System of a Down frontman confronts the end of civilization

Edmonton Sun, Canada
March 15 2008

System of a Down frontman confronts the end of civilization

By KEVIN MAIMANN, SPECIAL TO SUN MEDIA

Listening to Serj Tankian’s solo debut Elect the Dead and reading
numerous interviews conducted with the System of a Down frontman,
it’s clear that he is plagued by thoughts of the world’s ills.

But speaking in a calm and almost sedated tone, this Beirut-born,
Armenian-American rocker is far from the fiery cynic you might
expect.

SPIRIT CONNECTION

"I think we all need a certain amount of time in our day to kind of
connect with reality, per se – our own reality, our physical reality
around us. Take a nice walk and get a little exercise and get a
little time for our minds to just be still and connect with the
spirit world and whatnot and just be chill," Tankian says, explaining
how he starts his day.

Tankian and his backing band The Flying C–ts of Chaos (FCC) are
hitting the Shaw Conference Centre stage tomorrow night with
prog-rockers Fair to Midland, who are signed to Tankian’s own label,
Serjical Strike Records – run with a little help from his seemingly
unfitting marketing and business degree from California State
University.

Tankian says The FCC has a unique, vaudevillian kind of act that’s
"part comedic and part heart-attack serious," which suits his
personal style to a T.

Apt with Tankian’s very public political leanings, he has enlisted
non-profit environmental group Reverb to help him minimize his
environmental footprint on the trek. But he unexpectedly admits that
he feels this initiative is rather insignificant.

"There’s many artists that have done a lot greater work ecologically
on tour than I have. We’re just kind of getting into this and
learning what we can do to minimize our footprint on tour, ’cause it
is a very, very polluting industry, to be honest," he says. "I run my
life as green as I can because that’s my karma. But in the general
effect of things, I believe that civilization’s over and we need to
completely retool and recharge the way that we deal with many, many
things in our lives."

His theory that civilization is over pops up repeatedly in his
discourse and has almost become his catch phrase.

"I have a feeling that it’s unavoidable and it won’t be a voluntary
choice for us," he says.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED

As chilled out as he seems about it all, Elect the Dead is an
impressive display of Tankian’s laudable work ethic. He performs
nearly every instrument on every track, plus he had independent
videos shot for each song before the album was out and still managed
to have the disc on shelves before anything from the other three
members of SOAD.

For the record, SOAD guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John
Dolmayan are currently taking their time with a project called Scars
on Broadway, which will join Tankian at the Coachella music festival
in April, and bassist Shavo Odadjian has a work in progress called
Achozen with Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA.

"Music is a great way of getting the word out on your thoughts and
feelings, which should really be kind of plugged into the universal
thoughts and feelings of our times – kind of like a truthful
narration, a representation of our times," Tankian says on the value
of his musical call-to-arms. "But direct action is irreplaceable in
terms of making change."

On the direct action front, Tankian has a non-profit organization
with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello called Axis of
Justice, for which the two will soon be teaming up on the Justice
Tour with their respective solo projects in light of the upcoming
presidential election.

"I think we need to be activists and get together and change the
world we live in. And if our opinion is so strong and focused and our
vision pure, then any presidential candidate from any party will be
forced to reckon with us as a citizenry, through democracy," he says.

Tankian has also spread his political influence by lobbying U.S.
congress to recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide and with a book of
poetry called Cool Gardens, amongst many other endeavours.

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