Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, poet, political activist and SYSTEM OF A DOWN frontman Serj Tankian is in his Serjical Strike Studios in Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on his third solo studio album, "Harakiri", the follow-up to 2010's "Imperfect Harmonies", which will be released this summer on Serjical Strike/Reprise Records.
Much of the new record was written in 2011, which was an incredibly busy year for the diversely talented musician and what Serj describes as "the busiest, most productive year of my life so far." In February, the rock musical "Prometheus Bound", which he composed all of the music for, opened at the Oberon Theater at Harvard in Boston to rave reviews. 2011 also saw Serj release his second poetry book, "Glaring Through Oblivion". He toured with SYSTEM OF A DOWN across three continents, performed with the Opera Orchestra in Yerevan, Armenia, where he also had political meetings with heads of state and hosted non-profit events. He then performed his first ever concert in Lebanon, the place of his birth, with the Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra. When he returned to the U.S., he finished writing four records: a jazz record, an electronic record he wrote with his friend Jimmy Urine of MINDLESS SELF INDULGENCE, a full classical symphony called "Orca", and the new solo rock record that he is currently mastering.
"The year 2011 started with a fire. Some kids in Piha, New Zealand 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," says Tankian. "Within five days of that, reports came out about birds and fish dying in massive numbers globally. The omen was not lost on me. Varied creatures on earth were committing massive hara-kiri (the Japanese term signifying ritualistic suicide.) 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."
The symbolism of entire species eradicating themselves on a large scale struck Serj emotionally, and is an underlying theme on the entire record. He took that idea and went to work writing, incorporating all of the experiences of his chaotic year to make a different kind of record. "The record is different than any I've made as a solo artist," he says. "It is much more driving and punk-oriented, with influences ranging from goth to electronic to '80s 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."
He also tried to approach writing a little differently this time around. "I used the Apple iPad as a songwriting instrument to sketch out three of the songs on the record," he says. "We must trick ourselves into writing in different ways to get unexpected results."
The new album is slated for a summer release, and is all performed, written, produced, and engineered by Serj. The album will also feature performances by Serj's touring band, THE F.C.C. — Dan Monti on guitar, Mario Pagliarulo on bass, and Troy Zeigler on drums. Dan Monti is also co-mixing and co-engineering the album with Serj. The album will be mastered by Vlado Meller (METALLICA, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, KANYE WEST, BEASTIE BOYS).
Photo credit: John Papp
Photo credit: George Tonikian