Serj Tankian (born August 21, 1967 in Beirut, Lebanon) is the Armenian-American singer of the alternative metal band System of a Down.
Early life and career
At age five, Serj Tankian moved with his parents to Los Angeles, California. After high school, he studied marketing. He took singing lessons for four years and also took guitar lessons as a young child. In 1993, he founded the band Soil (not to be confused with SOiL) with Daron Malakian, which later broke up, and most of the members joined to form a new band, System of a Down. Tankian is not only a member of the band System of a Down, but also has his own record label which is called Serjical Strike Records, a sub-division of Columbia Records. He has also sung in other bands for certain songs such as, Mushroom Cult by Dog Fashion Disco, and lent his vocals to the song Mein by Deftones. He produced "Enter The Chicken" by Buckethead, and provided vocals to the Buckethead song We are One. With Serjical Strike Records, he endeavours to offer those musicians often ignored by the mainstream a possibility to release their music and be heard. The first release of Serj's new label was Serart, a project consisting of Tankian, himself, and Arto Tunc,boyac,iyan, an Armenian friend of Tankian's.
Tankian is also very involved politically. Together with Tom Morello of Audioslave, he founded the organization Axis Of Justice. Tankian often speaks publicly against violence and injustice in the world.
Serj is a vegetarian and likes to read poetry but other than that, few details are known about Tankian's private life. He is especially interested in Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot and Edgar Allan Poe. Serj hates celebrity gossip. He believes it is a waste of time and due to the spreading of rumors, can destroy close relationships .
lTwo days after the attacks on September 11, 2001, Serj posted a highly controversial essay on the band's website. It was promptly taken down by Sony, the band's record label. Sony's opinion was that Tankian had tried to justify the terrorist attacks and that his claims were unfounded. The essay can be found here: "Understanding Oil"
Tankian's first poetry book, Cool Gardens, was published by MTV Books and released on October 1st, 2002. It is a collection of seven to eight years of Tankian's reflections on life, and features artwork by fellow Armenian, Sako Shahinian. The book has received much praise in the artistic community. On Rolling Stone's website, Saul Williams posted the following comments about Tankian's book, Serj's words, like his voice, have a distinct aesthetic sensibility connected to an unyielding, visceral roar of passion. His capacity 'to mock a killing bird' while we wonder at the grace, beauty, and colorful range of his wingspan will be the trademark of both of his singing and writing careers. Serj is an amazing artist, full of passion, with a beautiful heart that pumps the essence of his vision and talent. There are rumors that Serj is working on another poetry book.
Daron Vartan Malakian (born July 18, 1975 in Hollywood, California, USA) is the guitarist in the Armenian-American band System of a Down, comprising vocalist Serj Tankian, bassist Shavo Odadjian, and drummer John Dolmayan. Malakian has written most of the band's music, and, more recently, has taken on a large share of the vocal and lyrical work for the band as well. Like the rest of the Hollywood-based band, he is of Armenian ancestry.
Daron was born on July 18, 1975 in Hollywood, California, USA. Malakian is an only child. At a very early age, Daron got into heavy metal music; his distant cousin played him a KISS record when he was four years old and he was hooked. Daron started listening to Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Moto"rhead and Ozzy Osbourne among others. He always wanted to play the drums, but his parents got him a guitar instead because "You can't turn the drums off." By the time he was a teenager, he got into heavier metal bands such as Slayer, Venom, Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura and Cannibal Corpse. At around 17 he started getting into The Beatles and cites John Lennon as one of his biggest influences on him as a songwriter. Daron went to Rose & Alex Pilibos' Armenian school in the Los Feliz side of Hollywood, which bandmates Serj Tankian and Shavo Odadjian also attended. Daron is still a big Slayer fan, as is band member Shavo Odadjian (bass) who sometimes wears Slayer t-shirts to shows. Also in his childhood he became a fan of the LA Kings Hockey Team
Forming System of a Down
Daron met Serj Tankian in 1993, while they both shared the same rehearsal studio in different bands. Serj was playing keyboard for a band, and Daron was playing lead guitar for another band. They formed a jam band called Soil. Shavo Odadjian then became their bassist. They later changed their name to "System of a Down", based on a poem that Daron wrote. The poem's title was "Victims of a Down" But Serj Tankian thought System was a stronger word. They then recruited Andy Khachaturian for the drums, who was later replaced by their current drummer, John Dolmayan.
Malakian now lives in Glendale, California in a home by himself; he also has families in Iraq and Iran. He sometimes visits his family in Iran but only goes there because his family is there and because of the excellent food. He also likes to collect candles, Persian rugs, Middle Eastern smoking devices, instruments, and skulls. Daron has been voted fourth best guitarist of the year by Metal Edge Magazine. Daron has stated in an interview that he hates the Nu Metal label more than anything, saying "A lot of bands followed KoRn. We're not one of those bands but I have respect for KoRn for being original. I just think itís a shame that so many people felt they had to go and mimic that. Everyone tells us we have our own sound. I think that we have enough trust in our fans from touring for enough years to know that they're expecting something different from us, which is cool because it leaves the door open for us to go anywhere we want."
