Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin - Serj Tankian

Episode Date: May 15, 2024

Serj Tankian is a Grammy-award-winning artist best known for being the frontman of System Of A Down. His powerful vocals and thought-provoking lyrics helped the group achieve wild success, including o...ver 40 million records sold worldwide, multiple platinum albums, more than a billion YouTube plays, and multiple Grammy nominations (winning Best Hard Rock Performance in 2006 for "B.Y.O.B."). Beyond System Of A Down, Tankian has released five solo albums (Elect the Dead, Imperfect Harmonies, Harakiri, Orca, Jazz-Iz-Christ, and Elasticity), composed music for film and television (Body of Lies, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields, among many more), and been a prominent activist for human rights, environmental issues, and causes related to his Armenian heritage (In 2011, he was awarded the Armenian Prime Minister's Medal for his significant contributions to the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide). His book Down with the System: A Memoir (of Sorts)—which shares his extraordinary life story, from his childhood in war-torn Beirut and his family’s move to Los Angeles, to his decision to pursue music and his rise to fame as the lead singer of System—is out now!   ------ Thank you to the sponsors that fuel our podcast and our team: Squarespace https://squarespace.com/tetra ------ Lucy https://lucy.co/tetra ------ LMNT Electrolytes https://drinklmnt.com/tetra ------ House of Macadamias https://www.houseofmacadamias.com/tetra

Discussion (0)
Starting point is 00:00:00 Tetragrammaton. I kind of didn't want to do like a rock, typical rock memoir. Originally I wanted to write a philosophy book like you wrote, you know? That was my goal. I wanted to, I've been interested in the intersection of justice and spirituality, two great kind of topics that have led my evolution as a human being and as an artist. But you know, the agent that I met, a really nice young man from London, he said, why can't you do both? Why can't you tell your stories and share the lessons you've
Starting point is 00:00:52 learned, your philosophies or whatever from it? So that kind of really got me going into thinking in that route. And it's been an incredible learning experience, because I've had to do a deep dive in terms of research in my own family's history, in my own history, my own troubles, having to like face stuff from the past, you know, it's the best therapy session I've ever had in my life, writing a book because there's things you realize that you may have known intuitively, but you weren't admitting to yourself about yourself. Like I didn't know the day that my mom and dad had met.
Starting point is 00:01:25 I had never asked them, they had never told us. My brother and I were like, how come we didn't know? How did you first meet? When was the, you know? And then they told us the story and it just became like, wow. So I'm very grateful for the process. You know how you make art for yourself.
Starting point is 00:01:41 In that term, like even if it never came out, I'm grateful that I had this incredible learning opportunity to be able to do this. Did you interview both your parents? I did, yeah. Amazing. And, you know, I interviewed them. I interviewed my older uncle about my grandparents.
Starting point is 00:01:57 Great. And things I didn't know about them. So in a way, the book starts with a really traumatic experience of, you know, right after 9-11, the essay I had written and the Howard Stern interview and us being on tour and Toxicity being the number one record in the country with Self-Righteous Suicide being the top song. What are the odds? What are the odds?
Starting point is 00:02:20 That the first System of Down's first album comes out, it's number one on the charts, and that's the week of 9-11. It's a remarkable moment in time. You have a band named System of a Down. Yes. Your single is thrown off the charts by Clear Channel and the whole regime that was happening at the time, right? Because of?
Starting point is 00:02:41 Well, not just our songs, but Lucy and the Sky with Diamonds, anything with the word sky or anything, the whole Rage Against the Machine catalog, it was, you know, it was censorship. They were afraid that they were going to provoke people, people's emotions by hearing these songs. I think that was the reason given at that time, but it's straight out self-censorship in a democracy, which has really to be reviewed.
