About Serj Tankian
Best known as the founder and lead vocalist of metal outfit System of a Down, Armenian-American musician and producer Serj Tankian became a staple on the rock scene with his unmistakable vocals, sense of humor, and intense political activism. Along with his Grammy-winning band, he issued three chart-topping hit albums -- Toxicity, Mezmerize, and Hypnotize -- in the early 2000s before SOAD went on indefinite hiatus. He released his first solo effort, Elect the Dead, in 2007, following with additional full-lengths, collaborations, and soundtracks for films such as 1915 (2016) and Furious (2017). In 2021, Tankian issued his third EP, Elasticity.
Born on August 21, 1967, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tankian immigrated with his family to Los Angeles in 1975. He studied marketing at California State University and started his own software company before beginning his music career with the formation of System of a Down in 1995. In 1998, the band signed on to Rick Rubin's American imprint, and over the following seven years released five well-received albums, the second of which, Toxicity, thrust them into the forefront of the metal community, garnered a Grammy nomination, and sold millions of copies. Tankian utilized his success to influence the political world that he often commented on lyrically by co-founding a nonprofit organization called Axis of Justice with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello. He remained active with System of a Down throughout the mid-2000s -- winning a Grammy for "B.Y.O.B." in 2006 and scoring two more number one albums -- and also released a book of poetry titled Cool Gardens.
In May 2006, at their peak, SOAD announced an indefinite hiatus. Tankian made use of this sabbatical to record his first solo album, Elect the Dead, which was released in fall 2007. Peaking at number four on the Billboard 200, the set also spawned his first solo appearance on the Hot 100 with "Empty Walls." Three years later, Tankian teamed up with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra to release Elect the Dead Symphony, featuring songs from his solo debut backed by a live orchestra. His second solo album, Imperfect Harmonies, continued in the orchestral footsteps of his symphonically reimagined debut. His third album, the more rock-oriented Harakiri, arrived in 2012. After the release of Orca Symphony No. 1 in 2013, he pivoted to soundtrack work for the rest of the decade, providing backing for films such as 1915, Furious, and Spitak, as well as the video game Midnight Star.
In 2020, Tankian teamed with fellow early-2000s rock misfit Jimmy Urine (Mindless Self Indulgence) for the collaborative album Fuktronic. That same year, over a decade after their last release, System of a Down reunited for the comeback single "Protect the Land" b/w "Genocidal Humanoidz," which raised money for the Armenia Fund. While the reunion offered hope for fans, momentum stalled and Tankian issued an EP, Elasticity, comprised of songs that he had written for SOAD. ~ Gregory McIntosh & Neil Z. Yeung
BORNAugust 21, 1967