Childhood & Early Life
Serj Tankian was born on August 21, 1967 to Armenian parents in Beirut, Lebanon. When he was five years old, his family moved to Los Angeles, California.
He studied at Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School and enrolled at California State University, Northridge. It was during this time that he started playing with musical instruments and began writing songs.
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He got together with Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian and Domingo Laranio to form the band ‘Soil’. After a couple of members left the band, the remaining members, including him formed the group, ‘System of a Down’, in 1994.
The band began playing at local party scenes and rock clubs, attracting a large audience. In 1998, the band released the self-titled album, ‘System of a Down’, which was a great success.
In 2001, the band released the album, ‘Toxicity’, which is regarded as one of the most successful ‘System of a Down’ albums till date. The next year, they released the album, ‘Steal This Album!’
Year 2005 proved to be an extremely productive one for the group as they released two albums titled ‘Mesmerize’ and ‘Hypnotize’, the latter being more successful than the first. These were the last of the albums released before their four-year hiatus.
During the band’s period of hiatus, he debuted with the record, ‘Elect the Dead’, the official tour for which commenced on October 12, 2007. The next year, he released the song, ‘Fears’ in November, in support of Amnesty International’s Global, ‘Write-A-Thon’.
On March 16, 2009, he performed with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in New Zealand, a symphonic version of the album, ‘Elect the Dead’. The live performance was taken in a DVD/CD titled, ‘Elect the Dead Symphony’, which released the following year.
He released his second solo album, ‘Imperfect Harmonies’, in 2010 under Reprise Records and Serjical Strike Records. In November the same year, ‘System of a Down’ officially announced that they would start playing shows in the U.S. and Europe and that they were getting back together for tours.
In 2011, he diverged from music and co-wrote a play on the Ancient Greek Tragedy ‘Prometheus Bound’, along with Steven Sater. This play was showcased at American Repertory Theater.
He released his third studio solo album titled, ‘Harakiri’ on July 10, 2012, which was a follow up of the previous record, ‘Imperfect Harmonies’. The same year, he released his fourth studio solo album, ‘Orca’, for which the recorded version was released the following year.
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In 2013, he released his fifth studio solo album, ‘Jazz-Iz Christ’, released under Serjical Strike Records. The album is a combination of rock, progressive rock and jazz tinges.
‘System of a Down’, the self-titled debut album of the band released in 2000 was one of the most successful albums of the band till date. The RIAA certified the album gold and after the release of their second album, the album was certified platinum. The album is also currently featured on the list of ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear before You Die’.
The band’s second album, ‘Toxicity’, which was released in 2001, sold 12 million copies worldwide and was certified multi-platinum by the RIAA. The album peaked at the number 1 position on both major U.S. and Canadian charts.
‘Hypnotize’ was the last studio album by the band, released in 2005. The album debuted at the number one position on the Billboard 200 and made it to the countdown primarily because the sister album, ‘Mesmerize’ which was also released the same year, making this band one of the few bands to achieve the feat in a single year. It was certified ‘Platinum’ in the U.S. by the RIAA.
Awards & Achievements
In 2005, the band won the Europe Music Award for ‘Best Alternative Act’.
‘System of a Down’ won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Hard Rock Performance’ for the single, ‘B.Y.O.B’, in 2006.
In 2006, the single, ‘Toxicity’ was featured at the no. 14 position on VH1’s list of ‘Top 40 Metal Songs’.
Personal Life & Legacy
He co-founded the non-profit organization, ‘Axis of Justice’ along with Tom Morello, in 2002.
He married Angela Madatyan, who was his long term girlfriend, on June 9, 2012 in California.
Apart from his music career, he is an active animal rights activist and has signed the PETA petition against the butchery of chickens in the KFC abattoir.
He and the other band members of ‘System of a Down’ starred in the movie ‘Screamers’, which is based on the views of United States on genocide. He has also organized and participated in a number of protests related to human rights, social justice and genocides.