Serj Tankian Says ‘It’s Easier Releasing Records’ Than a New Book

In his new memoir, Down With the System, Serj Tankian shares many intimate details of his personal life and the lives of his family. From the Armenian genocide to his dad dealing with lawsuits in California, Tankian unapologetically brings fans into his world, creating a powerful and unforgettable reading experience.

He also spends a good amount of time telling the story of System of a Down from his perspective. Whether it was their first show at the Roxy or how he confronted his bandmates and told them to find a new singer, he leaves few stones unturned.

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On Tuesday (May 14), Tankian dove deep into Down With the System on Loudwire Nights with host Chuck Armstrong, sharing several stories and even discussing what the future of System of a Down might look like.

Serj Tankian and Life Lessons

“You know, it’s easier releasing records,” Tankian said about the release of his memoir.

“People may like a song or not, but with this, you’re sharing incredible, intimate, personal details and lessons learned.”

While Tankian writes about different moments in his life where he’s taken opportunities or lost opportunities, he never seems to lean on the concept of regrets.

“We should all be lucky to live in a world where we have no regrets,” Tankian told Chuck.

“If I was in some type of penitentiary right now, I would say I regret this decision, but every move that you make, good or bad — good opportunity or lost opportunity — brings you to where you are today.”

Tankian said it’s hard to look back and try to correct some of those moments, even though there might have been things he could have done better.

“I wouldn’t call them regrets. I would call them incredible life lessons learned — and we’re still learning every day.”

Is There a Future For New Music From System of a Down?

Some of those life lessons are deeply personal for Tankian while others are directly connected to his work and experiences with System of a Down. For Tankian, releasing a memoir meant sharing his personal life as well as his life in System.

“My musical career is a huge part of my life,” he said, “so for me to not have included that would have been dishonest.”

Some stories from his musical career are endearing and will no doubt make the reader chuckle, like when KISS’ Gene Simmons told Tankian they should take the album cover from their debut album and double it up on the chest of a shirt.

“He’s all about branding,” Tankian said to Chuck with a smile on his face.

“That’s his thing. When he saw our first album cover — which is from John Heartfield’s [anti-fascist artwork from 1928] — just so much power of protest, so much punk and messaging in that hand — he saw it as, wow, what would be great is if you put two on a T-shirt right where the girl’s breasts are…I didn’t mind telling that story because it was just so Gene. He’d probably be proud of it.”

Other stories in Down With the System are much rawer, like how Tankian brought a “manifesto” of sorts to his bandmates to try and create a more egalitarian method of songwriting and doing business.

“You don’t walk into a band rehearsal with a manifesto,” he admitted.

“That’s the dumbest thing you can do. I was like, ‘This is the new American Constitution for System of a Down.’ And everyone was like, ‘It just doesn’t work.’

That manifesto included four points: equal creative input, equal publishing splits, what Tankian referred to as the “Director’s Cut” — meaning, “Whoever wrote the song makes the final decision on it” — and they would work together to develop new concepts for releasing music.

“I love my band members,” Tankian said on Loudwire Nights. “They’re like brothers to me. We have a long but complicated history as all bands do and our differences are primarily creative differences because we all love what we do so much and we care about the authenticity of what we do so much. It’s those creative differences, and yes, there are ego issues…I’m proud [those are] our differences and we love and respect each other, irrespective of all that.”

As Chuck heard that, he pushed Tankian on whether that means there is a chance for new music down the road.

“The door always remains open. The door always remains open. I think a shift in perspective is always possible.”

How Sick New World Convinced System of a Down to Keep Playing Live

Along with discussing new music, Tankian also talked about System of a Down’s live plans and how transformative their performance at the 2023 Sick New World festival was.

“I put out a record, we make music videos and do press and then we tour for a year and a half or two years,” Tankian reflected. “I don’t want to be part of that record cycle anymore. I don’t think it’s my thing. It’s a personal lifestyle decision.”

So when it came to their only show in 2023, Tankian looks back on it with a lot of gratitude.

“Had we done a tour instead of [Sick New World in 2023], I would have probably stopped altogether,” he revealed.

READ MORE: 10 Big Things That Happened at 2024’s Sick New World Festival

“But because we just did one last year and we all had a blast — we had friends there, family enjoying themselves — I wanted to do it again. And I hadn’t wanted to perform in a long time. I was surprised at myself and it was because of the format.”

In 2024, System of a Down played Sick New World again and later this year, they’re adding one more show to their calendar, a special gig with Deftones in San Francisco.

“We’ll see how it goes.”

What Else Did Serj Tankian Discuss on Loudwire Nights?

  • Where the songs like “A.F. Day” from his upcoming solo EP, Foundations, came from: “These are a lot of old songs that I had recorded that I had never released…’A.F. Day’ was written probably the earliest of the whole collection. It’s very punk rock…I can’t remember why I never even brought it to System.”
  • How he and Rick Rubin came up with the lyrics in the bridge of “Chop Suey!”: “We sat down and meditated. We were both Zenned out and he’s like, ‘Let’s go to my house. Let’s just get out of here’ … He had this huge library at his house in Los Angeles and he just goes, ‘Pick a book, any book.’ So I literally reached out wherever my hand went. I didn’t look at titles and stuff, I just grabbed something, opened it to a page, pointed my finger to it and that is the middle eighth of ‘Chop Suey!'”
  • Why he doesn’t write songs — or books — with the audience’s reaction in mind: “I’ve never been good at estimating response, whether it’s through music or anything, any version of art. I never could put myself in someone else’s mind frame or perspective and judge a piece of work…Repetition as a mantra in meditation is beautiful. But in art, it is death.”

Listen to the Full Interview in the Podcast Player Below

Serj Tankian joined Loudwire Nights on Tuesday, May 14; the show replays online here, and you can tune in live every weeknight at 7PM ET or on the Loudwire app; you can also see if the show is available on your local radio station and listen to interviews on-demand.

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