Starting point is 00:03:03 You know, it's something to be reviewed. And we all know the artists that actually spoke up at the time, you know, Maynard from Tool, the Dixie Chicks, and, you know, obviously Tom Morello, myself, and a handful of other artists. Everyone else was very, there was a lot of fear pervading, I remember. And the Dixie Chicks got banned from country radio.
Starting point is 00:03:22 That's right. There's a lot of censorship around music at that time. At that time, yeah. There was a great fear. I remember that. And when people asked, they're like, toxicity is like your biggest record. You know, you guys made it. Like, how did you feel? And all I remember is the stress.
Starting point is 00:03:35 Yeah. You know, which is not great, but I guess it explains it. And the song, you know, which is Chop Suey, you know, you're talking about self-righteous suicide. Yeah. You know, like, not that it relates to that, but it's a explains it. And the song, you know, which is Chop Suey, you know, you're talking about self-righteous suicide, you know, like, not that it relates to that, but just the coincidence. No, but it just happened to be. But that's the power of music, what was written as a
Starting point is 00:03:56 poetic line. All of a sudden, the universe conspires to make that poetic line mean something much more extreme than it was originally written as. Absolutely. It's wild. It is wild. I mean, we know that we're not writing this. This is coming from the universe, and we're just interpreting it.
Starting point is 00:04:17 And if we become great artists, that means we're great skilled interpreters of this thing we're downloading, you know? But I think anyone can download it Yeah, it's just you have to be open to it Yes, and then you have to know how to present it. Yes those two things But yeah, I mean a lot of stuff the song jet pilot was on there Unbelievable. Why are the eyes of a horse on a jet pilot when he flew over the bay? I'm like what?
Starting point is 00:04:41 Right, like it's unbelievable I mean those songs were written obviously within years of 9-11 and all that. And then the essay took it to another level with reactionism, got taken down, and the band got death threats. I remember we were in Colorado starting a tour the week after 9-11 with all those, on television, there were all these orange, light, red light danger like for terrorist attacks. And we're in front of like 20, 30,000 people a night, right?
Starting point is 00:05:12 Like it's just your mind's going, what am I doing? Must be terrifying. It was terrifying. I can't imagine it. It was terrifying. I can't imagine it. I remember being in New York and we were playing across the bridge at the Continental Airlines Arena. I think that's technically Jersey, right?
Starting point is 00:05:25 I remember waking up on the bus, getting up and walking down the truck load-in, and there was no one there. No security, nothing. Like, I literally walked into a venue the week after 9-11, a venue that's gonna hold 30,000 people or whatever. Yes. After getting death threats. After getting, yeah.
Starting point is 00:05:44 And it scared me, and I remember calling, you know, That's going to hold 30,000 people or whatever. Yes. After getting death threats. After getting, yeah. And it scared me. And I remember calling, you know, Bino, our manager, and going, you got to call somebody. We got to have some dogs sniffing stuff here because I got in too easily. This is like 9-11. Everyone's freaking out. We're on the road. It's a very strange time.
Starting point is 00:06:02 Very strange time. I remember when Rage Against the Machine played at the DNC. Did you come to that? No. You might have been in the room. I went the day after. Okay. They played at the DNC.
Starting point is 00:06:14 Concert's great, outside, peaceful, everybody's cool, music. And it was far away from the building. And next thing you know, the police come with shields. Horses. Horses, batons, and firing rubber bullets, which you put into a song. Yeah. And Sweet D, Tamarilla's wife,
Starting point is 00:06:30 gets batoned by the police, clubbed by the police. We all had to escape. Never saw anything like it. Yeah. Never saw anything like it. It was insane. We actually wrote Deardance about that. I went a day after, but I obviously read about the event and spoke to Tom thereafter and whatnot.
Starting point is 00:06:47 And it's interesting because early in the band's career, we had this one show at the parking lot of Best Buy. I want to say it was Burbank. And we went in, and the minute we went in, we noticed an extreme amount of police presence. And I remember someone coming up to me and saying, it's kind of weird but they're saying they want to arrest you.
