Serj Tankian on Current and Future Projects

serj tankian
Ever busy and always inspired, Serj Tankian discusses his current and future projects.

Serj Tankian FAQ’s for Harakiri Album

1. What does “Harakiri” mean, and how does it play into the themes of the album?

Harakiri” is a Japanese term signifying ritualistic suicide, the cutting of the abdomen and is similar to the term “seppuku,” a ritual suicide by self-disembowelment on a sword.

The year 2011 started with a fire. Some kids in Piha, NZ were setting off fireworks that landed on my neighbor’s property and lit the whole hill on fire. I knew it was going to be a hell of a year and it certainly was. Within five days of that, reports came out about birds and fish dying in massive numbers globally without any reasonable explanation. The omen was not lost on me. Varied creatures on earth were committing massive hara-kiri. Do they know something we don’t about the coming times or the sustainability of the environment? That is the day I started writing this record and ‘harakiri’ was the first song that materialized.

Harakiri is not really a concept record, although the idea of harakiri as it relates to death is a central theme. Everything else on the album revolves around the same time period of life: political events, social events, humorous interpretations.

2. What was the recording process for this album and what are some examples of your songwriting techniques?

The record is different than any I’ve made as a solo artist (previous albums include 2007’s Elect The Dead, 2010’s Elect The Dead Symphony and 2010’s Imperfect Harmonies). It is much more driving and punk oriented with influences ranging from goth to electronic to 80’s vibes, dynamically heavy rock to epic melodic songs. Lyrically, it spans the gauntlet of themes from personal, political and philosophical to spiritual, humor and love.

One of the things that I did while writing this record was to take songs from my previous solo records and strip them down to make loops – kind of like ‘musical recycling’. Using my own loop libraries, I was able to deconstruct to create something new. It’s a good way of sketching out the arrangement of a song.

I used my iPad as another tool. I love the music applications that they make, and I was playing around with these programs and used them to sketch out ideas for 3 of the songs on the record. As an artist, you never want to write the same song again, you always want to challenge yourself to writing in a different way. The best way to do that is to pick up a new instrument or an instrument that you don’t typically write on and see where it takes you. Whether it’s using an acoustic guitar, or piano, or electronics as tools, all of these lead to creating different types of songs and I used all of these methods for this record.

3. You recorded 4 albums between 2011-2012. Can you explain each project?

I write a lot of music because I love doing it for fun. All the records co-inspire each other. You work on one thing and it inspires you to try something new on another project.

The jazz record is called Jazz-iz Christ.  I had written a lot of jazz tracks already and I was able to collaborate with some amazing jazz musicians such as Tigran Hamasyan (pianist signed to Verve), Tom Duprey (trumpet, who also performed in the rock musical I composed for, Prometheus Bound), Valery Tolstoy (flutist) and David Alpay (violinist). We sent the songs around and everyone contributed and we finished it this year.

The orchestral album is called ORCA, which is my first classical symphony. I started writing it when I was writing my last solo release, Imperfect Harmonies.  We are working on plans for live performances in 2013.

The electronic project is a collaboration with Jimmy Urine of the band Mindless Self Indulgence and is called F**tronic. The album is kind of like a concept British gangster film without the film, if that makes any sense. There are actors and a lot of cussing and killing and over-the-top hilarious stuff.

4. Why was 2011 an exceptional year for you?

2011 was the busiest, most productive year of my life so far, in February, the rock musical Prometheus Bound, which I composed all of the music for, opened at the Oberon Theater at Harvard in Boston. I released my second poetry book, Glaring Through Oblivion. I toured with System of a Down across three continents, performed with the Opera Orchestra in Yerevan, Armenia, where I also had political meetings with heads of state and hosted non-profit events. I performed for the first time in Lebanon, where I was born, with the Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra. When I returned to the US after touring, I wrote four records: Harakiri, Jazz-iz Christ, F**tronic and Orca.

5. Where was Harakiri recorded and who did you work with?

Harakiri was recorded at my home studio inLos Angeles, CA. The musicians in my touring band, The F.C.C., performed on the record: Dan Monti on guitar, Mario Pagliarulo on bass and Troy Zeigler on drums. Dan Monti also co-mixed and co-engineered the album with me, and Vlado Meller (Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers) mastered.

6. Will System of a Down release a new album?

We have not made a plan to do it as of yet. I think it’s something that we’ll get together at the right time when we all have that head space. It hasn’t been that time yet. It’s as simple as that.

Serj eveals each of the song titles in a statement describing Harakiri below. The song names are in order and bold:

”The Cornucopia of love/hate affairs with Gaia have made us scream “Figure It Out! CEOs are the disease.” Where abusive capitalism’s only fate is human/ environmental devastation. The Ching Chime, diminutive drama of a gangsta Butterfly revealed that humanity’s tears actually outweigh yearly rainfall on the planet. 

We have witnessed Harakiri on a grand scale tearing out the Occupied Tears of victims preyed on by victims turned aggressors creating a Deafening Silence through which we hear a voice plead, “Forget Me Knot, my child.”

Reality TV has become the searing indictment of a society best described as the Uneducated Democracy. The daughters of the evolution Weave On with blood dripping down their guilty hands onto the flags as the word republic is replaced by empire.” –Serj Tankian