System Of A Down during System Of A Down Photo Session at Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, United States.
Serj Tankian at the Big Day Out 2005.
Tankian performing with System of a Down at the 2012 Soundwave Festival in Perth.
Tankian performing with System of a Down at Rock en Seine festival in 2013.
Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School
California State University
In his youth, he attended bilingual Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, which was also attended by Tankian's future System of a Down bandmates Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian. Tankian was accepted into California State University, Northridge. This is where Tankian first began to play instruments and write songs.
Early in his career, Serj found an outlet as the rabble–rousing lead singer and songwriter of the largely successful rock band System of a Down, a band that has reached into the hearts and minds of millions of people relaying multiple messages of love, awareness and activism. System of a Down has 5 studio album releases, three of which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and has also been nominated for four Grammy Awards and snagged one in 2006 for 'Best Hard Rock Performance' for their song "B.Y.O.B." Despite this success, Serj never grew complacent with his art, always striving to open up new channels of sound and arrangement to articulate his artistic expressions.
Tankian has released 5 albums of his own solo material, beginning with 2007's chart-topping hard rock album Elect The Dead. His sophomore solo album Imperfect Harmonies was released in 2010, followed by Harakiri in 2012. 2013 saw two distinct releases from Serj, with the first being the critically acclaimed Orca Symphony No. 1, released in June of that year, followed up with the very unique Jazz-iz Christ one month later.
Over the past couple years, his time spent in the recording studio has been focused on creating musical scores and compositions for film and video game projects. His most recent credits include recording a modern version of Armenian folk song “Sari Siroun Yar” along with the Authentic Light Orchestra for upcoming film “The Promise”, directed by Terry George, starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. He was also brought on by Survival Pictures, the producers of the film, to serve as an Executive Music Consultant. Additionally, he has composed the full musical score for independent films '1915' and 'The Last Inhabitant', an original composition for Ilya Naishuller's "Hardcore Henry" and video game musical scores for 'Midnight Star' and it’s sequel “Renegade”, which were created by one of the chief creators of the famed 'Halo' game franchise.
Serj Tankian’s resume also includes the formation of a record label, Serjical Strike Records (established in 2001) which has released albums by 8 critically acclaimed artists, including Fair To Midland, Buckethead and Death By Stereo.
Along with fellow musician Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Serj co-founded the non-profit organization Axis Of Justice in 2002, which strives to bring together musicians, fans of music and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. He has also dabbled with the world of broadcasting as co-host of the Axis Of Justice Radio Network, which can be heard via Sirius Satellite Radio and KPFK in Los Angeles. With a mission of spreading diversity and understanding through music, poetry and activism, Serj Tankian will continue to surprise and enlighten those who listen to his music and hear his words.
In recent years, Tankian has split his time between holding a mic and paintbrush, having feverishly created over 40 pieces of art since 2013. His journey into the world of fine art began with his Disarming Time Musical Paintings that were exhibited at Project Gallery in Los Angeles. Since then, he has had multiple exhibitions at galleries in both the United States as well as New Zealand. Most recently, his artwork was exhibited at the grand opening of New Museum Los Gatos in Northern California as part of a group exhibit that ran through September of 2015.
Tankian has stated that he has "the same religion as that tree over there. It's a mix of Native American, Buddhist and transcendental ideas. I like to think of earth as mother. I like to think of sky as grandfather. God has been used for ulterior motives." In another interview, he has said: "I believe very firmly that indigenous populations had a really good, intuitive understanding of why we're here. And we're trying to gain that same understanding through psychology and intellect in modern civilization."
Following the September 11 attacks he wrote an essay in which he wrote: "If we carry out bombings on Afghanistan or elsewhere to appease public demand, and very likely kill innocent civilians along the way, we'd be creating many more martyrs going to their deaths in retaliation against the retaliation. As shown from yesterday's events, you cannot stop a person who's ready to die."
In the 2008 Democratic Party primaries Tankian originally supported Rep. Dennis Kucinich from Ohio, and subsequently stated that Barack Obama "presents the best possible scenario for a hopeful future, but I don't personally put my trust in any political office."
In the 2016 Democratic Party primaries Tankian endorsed Bernie Sanders in August 2015. He wrote on Facebook: "When it comes to standing up to the oligarchs, leading the fight for civil rights, income equality, and so much more, no other politician has been so consistent and incorruptible as Bernie Sanders." He praised Sanders in May 2016, stating: "He's said what he's done and he'd done what he says in the Senate. All his contributions are from private individuals; everyone else's are from major donors and corporations. It does not take a genius to see who's working for whom here."
Concerning the Syrian Civil War, Tankian called for negotiating with Bashar al-Assad and letting Iran deal with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey of supporting ISIS.
"With rock music, the amount of power that you can generate, the intensity behind the intentions of your lyrics that you can really reflect through rock music - you can't do that in jazz. You can't do that with classical."
"We first fought the heathens in the name of religion, then Communism, and now in the name of drugs and terrorism. Our excuses for global domination always change."
"Pretending that we live doesn't make us alive."
"Civilization is a failure. We need to think what we can do together in love and peace."
"People think our music's very aggressive or angry or whatever, and it's just the opposite, really... I like laughing. And I like being really calm before a show, and smiley."
Serj is a member of Axis of Justice, which is a non-profit organization co-founded by Serj Tankian and Tom Morello. Its purpose is to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots progressivism to fight for social justice together.
He is a vegetarian.
A study conducted by VVN Music found Tankian to possess a moderately-high and diverse vocal range, not only in metal, but in all of popular music, with a range of 4.2 octaves.
On June 9, 2012, Tankian married his long-time girlfriend Angela Madatyan in a private ceremony in Simi Valley, California. Madatyan was born in Vanadzor, Armenia. On October 24, 2014, Tankian announced that he and his wife had their first child, a son named Rumi.