Lock the gate. All right, let's do this, how are you? What the fuck is what the fuck buddies? What the fuck? Brothers and sisters, how's it going? I'm Mark Marinus, my podcast. I'm not winded. Maybe I am. Maybe I'm a little winded.
Serj Tankian is on the show today. He is the lead singer of System of a Down. He also works with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, as well as on his own solo stuff.
He's an outspoken activist on human rights issues and there's a new documentary about him called Truth to Power.
Now, I came, as many of you know me. Which many of you do, I'm not a metal guy, I appreciate the metal, some of it, the metal IBSA work, I like all kinds of music, but I hypnotized, mesmerized with those two records I remember listening to.
I don't remember which one came out first, but I listen to the shit out of it. I don't remember who turned me on to it or what year that was. It seems like a while back, but I was definitely aware of system of a down. I knew they were intense. I knew they meant fucking business.
And I also knew as time went on that they were Armenian. I knew about Serge a bit, but when I got the opportunity to watch this documentary was like, holy shit, this guy's got big balls, man.
He walks the walk, this guy on an activist wave. I also realized in as many of us do about things, about stuff, about places other than our own place.
I don't know much about it. I don't know anything about Armenia, really. And I live among the Armenians now. And I was curious.
I mean, I could have read a book. I looked at a wiki page, but yeah, you know, somebody like Serge who has been doing activism around. A while back, changing the political system of Armenia to a more democratic situation and then to get the recognition to elevate the recognition of the Armenian genocide globally, especially the United States.
But Serge had a profound impact on on the politics of modern day Armenia.
And he's a metal dude, but he means business also.
This is so work. But I wanted to be schools. I wanted to learn. I wanted to know about the Armenian experience in America and in Armenia and what's happening.
And I and I that's I asked Serge and he schooled me. And I appreciate it. In other news, I'm going to get a vaccine, I'm going to use my vulnerability to death, my vulnerability to death, to to get a vaccine, got a little bit of heart disease going on. Why not use those things for a positive? Hey, man, look, I got a lot of things slowly killing me.
I'd rather not go out with the covid.
Can you hit me, hit me, hit me with that faizi. Hit me with that murden that. Give me that Jay hit me. Hit me, hit me with your rhythm stick. Hit me, hit me. What is that? Where did that come from? I'm set up, I'm going to it's going to happen. Going to get the vaccine. Everyone should get the vaccine. I don't understand vaccine resistance.
I do. I just don't get it. You know, it used to be polio and measles and stuff. Right? We all know that. Right. Look, I.
I understand in in a gut way, like, you don't want to need the vaccine, but, you know, sometimes you've got to take a hit for the herd. That was back when democracy was popular. Now, there's a growing contingent in this country of outright authoritarians and psycho libertarians bordering on fascist and strange militia groups that, you know, in order for somebody to be sympathetic to the idea of the herd in a broad way, in a democratic way, you have to believe in it.
Get your shot if you can get it, however you can.
So, look, folks, do you wish you could get live sports, breaking news, any mountain of entertainment all in one place, do you? Who doesn't? Well, now you can. That's right. Paramount Plus isn't just another streaming service because it's got something for everybody. You can go straight from game day to movie night with Paramount.
Plus, it's where you can dove into live sports from CBS, including the NFL, March Madness, the Masters and Champions League Soccer, plus hit shows from CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Smithsonian Channel and Comedy Central, plus iconic movies and exclusive original series like Star Trek, Picard, The Good Fight and the Stand, not to mention a ton of family entertainment like Paul Patrol, Blue's Clues, Dora the Explorer and New Paramount, plus originals like the Sponge on the Run Movie and Camp Coral and over 200 SpongeBob episodes.
Whether you're catching up on your favorites or discovering your next binge worthy obsession, Paramount plus is the streaming service where you can find all the things you want to watch.
From live sports to breaking news and from original series to family favorites, you can connect to what you love without missing a beat. Go to Paramount plus dotcom slash WTF and try it for free. Yeah.
I got the new kitten, I got the new kitten coming, a new kitten moving in tomorrow. Sammy, Sammy the kitten I got I got one of his first IGY appearances not moving.
Just this is still shot me and Sammy on the couch.
Being our own things, being our own beings, being our own individuals is now five weeks and change old between five and six weeks old.
We've been bringing him over here kind of like wait and buster. Look at them. Letting them each other with Sammy at this stage doesn't seem to give a fuck about Buster Sam.
He's just trying to figure out how to get a sense of depth, depth perception, how to jump off a chair, how to eat solid food. How do you trot around how to respond to things that are moving?
Yeah, so, of course, Buster hisses and Sammy doesn't even acknowledge it.
But I remember when Buster was a strange little kitten and he lived around my old cats for years, most of Buster's life, he spent as the kitten among the old cats.
And now he's the older cat with the kitten. But certainly Sammy doesn't give. He doesn't seem to even notice Buster Buster seems irritated, but not hostile. I think it's going to work out. And I was petting Sammy with Sammy Little Red. Sammy, Sammy Red. On my chest, and he began to shit, so I think that brought us together, he he began to to shit on my shirt and we got him off of me. But I, I see that as a bonding moment.
I don't know if Sammy will remember it, but not unlike Monkey used to do when he shit on the rug, he was looking directly at me.
Nothing better than a cat looking at you as he shits on your stuff, even on your, on your being cats. Don't you love cats. Do they like you? Probably not. Do you think they do sometimes.
Do you love them? Yes. So Sammy the cat. Sammy, the kitten will be here tomorrow if all works well, he seems healthy. He's got a couple of his shots.
Got to get the rest of the shots, get em checked out, make sure he's not a a 40 tike.
But now, you know, I'm already Atash and now I can be fucked up and I'm going to ride that out, I just, you know, it's stuff with the pets. It's been a rough year for me with pets and people passing. Certainly didn't expect one, but with the pets, you kind of know it, so now like there's part of me, it's like, oh, kitten, they're great. Now I get to watch him die if I'm lucky.
If I live that long, is that a bad way to look at it feels like it isn't. It is right.
We're turning a corner, people, and as we all get back to our ways of life, we're going to have some time on our hands.
And taking trips to the post office is probably not how you want to spend your time. That's why I recommend mailing and shipping online at Stamps.com. Stamps.com allows you to mail and ship any time anywhere right from your computer, send letters, ship packages and pay a lot less with discounted rates from USPS ups and more. Yeah, we've been using Stamps.com for a decade and it just makes sense.
With Stamps.com you can use your computer to print official U.S. postage 24/7 for any letter, any package, any class of mail, anywhere you want to send it. Then just schedule a pick up or drop it off, give it to your mail person. With Stamps.com, you get discounts up to 40 percent off post office rates and up to 62 percent of ups shipping rates. Stop wasting time going to the post office and go to Stamps.com instead. Would you come on, do it.
There's no risk with our promo code. WTF, you get a special offer that includes a four week trial plus free postage and a digital scale. No long term commitments or contracts. Just go to Stamps.com, click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and type in WTF that stamps.com promo code. WTF Stamps.com never go to the post office again. Never go that up. I was office again.
I really on a day to day basis, don't know whether we actually do survive as a democracy, as a country, and when things happen, like what happened in Atlanta the day before yesterday, a racist massacre.