Malakian co-produced System of a Down's albums with Rick Rubin, as well as The Ambulance and Bad Acid Trip (a band on fellow member Serj Tankian's Serjical Strike Records). He recently started his own label, EatUrMusic, on which Amen is the first signed band. Malakian is also involved in a project called Scars on Broadway, with Amen-singer Casey Chaos and Zach Hill from Hella and Team Sleep. In 2003 Daron Malakian played with a variety of celebrities in the Celebrity Baseball Game in Hollywood. He wrote a song about the experience, "Old School Hollywood", which appears on Disc 1 of System of a Down's double album, Mezmerize/Hypnotize.
Malakian is currently in the early stages of forming a new group "Scars on Broadway." He has stated that he's still getting the band together but some music should be surfacing by Summer 2007. . In a live performance of Hypnotize at KROQ Acoustic Christmas, Daron said "not all the money in Israel can buy this band".
In December of 2005, Daron said in an interview that he "could release ten solo records tomorrow.'". He also said, "'I have tons of material laying around. After these albums," (Mezmerize and Hypnotize) "I'm gonna go off and do something on my own, just like Serj. And no, System of a Down are not breaking up. We're just gonna do like KISS and put out our own solo records or something like that." On what direction his album will take, Malakian states: "It will probably be something electronic mixed in with traditional Armenian and thrash/death/black and doom metal influences. When, or even if, the music comes out it will still be structured, just like System of a Down's music is." This solo album, possibly named Scars on Broadway, should be launched just after Hypnotize's tour. This electronic idea was demonstrated in all 2005 concerts in which Malakian, instead of merely singing the chorus to the song Sugar or War?, as well as "Old School Hollywood" from Mezmerize, distorted his voice electronically with a Vocoder.
Daron is well-known for playing his custom Ibanez Iceman IC300, with custom graphics done by his father, Vartan Malakian. His father also did custom graphics on the 1978 Iceman, as well as making the horned bridge replacing the stopbar. He uses Gibson Burstbuckers and Duncan SH-6 Distortion pickups on all of his Icemans. The guitar was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, and he was fronting its comeback. All of the Icemans that he plays on stage have a one-of-a-kind finish and can not be found in retail, although there was a limited edition Iceman with graphics by 'Vartan Malakian' sold on eBay. He plays through 2 Marshall Bluesbreaker amps linked together to a Marshall double stack, uses Jim Dunlop Custom-made .88mm Triangle plectrums and Ernie Ball "Skinny Top Heavy Bottom" guitar strings. Daron now uses a Gibson SG onstage in most of System of a Down's recent live shows. He can be seen with his Gibson SG\Les Paul 61' Reissue in the music videos for System of a Down's "B.Y.O.B," with tailpiece in Question!, and he is seen playing his cream-colored SG in the video for "Hypnotize." When they started out, he played a black hardtail Stratocaster (which can be seen in the video War?) as well as a Carvin MTS Tube head. From System of a Down's formation, up until their third album, Steal This Album!, Daron used Drop C (from sixth string to first, C, G, C, F, A, D) tuning on his guitars. On the band's double album "Mezmerize/Hypnotize", Daron changed to Drop Db (from sixth string to first, Db, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb) tuning. (except for the tracks "Dreaming" and "Question!", which are played by Daron in Drop C, while the acoustic guitar in "Question!" was played in Standard Tuning as well.) He gave the reason for the change in tuning as to give the new songs "more kick". While in the studio Daron relies on a baritone guitar, A Les Paul Standard, a Jackson Randy Rhoads flying V, and a slew of other guitars. His amps have mostly been a Marshall super lead but has been seen with Mesa/Boogie's before.He also owns a Fulltone CLYDE Wah pedal(Seen in various live videos) and a Planet Waves pedal tuner (seen in a behind the scenes video...)
Shavo was born in Armenia as Shavarsh Odadjian lived there in his early ages before his family moved to Italy for a short while and then headed to Los Angeles, California eventually.
In his youth, Shavo used to spend most of his time skateboarding and listening to punk rock and heavy metal music. Among others, he names The Punk Angle, Dead Kennedys, KISS and Black Sabbath as his favorite bands with great influence on his future musical development.
Shavo was raised in a great part by his grandmother, after whose death he claims to have lost faith and to have stopped praying every night as he did before. He attended 'Alex Pilibos' High School in Los Angeles, an Armenian parochial school, including his future band mates Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian, although they were not acquainted at the time due to age difference.
Apart from working in a bank doing wire transfers, he also started managing Soil, the band of Malakian and Tankian in 1993 after meeting them in a recording studio, where he was recording with his own band. In 1995, Shavo became the permanent bassist of the band, which from then on called itself System of a Down.
Before Odadjian and his high school friends formed System, the band's bassist appeared on MTV as an extra in AC/DC's video for "Big Gun" from 1993's "Last Action Hero" soundtrack. He was just 18 years old. "You see me full-on," Odadjian said. "It just happened where Arnold Schwarzenegger came next to me. ... It was bad lighting, because they had more light on me than they did Arnold. And I'm watching it going, 'Whoa, dude ó I'm on TV!' It was really strange."
