, and what he has been up to since his music career.
Serj Tankian and his Career Beginnings
Serj Tankian entered the world on August 21, 1967 to his two Armenian parents residing in Lebanon. Serj has never made it any secret about his ethnicity; his Lebanese heritage plays a very, very important part in his self image. As a young man, he attended a bilingual school for Armenian children, where they would speak Armenian and English. Serj was an incredible student. The school required students to have a minimum GPA of 2.0, as well as satisfactory marks on an English language test, as well as no history of disciplinary intervention. There, Serj would meet his two future bandmates, Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian.
Sometime after school Serj eventually joined a band by the name of “Soil.” Serj alternated between playing the keyboard and performing as the band’s frontman and vocalist. Daron Malakian would join the backup vocals and lead guitar, and Shavo Odadjian played a more managerial role – eventually, Shavo joined up as the rhythm guitarist. Sometime later, two other members left, leaving just Serj, Daron, and Shavo. The three musicians then started a band they decided to name “System of a Down,” which came from a poem.
At that point, they recruited a drummer who had originally played in Soil but then was replaced; he was also Armenian. The drummer was named Ontronik Khachaturian, and together, the four had formed the band that would eventually become System of a Down. They began to tour around the southern California region, and began to build interest due to their unusual style – they then proceeded to release five albums, of which three managed to appear at the number one position on the Billboard 200 list. System of a Down was also considered for four different appearances at the Grammy Awards, and B.Y.O.B (Bring Your Own Bombs) won the award for the Best Hard Rock Performance in 2006.
In 1998, System of a Down released their self-titled album, which included the singles Spiders and Sugar. These quickly became disc jockey staples, and System of a Down became a cornerstone of MTV. The band also toured with Slayer and Metallica, opening for the band, and eventually they ended up touring with famous bands at the time, Incubus and Fear Factory. Eventually, System of a Down was eventually headlining their own “Sno-Core Tour.”
Only 8 days before the September 11 attacks, System of a Down planned to have their second album release with a free concert in Hollywood. Even though the room could fill only 3,500, more than 10,000 fans tried to get in. The police force then made the decision to cancel the show, and fans ran up to and on the stage, destroying up to $30,000 in equipment; there were subsequent riots. Eventually, System of a Down’s second album, Toxicity, was released and managed to make it to the number 1 position on both the Canadian and American hit music charts. Toxicity went on to achieve three platinum certifications in the United States, and despite the 9-11 attacks, and the numerous controversies around the lyrics and music, still maintained a number one position. System of a Down continued to tour.
The third album, “Steal This Album!” was released, which was released in two separate sections six months apart. The first section of System of a Down’s dual-album release, Mezmerize, came out on May 17, 2005 and included the hit B.Y.O.B, which may be one of System of a Down’s biggest and most noteworthy hits. Question! Was also the second hit on the album, but did not chart as high as B.Y.O.B. The second part of the album, Hypnotize, was also released on November 22, 2005, just 6 months part. Hypnotize also made it to the number 1 position. System of a Down would then return to touring, including headlining the hard rock/metal festival, Ozzfest.
With four albums under their belt, the band eventually confirmed that they would be going on a hiatus for some time. The band split on mutual, agreed, and healthy terms, and intended to reform eventually. Since then, they had reformed in 2011 and as of today, are still together.
Serj Tankian, his Music Career, and Activism
Following the split of System of a Down so each member could follow their own paths, Serj Tankian became a breakthrough solo artist. Serj released his first solo album, “Elect the Dead,” which took notes from his System of a Down style but with a more personal twist. The first singles from “Elect the Dead” included “The Unthinking Majority,” “Empty Walls,” and “Feed Us.” Serj would then proceed to tour, starting the tour in October 2007 in Chicago. While Serj had promised that he would perform only his own songs, he did perform a few songs of System of a Down on the tour – namely, Charades and Blue.
Almost every song from Elect the Dead was a hit, and Serj Tankian proved he had some staying power on his own right. In 2010, Serj would release the second album that he had created by himself, “Imperfect Harmonies.” While not quite as successful as Elect the Dead, Imperfect Harmonies had two singles, Left of Center and Reconstructive Demonstrations, and made it to the 35th place on The Billboard 200 list; it subsequently made top 100 rankings all over the world, except when it ranked at 155 in Japan (still impressive!)
On July 10, 2012, Serj would release his third (and final) solo album, named “Harakiri.” The album, once again, was a smash hit and made it to the 29th place on the US Billboard 200 place, and proceeded to break top 100 rankings all over the world – it placed 84th in Japan after the previous album peaked out at 155, and even broke into the top 128 albums in Belgium. People all over the world were listening to Serj on his own.
Serj would then release his fourth, and most recent, single album, titled “Orca Symphony No. 1”. This album was a far cry from his previous music, and took away from the rhapsodian sound that System of a Down was known for in favor of a more classical flavor. The album came in at the shortest of all Serj’s albums, lasting only 34 minutes; the album did not place anywhere in the charts, and seemed to be more of a passion project than a project for Serj to spread his message. This is also Serj Tankian’s first foray into symphonical music.
As if it was not obvious in some of Serj’s and System of a Down’s lyrics, Serj is emblazoned byhuman rights, the recognition and identification of genocides (due to the Armenian Genocide), and some social justice topics – as an Armenian, Serj was forced to witness the atrocities of genocide with the Armenian genocide. Serj has organized and participated in numerous protests, most of which revolve around genocide and social justice, but also for the Axis of Justice. Serj’s friends and fellow Armenians from System of a Down share similar views with him, contributing to the lyrics of many System of a Down songs.
Serj is a practitioner of non-denominational religion, and is rather anti-establishment. Serj would support Dennis Kucinich in the 2008 election, a Democratic party member from Ohio, and then would voice his support for Barack Obama, although he then clarified that he does not trust any office. In 2015, Serj endorsed Democrat candidate Bernard Sanders for his unwavering ethics in a time where it otherwise seemed like most of the government was corrupt or working in their own self-interests.
Serj is also a strong environment activist and animal rights participant, which can be featured in his song, “Harakiri;” “Harakiri” has a vocalized sample from Serj which mentions the Harakiri bird and its ultimate downfall. Serj has even signed a PETA petition against the cruel abuse of slaughtering methods in KFC and Tyson Foods slaughterhouses, where chickens are exposed to horrible conditions and murdered in odd, cruel, sadistic ways.
What’s Serj Tankian Doing Now in 2018-Recent Updates
Serj Tankian is still very much around and active, although he is busy between a variety of projects; Serj is keeping himself busy. Just recently, Serj performed the soundtrack for 1915, which is a movie about the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Genocide is incredibly important to Serj due to the Turkish government refusing to acknowledge the bloodbath. 1915 is a fictional story that follows an Armenian man who engages in a play about the 1915 Armenian Genocide, 100 years after the begin of the real world event that resulted in the death of more than 1.5 million, and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of families. 1915 featured in The Golden Apricot International Film Festival, the Lake Van international Film Festival, and the Romanian International Film Festival. It would win numerous awards at each festival, including the Best Film award by the World Entertainment Armenian Awards.
Since their reunion in 2010, System of a Down has not produced any more music or any more singles, although this could very well be in the works. However, System of a Down, Serj Tankian included, has appeared in 2015’s Rock Band 4 release with their song “Spiders,” and for some reason, their song “Bounce” made it onto “The Secret Life of Pets” soundtrack. Serj is still very active on his own personal facebook.