Dear Serj, Why Are You Such An Asshole?
Anybody who knows me will know that I will be one of the first people to praise Serj Tankian’s musical talent and originality. I have always enjoyed his music with System of a Down and even enjoyed his solo work but he needs to get off of his high horse and regain some dignity with his fans. Serj is a man that has something to say about everything. He’s the first one to criticize the United States government when he hails from Armenia which didn’t even break away from the Soviet Union until I was about 6 years old. I agree that everyone is entitled to an opinion and I’m more than willing to listen to them until your opinions overrun your contribution to society. I was a big fan of his protests with Tom Morello to feed the homeless back in 2003 but since then it’s been little more than politically fueled lyrics and rants.
He has been holding the inevitable System of a Down reunion over our head for four years now as an obvious marketing ploy for what’s rumored to be a tour in the summer of 2011. All of the members of the band have expressed their distaste for each other in 2006 and the inevitable breakup that would have ensued if they continued together. Instead they are on an ‘indefinite hiatus’ and always have S.O.A.D. to fall back on as per their own words. However, when Serj is asked about the status of the band he claims that Ozzfest 2006 was the most fun he’s had touring with them and praises how quickly it went by. Each member of the band traveled to each stop of the tour on their own bus for fucks sake! The band clashed nightly improvising lyrics about their hatred for each other and complaining about the musical direction of the other members. Serj goes on to say that he doesn’t care how many albums he sells because he doesn’t want to cut his solo career short just yet. However, he markets his new album by calling attention to System of a Down fans to tell them how much they are going to love his new album. The rest of the band needs System much more than Serj does right now and they keep the fire fueled with vague Twitter updates and slight hints in interviews, while Serj sticks to his all about me course.
I have had the privilege of seeing System of a Down as an opener for Metallica in 2000 a year before they cashed in with Toxicity and was thoroughly impressed by their show. I will say I have not had nearly the same feeling when I left any of the three solo shows of his. My first experience was at Earthday Birthday in 2008, a radio festival in Orlando that I was working at for Capitol Records. His live set wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t anything particularly memorable to me. When the rest of the band shuffled offstage after their set and to their bus, Serj hid behind the stage until a car came to pick him up. Aside from the bands themselves, there were only about thirty or forty employees, roadies or contest winners backstage and he couldn’t walk to and from the stage. Kid Rock and his crew sat beneath a tree playing cards and drinking beer at one point in the day and guess what, nobody bothered him. Granted, if I wanted to talk to Kid Rock, I’d just find any trailer park in Orange County and pick out the drunk, horny guy with no shirt yelling “show me yer titties!” but I’ll save that rant for another day. The following day I had to work almost an identical radio show called Rock Fest in Tampa. That day I was determined to meet Serj once and for all since I was always a fan of his music and just wanted to shake his hand and tell him that I enjoyed it. I told my father about my dealings the day before since he was with me that day and he decided that we’d accost Serj right before he went onstage and was with the rest of the band. We let them finish their meeting and my loud, overbearing father made sure to walk in and introduce both me and himself to Serj. He gave us the most insincere smile like a foreigner who didn’t know English as he signed my backstage pass and shook our hands before going back into his shell of being in his own little world. I was satisfied to have met him but felt like he couldn’t give two shits about his fans based on his personality. I let it slide and figured that maybe I just caught him at a bad time. Backstage in Tampa was much more relaxed than the day prior with some of the opening bands even leaving after their sets. Aside from my father and myself there were about ten employees, three radio station DJ’s, two butt ugly groupies and two kids who were the sons of an employee that were no older than 15 or 16 who had been pining away all day to meet Serj. As Serj’s set ended the skies were a dark grey and backstage was so quiet you could hear a pin drop if it weren’t for the fans on the other side of the stage. Serj saw one thing he didn’t like however – those two kids with a Sharpie in hand and an adoring look on their faces. He flat out sprinted 75 yards across a field to his bus to get away from those two kids wanting an autograph. The kids naively calmly walked to his bus still holding out hope. About twenty minutes later, Serj’s P.R. man emerged to apologize and tell the kids that Mr. Tankian is ‘too dehydrated to sign any autographs’. I could understand if there were a group of adoring fans waiting for him and his bus was publically accessible but that wasn’t close to the case. Maybe it’s just me expecting too much because I’ve seen everyone from Mikael Åkerfeldt, to Max Cavalera to Brent Hinds when he’s tripping balls and thinks Pompano Beach smells like cheeseburgers stop and acknowledge every fan that they encountered. I put my distaste for his personality aside though and figured I’d give him one more shot when I flew out to Dallas for the lone Ozzfest date in 2008. It became obvious that a stadium full of people wanted to know why the hell he was onstage between the Dimebag Tribute and Ozzy. So instead of stepping up the intensity of his show, he did what any asshole would do and began mocking the crowd until he was being booed by sections of Pizza Hut Park.
Serj still makes quality music and there’s no taking it away from the man, but I feel like his personality discredits a lot of what he does now. As a solo act he has become a commodity that most people see once and have had their fill when they realize he doesn’t play any System songs live. As a person, most people have had their fill of Serj and his moody, flip flopping interviews which always includes him sidestepping the inevitable reunion questions just like that of any given politician that he loathes. There could be a reader or two that has had great experiences with Serj, and I’d personally love to hear them to renew a little bit of faith in the guy. I know that a lot of people met him at various Ozzfests at the FYE signing tents where bands all slap on a smile and thank you for finally lining their pockets with album sales because holy shit you didn’t download it, so I want some kind of renewed faith beyond that. Call me an asshole or jealous because I’m not rich or famous like him, but I just want someone to tell me that I’m wrong on this.