Warner Bros. Records held a special Q & A session this past week with Serj Tankian, lead vocalist of System of a Down and solo artist, at their boutique store in Burbank, California. Attended by around 200 eager fans, the Q & A was to promote Tankian’s new solo album Harakiri and served as a listening party, early CD sales event, and signing.
The event kicked off with questions asked by a moderator, some of which came in from fans around the world via Twitter. Serj called for the Twitter questions to be held until later; he was more interested in hearing from the fans gathered right in front of him, eliciting cheers from the crowd. Many of the fans were dressed in Serj Tankian and System of A Down shirts and carried copies of Serj’s books, albums ( both solo and with SOAD) and their brand new Harakiri CD’s for Serj to sign.
The focus of the night’s discussion was of course the new album Harakiri which means ‘suicide’ in Japanese but many other topics were covered through questions from the crowd, the moderator, and of course brought to light by Serj himself. Stylistically Harakiri is a little different from Serj’s previous solo records- Imperfect Harmonies and Elect the Dead.
“I think it’s much more punk rock, much more straight forward, much more unfiltered, truthful, and kind of more urgent in terms of the lyrical content and messaging. That’s how I see it; that’s the difference,” said Serj. Recorded at Serj’s own Serjical Strike studio in Los Angeles, the System of A Down frontman described his album as a sort of ‘unplanned pregnancy’ because he hadn’t intended to write another solo record at the time Harakiri was conceived.
When asked by the moderator if he thought he got to ‘really let it all out this time with Harakiri ‘ and that the record ‘seemed like Tankian at his most honest and unbridled’, Serj replied, ‘you know…here I just said f&%k it. I’m just going to say everything on my mind and f&%k everyone.’ He also explained the name of the album. ‘It’s a respectful term. Suicide in today’s modern society is so light it feels like, but the word Harakiri feels very kind of deep, you know? There’s a respectful aspect to it and a good friend of mine who is a Japanese journalist was talking to me and he said, ‘why did you name the album Harakiri because it’s a very respectful term- it’s not to be used lightly?’ I said, ‘that’s the point I’m making; it’s not to be used lightly. I think a lot of musicians have become like politicians kind of pandering to the middle…you know what I’m talking about, just really light so that everyone can relate to them. And that’s all good and dandy. I love music for entertainment’s sake and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. Dance music is awesome to make you dance and that’s positive, but music has a narrative factor that’s very important and deep in our culture. Otherwise we end up with reality TV which is cultural harakiri.’
Other topics Tankian covered in the Q & A included his break through moment of deciding he wanted to be a musician (not a lawyer), his advice for indie musicians to ‘build that first little fire’ in their communities before they go and expect to ‘set the world a blaze’, his work with System of A Down, a side project of Tankian’s with Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence, his connection with New Zealand of which he is a resident, and an interesting parting thought: Are you defined by your art or is your art defined by you?
Harakiri is out now. Please visit SerjTankian.com