By radicalized. Mentally ill person. Who probably sees himself as a martyr and will be seen as somebody. Who inspires racial violence? And the fact that that is escalating. Is. Not. Going in the right direction. But hopefully in the next few years, we can really get a clear assessment. Of how much of that momentum is happening, God knows, the last four years, we all know which members of our family are part of it. And how big the voting block is for.
anti-Democratic thinking. And shameless fascism, but there's violence, the terrorist arm. Of the radicalization. Of mentally ill people. And people filled with hate. Is. Definitely happening, and it was interesting for me to talk to Serge, who, you know, I don't know how active any of you are, how active we all are. You know, we I guess most of us want to do our part.
And, you know, some people would consider me not as progressive as I should be or not as active as I should be or not doing enough.
But I do what I can, I try to give voice to things. But, you know, when you're an American and you you look at yourself in relation to that and what you can do and what you're willing to do and with your life, big questions.
And also, you know, what information are you reacting to?
But Serge had a very specific action and an hereditary action and a and an action that goes back to where his family comes from.
You know, he sought to fight for.
The recognition of the Armenian genocide by the world, by the United States government, he also fought to protect his homeland from an ongoing kind of oligarchical corrupt governmental structure and inspired a new generation of political radicalization through nonviolent means, mostly in Armenia.
And that was. And he's an American Armenian. It was inspiring, made me feel like I don't do enough. But it was certainly a trip talking to him. He's in a there's a new documentary about his his life called Truth to Power.
It's available on demand and in virtual cinemas worldwide. This is me talking to Serge Tankian.
Hello, sir. It sounded like you were just having sex and I was like, wow, this is exciting. Yeah, it's a good way to start a good start. Yeah, I'm almost finished. Just just hang out a minute. Oh, good, good, good. Yeah, I'm just trying to get set up. I'm glad you finished.
Yeah. Why do you want to be rude and be doing that in the middle of everything. Why is everything tangled up. Hold on. Oh my God.
Jesus Christ. OK, nice to meet you, mate.
Nice to meet you too, brother. Yeah. Oh, my God.
How are you, Ben? I'm OK. Where are you? Which location? Which bunker are you in Los Angeles.
In my studio. Are you in the studio. Do you. Do you live. Do you live here all the time.
Part of the year. Part of the year in New Zealand. See like what's that.
When did you do that New Zealand thing. When did you do that. First time I went was in two thousand on the big day out tour. Fell in love with the place and kept on going back. Two thousand six. I got residency. You got a place there and have been going back and forth playing ping pong every year. So we were there during lockdown, which was a whole different experience than being here in L.A.. Way different.
Well, what what what compelled you then? Was it the same? Sort of. Did you know at that time in 2006? Because I know you've been on the pulse of the end of the world for a long time.
Were you like, we better we better get to we want to get we want to be in the place where the world ends last?
Well, you know, there's there's a certain aspect of the politics that New Zealand's a great place in many, many ways. Obviously, ecologically, it's not the perfect place, but it's everything. You know, the water is still clean. And as far as fishing, the air is clean, everything's organic. And, you know, all farming is done locally. You know, there's there's a there's a whole wholesomeness to New Zealand that sense ecologically, politically.
It's quite smart and lenient. It's a real democracy. Yeah. I tell you that we don't have K Street lobbying firms.
They don't have the Electoral College, they don't have super PACs, they don't have PAC money.
That helps, you know, and good. You know, they've had good leadership overall during the pandemic. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, she was very communicative. She was very on point. She told people not to panic. You know, when we had the toilet paper stuff going on in in the US and everyone was freaking out, grabbing too much toilet paper. Yeah, she got on television and she said, you know, we have a beautiful little toilet paper plant on the South Island.
We're never going to run out. So please don't let's not embarrass ourselves as well, you know, that kind of thing.
It was very, very charming, very funny.
Don't freak out about the toilet paper thing. Yeah, yeah.
And people people responded. But there's also something else that I think explains the New Zealand situation besides the non-porous borders. Obviously, it's an island. Everyone's like it's an island douche bag, you know, like that's why, you know, it's not just that. It's also because of personal responsibility. There's still some type of collective responsibility and understanding by people saying that, OK, we have to do what's best for the country. If that means staying home, then so be it.
We have to do what's best for the country. So if that means putting on a mask, then so be it.
So you mean there's grown ups there, there's grown ups, there's rational adults there who who aren't brainwashed, fucked and so easily so well put, so easily misunderstanding the the idea of liberty and freedom.
Exactly. But look, man, I mean, I'm glad to talk to you. I got to be honest. I like in terms of system like I jumped on I would say, like the two big records were mesmerized, hypnotized.
I was like, I listen to the hell out of those records. I'm not a metal guy. So I wasn't there at the beginning of the song. Right of you. We'll take you anyway.
Yeah, but I am curious, you know, when I watched the doc as well. But I'm curious, like, I think that you are not just, you know, a I think you seem to be a real a bonafide ambassador to Armenia.
In some respects. It's not you're not just by proxy. You're by the prime minister invited you there at the turn of the revolution. So I think that that means you are an actual ambassador to Armenia. A cultural one.
Yeah, a cultural ambassador. Yes. I live among your people and I'm mad and upset at myself.
I don't know more. OK, and I you know, and it's one of those things as an American, an entitled American, I guess, and also as a Jew, I on some level that my histories are fairly specific. And it seems that, you know, lately in the last few months, there's been quite a crisis in Armenia that, again, I'm not educated about. And even reading about it, I'm not entirely clear on. But I do know because of the neighborhood I'm in that there's some trouble, right?
Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
So last year and a lot of people don't know this, so it's important to discuss last year in. September on September twenty seven, the combined forces of Azerbaijan, Turkey, along with Syrian mercenaries that Turkey brought in to Azerbaijan, attacked Arza is a an enclave that was historically Armenian for twenty five hundred years. Yeah, it was under Russian protection in the eighteen hundreds, early nineteen hundreds. It was given by Stalin in nineteen twenty causer Baojun during the Soviet Union.
But the people lived as an autonomous oblast, which means they ran their own affairs, they had their own government, they lived there freely. There were Azeris living there as well. And in surrounding areas. NRD Azeris like from Azerbaijan. I was there Johnnys. Yeah. So in the 90s when the Soviet Soviet Union collapsed, all of these countries proclaimed independence. Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ukraine, like all these former Soviet republics, proclaimed independence. At that time, these Armenians living there also proclaimed independence.
Now, ninety five percent of the population there in that area was Armenian. So the resolution passed for independence because Azerbaijan controlled the territory. They reacted angrily and came down with oppressive measures against Armenians. So there were these pogroms and killings and all this stuff which led to an independence movement. In nineteen ninety four, the Armenian Defense Forces took over Gaza along with security buffers in that area. So they've been running their own affairs for twenty seven years. And then, lo and behold, during the pandemic, Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, a major NATO army, attacked that enclave with just, you know, everything they had.
A lot of people died. A lot of people were displaced. About one hundred and forty thousand people. Oh, my gosh.
From Gaza. Yeah. This is a couple of months ago. This is a couple of months ago. It started in September. In early November, a cease fire was signed and Russian peacekeeping troops entered the area. And they've been trying to keep the peace since the cease fire was basically predicated upon the Armenian leadership. The Armenian prime minister. This is your guy, your buddy. This is this is. Yeah, this is an Eagle Pass. And who led the revolution?
And, yeah, a friend. These guys were a small defense force fighting, you know, a bigger nation and then backed up by even a bigger nation and two thousand Syrian jihadist mercenaries. There was no chance. Oh, my God.