Starting point is 00:07:11 I had just gotten there. I had no idea what's going on. So they were on horses and stuff literally. Where was this? I think it was in Burbank. In California. In California, yeah. This is early on.
Starting point is 00:07:23 This is like 99, 2000 era, right? And so we get on and we play our show. And as a joke, Darren and I, we're like, oh, look at the nice policeman. Glad they get to hear the music as well. We're just, we're having fun. We're not like, you know. The show ends and they say the police captain wants to see you.
Starting point is 00:07:41 We haven't done anything wrong. We haven't broken any laws, right? We have a permit to play there, obviously. So we walk into the kind of conference room at the Best Buy and Bino was there, our manager that is our mutual friend and our lawyer, John Bluffhard was there. Police captain sitting like all the way across, like it was a long conference table. He's sitting all the way on one side, I'm sitting on the other, and there's other people sitting on the side.
Starting point is 00:08:08 And he just starts like saying that, you know, we can arrest you for what you've done. And I'm like, what law have I broken? Like I'm like, I haven't broken any law, sir. Like I haven't done anything wrong. You're inciting, you're inciting. I'm like, what am I inciting? What are we inciting? We're playing our music.
Starting point is 00:08:23 Like what? They just had it in for us. I remember that. So he asked for my ID and I just took out my ID. It was all the way across the table. I just flung it. It was my brave act of, he literally looked at my ID and he goes, you walk out of here, you sign one autograph, I promise I'm going to take you in.
Starting point is 00:08:42 Literally like that. I haven't done anything. What does that mean? Sign one autograph? I don't know. It's inciting, you know? Signing an autograph is inciting? Apparently, that day for that captain in that department, it was.
Starting point is 00:08:55 We hadn't done anything, bro. I mean, you know us, like very gentle, so get up on stage, do your crazy antics, say your thing and leave. And you do a concert. Everybody comes here because they love the music. It's a big party. Everybody's partying and celebrating together. Sharing emotion and pain that we all feel.
Starting point is 00:09:15 And it's a healing thing that happens at a concert. It is, it could have something to do, I'm thinking now in retrospect with, remember the parking lot of the Roosevelt Hotel where we were supposed to have this show that got cancelled? At the launch of Toxicity, we had this free show that we were doing in Hollywood behind the Roosevelt Hotel. There used to be a big parking lot there.
Starting point is 00:09:36 And I think they were expecting 5,000 people or something. And we had 10 to 15,000 people. Fire marshal came and closed it off. So they wouldn't let us play. And I remember the police basically saying, we'll arrest you if we go up to play. And we were saying, listen, if you don't play, it's going to be a riot. Which turned into a riot. Because you didn't play.
Starting point is 00:09:55 Because they wouldn't let you play. They wouldn't let us play. I said, please let us get up there and do one song and announce like another date that we'll do and apologize to the audience. Everyone will be cool and everyone will leave. please let us do that, you know? They're like no. And I got the guys together, I remember that day and I'm like, this will be cool if we actually do get arrested.
Starting point is 00:10:14 Let's just go up there and play a song, let's get arrested, fuck it, you know? Because we're an anti-establishment, what better way to launch stocks than this? My lawyer, John, John's a really funny guy. There was a window nearby, he goes, Sesh, come here, he overheard me. He goes, come here for a second. And he showed me the audience and he said, you see all these people here? They're all gonna sue you if you do that.
