Serj Tankian (Armenian: Սերժ Թանգեան) (born August 21, 1967 in Beirut, Lebanon) is a Lebanese-born Armenian-American singer, songwriter, poet, activist, and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known as the lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist of the alternative metal band System of a Down. In 2002, Serj and Tom Morello co-founded a non-profit political activist organization, Axis of Justice. During his entertainment career, he released five albums with System of a Down, one with Arto Tunçboyacıyan (Serart), and also recently a solo album, Elect the Dead, on October 23, 2007.


Early life and career

Tankian was born on August 21, 1967, in Beirut, Lebanon. He and his family immigrated to Los Angeles in 1975. He took flute lessons as a young child. He earned a degree in Marketing and Business from California State University, Northridge and started his own software company before beginning his music career. In 1993, he founded the band Soil (not to be confused with SOiL) with Daron Malakian, Domingo Laranio, Dave Hakopyan, and later, Shavo Odadjian. Two years later, in 1995, after one supposed jam session recording and one live show, Dave and Domingo left. Shavo (who went on to become the bass player) brought in drummer Andy Khachaturian. This part of the group then named themselves System of a Down.

SerjTankian-06-big During System’s days, he sang 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 songs We Are One, Coma, and Waiting Here. 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 Tunçboyacıyan, an Armenian friend of Tankian’s.

More recently, he sang with Les Rita Mitsouko on the song “Terminal Beauty”. Also, he sang with the band Fair to Midland during a live improvisational version of their song “Walls of Jericho”, from the album Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True, which was a massive hit with fans. He often collaborates as well with his close friend, director Diran Noubar on various projects, including the voice-over of Noubar’s “Armenia, a Country Under Blockade”. Noubar played some guitar on Tankian’s Elect the Dead album on the track “Saving Us” and directed the music video for “Baby”.

Tankian is also very involved politically. Together with Tom Morello, he founded the organization Axis of Justice. Tankian has a secondary (vacation) home in New Zealand. There has been a misconception that he intends to stay in New Zealand until the Iraq war is over, but as stated in an interview, Tankian has no intention of doing so. Tankian often speaks publicly against violence and injustice in the world.


System of a Down
  • 1998: System of a Down
  • 2001: Toxicity
  • 2002: Steal This Album!
  • 2005: Mezmerize
  • 2005: Hypnotize
  • 2003: Serart
Axis of Justice
  • 2004: Concert Series Volume 1
  • 2007: Elect the Dead
  • TBA: second studio album

Collaborations/soundtrack contributions


Performing and/or writing

  • 1999: Limp Bizkit featuring Serj Tankian – “Don’t Go Off Wondering” (Demo) – Demo for Significant Other
  • 2000/2006: Hed PE featuring Serj Tankian and Morgan Lander – “Feel Good” – Broke and The Best of Hed Planet Earth
  • 2000: Tony Iommi featuring Serj Tankian – “Patterns” – Iommi
  • 2000: Snot featuring Serj Tankian – “Starlit Eyes” – Strait Up
  • 2001: Dog Fashion Disco featuring Serj Tankian – “Mushroom Cult” – Anarchists of Good Taste
  • 2003: Serj Tankian – “Bird of Paradise” – Bird Up!: The Charlie Parker Remix Project
  • 2004: Saul Williams – “Talk to Strangers” – Saul Williams
  • 2003: Kittens for Christian featuring Serj Tankian – “Had a Plan” – Privilege of Your Company
  • 2005: Buckethead featuring Serj Tankian – “We Are One” – Enter the Chicken and Masters of Horror Soundtrack
  • 2005: Buckethead featuring Azam Ali and Serj Tankian – “Coma” – Enter the Chicken
  • 2005: Buckethead featuring Shana Halligan and Serj Tankian – “Waiting Hare” – Enter the Chicken
  • 2006: Deftones featuring Serj Tankian – “Mein” – Saturday Night Wrist
  • 2007: Les Rita Mitsouko featuring Serj Tankian – “Terminal Beauty” – Variéty
  • 2007: Serj Tankian – “Bug Theme” – Bug Soundtrack
  • 2007: Serj Tankian and Petra Jolly – “Innermission” – Bug Soundtrack
  • 2007: Serj Tankian – “The Essenece of Tequila” – Stranglehold
  • 2007: Serj Tankian – “Chicakong” – Stranglehold.
  • 2007: Wyclef Jean featuring Serj Tankian and Sizzla – “Riot (Trouble Again)” – Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant
  • 2008: Praxis featuring Serj Tankian – “Sulfur and Cheese” – Profanation (Preparation for a Coming Darkness)
  • 2008: Serj Tankian – “Beethoven’s C***” – Rock Band.
Live Performances
  • 1999: Fear Factory featuring Serj Tankian – “Cars”
  • 2000: Incubus featuring Serj Tankian – Live Improvisation
  • 2000: Metallica featuring Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian – “Mastertarium” (“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” part)
  • 2003: Metallica featuring Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian – “Creeping Death” – Reading Festival 2003
  • 2006: Buckethead featuring Shana Halligan and Serj Tankian – “Waiting Hare”
  • 2007: Tool featuring Serj Tankian – “Sober” (improvisational version) – Big Day Out 2007 (Auckland only)
  • 2007: Fair to Midland featuring Serj Tankian – “Walls of Jericho” (improvisational version) – Coachella 2007
  • 2007: Foo Fighters featuring Serj Tankian – “Holiday in Cambodia” – 2007 MTV Video Music Awards
  • 2008: The Nightwatchman (acoustic) featuring Serj Tankian – “Lazarus on Down” – Big Day Out 2008 (Auckland only)
  • 2005: M.I.A. – “Galang” (Serj Tankian Remix) – Galang ‘05
  • 2006: Dredg – “Ode to the Sun” (Serj Tankian Remix) (Unreleased)
  • 2006: The Notorious B.I.G. – “Who Shot Ya?” (Serj Tankian Remix) – Marc Eckō’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure


  • In 2005, they won for System of a Down the award for Best Alternative Act in the Europe Music Awards
  • In 2006, System of a Down won their first Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for “B.Y.O.B.”
  • In 2006, they won the “MTV Good Woodie Award” for their song “Question!”.
  • In 2006, they were #14 on the VH1 Top 40 Metal Songs with “Toxicity”.
  • In 2007, they were nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Hard Rock Performance for their song “Lonely Day”.


  1. Serj Tankian, MTV
  2. Stereo Subversion – Meaningful Music Exists
  3. SERJ TANKIAN Paints Grim Picture With ‘Sky Is Over’
  4. Two Hard Rockin’ Compilation CDs Set for Release This Fall. NY Rock. Last accessed November 04, 2007.
  5. Serj To Appear On New Praxis Album, by “pwned”, SOADFans.com, 8 March, 2007
  6. Diddy Joins Ecko in Getting Up. IGN. Last accessed November 09, 2007.