Serj Tankian

July 31, 2013

I am Serj Tankian, AMA (Part II)

Hello again Reddit! According to Wikipedia, I'm an Armenian-American singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, poet, and political activist. You may know me from my work as a solo artist or perhaps as the lead singer of System of a Down.

I've just released two new albums that I'm extremely proud of. You can listen to them both for free on Spotify. My first classical symphony, ORCA and Jazz-Iz-Christ, an electro-jazz collaboration that was protested by some very concerned Christians in Boston last weekend. :)

Here's some proof that I am who I say I am. I'll be back at 5pm [EST] to answer your questions.

[EDIT: I've gotten a few PM's asking about the score to ORCA, here's the score to the first act for those of you that are interested. Enjoy!]

[EDIT 2: Hey everyone, I've got to head out now-- thanks so much for all your question! :) Ciao!]

Is it true that there's a new System of a Down record in the making?

No, that is not true. A quick scan of press online will show that we have not yet agreed on a timetable for another record due to its time commitments.

Seriously I think everyone wants a new System of a Down album. It's been too long since the last one.

We really appreciate that, but we have to make a record when we think it's time, not anyone else.

And if so are you totally behind it? From the rumors and such, it seems like you didn't want to do a new album a few months ago.

I am not opposed to making a System record at all. It just has to be the right time for us all in the band.

As a relevant follow-up question to u/deosculate's, can you tell us how much truth there is to Shavo's controversial claim that there has been no new SOAD album "because Serj doesn't want to", and your feelings about the statement coming from a fellow band member and friend?

Shavo's comments have been redacted by the author :) The truth is above in my first answer.

Do you have any desire for another album? We all understand that the time commitment is huge but I would only want another album if your heart was behind it.

Yes of course, otherwise I wouldn't be discussing it at all.

Trying so hard not to cry...

Crying is clinically healthy :) relax

hi serj. I went to go see you guys perform at the Hollywood bowl & you guys were truly amazing. I loved every moment of it. I got chills when daron sang soldier side & when you guys performed sugar, that got me pumped up! it was fucking incredible! it was my first concert ever & it was my favorite band. I love you guys so much & it was such an honor to be there. thank you for putting out extra tickets, if it wasn't for that I wouldn't have been able to go. you are an inspiration to me. i love your work. i have a huge soad poster of you, daron, john & shavo above my bed. i love your music so much, it's so beautiful. thank you for doing an ama! when I found out that there were no more tickets for the hollywood bowl on monday I started crying but that soon changed! soad is my favorite band & always will be. you fucking rock serj! here are a few questions that I've been wanting to ask you.

  1. out of all 5 system albums, which album do you think succeeded the most?

  2. the song roulette is fucking incredible, any meaning behind that song? & why don't you guys really play that songs in your concerts?

  3. the song 36. I'm not sure if it's true but I heard that you were trying to make that song under 36 seconds? what does 36 stand for?

  4. why do you dress so nice & casual? I love your style it's just so perfect.

  5. I know that a lot of people have been asking you about another soad album. what are the possibilities that there might be another one?

  6. how was your first performance like? the first time ever performing on a live stage?

  7. any possibility of soad doing a meet & greet in california?

  8. out of all songs. which is the funnest to perform?

  9. what made you want to start a band? what inspired you to do it?

  10. who's your favorite musician?

  11. what are you looking forward to in the near future?

thank you so much serj for taking your time & doing this ama. you are the fucking best. if I were to meet you in person I'd probably faint. you are a legend man. rock on serj!! & thank you soooo much. oh & you look way more cuter in person haha. :)

  1. Commercially Toxicity
  2. I wanted to play it on tour but haven't rehearsed it yet
  3. it's SOAD's mythical number
  4. I'm not trying to impress
  5. Great if you're patient, not so great if you're not
  6. It was playing keyboards for a band in Hollywood. nerve wrecking :)
  7. We already met and greeted our 1000 strong friends and family at the Hollywood Bowl :) Any more may kill us..haha..
  8. Viscinity of Obscenity
  9. It was my vision and I followed it
  10. Don't have favorites
  11. The present

Why do they always send the poor?

