Serj Pleads For Justice

By Argie Plakas

It's been a year since I interviewed Serj Tankian last, and though System of a Down may seem in hiding, Serj certainly isn't.

He and other fellow musicians did a benefit for the Grocery Strikers of Southern California back in December. And his work with Axis of Justice, (the organization he formed with Tom Morello) keeps him very busy. AOJ recently had their first concert on March 31 at LA's Troubadour.

Serj gave me a re-cap of the show, and we also discussed the upcoming April 24th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and the benefit concert System of a Down will be doing to commemorate that day.

Argie Plakas for antiMUSIC: You had the very first Axis of Justice concert the other night. Did you do any spoken word? Any surprise guests?

Serj: The show was amazing…we had Tom, myself, Flea, Wayne Kramer (MC5), Boots Riley (The Coup), Apex Theory, and System of a Down. I did a spoken work piece along with a performance of some NOIZE making machines, jammed out with all the guys on a number of covers, from Bob Marley to Woody Guthrie, and played a surprise 6 song short set with System.

AP: It was a benefit show, so will the proceeds go to anything specific, or just to Axis of Justice in general?

Serj: Axis of Justice in general at this time. We are also a foundation sponsoring different organizations and making donations, etc.

AP: Tell me what Axis of Justice has been instrumental in doing thus far?

Serj: Axis has been instrumental in raising social/political awareness of many different causes. We've served as an umbrella for other NGOs on music festivals, have the radio show where we interview activists and play rebel jams. All in all I think it's made certain people feel empowered to be able to change things they don't like or agree with in our democracy.

AP: Let's talk alittle about the upcoming "SOULS" benefit concert, which is on April 24th in Los Angeles. This day is the anniversary of the Armenian genocide. What does that day mean to you personally?

Serj: April 24th to me is a day that pleads for and insists upon international humanitarian justice.

AP: Besides the concert, are there any special rituals, services, or rallys that go on that day?

Serj: There are marches, prayer services, rallys, and various commemorations worldwide by Armenians remembering our victims and slain families. In L.A. it's in Hollywood as well as Montebello.

AP: I know you and rest of the band sent out a mass mailing, encouraging everyone to mail out postcards to Senate leaders to speak out against genocide. Is there any way of knowing what kind of response you've had so far?

Serj: Based on the number of postcards that have been downloaded off the ANCA, (Armenian National Committee of America) and ones mailed, we know we've been effective in reaching more than 500,000 people and have produced more than 100,000 postcards sent to Congress.

AP: Being a Greek-American, I too know the atrocities the Greek people have endured as well under the Turkish government. Has the Armenian community ever joined forces with the Greeks to take a stand on this issue?

Serj: I think so, in every act of Congressional legislation/resolution, I've seen a number of Greek and Armenian organizations joining together in support, including the current H.Res. 193, and S.Res 164. I am very aware of the Ottoman Empire's genocidal campaign against not just the Armenians, but the Greeks and Assyrians as well.

AP: Have you personally ever considered going into politics?

Serj: Yes, I've considered it, but it's not something that really makes me happy. Though I do it often, I really dislike dealing with politics. I'd rather just play music, and wish there weren't these injustices that I'd have to deal with.

AP: You know everyone reading this will want to know…When can we expect a new System of a Down record?

Serj: Sometime this year, near the end.

AP: Serj- one last question. I recently heard someone ask you if you ever worry about your voice, and keeping it intact. You replied, "I don't worry about my voice, I worry about my heart." Elaborate on that alittle, and leave us with those words.

Serj: You sing with your heart, though your voice could be quite useful.

Related Links

System of a Down Homepage

Axis of Justice website

Armenian National Committee of America website

Purchase System of a Down music


Argie Plakas is an antiMUSIC contributor.