Starting point is 00:10:34 And I'm like, oh shit. I'm not going there, you know? Especially with the legal trauma my family had had over the years and all of that stuff. And so that became like, no, that's not gonna happen. You know? But again, it's like, that didn't have to happen. And there was a riot. And people, you know, people lost their shit
Starting point is 00:10:51 because some people had stayed there overnight waiting for the show. And all they saw is our banner coming down and our gear being taken offstage, and they lost it. And then the police had the perfect reason. And the downside of that is the audience would blame you because they're coming to see you. They did. They said the police had the perfect reason. And the downside of that is the audience would blame you
Starting point is 00:11:06 because they're coming to see you. They did. They said the band hadn't shown up. You know, so Vino had to get on like CBS and NBC and basically say the band was there to play, the fire marshal shut it down, the police could have been a little more understanding, you know. Like I remember going to New York right after and going, at least in this city there might be police brutality, which there is, but at least people are used
Starting point is 00:11:28 to being on the street with each other, right? In LA, you're not like there's this weird thing. I mean, we haven't had any police problems since, thank God, you know, in fact, they've gotten us out of like some tricky traffic and whatever situations and you know, all of that. But I don't know, I don't know why that was. What is that fear that causes that kind of reaction to something musical? Okay, so tell me more about the book.
Starting point is 00:11:56 Okay, well it starts with the kind of understanding or the essay I had written right after 9-11. But then that's the intro. And then the first chapter is actually not about me, it's about my grandfather. And because it's kind of like, if you want to understand who I am, then you have to understand where I come from.
Starting point is 00:12:13 So he came from a small village in central Turkey called Efkere, and it talks about his life, and obviously the genocide that he survived from, and my grandparents survived. Tell me the whole story of the genocide as well as you know it. Well, Armenians used to live in the area of central Turkey to eastern Turkey for about 600 years. That was historical Armenia.
Starting point is 00:12:34 And when the Turks conquered the area in the 1200s, they subjugated Armenians. So Armenians became the largest minority in that country, which later became the Ottoman Empire. For many years, it was okay. There was Armenians and Turks living next to each other, neighbors. There was some tension based on religious differences, but it wasn't horrible. It had its golden periods as an empire, let's say. But then in the last few hundred years of its existence, the Ottoman Empire from 1700s to 1900s, let's
Starting point is 00:13:06 say, they started cracking down on minorities. There were massacres. There were like in 1896 Sultan Hamid did a massacre of, I want to say, 100,000 Armenians. So as the century was turning before 1915, which is during World War I, which is when the Armenian genocide occurred, there were already smaller massacres that were happening. And was it always just based on the Armenians killed them? It's based on our problems are because of this person. It's the same thing happened during the Holocaust.
Starting point is 00:13:34 It's the Jews. It's not our problem. It's their, you know, their main... Scapegoating. Yeah, scapegoating. So Armenians were prosperous, middle class, and there was a lot of jealousy and all of that. So they used the Armenian population as a scapegoat for their basically empire crumbling which was happening And then during the first world war Turkey sided with Germany and so they were fighting
Starting point is 00:13:56 You know the Western powers and all of that stuff and they said Armenians are the traitors, you know and all this So again further scapegoating and do we know how many? Armenians there were at that point in time in Turkey There were a few million. Mm-hmm. If not more One and a half million were massacred. I think Armenians all together were about three to four million worldwide at that time Wow. Yeah, so half of the only half of the planet, correct Yeah So half of the Armenians on the planet. Correct. Yeah. So, my grandfather was able to survive through the pogroms. There were pogroms.
Starting point is 00:14:30 So what they did was they first came and took the men and said they're enlisting them in the army because it's wartime. But instead of giving them weapons, they gave them shovels and they ended up digging their own graves ultimately, right? Because they killed them all. How did your grandfather escape? So they came to their house, they said, women and children, you have to leave. You'll be back in a few days.