Due to the empire's pecking order.

Any thought on Snowden, the NSA spying Scandal and Obamas presidency?

Snowden: He's brave and did his whistleblowing with class. I respect him His actions have created the conversation about the NSA's program and there are people already taking precautions to safeguard our liberties accordingly in Congress and elsewhere.

What's one question no one's asked you that you've always wanted to answer?

Nothing. I enjoy answering questions with the quantity that you'd like answering questions.

If you were to assemble your own musical supergroup who would be in it?

I already have, once with System, once with the FCC, and every time with world class orchestras, not to mention the Jazz Iz Christ kats :)

Can you record a studio version of this?

hahaha!!! that song was what we would sing before getting on stage with the FCC

Serj, I cannot thank you enough for this AMA and your music. It's been a big part of my life and I am grateful for it.

Thanks again and look forward to your responses!

We are working with an animation company and an artist to do something cool and fun with Fuktronic (A British Gangster film soundtrack with lots of cussing I did with Jimmy from MSI).

Serj will you ever release a studio version of Sounds of War??? I thought it might be on Jazz-Iz-Christ. Such a cool song man.

Hmm..Not sure I would. There's something cool about that live vibe of it.

Sounds Of War was fucking epic! It was an honor attending the London Forum Elect The Dead performance in '08.

Thank you..

Would you ever consider composing music for a videogame?

Already doing it for a game called Morningstar coming out for the ipad this year. Soundtrack to follow

He did, "Total Paranoia" for Batman: Arkham City.

I've done that and John Woo's videogame Stranglehold but those were mostly licenses of songs. Morningstar will be a full score.

Why is it that Steal This Album! has been largely ignored in the live shows since its release in comparison to the support the other albums get?

Good Question: One I always ask the other guys. That is why we rehearsed and played A.D.D. and rehearsed a few others from Steal. i would one day like to do a full Steal this Album live show or tour.

Who are your favorite bands?

Too many to name...sorry

Who are your favorite bands?

Too many to name here

Hi Serj - My friend Steve paints some incredible artwork to bring awareness to the Armenian Genocide. It'd mean the world to him if you could take a look at his artwork here:

will do. thanks

[edit: tell your friend that is some beautiful and haunting work.]

Have any government official personally approached you for any of the lyrics you have wrote, do you think any of the criticism has affected your personal life? By the way thanks, love harakiri and your SOAD music.

Thank you ! Directly, no. but I am aware of specific attention attributed to our organization and our intentions and actions by many governments, especially Turkey.

How did the collaboration with Deftones come by for the song "Mein"?

Chino asked and I obliged :) We've all been friends and toured together for many years.

Dear Serj, when SOAD finaly will have a concert in Yerevan?! Yes, we need it! :)

Sooner than later I hope. I am working on it, trust me :)

Hey Serj, long time fan of both SoaD and your solo work, especially ORCA.

Would you be able to somehow get more System of a Down vinyl printed? Anything that exists currently seems extremely limited and costs an arm and a leg on eBay. I know you've put out records for your solo work, and I'd love to get some SoaD as well to add to my collection.

Also, have you seen Buckethead without his mask?

Thanks for all you've done musically as well as politically, and your work as an activist. You've been a big inspiration in my life, especially concerning the Armenian Genocide.

Thank you. I will check in with Sony to find out why System vinyl is out of print, if so, I wasn't aware of that. As for Buckethead, yes :)

Oh wow sadly this is the closest to meeting you ill prolly ever get, aha but may i ask what is the song chop suey about?


Hi Serj… I don´t know any question for you but only there is chance that you will read my little and stupid monologue. xD Serj, I know that this things you hear every day from all fans….I don´t want to look like a fanatic fan but I want to tell you that your songs are absolutely the best, of course, and with these songs you can do better days in the moment for all of us. You and your songs are our reason to live...everybody hopes that he will meet you and take a photo with you but unfortunately, this experiences only one of thousands... and we -the other rest of the people- every your smile to us is the best exp. ever... ...And your charity and activist actions? When is someone so good-natured like you in showbiz- in the World can´t be evil... So...sorry for mistakes (because you can see I can´t speak english so much) :) see you on 8/14 in Czech rep. on the Aerodrome festival and I´m going to throw you all –Systems- some little presents - I hope you´ll get it!...thanks for all....and thanks for your time - SallylleyA :)

Thank you :)

Hi Serj, fellow Armenian here (:) ), i just wanted to know what sports do you like and if so what clubs/sportsmen are you a fan of?