So this is this is this is a Turkish incentive again. Yeah. The Turks gave Erdogan gave whatever support that the president, the dictatorial president of Azerbaijan wanted. And so they they had the backbone to actually do it. And they did it during a pandemic. They committed war crimes. There were banned phosphorous, white phosphorous, weapons dropped over people, over nature. You know, they were bombarding civilian territories the whole time, daily day in and day out.
It was it was horrific. So as Armenian Americans, we all galvanized in trying to raise funds for humanitarian support, in trying to get media support because, you know, when Azerbaijan attacked, they didn't just attack with military weapons, they attacked with propaganda. This information, social media bots, as you would these days, apparently, you know, there was a false kind of equality narrative in the press saying that, oh, no, Armenian attacked us.
And they were like, no. I mean, you came to us and attacked like we were just there.
And also here, nobody really knows. So, you know, it's a problem.
We're going through elections. We're going through elections, to be fair. And the pandemic.
And so, look, they pick the time that they knew that the world was going to be this track. So where is it at now? It's pretty horrible because Azerbaijan still holding people is Armenian people. Even the Armenians released all other people. They're using it as a tool of divisiveness and kind of creating chaos within the governing system of Armenia. So, you know, there's protests in Armenia. There's a lot of divisiveness, a lot of anger, a lot of grief.
It's a shame because the twenty eighteen peaceful velvet revolution was a unique thing that, again, most Americans don't really know. That really was incredibly special because not only not a single person died and an oligarchic corrupt system was replaced by a progressive democracy, but also it was the first time that decentralized civil disobedience was used as a tool of revolution. Yeah.
Let's talk let's let's get let's come back around to that, because you were sort of an intricate part about both an inspiration and action. So when it seems to me that you're like when you were younger and you're still pretty intense, but you're not as intense as I thought you would be immediately, for some reason when I met you, I thought, like, oh, my God, it's going to be intense.
It's going to be earnest and it's going to be yeah. Yeah, it's going to be this is going to be like I'm just going to stay on my toes here. I was thinking the same about you. Oh, come on. So come on, you you interviewed Obama. Give me a break. Like I have to be on my point. Oh, yeah. He was very casual, you know, but your parents are both Armenian from Armenia, not from Armenia.
My dad was born in Syria, my mom from from Lebanon. My grandparents were survivors of the genocide. So they split.
They left, and they they ended up in these different places. That was nineteen fifteen. Is it correct?
Yeah. Where were you born? I was born in Lebanon. I was born in Beirut, seven years old. We migrated to L.A. when the Lebanese Lebanese civil war started. I grew up in Los Angeles.
Where did you live when you came? And Wilshire area that where was the original and the Armenian enclave?
Hollywood. Hollywood. Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah. Little little Armenia, which is Hollywood main Hollywood area. So that's where we first lived then in the valley, mostly back and forth in different places in the valley, never Glendale. I never lived in Glendale.
Know a couple of my band members live there, but so someone must have lived in Glendale. Some relative. Yeah. Oh yeah. Someone must have lived there. And then they all lived there like, hey, come to Glendale. That became the thing. Yeah.
Well I mean maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me not unlike the the Jews who came over at different points in time, you start off in one place all together, and then as you gain status or or economic status, you know, you move to the suburbs to a degree. And I would have to think that's what Glendale was growing aspirations. Yeah, pretty much.
It started out in little Hollywood, little Armenia and Hollywood and then moved out to Glendale. It became a more, you know, suburb kind of living in community. And there's still a lot of Armenians in the valley as well in North Hollywood and all over.
Yeah, they all it seems like many came to Los Angeles area. Do you know why that is?
You know, originally the Armenian community was actually settled in Fresno because of agriculture and also on the East Coast in Boston. We had a lot a lot of our means in Watertown. But later, the migrations after the eighties, you know, and when Armenia first became independent in nineteen ninety one from the Soviet Union, a lot of people came to Los Angeles area. Yeah.
And when you got here, you spoke only Armenian.
When I got here, I spoke mostly Armenian, a little English and a little Arabic because I was born in Lebanon.
And then you went to you went to an Armenian school? Yeah, I went to an Armenian private school from third grade till the end of high school. Then I went to Cal State Northridge, got my degree from Northridge.
Now, my question is like, what were the expectations?
Because talking to people that come, you know, first generation, you know, you know, wanting to to to make a go for themselves in America, what were the expectations out of, you know, from your parents in terms of what they wanted you to do or what you thought you should do?
How did you develop the original chip on your shoulder search?
Oh, that's what you mean. OK, I'll get to that.
As far as my parents, I mean, they were in survival mode when they came. You know, they didn't come with much money at all and they were just trying to make a living and to get by. They made sure that we got a good education, which was very important to them, and that we that we respected and retained our heritage as well, cultural heritage. So that was important to them. As far as the chip on my shoulder, as you call it, I became an activist because of the kind of weird taboo position of the Armenian genocide within a well known democracy like the U.S..
But when did you become aware of that? Because like it seems to me that you started with your education, but, you know, you were going a different direction. Oh, yeah. You didn't start with music.
No, I didn't. I didn't start with music. I was I started playing music while I was in university, just got a little keyboard and as a way of relaxing. And then I started getting, you know, join the band. It's still not very seriously graduated university with a bachelor's in marketing, started working in the jewelry industry with my dad. I had work sorry with my uncle, had worked with my dad in the shoe industry. I created a software company and ran a software company for years.
I did many interesting things and I even ran a car wash while I was in university. But at one point I realized that music is my calling. It was a huge awakening, an epiphany, if you will. How did that happen? Well, I was I was working in downtown with my uncle in the jewelry industry, and at nights I was taking these Kaplin classes in Long Beach so I can learn how to take the LSAT to be, to be to get into law school.
You can be a lawyer. Look, I know, but yeah, you can see me as a lawyer. Yeah, I could. But, you know, I'm a left brain right brain person as you are, like, you know, you can do your logical stuff and be creative at the same time. So so I thought, yeah, OK, I could do law school. I was dealing with a lot of attorneys at the time for for my parents' affairs and stuff like that.
And I hated it. I just going through these Kaplin classes and seeing all these people that were enthused about doing law, I just fucking it. I always say that I had to go to the outer ends of who I shouldn't be to admit to myself who I really am. And that's when I had an epiphany. That music was my calling.
But that's like but it just feels to me that the pressure on, you know, sort of first generation people to to succeed in a way that is accept the. In the community that is acceptable to your parents, that that makes sense on paper to to talk to them and to you, it seems that a lot of people do what they think they have to do and they just suck it up.
And it's it's it seems to me that, you know, that to make that decision to follow this calling and like, you know, you talk in the documentary a lot about this this Armenian song, the Stork song, you know, that that that kind of hangs over the whole thing, which I think is sort of beautiful.
But but so you didn't really know you weren't playing, you know, in a band. I mean, you didn't have any indication that music.
Would that go anywhere? No, I didn't.
I just knew that that was my calling. So I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to it and just just, you know, learned and played. And I enjoyed it. But who are you? Who were your guys?
I mean, like, what were you listening to? I mean, to end up where you did because I mean, it turns out that like, you know, system of a down, you're just by nature of the form. I mean, metal is one thing and you know, and how it borders on on punk is another thing.
But but there's something lyrically exotic because of the Armenian melodies that are intrinsic to all you guys.
