We’d like to thank Serj for his cooperation with LebMetal.com.
- First of all,is it also true you have recently become a citizen of NEW ZEALAND?
Yes, after recording the “ELECT THE DEAD” album I withdrew and took off there for three months, which I had to do to gain citizenship. I’m such a crazy workaholic that it was hard stepping away from my work in LA, but it was great because it allowed me to reflect. It made me think ‘Wow man, I have this amazing life’. To be able to have made a lot of my dreams come true is amazing and from here on in it’s all gravy. I get to do what I want to do my way without compromise or negotiation. It’s a greater position of strength than I’ve ever had and listening to the record now it feels like a fun trip!
- You’re doing solo work are you enjoying that freedom to really explore your own ideas?
I’ve been doing that for a while with film and songs for licensing in video games and different projects and collaborations like Serart, but I’d never done a full solo effort. I wanted to devote and prioritise the time for it so this turned out to be the best way of doing it. And I am enjoying it, I’m enjoying contemplating what I’m going to do next in terms of solo records and other projects. I’m gonna start working with this playwright, we’re doing music for a play or films. But I’m also thinking of working with an orchestra and doing a jazz orchestral record for the next one, it’s really exciting for me.
- Did you even set out to make a rock record or is this just how it turned out?
I wasn’t shooting for a rock record. A lot of the songs were written on piano, the rest on acoustic instruments, some electronically put together through this chopping system that I’ve designed for myself. I didn’t know I was going to make a rock record until I started arranging a couple of the songs with different instrumentation and weighing it out I realised that the dynamics of the kind of operatic vocals and the tunes that I was writing on piano really lent themselves well to a more layered rock type of world. But I didn’t want to do it like System of a Down in a sense that, you know in System generally there’s many layers of guitar but they sound like one guitar. I wanted it to be different layers of guitar, different layers of keys, different layers of samples. It’s more of an orchestral sound if you listen to it than System of a Down. System of a Down was a four piece band and the depth sounds like what a composer would do with a rock record, and that’s kind of my approach with it.
- On the new album you’ve played nearly all the instruments. How much more complex was this compared to doing a System of the Down record?
I don’t really get the word “complex” having to do with music to be honest because it’s just about having a song and then nurturing that song with different instruments and arrangements, trying different things, experimenting until something really works out well and you know when it works and you know when it doesn’t work. So, I’ve never seen it as complex. I think it’s just more efficient to do it myself for my own songs because my vision has been so strong with my own songs. At least this set of songs for Elect The Dead were. It was just easier as I had everything in my ear already, so it was easier for me just to play them. In a lot of cases you have a good acoustic guitar line and some good vocal ideas but you may not have great arrangement ideas, you might try stuff and kinda fail and be like, “I’m gonna save that for another day. Maybe someone else can work with me on that” but these were songs that I just knew in my gut what I wanted from them so that’s why I also ended up producing them, because I knew what I wanted to hear. I knew what the eventual song was going to be before I heard it in reality.
- I wanted to ask you about the *Serjical Strike Label (SSL)*What led you to set up your label?
Originally I had a bunch of friends bands that I wanted to put their music out on the internet and about six/seven years ago we set up the website and put some of their songs on there. They didn’t sell much but at least it got them some type of attention, got their name known, and that evolved into a distribution deal with a number of majors over the years. My original idea was to get music out there that wouldn’t otherwise be available, that I thought was original and substantial, and it turned out to be that I, because of my label, I learnt a lot about the industry and how to put out records the right way, how to market the correct way, who to work with bands on the type of music that we’re releasing and the gut feelings of singles and this and that, marketing and publicity, promotion and everything. The reason that I wanted to know all this was I’ve always been interested in reflecting the credibility of an album and an artist through the business aspect of it, so that you don’t just have a credible artist with an un-credible record company representing that credible artist, because that doesn’t match well. It’s like having a nice artist and an asshole of a manager. Which happens a lot in our industry, so the asshole manager’s yelling at somebody and then the journalist or someone else is angry at the artist because they’re represented by this manager. I kind of wanted that balance of the credible music and artist with the credible marketing and promotion of the record, interesting artwork, interesting videos, creative marketing and promotion, new ways of doing things, everything is entwined, it’s connected, so the more that an artist has a say over how their music is distributed and marketed I think the better it is for that artist basically.
- And now for the typical Question: what is the status of System of a Down? (As I asked Shavo on his interview with LebMetal)
Hehe, well, same as we were before, we’re on indefinite hiatus. Hate this question man hehe typical indeed, I know that our fans wants to hear some answers about our issues,
- Your music is pretty complex, how would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it?
I’ve been asked this question since the first days of System of the Down, you know, like Frank Zappa says “talking about music is like dancing to architecture”, right? It makes no sense. I try to make it in a way that I’d be interested in listening to it myself.
- Nice,well I think that’s all I got … anything you want to add for LebMetal.com and your Lebanese Fans ?
I still didn’t check this website Serj, but looking forward, keep up the good work, & for the Lebanese *Soad/Serj Tankian* fans,*nchalla* see you soon 🙂 thank you Serj for this interview.