Photo by Travis Shinn
Sitting opposite host Ryan J. Downey, venerated multi-hyphenate Serj Tankian guested for the most recent installment of the long form discography dissection, The Disc Dive.
Exploring the rich, diverse catalog of the veteran musician, Downey and Tankian begin the exchange by revisiting some of the frontman's earliest years. Serj explained how religion, spirituality and cultural identity were first introduced to him as a child and how that ultimately segued into a lifelong fascination in exploring faith and the universal tenets that seemed valued by most people - regardless of denomination.
Tankian recalled his time as a budding college student at Cal State University Northridge. He explained that his educational path up until that point was in small, parochial classrooms with the same core group of students. Given that, college was such a huge shift that came with a new found freedom. He referred to that time as his first awakening and also revealed that it was in his first year of college that he picked up his first musical instrument.
Music would eventually become an escape for Tankian. Confiding that he was going through plenty of personal growing pains during that time, picking up that Casio keyboard began a passion that remained with the artist, even while he pursued and eventually completed his business degree in college. He shared that his deep-seeded interest in music and art was one that always lived with him, even as he began his post-college life as a young professional in the working world.
Tankian would eventually concede that music was his ultimate passion. That realization was a pivotal moment - one that the frontman shared, "changed his whole life".
As it pertains to his latest release, Invocations showcases the prowess of Tankian as a not only a performer, but also as a songwriter, a composer and storyteller. The 15-track operatic suite was recorded earlier this spring at his alma mater, Cal State University Northridge. Complete with string arrangements, piano compositions and grand choral melodies, the project is as unconventional as it is ambitious - speaking to Tankian's non-conformist spirit and his ability to color outside the lines.
Revisiting the one-night only performance which featured tenor Brian Thorsett, Abysmal Dawn architect Charles Elliott, alto Francesca Genco and the CSUN Symphony, Tankian likened the performance to a musical seance, detailing how the music was intended to be transcendental Having the forethought to record the performance, the album is a bold assertion of Tankian's unwavering commitment to the constant pursuit of his craft.
Continuing on the otherworldly quality of the music, Tankian likened how chanting has long been a way of connecting to the metaphysical space and how chanting to the Gods, is really no different than screaming to the Gods - which is what he has done during his tenure in System Of A Down. Tankian explained that with Invocations, he attempted to do both in the same suite - offering the celestial sounds of a chorus and the guttural screams of a death metal vocalist to showcase his artistry full circle.
The segment wraps with Downey and Tankian venturing back to some of System Of A Down's earliest days. The frontman recalled their first tour, saddled with the daunting task of opening for Slayer as a then unknown band complete with a less than conventional look. Tankian likened the experience to boot camp, explaining that there might be no tougher fan to win over than a Slayer fan.
Check the latest episode of The Disc Dive with host Ryan J. Downey and special guest, Serj Tankian below.