None...sorry. Used to play and watch Basketball when younger but my sport is now life.

Can't think of any good questions, MONGOOSE TURDS, have a good day.

you too :)

Can you do something with the bad government of EPN here in México.

I wish we could all snap our fingers and have the many ills of modern society, corrupt governments, and injustice altogether disappear. It is a road we are co-travelers on. I am not a citizen of Mexico, you are though.

Will the new album from SOAD be keeping your old sound or are you moving towards a new kind of music?

What new album? Please send it to me :)

I have been a lifelong System fan, and I also enjoy your solo records. What is your favorite song to perform live?

There are many from all my efforts.

Okay seriously, I didn't get a chance to ask you in Seattle when I met you, but is that Zelda song really done by you or SOAD? Here is the link

It kind of sounds like you that's for sure but I really have no idea.

for the last time, it's not System!!!

How is married life Serj? :)

Good. thanks

Serj! you are the greatest! When are you coming back to New Zealand ? Piha ?'s a secret mate!!!!

I just got a new cat. Will you name him?

Pss psss

As an Armenian, SOAD made me extremely proud. Please help keep it alive!! Without you guys, we'd all have to rely on the Kardashians!

Also, I loved your work with Viza! Thank you for all you've done!


what's your favorite scars on broadway song?

Don't know them by name.

Serj is dropping some serious burns in this thread.

No burn intended. I enjoy Scars, I just don't know any of the song names off the top of my head. Sorry :)

What were some major influences or experiences that you feel aided towards the creation of ORCA and/or Jazz-Iz-Christ?

We're clumping them together since they were released a month apart but they are completely different of course. My repertoire with orchestras started in Auckland with the live DVD in 2009 and transformed my palette, which in turn influenced Imperfect Harmonies and Orca and my scoring efforts of course. Jazz-iz-Christ are mostly jazz songs I've been working on for many years that I got to finish with top jazz cats. Influences are all over the place.

Hello Serj!

I'm so looking forward to seeing you at Leeds Festival, so long as I can afford to go. I know there are thousands of UK SOAD fans (who weren't at Donington) who can't WAIT to watch you for the first time!

Seeing as you're playing after Deftones, is there any chance of some collaboration at Leeds?

Probably not but who knows...and thanks.

hey serj,

just one question: approximately how long does it take to grow that wonderful beard of yours?

Longer than it takes for you to think of an inept question like that :)

oh.... ok


Hey, I was just kidding. Don't get all serious on me ok?


I'm curious, what's your relationship like with the guys from RATM? Any chance at more collaborations with them/their members?

Tom (Morello) is one of my best friends and I consider the other guys friends as well. We don't have any collabs in mind but you never know what the future brings

Hey Serj, do you think there is an honest concern for indicator species (ie. sharks, frogs, birds, and bees) dropping dead in mass quanities around the globe? Do you think they are dying because of natural climate change, or environmental effects like Fukushima, and pesticide use from corporations like Monsanto?

Very good question. I think there are reasons to be concerned. Besides the causes you mentioned there are also soil changes I've read about.

Barev Serj, will you ever consider doing a full Album in Armenian?

Maybe one day

Hey Serj! I want to ask you two questions.

1) When is the next time you will tour ANY of your projects in America, specifically Chicago?

2) What is it like knowing literally millions of people have heard your voice? What is it like knowing how much of an influence you have become?

Thanks Serj! ps. You put on an amazing show with System last August in Chicago!

1) Not sure 2) I honestly don't think about either of those things. I focus on my vision.

Have you ever considered performing SoAD songs with a symphony? I've heard your solo work performed that way and was amazed.

Side note: Your work with Tech N9ne was badass. Keep being the awesome person you are.

Thanks. Loved working with Tech9ne on the track.