Bravo. Well put. Well put. Yeah, there is. There is there is that flavor that we have that, you know, whether we're going through a song that, you know, is a mishmash of punk and whatever it is. Yeah. We've got our own kind of folky kind of addition to that from from our heritage that that is definitely a trademark.
It's kind of wild because I think it seems like it's just in there. It doesn't seem it seems like there's it's effortless because like, you know, we'll get back to the influences. But I mean, there's a weird beat, a different beat, like a lot of the metal guys, you know, try to get away from blues based anything. So, you know, you get it. You get into this this other type of drive.
But there is a there's a different rhythm to to the music of the region that you come from genetically. Yeah.
And I don't know what that rhythm is, but I hear it. I used to hear it in Queens, too. It's in Greece as well. I think. Like, there it is.
Yeah. Yeah. And Mediterranean. Yeah. Right, right.
And it's a rolling rhythm that's completely different than for what, you know, forfour or anything that other metal bands were doing. And that must be. Was that the rhythm you grew up with?
You know, I we all grew up with different types of music besides, you know, rock and modern music at the time, you know? So, yeah, I mean, I grew up with Armenian beats and melodies, Arabic beats and melodies and European beats and melodies. I mean, I was exposed to a lot of stuff before we even, you know, as a kid, before we even moved to L.A. and then in L.A. in the 70s, it was BJ's and, you know, disco and so many things.
And eighties was a different type of music. I kind of became a music connoisseur as to what I was listening to. My brother was a huge music fan, and I wasn't at the time. I was in a heavy metal music listener, not a big fan of rock, my younger brother. Yeah, but he loved, like heavy music. So he played at home. And that's how I kind of caught on to heavy music. But, you know, I was just into any other types of music.
You know, it's like it's an interesting thing when you look at a person and their whole life of music listening, that tapestry of what they listen to in each decade is quite interesting based on the kind of characteristics of the music of that decade. So I remember at one point, Mark, I was I was for three months, I would binge and purge on a specific type of music, three months of hip hop, three months only death metal, the best of it, because like you naturally did it or you force yourself to do it.
I didn't force myself to do it. It just it was it was almost like I'd get into one band that I really liked and then I'd go. I've never really I've never experienced the genre before. It's like I've never eaten Indian food before. What are the best Indian restaurants, you know, that kind of a thing with music?
When do you remember first doing that?
Like what got you into rap. What got you into metal. 20S, 30s.
My, my, my brother was into metal so he got me into it first and then my guitarist Darin was really into heavy music. So he also turned me on to a lot of music.
Like which bands are you bands? God, I mean, you know, we're listening to anything from the band death example to, you know, Slayer we toured with on our first thing to, you know, I mean, heavy, heavy music, a lot of death metal music, but also rock music. You know, I mean, I didn't grow up listening to Black Sabbath, for example, or whatever it was in my 20s that I discovered Black Sabbath, not in my teens or whatever, you know, just late in life.
So I had an early music experience of another kind of mostly world music, what you would call world music. And you know what?
Not world music. So whatever that means. Right. But but it's a specific type of music. I guess it's more folky type of ethnic music would be worth. Music When you started playing, you only you were primarily a singer. No, when I when I was a horrible singer, when we first started, I primarily played keys and I wrote poetry. So I was a Wordman and, you know, keyboard man. And then I started playing some guitar.
My first band that I sang in was a precursor to system of a down called Soil with my guitar string, and we had other band members. I'm not not the current lineup of system. And it was just like this really progressive crazy metal band that served as like the the kind of part in which system of a down became, you know, cooked. And yeah, it was the original flavors and system is more kind of refined version of that.
But that's when I got my first kind of I had my first show as a singer and I had my first experience rehearsing as a singer and starting to develop my voice, which takes takes a lifetime sometimes.
And and your parents, how do they respond initially?
Well, my dad, funnily enough, was a musician. He wasn't a professional musician. And he always wanted to do music as his career. But, you know, his his dad, my grandfather passed away when he was in second grade. And so he he couldn't afford to take the risk. So he got into the shoe business and spent his whole life providing for the family, being a responsible person. Did he always plan? So he always played.
Yeah, he still plays. Yeah. Yeah. Years ago we put out his record. I produced his record under his name, which was cool or music and well arranged kind of stuff, and he was happy.
How did that go over in Armenia. Did it did it sell. Yes.
So the song bodyguard Akeel that you're referring to, the Crane song Crania is the one that I do with him. And that's how I first published that song is because I sang it on his record with him. And that's a song that he used to sing when I was young and I used to hear him and kind of sing along when I was a young kid. And so it does bring back a lot of memory.
It seems like that was sort of the the kind of launching point for your poetic mind. I mean, what is that song about? Represents something, right?
It's about missing home. It's it's about being the diasporan.
It's about having a home that's somewhere else, you know, that that you always longed for, but you're kind of estranged from and that you always want to return home some way. And I don't know if you could or can't, you know. Yeah, it's a beautiful song in that way.
It's interesting because, I mean, it's different for me. I'm a few generations down, you know, from my publisher, Ukrainian or Russian roots. Yeah. I don't know that. You know, if I went back as a you know, as a Jew to to to Russia, to Belarus, then I'm going to walk around and go like, you know, this feels like home to me.
Yeah, maybe not. Yeah, maybe not. Well is the same feeling I would have probably going to eastern Turkey, which is where my family's from. You know, we're from central to eastern Turkey, which was historical Armenia. So where my family was from wasn't where Armenia is now. Where my family from is is Turkey. Yeah. So I have never been back and I don't think I don't know what kind of feelings I would have going to my uncle, my grandfather's village that he was, you know, deported from and put on a pogrom through the desert.
I don't know what kind of feelings I would have going going, oh, this place is cool. Like, I get it.
I get what you feel. So are there no Armenians in Turkey?
There are some, but not you know, I mean, there were millions of Armenians because they were historical homelands. There's probably, I'm guessing thirty or forty thousand in Istanbul, probably based around you stumble and you're awakening.
You realized how. Just how the global politics worked in relation to admitting or acknowledging the Armenian genocide or calling it a genocide, that there was global politics involved with defining that that was being guided by Turkey's denial of it.
Correct. And when did that happen for you? When did you be like, well, this is this is fucked up? And when did the roots or your the experience of your grandparents start to affect you personally?
I was in my teens somewhere in my teens. I don't remember the exact age, but somewhere in my teens, you know, when when I saw that Congress hadn't recognized the genocide and and they were playing with this G word. And, you know, we knew that Turkey was spending millions of dollars on, you know, lobbying firms, K Street lobbying firms trying to not get the Armenian genocide recognized in the United States Congress. And I'm like, how could this be in a democracy?
Like, how could this be? How could this be happening? And that made me really, you know, look into what are the reasons, what's the history behind this denial? What's, you know, why is this happening? And that made me an activist on many grounds because I thought, shit, if this thing's not recognized for political expediency or economic purposes, because the U.S. wants to sell Apache helicopters to their NATO ally, Turkey, then how many other troops out there that are being denied because someone's profiting from it or or because of foreign policy or whatever, whatever fucked up, you know?
Yeah, I think there is that that made me an activist. Yeah.
I get it seems like ultimately an informed almost all of the system records, either specifically or in a broader way. You were pushing back against something against, you know, the sort of like Brint, the brain fucking and the mind numbing and the hypocrisy and the, you know, the the murder, the bombing, the like. There was not not too light hearted, really, and not too thinly veiled and two things. Yeah. And I think that what I see or what I can pick up is that there is a general sense of anger in a lot of metal music, but yours was rooted in something historical and it was something historical that also spoke to current conditions everywhere in terms of of of power and politics, right?
