Serj Tankian Talks "Harakiri", Tour, System of a Down, and More
Wed, 10 Oct 2012 15:19:53
Serj Tankian's latest solo album Harakiri evinces just how wonderfully multi-faceted of an artist he is.
There are moments of utter sonic beauty, a little sharp lyrical humor, and then some harrowing, intense punk metal energy. Tankian's cauldron of sounds and styles bubbles over in the most effusive manner possible and makes for an insanely and invasively catchy record from top-to-bottom. However, of course, it's only one of many projects he's got on the horizon.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Serj Tankian talks Harakiri and so much more…
What has the process of bringing Harakiri to life on stage been like?
The new songs are coming off really great live because they're upbeat, up-tempo rock songs. In particular, "Harakiri" is coming out great because everyone in the band is singing it. We're singing multiple different harmonies together—so far so good [Laughs]. We're having a great time. We played Vancouver, Portland, and Seattle. Before that, we did the two KNOTFEST shows in the Midwest, which were really incredible. We got an awesome response. It was cool to kick off the shows for Harakiri there.
What's the story behind "Cornucopia"?
Funny enough, I started "Cornucopia" in an electronic process. I was layering rock beats. We've talked about the utilization of previously recorded material to stem and spur a song as a nucleus. That's how it started. I was layering samples and beats, and going, "This could be cool". Then, I'd try guitar and bass on top of it and make it into a cohesive song. Musically, I like the Goth and '80s elements of that song. Lyrically, it's very unique as well.
What are some of your favorite lyrics from that song?
The first lines from the opening verse are my favorite lines from that song. It's a comment about humanity and our ecology simultaneously. "Kiss an ugly turtle and make it cry" is a little humorous as well. It pokes fun. The song isn't confined to one level. It's also a very serious song. "Do you believe in stormy weather? Hurricanes play musical chairs with homes and chattel. The whirling dervish tornados reek all disaster" are talking about environmental devastation. It's quite interesting in that sense.
In System of a Down, the music centers on the sonic opposition between the vocals and guitars. On your solo material, it feels as if the vocals and music intertwine seamlessly.
Interesting! I never thought of it that way. That's cool. In some sense, it is like that. There's counter-opposition in the musical references. Here, it's perhaps more fluid. I'll take that [Laughs].
Do Jazz-Iz-Christ, Orca, Fuktronic, and Prometheus Bound feed off each other?
They're all done, but there are still things we're doing. With Fuktronic, we're developing visuals. We found a company that does these high-tech interactive web series and apps. We're making visuals which will be mobile and interactive. They're incredibly artistic apps that we're going to pick out. We'll add more content to Fuktronic based on the whole script we're doing right now. With Orca, the studio recordings are done. The score is done. We're going to be recording it live with Bruckner Orchestra on October 28 in Austria. They're one of my favorite orchestras I've worked with in Europe. We're going to do live recordings with them. [Kickstarter link] With Jazz-Iz-Christ, it's mostly done, but we might add a few interesting new tracks. As much as they're done, we're finding different ways to put them out.
Does each genre come from a different part of your brain? Or, is it all from the same creative space?
A couple of them are collaborations so I can't take full credit for Jazz-Iz-Christ and Fuktronic. They all come from the same inspiration. Each style of music is a unique form of expression that cannot be exchanged with another.
If Harakiri were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
At some points, it's serious. At some points, it's funny. At some points, it's horror. At some points, it's action. It's hard to tell. I don't think it would fit into one particular genre of movie.
What do you remember the most from touring the first System of a Down album?
Touring for that album was our first experience touring. Of course, as a baby band going out, you have to do a full court press on the road. We didn't really come back for many months at a time. It was a little brutal and trying in terms of your own kind of life, center, and focus. It laid out all of the groundwork for us to do what we do and build upon that. We toured most parts of the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan heavily. We did OZZfest. We didn't have much of a single on the radio. "Sugar" did well on the radio, but it wasn't a huge thing. We were basically doing it all on tour and breaking it the old-fashioned way. When Toxicity came out, we had built the foundation for people who liked the music, had seen it live, and could associate with what we were doing. It blew up from there.
What's your favorite Serj Tankian song?