In addition, Odadjian is a popular DJ in the LA area, taking part in such events as the "Rock/DJ Explosion" on March 2nd 2001 at The Roxy in Hollywood, CA and collaborating with band mate 'Serj Tankian' on SerArt, the singers side project with multitalented Armenian musician 'Arto Tuncboyaciyan'. He goes by the name "DJ Tactic."
Stating himself to be a "very visual person," he has also directed music videos for System of a Down ( Aerials, Toxicity, Question! and Hypnotize), and Taproot, creating surreal atmospheres and using innovative methods in filming.
Shavo made a short cameo appearance in the 2001 movie 'Zoolander' as one of Hansel's friends. His favorite actor is Christopher Walken, and he declares to be fascinated with occultism, mainly in the form of movies.
Shavo was originally a guitarist, and claims to play guitar better than he does bass. In fact, he was the guitarist for Soil for a short period of time. Apart from playing bass, Shavo did a little bit of vocals on the song, "Bounce", with a strange high pitched voice. He usually plays bass with a pick, but he can be seen using his fingers from time to time.
Recently Shavo started side project with The Rza from Wu-Tang, they already
entered the studio and have plans for tours and even for a movie, read more
about it HERE.
The new formed band named: ACHOZEN, and so far it has 3 members, Shavo, Rza and Kinetic 9. Their first live show was at The Key Club in L.A on December 1st, 2006. The official myspace page of the new band released a bootleg video for a song titled 'DEUCES' but its been taken off later.
John Dolmayan was born in Lebanon to Armenian family. One night when he was five, he got scared and went to his parent's room and asked if he could sleep there. His parents agreed, and soon after a bullet came through the window of his room and hit his bed, where he would have been sleeping (while civil war been there). His father decided they had to move. He moved to Toronto, Canada then to Los Angeles. He has a condominium in Las Vegas where he also bought his parents a house. John's father was a saxophone player and he actually started on the drums, according to John in a recent interview, whatever talent John has is from his dad..
His unique and original style of drumming has influenced an emerging generation of drummers. More than a few critics have called his style "schizophrenic", and this has attracted a significant portion of SOAD's audience, and it's generally agreed that his talent is a large part of SOAD's appeal. John's facial expressions are famous for being constantly foreboding and angry-looking, which together with his usual smart dress sense, make him look like a Mafia member. Lead singer Serj Tankian was quoted in Kerrang magazine as always trying to make John crack a smile on stage, to which John replied that he had to make an extreme effort to keep a straight face and not get put off beat, which is sometimes not believed due to the fact that John sounds very rhythmically when it comes to his drum beats. He is known throughout the metal scene for his hi-hat to snare combo, which can be heard in such songs as Deer Dance on Toxicity, I-E-A-I-A-I-O on Steal This Album! and Question! on Mezmerize. Along with 'Joey Jordison' he is one of the only drummers in mainstream metal to use blast beats (as with Jordison, only occasionally), a death metal drumming technique which can be heard for example on the System of a Down single "B.Y.O.B."
The use of this technique and other aspects of Dolmayan's style, which like much of System of a Down's music is generally more complex and technical than that of most popular metal bands' drummers, has given him and his band a modicum of respect in the generally mainstream-critical underground metal community. John Dolmayan's drum-kit is a modified Tama Starclassic (generally with a White Silk or Brown Fade finish). The eleven cymbals are Paiste Signatures. His old setup contains 2 tom toms in front of the snare, a mounted tom and floor tom on the right, and another floor tom on the left of the snare, where a second snare would usually be. He uses a double-bass pedal with the left pedal unusually on the left of the hi-hat pedal. He has 2 splash cymbals (10" and 8") as well as a 6" bell chime mounted over the hi-hat, and an 8" bell chime to the right of his 2nd tom. He has two 18" china cymbals (thin and heavy), one on the left, one on the right. He also uses 2 timbales around the left floor tom. His new setup uses 2 basses instead of a double-bass pedal. Now he has 3 toms in front of the snare, and only one tom to the right. Most of his cymbals have moved, and so have his timbales which are mounted to align with the toms. As a burgeoning collector-comics entrepreneur, Dolmayan has many friends in the industry, and after years in the making, he finally had this completed comic book-inspired drum kit which is completely decorated in original comic art by a host of top professionals in what is possibly one of the coolest comic collectibles ever created. [for more details with photos check Here and Here]. When he first started his career with System of a Down he used a few Paiste Dimension cymbals as well as signatures. Back then some of his cymbals were 22" and 24".
Now he just uses 20" as his biggest (ride and Power Crash). In Summer 2006, right before Ozzfest tour, John told the press in several interviews his intention to make an online comic company, "I've got over 5 and a half million comics right now, and I'll probably have about 20 million comics in a year's time. But it's not really a collection. The reason I'm accumulating all these books is I'm starting an Internet-based comic-book company called "Torpedocomics". That'll be up in November 2007, probably." John said. [read more] John also, been awarded as the best Drummer of the year according to DRUM! magazine