Absolutely. No. I mean, our music became my music became somewhat not all of it, because, you know, we're not like Rage Against the Machine. That's all political because we also have funny songs and songs about love and many things. But definitely a part of my music has always been socio-political, you know, because there's a certain the the the activist in me wants his say through my music, wants to say through the artist in me. Right.
And also but you know, the balance is funny songs, love songs. I mean that. I mean, there has to be some aspiration. You know, you could do the politics.
We got to fix everything because, look, we can laugh and we can celebrate life.
Yeah. And daintily, totally so.
But speaking of rage, I mean, you and Tom Morello were I mean, you somehow found yourself together or you decided to work together on something that seemed to make perfect sense.
Definitely so. Tom and I have been friends for a long time. And when we first met, it was there was an action that he wanted to do in Santa Monica, where they had come up with the local businesses, have come up with a law that you can't feed the homeless. And so we kind of got together on that topic and decided to break the law and invite media to focus on the topic that the city was trying to outlaw, feeding homeless people as a way of getting rid of them.
And so that's when we started our nonprofit organization called Axis of Justice that we had for a number of years. We had a radio show on KPFA, Pacifica Radio Network for years together and really enjoyed working with each other. We still do. He does his own activism. I do my own, but I'm very inspired by the amount of dedication he has in hard work that he puts into everything that he does.
Yeah. Oh yeah. No, and and he's he's always it seems like he's always been doing that, that I get even with even with the rage like from the beginning it seemed that's what it was about.
Always true to himself. Yeah.
So I know I didn't know about the situation in Armenia before the new prime minister, you know, took took over but but it was pretty straight up dictatorship right now.
It wasn't a dictatorship, Mark.
It was. It was actually we had free press from the beginning since nineteen ninety one. It wasn't a dictatorship, but it was more of like more of like Gangs of New York in a way like where a bunch of buddies were oligarchs, they held the monopolies. They controlled the system from back in the Russian days.
No, not, not from back in the Russian days. But most of those Soviet republics were similar in that sense that you would I mean, sometimes they'd have a dictator that stayed in place like Lukashenko, still been there from the Russian days. It was. Something like that with them, but they held on. I mean, how do I explain this? It was oligarchical. I mean, they were they were like a group of people. They all had money.
They all siphon money away from public policy. And you couldn't get a fair shake in the courts because if someone knew someone, then they would have the you know, they would have the upper hand. You could pay off cops, that kind of thing. It was basic corruption. It was basic. You know, it wasn't legalized corruption like the U.S. It was overt.
It wasn't Ertegun. It wasn't it wasn't Turkey.
No, it wasn't Erdogan. We've always had a free press. Armenians are way too opinionated to be able to withstand any type of dictator. But we were living under, you know, an unjust, corrupt system and people were leaving because they were looking for work elsewhere. They didn't get a fair shake in the country.
And when did that happen?
Because, you know, I know that you took some flak, you know, in the aftermath of 9/11 because of the timing of what was the third album release, second toxicity.
And that, you know, you were you were a political activist then. And your reaction, which wasn't incorrect, was just the timing of it, of course. Got you the attention that it did, which was who the fuck is this guy? Is he one of them? Yeah. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Exactly, exactly. So yeah. And so, you know, it's kind of funny you're mentioning this because we just got, you know, Metal Hammer just just said that toxicity was the best record of best metal record of the 20th century or whatever best rock record, which is which is huge. But all I can think about is the stress and anguish around that record, because when we released the single chop suey from toxicity, you know, the wake up grabbed us and put a little bit that song.
Right. It was crazy. I mean, the release was on the week of 9/11. They took our song off the air along with a bunch of other songs, Rage Against the Machine songs, you know, all sorts of music. And Clear Channel had censored, like the whole playlist of music, which is really weird. Looking back at it now, if you think about it. And I had written a piece called Understanding Oil that I posted to the band's website a day after 9/11, trying to try to understand what was going on, trying to kind of basically saying that, look, we've as a country, we've propped up dictators in the Middle East in the last 50 years.
You know, we you know, look look who we're supporting, how we're doing it and really asking for multilateralism in terms of going after who's responsible, not, you know, not being unilateral like George W Bush we knew was going to be, et cetera, et cetera. And, you know, it's kind of funny because now they're using it for, you know, college essay learning, like, you know, which is like 20 years later, you know.
But at the time, it was like it really put us on the edge. And the label asked us to take it off the website. The band called me in. They're like, you're a smart guy. You're trying to get us killed. What the fuck are you doing? You know? And I'm like, but it's the truth, you know?
You must have been a little scared, though. No, I was very scared. Sure. Yeah. I mean, we were getting threats, I tell you, man.
I mean, you got you definitely got big balls in terms of how you handle that. But I have to assume that, you know, you must have been out of your mind.
I don't I I'm just I'm I'm dedicated to the truth in a very naive way. And that's all I have to say. So for me, it was just like it's the truth. And I've learned since, Mark, that there are many times it's not the only time in history where you can speak truth and public opinion hasn't caught up to that. Yeah, I get that. Yeah. And you get you get flak for that. And then later in revisionist history or whatever you want to call it, you're like, oh yeah, that made sense.
That, that totally makes sense. Right. Right.
And if you're lucky you're alive and you haven't been ruined. Right. Right. You can you can appreciate your vindication. Exactly.
Well it's never vindication because what happened were, you know, the invasion of Iraq, which literally had nothing to do with 9/11, and yet they tried to make that link, WMD, all that stuff, which we now know was nonexistent. So you never really feel good unless something good happens from it.
Yeah, but but, you know, awareness is not nothing. And all of this is building your sort of, you know, personal, political and philosophical and activist capital for, you know, what you want to accomplish. Right. Right.
So when it comes down to, you know, stepping up with with your home country, with Armenia, like with system of a down popular in Armenia immediately on the first album.
No, not at all. Nobody knew who we were. And I think it was after this. I'm guessing it was after the second record, but it was also our our band's activism having to do with awareness of the genocide that really kind of touched upon the Armenian kind of heart. And, you know, you know, if I go to Glendale now, an old lady will come up and hug me. Because she listens the system of a down, but because she knows that my band and I have been working toward the recognition of the genocide for years.
She doesn't love that second album because she doesn't love that second album.
She's not she's not into metal. She's you know, it's like.
Yeah, right. So there's there's definitely that aspect of it.
But it seemed like by the time you guys go there the first time, I mean, you know, it would seem to me that Armenians would see your names and be like, look, Armenians that they would. But because it looks like by the time you got there, you know, there were thousands of people that I identified with with you and the band and the message.
True. Yeah. So that was about 20 years after we formed a band and, you know, we've been asked to go and that was the perfect time for the band to go. And it was it was an incredible, incredible feeling. That was before the revolution. It was three years before the revolution.
Yeah. So it was 2015, the the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. And the government invited the band to come and play a free show in Republic Square. Did he know what he was getting into? They did. They did. Because I you know, in 2013, I had written an open letter to the president at the time, said Sarkisyan, in kind of basically calling him out on vote rigging and, you know, you know, basically taking the elections in an undemocratic way.
And we had letters exchanged back and forth within the press openly. So I. I challenged them. And but they knew that when it came to the genocide and my dedication to my grandfather's history and the importance of the recognition that basically I would you know, we would play the show and that we would represent our nation having to do with the recognition of the genocide. And and the 100th anniversary was huge because Germany recognized the genocide. The Vatican recognized the genocide.