I don't like it when bands play with an orchestra. the kick and bass take up too much of the orchestral frequencies, which is why I do orchestral shows with only piano and acoustic guitar. If system ever wanted to do something like that, I'd be honored to compose it.

in September you are going to go to Ukraine. you thought of how you will meet there? (Please excuse me if I write something incorrectly)

I'm looking forward to it.

I've been so excited for this AMA!! I've been a huge fan and have looked up to you since I was in middle school (10 years ago!) I've always thought that your work across all different art forms, as well as your dedication to your political activism and Armenian heritage, were truly admirable. Also, you never disappoint no matter what crazy shit you release. Keep 'em coming. :)

So anyway I have two questions.

First, do you have any plans to release prints of your "Disarming Time" collection? I think the concept for them is brilliant, even though the prints wouldn't play the music you wrote for them. They're beautiful.

Second, are there any songs that you've written (either as part of SOAD or for your solo career) that you have a stronger personal attachment to compared to the others? Or perhaps the one you are most proud of?

Thank you for doing this! I look forward to hopefully seeing you in the not-so-distant future.

First off thank you very much :)

As for the musical paintings, we are going to have 2 different types of giclees and one lithograph released in mid-November online and at a gallery in Los Angeles. We are making it such that everything, including the lithos play the associated music. Don't ask me how, that part is a secret. I'm really excited about doing a huge gallery opening in mid Nov.

Hi Serj, what did you have for breakfast?


What's your favorite "Legend of Zelda" game?

Don't play it

Serj I would just like to say that your solo work has been simply breathtaking. Elect The Dead and especially Imperfect Harmonies had IMO some of the most unique music you've written, and after hearing those albums later I heard you were writing a symphony!? You should have seen my face...But my question is, are you planning on releasing ORCA as recorded by a live orchestra? The music still sounds beautiful with the samples, but I feel a live orchestra would really do it justice!

The ORCA record is exactly that recorded with the Das Karussel Orkester in Linz, Austria.

Hey Serj I don't have any questions except it would be great to get a hi back


Serj,who is your biggest inspiration in life?

The spirit that moves through all things is what in-spires.

Dear Serj ~

I feel there is a bigger reason you create these albums. (Despite the constant spamming from the system fans.)

Please know your work is greatly appreciated. hugs

Thank you with all my heart~

Thank you for composing, and bringing together these fantastic artists over these different genres. Your bringing a whole new appreciation for music as a whole.

Music without borders.



Namaste, and thank you.

Do you play any video games? If so, what do you play?

Haven't for a while

Do you get a lot of hate from metalheads who can't appreciate what you're doing now? I totally respect what you're doing and know I never could but I just can't listen to it in my car with the same fervor I can "Sugar" or "Old School Hollywood" and I was just wondering how you respond to those fans that don't dig your solo endeavors?

Not everyone likes the same food but a good chef cooks both popular and unique dishes. Artists should not be character actors.

Hey Serj,

will you somehow make the music of "Prometheus Bound" available for the public, in any shape or form? Realy loved Weave On... See you in Berlin in August!

cool. We are trying to re-stage Prometheus Bound in New York and get it going again. I'm extremely proud of that musical and really want everyone to see it. Once we get it back in a theater the possibility of a soundtrack increases.

Hey Serj!

I have met everyone in SOAD except you damnit... Come visit Denver, I will take you out to some great lunch in the mountains and we can talk politics!

My question for you however; What is it about life that inspires so much of your work? Throughout your career you have done so many things, from music to activism, I just wonder what is it that makes Serj Tankian such an outgoing artist? Thanks in advance for the AMA opportunity, and i'm serious, lunch my treat!

Thanks for the invite to lunch :) What makes me do what I do is my connection with why I am here on this planet. Years ago I realized my vision was to fight injustice and my vehicle was music. Now my vision is also music and art in its many forms with or without the word or thoughts.

What is the "official" meaning behind the song Soil of System of a Down ? What is it truly about ?

A friend who committed suicide.

