SERJ TANKIAN: 'People Should Support Artists Financially So Artists Continue What They Do Best'

September 30, 2010

EspyRock recently conducted an interview with singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and political activist Serj Tankian. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

EspyRock: With it being almost three years since the release of "Elect The Dead", do you feel that you have established yourself as a solo artist away from SYSTEM OF A DOWN as the album was met with acclaim or do you think people still put too much weight on your past?

Serj: Although I feel like I have truly established myself with "Elect the Dead" and the follow-up orchestral live DVD/CD, "Elect the Dead Symphony", I also realize that my unique work in SYSTEM OF A DOWN over 12 years will always be remembered and cherished. And for that I am very grateful.

EspyRock: "Elect The Dead", as you stated, was your rock album without a rock band but you had all of the years of experience from SYSTEM OF A DOWN behind you in order to take the task upon yourself to create that album. Now that you're creating not just a unique sound but effectively your own sound with electronic, orchestra, jazz and rock elements, how difficult was it to write and structure of the music with these elements combined?

Serj: It was quite a challenge fusing the electronic with the orchestral more than the live rock instrumentation or anything else. But with some help from some amazing friends and tinkering around in the studio, I figured it out. I got a lot of great advice and help from my friend Junkie XL on this record.

EspyRock: I've read that you had electronic songs and orchestral songs already written but you didn't want to release an album which was half and half. How long have you been experimenting with different styles and what made you wish to look at such sounds as electronica?

Serj: I have over 400 unreleased songs and pieces of music from all types of genres. I have been programming beats and slicing and dicing samples and adding synths for a while. It's the first time that it's present in my solo works. I have used some of my other pieces and songs on other projects (licensed to films, video games, co-written songs, and songs for the musical I'm working on: "Prometheus Bound").

EspyRock: A big part of the release is the packaging which uses tree-free paper. There are of course people who still love to purchase albums, receive all the artwork and specials that are including in physical releases but with the rise in digital music sales and labels being reluctant to break deals with manufacturers and unwilling to explore alternatives, do you feel that digital is the way forward?

Serj: There will always be a market for physical product. I, for one, love getting the vinyl and CD, checking out the artwork with the packaging, design, and material developed and decided by the artist and his people. However, most future sales will be digital, and I'm totally cool with that as well. It's the most green way to proceed as well, of course.

EspyRock: On the topic of owning and obtaining music there is the issue of illegal downloading and sharing of music. This isn't something new to you with the 2002 incident of low quality MP3s being leaked of SYSTEM OF A DOWN songs which led to the release of "Steal This Album!" Are you against sharing and downloading or do you agree with some artists that having your music reach a wide and varied audience will in fact benefit you in the future?

Serj: It's never one or the other. The piracy of music has caused a contraction in the industry as we know it, which in turn, has caused labels to focus even less on artist development and focus on the few easy hits (mega pop format). The reach of music and the popular rise of music listening has risen dramatically further through piracy and that's great, of course. So it's really not an easy thing to take sides on. I think people should support artists financially so that artists continue what they do best and not be forced to look for other avenues of expression or income. You see many more artists touring than making records because that's more profitable. That's not good for the recording of records.

Read the entire interview from EspyRock.

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