Officially, you know, many other countries came in to the recognition sphere. But I also had to kind of speak truth to power from stage, the truth serum, as we call it. And, you know, so when it was time I actually started, you know, started thinking of my grandparents, both of my grandparents, I felt like they were there in spirit with me. And I started just talking and basically, you know, talking about the fact that Obama had as a candidate, you know, blame George Bush for not recognizing the Armenian genocide.
But when he became president, because of the NATO links of Turkey and stuff like that, he didn't recognize the genocide properly and talked about the Armenian government at the same time and said, listen, you know, you got we got to change this. This is this is not right. There's injustice. Right.
So this is 2015. So this is long. I mean, this is years after. Mesmerized, hypnotized. So, like I mean, so by this point, all Armenians knew your band. Exactly.
So tell me that story, though, because like I thought that, you know, there was something kind of amazing about your turning away Atlantic Records when you're with that.
Oh, that's interesting. Yeah, that is an interesting story I'm trying to remember. But you you've already had a record out right here, too. Yeah, no, we had our records out. You know, I had I had I had a small imprint, a label. And I had signed this band from from Texas called Fair to Midland, really great progressive rock band.
So but it was about your imprint. It wasn't about the system of records.
It wasn't about system of a down. No. Yeah. It was about another band. And they so we signed them to to our imprint because we found them really interesting. And then we tried to get a distribution deal for them with a major label, which you would do at the time. And so there were a number of labels interested, Universal Atlantic and a couple of others. So they flew us out to New York to kind of present the band and kind of do their pitches, like take them out to dinner, schmooze, do their pitches.
Right. So each company did their pitch Atlantic, you know, had a great pitch and we had a great meeting with them. And Craig Kellman, who's a friend, he's the you know, he runs the label, still runs the label, as far as I know. And by the end of our meeting, he said, hey, you want to come in and say hi to the old man? And I'm like, old man. Oh, Ahmet Ertegun.
Yeah, the the guy that signed Zeppelin and Ray. And, you know, like all these amazing bands, like, he was a legend. Right. I'll make sure I'd love to meet him. So I went and sit down seven years.
Yeah. I mean, he's a guy man. You mean he's like did you have Ray Charles? Did everybody know. I know.
Incredible. So I sat down with him. I'm talking to him and I'm like, I'm so appreciative of what you've done, you know? Amazing. I'm so grateful. Thank you for meeting me, etc. or whatever. And then somehow it came. I knew it was Turkish, obviously, and I said, by the way, I'm Armenian and I grew up in Los Angeles and stuff and immediately goes, oh, the first person we had at our label was Armenian, almost defensively, like.
Oh, I have a black friend like that kind of a response, and I just I'm like, OK, I'm not going to put much into this, whatever. So we kept on talking, whatever. And then ten minutes the, you know, met with him and left and on my way back they had Internet on the plane and I got on and something was irking me inside and I typed his name, Ahmet Ertegun. And then I wrote the word genocide behind it.
And my jaw dropped when I saw it was that, you know, he his dad apparently was the ambassador of Turkey to the United States way long ago in the 1930s. And his dad was instrumental in holding back a film about the Armenian genocide called The Forty Days of Moonshadow by Friends Wuerffel friends. Wuerffel is a Jewish German author who had written a huge book about the Armenian genocide in the 1930s. So he convinced MGM not to put out that movie.
Is that right? He himself, Ahmet Ertegun, had paid millions of dollars to U.S. think tanks and also university chairs set up university chairs who had hired authors who denied the Armenian genocide. Wow. So he had. Yeah. So then I had to like I was like in this weird conundrum. Now I'm trying to sign this deal to a label and I'm like, how did this happen with an American band from Texas? Like, how does this happen to me?
Kind of how do I get into these things?
Now you're on you're on the integrity line now on the integrity line again, accidentally.
All right. Like, I had no idea. So now I'm like, what do I do? And the story is very interesting. We don't get into it that much in the film. But so I told my friend Chris Coleman, who ran the label, you know, I said, I'm not going to hold this against the label, obviously, because that's not fair. But I'm telling you, the pros and cons of your label, the pros and cons of the other label we're looking at.
So you're aware the band hasn't made a decision yet. I'll get back to you when they do. But when our conversation was over, I said there's one more thing that has nothing to do with business. Can I talk to you about it? He's like, yeah. And I'm like the old man. And he goes, What about the old man? I told him what happened. I put his name and the word genocide behind it and discovered all these things.
He goes, Let me look into it and call you back. I said, No, you're all good. You know? So apparently he told me later that he went into imit. Erdogan's office typed Ahmet Ertegun genocide on Ahmet Erdogan's computer. Yeah, yeah. And then listed all the stuff because Ahmet basically told Krag, how does he know all this stuff?
These are the Internet, right? Like it's public. Right. And so he did that. And then he and then he called me and he said, Ahmed wants to speak to you. And I'm like, oh, OK, cool, let's talk. So he called me. He called he calls me. And he's like, oh, you know, that was a long time ago when we started that chair. That writer is gone and all that stuff.
He even said, I believe the Armenian genocide should be recognized. I have friends in Turkey. I'm friends with the prime minister. I have a house in Turkey. All this stuff. Let's get together and talk. Why don't I fly you in? And I thought about it and I said, Ahmed, I said, listen, I'd be happy to meet with you. I got no problems in talking to you about it. But I said ultimately, my whole career has been based on telling my grandfather's story and the truth about the Armenian genocide.
If I'm to work with someone that's, you know, spent money and helped the denial of that genocide, it's going to make me look like a hypocrite. So if you want to work with me, I need a letter from you that says I, Ahmet Ertegun recognized the Armenian genocide. I promise not to publicize it unless I get I turned into an asshole.
You want to do your you and your what do you call it? You on the security deposit.
Security deposit. Right. He goes, I can't do that. And I said, well, why not? He said, because they'll burn my house in Turkey. And I said, then don't do it. I wouldn't want anything to happen to you or anyone else, like violence wise and stuff. And and he goes, let me think about it. Maybe there's another way and nothing ever happened of it. Now, to my credit, I never told a band this story until after they made a decision and they decided to go with Universal, not Atlantic at the time.
So I didn't have a problem with that.
And you didn't even have to tell them that. You don't have to tell them. Like, I got this personal problem.
It's a genocide thing and it's just a little genocide thing, right? No. Yeah, it's pretty crazy. Like some of these situations that that I've kind of just been thrown in to kind of see what I mean.
But but what a beautiful negotiation on some level that, you know, that by doing that and not just you know, it's a sign of maturity as an activist to not just act reactionary like and say, you know, fuck you fucking the records, fuck you. Right?
No, because the people who own land and records were great. Like they they were really there are really a great label.
But for him to to to meet you where you live and say, well, this is what's up. You know, I believe this now and at the time we did this. But then to ultimately say, I can't do that because of the threat to my. Livlihood to my liking, I'm not willing to do that, but that gave you an out. It gave me an out, but it's not so much the business thing I was worried about.
But it also shows what Erdogan's turkey is. And Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey, his his his turkey is very dictatorial. It's completely dictatorial. And he's got hundreds of thousands of people that he's put in jail since the coup, you know, been killing Kurds left and right. Right. Invading Syria, invading Libya, the Mediterranean, trying to drill in the Mediterranean next to Greece and Cyprus. Right. Helping another dictator invade AASA with Azerbaijan and bringing in Syrian Kurds.
