Former System Of A Down Front Man Serj Tankian Discusses His Solo Career And Upcoming Releases
Band Photo: System Of A Down (?)
After taking his leave of wide reaching and influential act System of a Down, Serj Tankian went it alone for his debut solo album release "Elect the Dead." In the man's own words, "With Elect the Dead, in retrospect, I ended up making the rock record I’ve always wanted to make." A new symphonic live version of the album performed by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra was also recently released.
While System of Down remains on hiatus for the foreseeable future there is still plenty of music coming from the band's former front man. Besides "Elect the Dead Symphony" he is currently putting together a musical based on the play "Prometheus Bound" and is also hard at work on a second solo album. Serj recently shared his thoughts with Metalunderground about the direction of his solo career and his upcoming tour plans.
xFiruath: As a solo artist apart from System of a Down what have you been able to do musically now that you hadn’t before, and where do you see the sound of your music progressing from here?
Serj: With “Elect the Dead,” my first solo record, in retrospect, I ended up making the rock record I’ve always wanted to make. With the “Elect the Dead Symphony” I ended up working with a full orchestra, something I’ve always aspired to do. With Prometheus Bound, the musical, I am incorporating a lot of different styles of music that I have worked on with my archives, from rock, jazz, classical, noise, hip hop, pop, and electronic. With my 2nd solo album I have found a perfect marriage of multiple genres, mainly electronic, orchestral, jazz and elements of rock. What’s next after? Not sure yet.
xFiruath: Can you tell me a bit about the writing and recording process for the symphonic version of “Elect the Dead?”
Serj: I wrote all the primary cello, viola, violin one and two, and a brass melody and then worked with a Kiwi orchestrator, John Psathas, to flush out all of the arrangements for the full 70 person orchestra. To do this I had to strip down my tracks back to just piano and vocals or acoustic guitar and vocals and build everything back on with orchestral instruments. It took a long time but was well worth it. As far as the recording, it was recorded live at the Auckland Town Hall - one performance, one chance to make it great.
xFiruath: How do you feel about the spreading laws regarding medical marijuana? I’m proud to report that my state of Montana is one of the few that currently allows medical marijuana, and it seems like it’s a slow but sure movement towards legalization or at least de-criminalization.
Serj: I support it, of course. The same movement is happening in California as well, though we still have some way to go.
xFiruath: What’s the current status of the musical you are working on based on “Prometheus Bound?”
Serj: We are planning to open in March of 2011 at A.R.T. in Boston. It’s going really well. Most of the music is done. Wall to wall music with songs and underscore. We are doing workshops and will be doing final castings later this year. It’s been really great working with Steven Sater and Diane Paulus on it.
xFiruath: What can System of a Down/Serj Tankian fans expect from the music in your upcoming musical? Will there be guitars or any of the signature vocals you are famous for, or will it be primarily focused on more classical sounds?
Serj: The music for Prometheus will be all over the place from rock to jazz, electronic to classical, hip hop to noise. A very diverse body of styles for one performance.
xFiruath: What are your upcoming tour plans?
Serj: I’m doing a tour this summer starting June for the “Elect the Dead Symphony,” working with different symphonic orchestras around the world. We have 7 dates in Europe and 3 in the U.S. and adding. I am also planning on touring with the FCC later in the year to support the new solo album as well.
xFiruath: What bands and albums are you currently listening to in your free time that you’d recommend to our readers?
Serj: Being in NZ, I’ve been listening to a lot of Kiwi bands. Check out Salmonella Dub, King Freddy’s Drop, Blue King Brown (Aussie), all in the dub vein.
xFiruath: How do you feel about the state of the more extreme metal in general these days, as opposed to hard rock or more radio friendly music?
Serj: Not sure. I don’t really listen to it a lot.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to talk about?
Serj: A few words about my next album. My second solo album is electronic, orchestral (live orchestra), jazz and rock all at the same time. It is a sound I’ve never heard before, and for me, borderless. I still haven’t settled on a title name for the record. It is a very powerful and intriguing record with many layers. Yet it’s also memorable in the way good songwriting should be. Some of my favorite records are so compelling that they require multiple listens to try to figure out what’s going on. It sports a huge wall of sound, depth, and the maturity of a seasoned artist, so I’m told.
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