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Serj Tankian invaded KROQ’s Red Bull Sound Space studio for a special release-week interview and performance. Lucky fans who won access to the event lined up early in a parking lot near, but not in the KROQ studios, eagerly awaiting credentials so they could catch the super intimate show. Once escorted into the KROQ building, the Sound Space is a room fitting perhaps 100 – 200 people. This is as cozy as it gets for a small show from an established artist. KROQ and Red Bull routinely live stream these concerts via their web site completely for free, so the whole word has a chance to enjoy the experience even if they’re not those few chosen to attend in person.
Today, Tankian was interviewed by KROQ DJ Stryker. Stryker pleasantly invited the crowd to ask questions during the interview process, but even he asked the audience not to dumbly ask when Tankian’s reunited band System of a Down would be doing new music (it’s been widely reported they have no plans to record or write together for the foreseeable future). During the brief interview, Tankian talked about his three other albums not-yet slated for release: one a jazz record called Jazz-Iz Christ, one a full-on orchestra-based symphony entitled Orca and the other an electronic music project with Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence inspired by British gangster films called Fuktronic. One interesting piece of information did come from the interview segment in which Tankian indicated that his label imprint Serjical Strike Records (which some of you may remember released Buckethead’s excellent Enter the Chicken album, Fair to Midland and others) will be focused entirely on releasing his musical output and none others for the near future.
After the interview segment, Tankian and his five-piece backing band the FCC (the Flying Cunts of Chaos) jumped into their all-too brief but outstanding set. Opening with “Figure It Out” from new album Harakiri, the band effortlessly jumped time signatures as Tankian alternately howled and barked, “CEO’s are the disease” and “Fuck let’s figure it out / No bullshit.” As indicated by all recent press, the new material is harder edged than Tankian’s previous effort Imperfect Harmonies, and next song “Butterfly” has the driving energy that earlier System of a Down material was famous for. New album title track “Harakiri” came next, and is a heart-felt rumination on the role of species and humans Hellbent on their own death, with Tankian wailing the lyrics, “But I believe that they are free / when their time was done.”
Elect the Dead track “Honking Antelope” came next. Unlike previous tours by Serj and the FCC, the band’s new keyboard player handled the complex piano melody whereas Tankian himself normally would front-and-center stage. Hearing that amidst the new material such as penultimate song “Cornucopia” shows just how much more the writing of his first solo album was rooted in piano than this new one is. These Harakiri songs seem worked out from more-standard guitar and bass arrangements. It’s a nice dichotomy compared to the earlier material. Tankian finishes with another Elect the Dead track, “Empty Walls” which brings the crowd to a singalong of the song’s closing, repeated refrain, “From behind those empty walls.”
And just like that, it was done and the band left the room. Like any great musical moment, it left you wanting more, and like any special free event, you only hoped it would go on a bit longer. Still, Serj Tankian has proved that his solo output is now as polished and poignant as his material with System of a Down.
“Figure It Out”
All photos by Raymond Flotat