They're using Syrian mercenaries as proxy armies everywhere. Now, you know, and I'm hoping I'm really hoping that Blinken and Biden put a stop to this once and for all.
And it seems that like, you know, in terms of your solo career, that, you know, outside of system and once you sort of, I think, relaxed in your own skin around your activism and actually saw progress in terms of the message and in terms of of raising awareness and doing the things that activists do and then ultimately, you know, being invited on the eve of revolution to Armenia to be there for for that success. And and then the prime minister said he sort of credited you, right, for inspiration.
He was there in the crowd. Yeah. When I met him when I went to Armenia, he was there in the crowd watching system of a down with his wife. And, you know, he told me that he thought and we saw it in the film that he said, look, if you can bring fifty thousand people out there, we should be able to bring some people to the square and change this country for the better. It gave him hope, you know, but but honestly, they you know, that was an amazing work.
The the whole revolution story of the revolution. Oh, we got a film coming out. Another film I helped coproducer and score called I Am Not Alone. It's an award winning film and it's a documentary about the twenty Eighteen Velvet Revolution in Armenia. We're going to put it out this year. And it kind of goes through the whole it shows you how the revolution happened, like from day one. And, you know, all the ups and downs, the whole storyline, it's really well done.
Same director who did Truth to Power Godinho organization. Also Director, I am not alone.
And you were talking about earlier about the the idea of the soft revolution. What what what how did that how did that tactically work? The decentralized civil disobedience.
So decentralized civil disobedience. Yeah.
So at first, you know, most revolutions that we know, like we see it in Belarus, Myanmar or elsewhere, they everyone gathers in a square large numbers. The police are there. It's either violent or nonviolent. Right. If the police react, there might be violence, a lot of arrests. This, that and that happened in the beginning. And Army has had you know, we're very outspoken people. And so we've had a protest almost every year since independence because it's either an issue based protest or whatever different things, because people weren't happy.
But they learned from these former protests that, look, if we all gather in a square, they're going to either arrest us. Right. Or there's going to be violence. And we don't want either like we don't want it to be a violent revolution. They stuck to their nonviolent, you know, theories very strongly. So they and everything they were trying failed like they were trying to galvanize people meet in a square. Not many people showed up, do this, do that.
And then they started gaining momentum as soon as they realized that people were watching the current prime minister, who was the revolutionary leader, negotiation on Facebook life. And he's like, shit, OK, so he ran and put himself in front of a bus. I mean, this is a member of parliament in Armenia, OK? He ran and put himself in front of a bus, a public bus in the middle of Central Square in the capital and refused to get up unless the, you know, told the bus to run over him if he really needs to go.
Kids saw him do that and started blocking intersections all over the country wherever they live. So you don't have to go to the capital, to the central square. You want to protest, go block your little street next to you. They started doing that. The whole country shut down, the whole country shut down. And then at that point, they had the government's attention, OK? And then they were like they took it a step further. They're like, OK, tomorrow, every bus, every truck driver in the country, wherever you are, noon, stop and honk.
The loudest noise ever made in Armenia, likely, you know, like the whole, you know, just literally violent.
Did not quiet, nonviolent, non chaotic, right? No, no hurting people.
If the police, they they told them if the police come to you, run and don't get arrested, don't fire run, but then come back and reclose the street because you've got them in numbers, you can't overwhelm you. The people are always more than the administration. Right.
But but, you know, you're sort of hoping for a non fascistic response.
Yes. And you are. And luckily, we. He had so many protests and so many previous things that the government was also wary of strong crackdowns because they've done that before and it's bit them in the ass, right. So they were careful. So but these people were also like the police are our brothers and sisters. Let's not let's not harm them. They were they took the whole Gandhi approach to the protesters. So it was a very unique thing to watch.
And, you know, as someone who is an activist, my whole life seeing something like this anywhere would be interesting, let alone Armenia, the small country of Armenia. And so they did it and it succeeded. At one point, the government officials were taking ambulances to go to their offices because they couldn't. The airport was closed. Everything was closed. They couldn't get anywhere.
They had them on their knees. And I'll let you watch the film so that you can learn the whole story. But I think there's a lot to learn from that example that can be replicated elsewhere in the world, whether it's Hong Kong, Belarus, Myanmar or anywhere, because there is a way by just using numbers in a peaceful manner to overwhelm the system. Now, obviously, it won't work everywhere. The police might be extremely violent. They might kill people.
You know, obviously, there's there's no magic formula, but there is something unique in this that that could be very useful.
Well, and it worked. And the people's will was honored. And you were invited back for the celebration back then? I landed at the airport. I remember Mark Gate as soon as we got out of the airport, the streets were full of people elated, not smiling, not happy, not rocking real where they're partying. But like beyond that, I've never seen elation in my life.
That was a unique experience. It was as if they were freed from indentured servitude of some type, you know.
Yeah. Which is a beautiful thing to see. Beautiful. I bend just to be a small part of it was was extremely exciting and it gave me a decade of extra life, I'm sure. And and just to see that change occur was was really touching. Really touching. Yeah.
When did the United States finally acknowledge officially the genocide in Armenia?
Both houses of Congress recognize that in December. Twenty nineteen.
Just two years ago. Yeah. One hundred and forty years after this happened, it happened. Yeah. Yeah.
I mean, to fairness to Congress, House of Representatives has in the nineteen seventies and eighties, not Senate, but the House of Representatives had recognized the genocide slowly but but not both houses. So it never became law really. Right. And President Reagan was the only president who's actually ever used the word genocide to talk about what happened to Armenia, you know, to Armenians. So, yeah, it's quite interesting. But now it's on the record. Now it's on the record in terms of Congress.
So we're hoping, like I said, that President Biden takes that, as you know, as official policy. And, you know, again, this would have no bearing on Turkey in terms of it doesn't mean they can't do trade with Turkey, the U.S. can't do it or whatever. It doesn't have teeth. But Turkey still pissed off because they're still denying that their ancestors committed this atrocity. You know, that the whole world knows about European Union, European Parliament, France.
You know, the whole world, majority of the world and many countries have recognized the genocide and they are still hanging on to that, that it didn't happen or it was a war. It happened during war. Everyone dies, that kind of a thing. They said the same thing about the Holocaust, didn't they, at first. You know, and the difference, Mark, is that there were no Nuremberg trials after the Armenian genocide. Right. You know what I mean?
No one was held accountable. No one was put in place. There were tribunals, military tribunals by Turkey itself who basically condemned the those that committed the atrocities in absentia. They had already fled the country to Germany, mostly Germany, Argentina, that kind that kind of stuff, just like just like after the Holocaust.
But are the names out there? Do people know who they are? Is it documented?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. A couple of them were taken out by assassins and you know, and they were yeah. They had that all fled and. But then what happened in Turkey, you know, after the war is different than what happened in Germany after World War Two. Turkey felt because because the the powers that defeated Turkey, the West, basically were there. They were in Istanbul, and now they have to deal deal with what are the repercussions, what do we do now?
Right. And President Woodrow Wilson of the US, he had a plan that was based on justice rather than based on geopolitical realities and needs of resource acquisition of the United States. So he went to the treaty at the time and basically said we need to set up a League of Nations, which is the precursor of the United Nations. He basically said the. A part of historical Armenia, which is in Turkey, should be given back to the Armenians, that the United States should act as guarantor of that land and make sure the security, that kind of thing, because these people were slaughtered, one and a half million Armenians died.