Starting point is 00:14:48 Don't take many things with you. You know, complete lie. And so they were forced to leave. I tell a story in the book about when my grandfather last saw his father, which is a very interesting story. His father had come to America and had come back to Turkey at the time and they were afraid that he would be in prison
Starting point is 00:15:09 because the pogroms were starting. So they said, they would say, oh, the Turkish man is here. Like they would pretend he's Turkish so that they wouldn't kind of arrest him. But eventually they did arrest him and they took him and my grandfather went to the police station to try to touch his dad and whatnot. And his dad said, don't worry, don't worry,
Starting point is 00:15:26 I'll be back soon, I'll be back home. And that was the last time he saw him. So he went on this long journey on the pogrom where he lost his eyesight from hunger, he lost his younger brother, he and his mother survived, but his mother and him were separated. And he ended up in a few orphanages, an American orphanage in Greece, in Istanbul,
Starting point is 00:15:47 and then eventually ended up in Lebanon. And then eventually was reunited with his mom. That's a miracle that they got reunited. It is. It is. I mean, all my grandparents, I would say the majority of System of a Down's members, grandparents, are survivors of the genocide. They are the few that survived that,
Starting point is 00:16:07 I mean, we're here because of those few that survived. Wow. Which is an incredible thing. Unbelievable. So a million and a half, what is the time period? 1915 to 1918. Mm-hmm. What happens after that, immediately after that?
Starting point is 00:16:23 So immediately after that, there were not a lot of Armenians left in Turkey, obviously. Majority of Armenians that were left were basically refugees on what is present-day Armenia, which is to the east, which was an area controlled by Russia. And so they survived, but there were, even after the war, Turkey actually attacked Armenia with an army and Armenians had to gather an army together and fight them at a battle in an area called Sardarabad. And miraculously Armenians won that small battle. You know, ragtag refugees.
Starting point is 00:16:58 I mean, look, what choice did they have? They knew what was, what their fate would be otherwise, right? And soon thereafter, Russia basically came. Russia turned communist, right? And in 1917, 1918, Russia came and basically gave Armenians the ultimatum, you either become a Soviet state or the Turks are next door, they want you otherwise. So Armenia didn't have a choice but to become
Starting point is 00:17:23 a Soviet Republic, which happened in 1921. So Armenia had independence from 1918 to 21, about two and a half, three years before it was basically engulfed into the Soviet Union until 1991. And then what happened in 1991? 1991, all the Soviet Republics got independence, including Armenia. Unfortunately, Armenia had a very traumatic kind of disengagement because in 1988 there was the big earthquake in Spidag, an area of Armenia called Spidag.
Starting point is 00:17:52 25,000 people died from the earthquake. It's mostly attributed to corruption and subpar materials, which was very much a Soviet hierarchical kind of graft-based system. And then the war in Nagorno-Karabakh started in 1988, 1989, which lasted until 1994. So there was a huge kind of war going on. So by the time Armenia became independent, independent Armenia didn't have power, electricity like a few hours a day. My wife, Angela, she's from Armenia. She literally would go to school,
Starting point is 00:18:28 and they would create a fire in the school to warm up. And in the winter, you know, that kind of stuff. They lived without electricity for many years. And this is in the 90s. This is in the 90s, early 90s. So, 91 to 95, you know? But slowly and surely, you know, Armenia started coming back and it took about 30 years for them to transition from a post-Soviet oligarchic corrupt system
Starting point is 00:18:53 to kind of more a, you know, proper democratic and, you know, now Western leaning nation since the revolution in 2018. 2018, that recently. Yeah. So much of today's life happens on the web. Squarespace is your home base for building your dream presence in an online world. Designing a website is easy using one of Squarespace's best-in-class templates. With the built-in style kit, you can change fonts, imagery, margins, and menus. So your design will be perfectly tailored to your needs.
Starting point is 00:19:38 Discover unbreakable creativity with Fluid Engine, a highly intuitive drag-and-drop editor. No coding or technical experiences required. Understand your site's performance with in-depth website analytics tools. Squarespace has everything you need to succeed online. Create a blog, monetize a newsletter, make a marketing portfolio, Launch an online store. The Squarespace app helps you run your business from anywhere.