Hey! Im a 21 year old fan from Finland. I've been listening to your songs and system of a down for so long now...I think the stuff you try to spread with your music is great. All people who have somewhat media fame should do what you do, which is trying to inform people the direction we are going, and to change before it's too late... It gives me hope, cause i don't wanna see this world Burn and mass suffering. I don't see you only as a great musiscian, i also see you as a very intelligent and just good human being.

Anyway, i hope you keep doing what you do best :).

ps. I would love to see you visit Finland more often :p

My message wasn't much of a question haha, i didn't really notice the AMA, which means "ask me anything". So i'll ask... Have you heard anything of this movement group called "zeitgeist movement"? Or "The venus project" by jaque fresco? If not i think you should check em out :).


ok. thanks

1) What's your favorite colour? Your favorite eyes and hair color?

2) What's your favorite meal?

3) Your fav books & moovies?

4) Do you like fairy tales?

5) Your favorite weather? month? season of the year?

I don't have any faves of any kind. it takes all colors, kinds and flavors to make this beautiful life we have

Any plans for a SOAD US tour soon? Specifically in the Pacific NW?

not at this time

you will sing more covers in the current tour of soad? Im a totally fan of you from argentina i admire your actual look and i hope you come back to my country. Do you think come to argentina ?

One day again, yes. Not sure when now.

What advise(s) can you give to starting vocalist?

Use your voice as an instrument. You will then hit the note that you visualize. Once you've done that for a while, learn to warm up.

Hello Serj. Big fan of you and SOAD. my question is, do you think the U.S. will ever recognize the Armenian genocide, what will it take?

Congress has twice, once in the 70s and once in the 80s, and Reagan used the word Genocide as well. However, we'd all like to see the U.S. keep using that word so as not to appease the gov't of Turkey and their denial of the Genocide of Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians in 1915.

hey serj. what was it like working with children to create the music video for empty walls? it must have been quite difficult to get them to re-enact those controversial post 9/11 events.

They were inspirational actually. Their energy was very powerful and liberating. And as you know about kids that age, they never got tired!! It was also fun being around kids and playing metaphors of more serious things in life.

First of all, thank you for doing this AMA!

You are obviously a very versatile artist, with work varying from metal to classical music and poetry et cetera. So I was wondering if there is any form of art you haven't done yet that you would be interested in. Like, a completely different genre of music, or making a movie, writing a novel, or anything else?

Besides the music embedded art I'm doing, I'm starting to do more scoring for Film/TV/Video Games, etc. I have a non-fiction book that I want to write as well on the intersection of Justice and spirituality with a forward already from the Dalai Lama.

which band do you think helps get your message across? System of a down, or your solo career?.

All of the above

will my dream come true? will you come someday back to Romania? <3

Hopefully soon :) I loved the concert we did in Sibiu

Who is your biggest musical inspiration?


what was it like working with tom morrello and co for axis of justice?

Tom's an incredible inspiration and true friend.

Are you and Tom Morello still doing Axis of Justice? How often do you meet up with him, and do you have plans to make music together?

Yes, we're still doing AOJ together. We meet as friends but also once in a while to do a few radio shows for the Axis of justice radio network. You can listen to podcasts on

Hi Serj! Fan from Portugal here. Any chance you might perform here in the near future ? Last time you were here was in '05 with SOAD, and since then nothing. Haven't the portuguese promoters expressed interest ?

Also, any chance on a new SerArt record ever coming out ?

No Portugal dates on this tour unfortunately. Look forward to coming back though.

No Serart at this time. Maybe one day

How are your efforts going in trying to eliminate the electoral college?

Apparently not well since they're still in place irrespective of the inability of most people's efforts to understand why they should still be there now.

Hey Serj, if you were to write a musical or oratorio, what would be the main idea?

I've already done a musical on Prometheus Bound. Check it out here.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. Not that this will ever be seen (which is why I don't give a shit about being a fan boy) but man, your sound is the only kind that I have come to truly "idolize", if you will. I've been listening to you since I was introduced to System of a Down in 2000 and it never gets old.

I don't even have a question. Just wanted to thank you for keeping on doing what you do!

Thanks so much :)

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Serj Tankian conducted on Reddit on 2013-07-31. The Reddit AMA can be found here.