That was 50 percent of our population at that time. But Congress shot him down because Congress said everyone's interested in their oil. Why are you coming to us with this stuff? You know, because the Ottoman Empire covered Iraq. Iran, right. All parts of the Middle East, all oil, you know, Saudi Arabia. Right. Lebanon, Syria. You know, so that was all Ottoman Empire. So everyone was more interested in oil than doing a Nuremberg trial type of situation after the genocide and after World War One.
Yeah, it was a power grab in an oil grab going on.
It was. It was. So that explains why that denial was allowed to exist for 100 years. Right.
Right. Because everybody was trying to get their peace. Exactly.
Now, the solo work, it seems like like your stuff, the way you kind of branched out in the way you kind of like we're able to, you know, I mean, you guys have what you do together with the band, but it seemed like you had more orchestral and more, you know, sort of you wanted to push the envelope in a different direction, you know, not the metal direction, but, you know, something more artistic and a more purely artistic way.
And it reminded me a little bit of Zappa, you know, your your personal a huge stuff.
You're like, fuck it, man. Yeah. Yeah, I am. I am. Before his wife Gail died, I had the immense opportunity to go and with my camera guys because I always had the idea of making a film. But I didn't know what I was making a film about. I was just recording interesting experiences. But I had done a cover of Yellow Snow for Frank's birthday on iTunes years ago. And they're like, Oh, that's so cool.
Gail wants to say thank you. If you ever need anything, I'm like, I would love to come by the studio sometime. They're like, Sure, come on.
Did you record there? No, I didn't record there. No, you just took a look around. Yeah. Yeah, I took a look around at a camera guy with me and we tape the powers. Nice. Yeah, exactly. Well, Frank was very interesting in terms of I mean, he he talked truth to power to everyone and everything from hypocrisy to politics to you know, that I remember him on the Noveck show and all the video.
Yeah. Yeah. Man in that Alex Winters doc is pretty good. The new doc. Oh I haven't to watch it on Frank show. I haven't.
It's good, you know, and you know, it's like, you know, he did you know, I didn't know what to think. Yeah. And but he did he, he did a really nice job.
The interesting thing about Frank that you start to realize is that he was so, you know, kind of like possessed and inspired orchestrally, that it was almost as if, like, you know, they, you know, rock and roll, you know, forced him to speak his mind and to do this thing that he didn't necessarily really want to do just to get the freedom to do the thing that he really wanted to do.
Yeah. So like, he was like, fuck you pay me for saying, fuck you and I'm going to go write this piece of music. No one will understand, right?
Yeah. No, it's genius. Genius. Yeah. He did have some amazing orchestre. I mean he was you know, even with the rock band he added more as an ensemble that he was directing and now he was also a badass guitarist. Right. Totally, yeah.
No, he like it's just like there's just mountains of work. I'm not a full Zappa head but but like, you know, as a person and as a musician, he's totally impressive.
And especially seeing, you know, if you watched the doc and see where it was all sort of came from, you know, because him and him and Beefheart were out in Lancaster like that, like shit down out there in the desert.
In the desert, you know.
Yeah, but but you worked with an orchestra and I mean, how is that must have been like do you feel like you've done everything you want to do, create ever.
There's always some while you haven't broken yet, right. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I've worked with twenty four different orchestras. I've done a bunch of at least two dozen orchestral shows around the world. I've written a symphony called Orka and I've done a jazz record called Jesus Christ with a bunch of cool jazz, had friends and I'm mostly doing film scores as far as new releases. Besides the EP, I'm doing a lot of film scores, so I'm scoring a bunch of films, release them as soundtracks.
And that's fun because each record is a different ask. As far as the type of music. It's a different director, a different vibe. A different tone. Sure. Yeah, yeah.
And so that's collaborative and it's a different set of of it's a different type of creativity, you know. Correct. Yeah. You're working to, to, to sort of complete someone else's vision. Exactly.
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And I met some cool director friends that keep on giving me more work which is great. And so I enjoy it. I enjoy doing that. But yeah, my solo work is definitely I mean there's the rock like I have a few rock records, like harakiri elasticity elasticities more.
Iraq, my first record, the first one, yeah, yeah, that was Rock, yeah, and but then I also have orchestral stuff like imperfect harmonies and obviously Orkun my symphony and you know, just, just new boundaries and new fun stuff to try to do.
And how are you and the fellows from System getting along. Really well. Really well.
I mean we got together last year for we did two songs when the war started in, in our stuff in Armenia. We realized the need for we realized that there's a false parody in the press, like even BBC and Al-Jazeera. We're not reporting it correctly because no one was sending anyone to go under those bombs at first, you know, and to report the truth, they later went BBC specifically went. And but at first there was this. It took them a week or two and they were just saying, oh, both sides blame each other for the attacks and bullshit like this.
It's not both sides blaming, you know, one side of this act. Right? Is that right?
So, you know, and so we wanted to make it clear that there was this information, misinformation out there and that we wanted to show the truth. So we put out two songs. One is called Protect the Land, the other genocidal humanoids. We made videos for them and we released them. And it was really it really felt amazing because and we donated the proceeds to the Armenia Fund, which is a nonprofit in Armenia, dealing with humanitarian aid, et cetera, rehabilitation of soldiers.
And it felt really good to do something above and beyond ourselves.
And that made us get together creatively to kind of just and it wasn't important whether, you know, this song is perfectly in this thing or this will sound better. It was more like, do you have a song for this? Great. Let's fucking record it. Let's put it out next week. Like, let's you know as well the label. What do we do? Do we have to call the label. Yeah, technically we do. You know, like well tell them we're releasing it with or without them because this is for our people.
Fuck that. You know, so it was one of those where just like boom, you know, the inertia was so strong that we just hit land and landed really well.
It landed really well.
It broke No one. It broke through some of the disinformation, which we actually have reports from, you know, seeing that kind of stuff. And people responded really well. And Armenians in Armenia were really enthused because they didn't feel like they were alone, you know, like they felt like people cared. You know, that's a huge thing. You know, we raised some funds. We raised like seven hundred grand that we were able to donate Nyeh.
So so I think I think that was an incredible effort. And I'm really proud of system of a down my my brothers and system of a down that we were able to galvanize and do that.
Well, good man. That's great. You seem great and and great work. You've you've led a life of integrity and you've made changes.
I try buddy, just like you. I try to try. Yeah. It's good talking to you, man. Thank you for an incredible interview and an incredible talk. I look forward to seeing you one day. Yeah. Thank you for educating me. All right, brother. Thank you. Now, I know now I understand more about Armenia, about my neighbors, about the struggle, about a struggle, about what a struggle is, about what activism is, are we doing enough?
Are you doing enough? Am I doing enough? The documentary about surge is called Truth to Power. It's available on demand and in virtual cinemas worldwide. And listen up, folks here, some real talk. It's time to stop searching dozens of streaming platforms, trying to find what you want to watch. Paramount Plus isn't just another streaming service. It's live sports, breaking news and a mountain of entertainment all in one place. Plus iconic movies and critically acclaimed original series like Star Trek, Picard, The Good Fight and the Stand.
Go to Paramount plus dot com slash WTF and try it for free. Try it for free. Try it. For free. Play some Derg guitar. Boomer lives monkey the fanda. I can see the cat angels. Flying over the mountains. Here they come.