Starting point is 00:20:12 Track inventory and connect with customers while you're on the go. Whether you're just starting out or already managing a successful brand, Squarespace makes it easy to create and customize a beautiful website. Visit squarespace.com slash tetra and get started today. What's the first time you went to Armenia? First time I went to Armenia was I think in 99 or 2000. And what was your experience like? My experience was very mystical What was the first time you went to Armenia? First time I went to Armenia was, I think, in 99 or 2000. And what was your experience like?
Starting point is 00:20:47 My experience was very mystical, because I've been to Armenia my whole life, but it was a place. It wasn't real, almost. And during Soviet times, it was hard to go. I mean, my parents actually went during the Soviet time once to visit family. And your parents are from that Armenia? My parents are. The second Armenia.
Starting point is 00:21:08 You're right. So, current Armenia is what we used to call Eastern Armenia. I see. And my parents are from Western Armenia where they did the genocide, which is Turkey. I see. So, my parents were never born in Eastern Armenia. I see.
Starting point is 00:21:19 And they weren't even born in Armenia at all because they were born in Syria and Lebanon because my grandparents, you know, ended up there from the genocide. After they escaped. After they escaped. Yeah, so my first time in Armenia was very mystical and it was interesting because I was just experiencing things. The people, the places.
Starting point is 00:21:39 I mean, Armenia has churches and buildings from 400, 500 AD. Europe makes America look young, Armenia makes Europe look young, right? You feel the roots, you also feel people's anxieties and some of the troubles and just everything. I was- But you also lived in, grew up in an Armenian community here, probably the biggest one outside of Armenia, yes?
Starting point is 00:22:04 Yes, second if not the biggest one, yeah. So I did, but it was different, you know? Of course. Going back to the homeland. Would you say American Armenians are more American and then they're Armenian, whereas in Armenia they're Armenians? Is that accurate or no?
Starting point is 00:22:21 That's a good question. It kind of reminds me of, I went to Armenia in 2017 with Anthony Bourdain for CNN Parts Unknown. He did a show on Armenia that I was a part of that I encouraged him to do, which was incredible. And that was one of his last shows, unfortunately. But that was his first point blank question. He goes, so you live in America,
Starting point is 00:22:39 you got a place in New Zealand, you're born in Lebanon, you're Armenian, you're in Armenia, like how Armenian are you? And it just like blew my mind because it's such a tough question to answer. You're in that place in New Zealand, you're born in Lebanon, you're Armenian, you're in Armenia, like how Armenian are you? And it just like blew my mind because it's such a tough question to answer. How Armenian are you? And it's hard because look, Armenians are,
Starting point is 00:22:54 the majority of Armenians live outside of Armenia. So you have Armenians that have grown up in the States, Armenians grew up in Europe, South America, Russia, and all of those cultures change who you are as an Armenian. I consider it an incredible advantage to be able to have these incredible experiences culturally, to be able to integrate into who we are, to offer our people this diversity, you know?
Starting point is 00:23:23 Similar to Jews around the world actually, you know, the incredible diaspora that Jews have around the world and the experience that's gleaned from it. It's one of the things that most excited me about System in the early days from the time that I first saw you guys play was the thing that most other people didn't like about your band was the Armenian roots.
Starting point is 00:23:44 Right. And to me, that was the best thing about your band, because it was so unusual, and that it came through in the music, that it wasn't the heavy metal that everyone else was making. You could feel ancient grooves that no one else touched, rhythms. It was so exciting to me. That's awesome. I still remember that first day at the Viper Room. I'll never forget it.
Starting point is 00:24:09 You sitting at the top of the little table, whatever it was, because there was people there, and you were looking over their heads, and you were laughing out loud. I laughed the whole show. And I loved it. When I saw your face, and I knew you laughed, that's when I knew you got it. Yeah. I laughed the whole show.
Starting point is 00:24:24 And you guys were screaming and I knew you got it. Yeah, I laughed the whole show. And you guys were screaming and angry. Over the top. I was just laughing. Over the top. It was so much fun. It was. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:24:34 I remember the I don't know if you remember but I remember the small chat we had right outside the Viper Room right after. And I'm a very shy person by nature. And I had the balls to look at you and I say, would you ever consider producing us? Because I just, to me, it was like a dream come true, if that would happen. And so, you know, thank you.
