2020, The Year Of Our Pandemic: A year of social unrest, police violence and a monumental US election. The year of COVID-19 and its mounting death toll. A massive explosion and mass death in Lebanon. Political upheaval in Belarus. A spiraling world economy. Global protests. If ever a stage was set for new music from Serj Tankian, this is it.
With his trademark eclecticism and one-of-a-kind vocal style, Serj delivers, Elasticity, a five song EP that run the gamut from hard-driving, electronically enhanced anthems like the title track to rallying cries for his beloved Armenia (“Electric Yerevan”) to the tongue-in-cheek political mash-up of “Your Mom.”
“Oh, ‘Your Mom’ is complicated,” Serj says with a sly smile. “Originally conceived as a symptom and cure for ISIS, the song was written a while back and so the specifics of the lyrics were no longer timely. It evolved into something more surreal, with radicals committing human rights atrocities and your mom fighting them—almost like a funny video game.”
On the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum, “Rumi” has a special double meaning. “It’s about my son Rumi, and Rumi the poet at the same time,” Serj offers, making a rare exception to his policy of not explaining lyrics. “Lyrical specificity in music is generally discouraged because less people internalize them as they have less of a personal connection. But there are cases where it is vital if the inspiration and muse is specific. In this case, a father talking to his son and reverence to the poet that inspired the son’s name could not be re-written so one can generalize.”
Serj’s original plan was not to release these songs under his own name —far from it. In fact, Elasticity is comprised of songs originally intended for System Of A Down. But it didn’t quite work out that way. “When I conceived possibly doing another record with the guys from SOAD a few years back, I started working on a set of songs that I arranged in rock format for that purpose,” he explains. “As we weren’t able to see eye to eye on the vision going forward with a SOAD album, I decided to release these songs under my moniker.”
All told, Elasticity is another sonic canvas in Serj’s ever-expanding repertoire. As a singer, poet, songwriter, visual artist, activist, and composer, he’s 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 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 and art that he lives to create.
Early in his career, Serj found an outlet as the rabble–rousing lead singer and songwriter of the hugely successful 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. System of a Down has five studio album releases, three of which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. They’ve been nominated for four GRAMMY Awards, and snagged one in 2006 for 'Best Hard Rock Performance' for their song “B.Y.O.B.”
Despite this success, Serj never grew complacent with his art, always striving to open up new channels of sound and arrangement to articulate his artistic expressions. Tankian has released five albums of solo material, beginning with 2007's chart-topping hard rock album Elect The Dead. His sophomore solo album Imperfect Harmonies was released in 2010, followed by Harakiri in 2012. 2013 saw two distinct releases from Serj, the first being the critically acclaimed Orca Symphony No. 1, released in June of that year, followed up with the very unique Jazz-Iz Christ one month later.
Over the past few years, his time spent in the recording studio has been focused on creating musical scores and compositions for film and video game projects. Serj recently lent his vocals to a modern-day cover of Blue Öyster Cult’s rock classic “Godzilla” for the blockbuster Michael Dougherty film Godzilla: King Of The Monsters. He also recorded a modern version of the Armenian folk song “Sari Siroun Yar” along with the Authentic Light Orchestra for the film The Promise, directed by Terry George and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. Serj was also brought on by Survival Pictures, the producers of the film, to serve as an Executive Music Consultant.
Most recently, Tankian composed the full musical score for award winning documentary I Am Not Alone directed by Garin Hovannisian and the upcoming Live Nation Productions film Truth To Power, which chronicles Serj's own journey through the crossroads of music and activism. In 2017, Serj composed music for Emmy nominated Intent To Destroy, a gripping film directed by award winning documentarian Joe Berlinger. That same year he created an intense score for the epic Russian action film Furious - The Legend of Kolovrat, followed by his 2018 musical score for award winning film Spitak, directed by Alexander Kott. Additionally, Tankian composed the full musical score for independent films 1915 and The Last Inhabitant, an original composition for Ilya Naishuller's Hardcore Henry and video game musical scores for Midnight Star and its sequel, Renegade, which were created by one of the chief architects of the famed Halo game franchise.
Serj’s resume also includes the formation of a record label, Serjical Strike Records (established in 2001), which has released albums from many 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, music fans and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. He has also dabbled in 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.
In recent years, Tankian has split his time between holding a mic and a paintbrush, having feverishly created over 60 pieces of art since 2013. His journey into the world of fine art began with his Disarming Time Musical Paintings, which were exhibited at Project Gallery in Los Angeles. Since then, he has had multiple exhibitions at galleries in both the United States and New Zealand. In 2015, his artwork was exhibited at the grand opening of New Museum Los Gatos in Northern California as part of a group exhibit that ran from May through September of that year. Most recently, Serj’s artwork was exhibited at two notable galleries in New Zealand during February and March of 2019.