Serj TankianFriday, October 5, 2018
Serj Tankian (Armenian: [ˈsɛɾʒ tʰɑnˈkjɑn]; born August 21, 1967) is a Lebanese-born Armenian-American singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, poet and political activist. He is best known as the lead vocalist, songwriter, keyboardist, and occasional live rhythm guitarist of the alternative metal band System of a Down, formed in 1994.
During his musical career, Tankian has released five albums with System of a Down, one with Arto Tunçboyacıyan (Serart), as well as the five solo albums Elect the Dead, Imperfect Harmonies, Harakiri, Orca, and Jazz-Iz-Christ. A live orchestral version of Elect the Dead incorporating the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra named Elect the Dead Symphony was released. In 2002, Tankian and Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello co-founded a non-profit political activist organization, Axis of Justice. Tankian also founded the music label Serjical Strike Records, and is represented by Velvet Hammer Music and Management Group under System of a Down. On August 12, 2011, Tankian was awarded the Armenian Prime Minister's Medal for his contributions to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the advancement of music.
He is widely considered and ranked as one of the greatest vocalists in metal history, with praise given to his unusual delivery and his wide vocal range. Serj Tankian is currently listed as one of the Top 100 Heavy Metal Vocalists by Hit Parader, ranked at #26. A study conducted by VVN Music found Tankian to possess a moderately-high and diverse vocal range, not only in metal, but in all of popular music, with a range of 4.2 octaves. This range is comparable to Rob Halford, Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, Anthony Kiedis, Hansi Kürsch, and Steven Tyler (range of 4 octaves and 1 note).[
Tankian was born to Armenian parents in Beirut, Lebanon on August 21, 1967. His grandparents hailed from what is now Turkey. At age seven, he moved with his parents to Los Angeles, California. In his youth, he attended bilingual Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, which was also attended by Tankian's future System of a Down bandmates Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian. Tankian was accepted into California State University, Northridge. This is where Tankian first began to play instruments and write songs.
System of a Down (1994–2006; 2010-present)
The early beginnings of System of a Down lie in a band named Soil (not to be confused with the Chicago-based band SOiL) with Tankian on vocals & keyboards, Daron Malakian on vocals & lead guitar, Dave Hakopyan on bass and Domingo Laranio on drums. The band hired Shavo Odadjian as their then-manager but for him to later join as rhythm guitarist. Laranio and Hakopyan later left the band feeling that it was not going anywhere, leading to Soil splitting up.
After Soil split up, Tankian, Odadjian and Malakian formed a new band they called System of a Down, after a poem Malakian wrote called Victims of a Down.
Their original drummer was Ontronik Khachaturian, with whom they had spent time playing with in Soil, though he was later replaced by John Dolmayan after breaking his hand shortly before a gig the band had been booked to play, giving Dolmayan the last-minute call up. The band quickly began touring the Southern California rock clubs, and began to attract a strong following.
The band achieved commercial success with the release of five studio albums, three of which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. System of a Down has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, and their song "B.Y.O.B." won the Best Hard Rock Performance of 2006.
In May 2006 the band announced they were going on hiatus.
On November 29, 2010, following several weeks of internet rumors, System of a Down officially announced that they would play shows in Europe during Festivals and in North America, mostly in US, embarking on a tour for the following three years.
Solo career: (2006–2010)
Elect the Dead
Tankian's breakthrough as a solo artist came with the release of his debut record Elect the Dead. The first singles from Elect the Dead are "The Unthinking Majority" and "Empty Walls". The music video "Feed Us" was released on the Swedish and UK MTV. Tankian appeared on MTV's You Rock The Deuce to promote Elect the Dead. A music video was directed and filmed for every song on the record, each by unique directors. Tankian explained, "I asked each of the directors for their visual interpretation of my work. They were asked not to write treatments and that they could make whatever they liked. The results have been overwhelmingly amazing!"Some music videos were initially released exclusively to those who purchased the limited edition of Elect the Dead, while all of the music videos, except "Money", have since been publicly released on Tankian's website and YouTube channel. Some videos have alternative versions which were originally released as well, but later altered.
Three different promo versions of the album have surfaced to the public. The instrumental promotional version, issued by Serjical Strike/Reprise Records and intended for the music and movie industry, contains instrumental versions of the twelve album tracks. Another promotional version, issued by Reprise Records and made only for individual reviewers, features the album in final master form. This promotional CD-R, which was labeled "Smart Talk" as a codename for "Serj Tankian" to prevent leaking by unauthorized persons, also indicates that the album was finalized prior to August 20, 2007. Before this a similar but undated promo, also under the name 'Smart Talk', was issued featuring the final versions of the songs, albeit not yet mastered. Whilst the printed track list on this version is identical to the released album, tracks ten and eleven are in fact juxtaposed on the promo itself.
The official tour for Elect the Dead commenced on October 12, 2007 with a show at Chicago's Vic theater. Roughly one thousand people attended the first concert. Although Tankian had stated he would not be performing any material by his former band, System of a Down, he performed "Charades" and "Blue", songs co-written by Daron Malakian, the guitarist of System of a Down. "Blue" had previously appeared on their Fourth Demo Tape in 1998, and Charades was attempted during the 2005 Mezmerize/Hypnotize sessions, but never released (although a short video clip of Tankian and Dolmayan playing the song in a recording studio was featured on "the Making of Mezmerize/Hypnotize"). Although it is originally a song restricted to piano and vocals, Tankian used his backing band, the Flying Cunts of Chaos (F.C.C.), to provide guitars, drums, and bass. The songs "Beethoven's Cunt", Empty Walls, and Sky Is Over are available as downloadable content for Rock Band. A portion of the song "Lie Lie Lie" is currently featured in the opening title sequence of NBC's Fear Itself, a horror anthology show from the creators of Masters of Horror, and can be viewed on the show's main website.
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.
Tankian is also politically involved. Together with Tom Morello, he founded the organization Axis of Justice and often speaks publicly against violence and injustice in the world. Tankian released a new song "Fears" in November 2008 exclusively in support of Amnesty International's Global Write-A-Thon.
On March 16, 2009, Tankian performed with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in New Zealand, an orchestral version of the album Elect the Dead. The live performance was captured in a CD/DVD titled Elect the Dead Symphony which was released on March 9, 2010.
In 2009, Tankian collaborated with the band Viza (previously known as Visa) for their track "Viktor".Viza is signed to Tankian's Serjical Strike label.
On February 15, 2010, Tankian released a new single, "The Charade". The song is available as a digital download on iTunes.