Starting point is 00:24:58 Thank you. Worked out. We had so much fun. Yeah. It's amazing. Yeah. And amazing to share your experience with the world. So beautiful.
Starting point is 00:25:06 Yeah, it is. Next time you went to Armenia after the first time. That would be 2005. I went with my current wife, girlfriend at the time, got to meet her family, got to see friends. Her family still lives there? She does have some family there, but mostly here now. How was that experience different going with a local,
Starting point is 00:25:25 essentially? Completely different. Yeah. Because you're starting to see it from the inside. Yeah, you weren't a tourist the second time. No. You know, my relationship with her and my kind of, you know, insider's perspective really lent me to become more of an
Starting point is 00:25:42 activist for Armenia than I had before, because I was an Armenian, I was an activist, but mostly for the genocide, you know? But I didn't know Armenia well enough to really speak for it. Has the US ever acknowledged the genocide? Yes, but it took until 2019, I wanna say, so 104 years after the genocide, for the United States to properly recognize the genocide. And it was first the two houses of Congress, and then Joe Biden was the first president
Starting point is 00:26:15 to actually use a proclamation recognizing the genocide. That said, in the 1970s and 80s, the lower house, the House of Representatives had passed resolutions about the genocide, but it wasn't both houses. President Reagan had used the word genocide because he used to be governor of California. He knew Armenians. So the word was used, but it wasn't an official proclamation. And obviously it pissed off Turkey with Erdogan being the president and how- Has Turkey ever acknowledged it?
Starting point is 00:26:47 No. What is the story from the Turkish perspective? So, the story from the Turkish perspective, from what I gather, speaking to different friends who are from there, is that when they lost the First World War, they felt like they had an empire that extended to the Balkans, to the Middle East. Now, you know, you look at all these Middle Eastern countries with oil, that used to be
Starting point is 00:27:10 under the Ottoman Empire. So for them, they lost so much. In their history books, it says people died, Armenians died, other people died. It was wartime. But that's not true. Of course people died. And of course it was wartime, but the Armenian Genocide was a perpetrated, planned and executed genocide to a point where the word genocide was actually coined by Raphael
Starting point is 00:27:36 Lemkin, who in the, I want to say 1940s or 50s, coined the term talking about the Armenians. He created basically that term to refer back to what happened to the Armenians. And the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire at the time, Talat Pasha, he sent out communiques basically organizing the whole thing. The army was involved, extra militia was involved. They took out prisoners from prisons, there was a jihad, they created a jihad as a, it wasn't really a religious thing, but they kind of created that as a way of creating kind of that Islamist fervor to go against the Christians, you know, that kind of a thing.
Starting point is 00:28:19 But it was a very well calculated economic thing, as a lot of Holocaust and genocides are. I mean, we're still seeing art looted during World War II that's being returned to their rightful owners and through lawsuits and all this stuff. They gained a lot by taking the homes, the wealth, the businesses, the assets of one and a half million people. I mean, that's huge.
Starting point is 00:28:44 What is the state of one and a half million people. I mean, that's huge, you know. What is the state of Armenia now? The state of Armenia now is still very vulnerable, unfortunately. In 2020, Azerbaijan decided to attack an enclave known as Nagorno-Karabakh, which was fought over from 1989 to 1994. And basically, those people have been living on those lands for thousands of years. It's part of the old Armenian kingdom, it's part of the oldest Armenian lands. During the 1920s, against the decisions of the Soviet, well, I don't know if it was the
Starting point is 00:29:18 Politburo or the organizing committee, to grant those lands to Armenia, Stalin himself unilaterally decided, no, I'm going to give it to Azerbaijan. Same with another Armenian territory, Armenian populated and historical Armenian territory known as Nakhichevan, he gave to Azerbaijan. So Azerbaijan legally, under Stalin's decision, had those laws, but these Armenians have been living there for thousands of years and they've been massacred by Ossetians as well in the 1920s etc. So
Starting point is 00:29:48 instead of making peace and finding a way to be neighbors Azerbaijan attacked during COVID in 2020. Wow! during COVID and 5,000 Armenians died in about five six thousand Ossetians soldiers died, which was horrible I mean a young generation of men gone. I remember COVID hit, we were all scared, we were all in our homes and what to do, this, that. But once there's a war, you're like, COVID's out the door, right? Who's worried about masks when bombs are falling?
