“You always speak about something. You speak from the heart. You have an opinion. You pick a side of the fence. You build a house,” said Ted Stryker in his interview with Serj Tankian at the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ. “If people want to agree, they can. You don’t shove it down their throat. You have a good personality when you do it. But, with all the things happening in the world, the inspiration specifically for this record is…? “
“You know, the first song I wrote for the record was the title track “Harakiri”and it was January 2011 last year when we were experiencing the massive death of birds and fish all around the planet,” replied Tankian about his newly-released solo album Harakiri, named after the ritualistic Japanese suicide Seppuku. “And, to me, it was so symbolic. Like a million different species disappeared in about a month.”
“It was all over the planet and it was so biblical and ominous and significant that I didn’t know for our society and nature and the degradation of nature, so it inspired me to write the first track and since then all the other tracks kind of just came from the universe,” continued the socially-conscientious, multi-faceted artist. “In about three or four months I had the rest of the album written. Which surprised me because I wasn’t planning on writing another rock record last year.
“But I also used harakiri as a general term to describe our presence on this planet and how we’re unconsciously killing ourselves in our own home.”
Despite the deep meaning behind Tankian’s conversation with Stryker, he voiced his opinions warmly and with a humble smile that suggested Tankian is about the veneration of ideals rather than the pronounced debate of them.
“I was doing an interview with a Japanese journalist a couple of months ago and he said, ‘you know, Harakiri is a very respectful term. Why are you using it to describe your record?’ And I said, ‘That’s why I’m using it. It seems like to me the word suicide feels kind of light for some reason. But Harakiri is way deeper. There’s a reason in it. “
With the hot, humid air from the strangely dark and dank day seeping into the Sound Space, Tankian and his talented crew played a righteous six song set including “Figure It Out,” “Butterfly,” “Harakiri,” “Honking Antelope,” “Cornucopia,” and “Empty Walls.”
His eclectic assortment of fans, whom he said he’s had many “strange encounters with,” mouthed the lyrics to all of his songs, pressing as close as they could to the stage where their idol contorted his face into the same absurdist mask made famous from his days performing with System of a Down.
Tankian said that when he performed with System of a Down on their reunion tour he thought, “f**k, we sound tighter than we ever have in our lives,” even if he did forget a few words here and there.
“It’s the intention. Music is an intuitive medium,” Tankian said before expounding on the topic in after a question from a fan in the audience. “As long as you’re feeling the message and you give that out, people respect if you f**k up on words or whatever.”
“With technology today, it’s a lot easier to actually produce music. But…I think the most important thing is your connection to the music. It’s your connection to receiving messages from the universe; from collective consciousness,” continued Tankain, “To be able to then present it skillfully and correctly over time.
“That’s sometime that you earn over time and you learn over time. Being open to receiving–everyone can do it. Artists or non-artists.”
Besides music, another subject wherein Tankian expresses his beliefs of universal interconnectedness is that between humans, the environment, and animals.
“There are two types of people on the planet. Not good and evil, but those that feel like everything is connected and those who don’t. And it’s the difference between the way that you live your life, the way that you treat other people, the way that you treat the environment, the way that you treat animals; it’s all connected to this one point of the belief that we’re all interconnected or not. And I do think we’re interconnected.”
“Seeing animals suffer,” mused Tankian, “Especially the fact that a lot of them can’t defend themselves whether it’s human aggression or environmental devastation…It’s something where your heart reaches out and you do what you can.” Which is exactly what Tankian has done with his music, as evidenced by the murmurs of raptured agreement from his fans.