A singer, poet, songwriter, activist, and composer; Serj Tankian has always created music as an outlet to express his thoughts and feelings with a level of passion and consciousness that few in today’s world of music can rival. An Armenian immigrant born in Lebanon and re-rooted in Los Angeles, Serj was introduced to the melding of cultures, ideas and ideals from a very young age. The principles learned from this integration and adaptation have led to his understanding of the oneness of all things and have since maneuvered and transfigured into the music that he lives to create.
Harakiri, Serj's newest solo album, comes out July 10th on Reprise Records/Serjical Strike and is the follow up to 2010’s critically acclaimed Imperfect Harmonies. The album is the third solo release from the System Of A Down frontman. As with 2007’s Elect the Deadand Imperfect Harmonies, Serj produced Harakiri himself at his home studio in Los Angeles. He tried to approach writing a little differently this time around “I used the Apple iPad as a songwriting instrument to sketch out three of the songs on the record” explains Serj. “We must trick ourselves into writing in different ways to get unexpected results.” The album will also feature performances by Serj’s touring band, The F.C.C. - Dan Monti on guitar, Mario Pagliarulo on bass, and Troy Zeigler on drums. Dan Monti is also co-mixing and co-engineering the album with Serj. The album is mastered by Vlado Meller (Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West) Serj himself uses each of the song titles (in bold) to describe Harakiri:
“The Cornucopia of love/hate affairs with Gaia have made us scream "Fuck! Let's Figure It Out! CEOs are the disease.” Where abusive capitalism's only fate is human/environmental devastation. The Ching Chime , diminutive drama of a gangsta Butterfly revealed that humanity's tears actually outweigh yearly rainfall on the planet.
We have witnessed Harakiri on a grand scale tearing out the Occupied Tears of victims preyed on by victims turned aggressors creating a Deafening Silence through which we hear a voice plead, "Forget Me Knot, my child.”
Reality TV has become the searing indictment of a society best described as the Uneducated Democracy. The daughters of the evolution Weave On with blood dripping down their guilty hands onto the flag as the word republic is replaced by empire.” – Serj Tankain
Much of Harakiri was written in 2011, which was an incredibly busy year for the diversely talented musician and what Serj describes as “the busiest, most productive year of my life so far.” In February, the rock musical Prometheus Bound, which he composed all of the music for, opened at the Oberon Theater at Harvard in Boston to rave reviews. 2011 also saw Serj release his second poetry book, Glaring Through Oblivion. He toured with System of a Down across three continents, performed with the Opera Orchestra in Yerevan, Armenia, where he also had political meetings with heads of state and hosted non-profit events. He then performed his first ever concert in Lebanon, the place of his birth, with the Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra. When he returned to the US, he finished writing four records: a jazz record, an electronic record he wrote with his friend Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence, a full classical symphony called Orca, and the new solo rock record that he is currently mastering.
“The year 2011 started with a fire. Some kids in Piha, NZ were setting off fireworks that landed on my neighbor's property and lit the whole hill on fire. I knew it was going to be a hell of a year and it certainly was,” says Serj. “Within 5 days of that, reports came out about birds and fish dying in massive numbers globally. The omen was not lost on me. Varied creatures on earth were committing massive hara-kiri (the Japanese term signifying ritualistic suicide.) Do they know something we don't about the coming times or the sustainability of the environment? That is the day I started writing this record.”
The symbolism of entire species eradicating themselves on a large scale struck Serj emotionally, and is an underlying theme on the entire record. He took that idea and went to work writing, incorporating all of the experiences of his chaotic year to make a different kind of record. “The record is different than any I've made as a solo artist. It is much more driving and punk oriented with influences ranging from goth to electronic to 80’s vibes, dynamically heavy rock to epic melodic songs. Lyrically, it spans the gauntlet of themes from personal, political and philosophical to spiritual, humor and love.”
Early in his career, Serj found an outlet as the rabble–rousing lead singer and songwriter of the largely successful rock band System of a Down, a band that has reached into the hearts and minds of millions of people relaying multiple messages of love, awareness and activism. Despite this success, Serj has not grown complacent with his art, always striving to open up new channels of sound and arrangement to articulate his musical expressions. Serj Tankian’s resume also includes the formation of a record label, Serjical Strike Records (established in 2001) which has released albums by 8 critically acclaimed artists, including Fair To Midland, Buckethead and Death By Stereo.
Along with fellow musician Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Serj co-founded the non-profit organization Axis Of Justice in 2002, which strives to bring together musicians, fans of music and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. He has also dabbled with the world of broadcasting as co-host of the Axis Of Justice Radio Network, which can be heard via Sirius Satellite Radio and KPFK in Los Angeles. With a mission of spreading diversity and understanding through music, poetry and activism, Serj Tankian will continue to surprise and enlighten those who listen to his music and hear his words.