Starting point is 00:30:20 So after that, in 2021 and 2022, Azerbaijan invaded Armenia proper and holds about 150 kilometers of Armenia now. And there's weekly threats, they still fire across the border and sometimes within Armenia itself because they're within Armenia itself. As of last year, in September, Azerbaijan attacked the population of Armenians living in the Gorno-Karabakh, 120,000 people, and those people had to leave because they were going to die. That's after nine months of them being starved by an illegal economic blockade that Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, International Court of Justice had to decrease against Azerbaijan
Starting point is 00:31:01 for trying to starve these people. For nine months, they starved them, not letting any food or medical supplies in. Then they attacked them. What changed from the 1920s till the 1980s? Why did this start? If you don't really want to think about the issue, you could say that it's contested territory. And that's what major media is usually say,
Starting point is 00:31:19 oh, contested territory, because they're contesting this area. But it has a lot- But it had been at peace for 100 years. Azzarids and Armenians were living there next to each other for a long time, but after the genocide, I think the genocide itself and what was the perpetration by Turkey of the genocide,
Starting point is 00:31:39 Azzarids are Turkic as well. I mean, they're Shia, they're not Sunni, unlike the Turks, but they're very much Turkic. They're like, they call themselves one nation, two peoples, or something like that. So they were encouraged by those same pogroms. And in the 1920s in Shushi, which is a part of Nagorno-Karabakh, there were massacres of Armenians.
Starting point is 00:31:58 It's just difficult. You know, I always say I wish our forefathers had picked better real estate, you know, like, because your neighbors suck. I mean, I'm not putting down people, obviously, because I have Turkish friends. But I'm talking about ideologies. I'm talking about heavy religious vibes that really subjugate entire populations to their
Starting point is 00:32:23 kind of thinking. It's a tough area. What religion is practiced on either side? Armenia is actually technically the first Christian nation. It's the first nation that adopted Christianity as a country in history. I want to say it was 301 AD. While it was spreading in Rome, before the Byzantine Empire took it up as its official religion, Armenia was the first to do so.
Starting point is 00:32:49 And in a way, it's worked against us because of our neighbors. So Turkey's Sunni, Islamic, Azerbaijan is Shi'ite Islamic, Iran is Shi'ite Islamic, obviously those are the three immediate neighbors. Georgia to the north is Christian, Orthodox like Armenia. So those are the immediate borders and neighbors. How's the relationship with Georgia? Tenuous, in some ways good. There are a lot of Armenians living in Georgia.
Starting point is 00:33:15 They're both Christian, there's that, but there's also- They don't have the ideology issue. They don't have the ideology issue, more of typical economic, type of issues. Some good, some bad, you know, better than the others, obviously. But since the revolution in 2018, which I wholeheartedly supported because I knew that that was what the Armenian people wanted, there was a peaceful revolution in Armenia in 2018. A parliamentarian basically started a protest walk from a small city up in the north to
Starting point is 00:33:52 the capital. And at first it didn't gather much momentum. There's been other protests before. And the protest was basically against the oligarchic regime that ran Armenia for the last 30 years before the revolution, because there was no fairness in the courts, there were no economic fairness. Typical post-Soviet country like Ukraine, like many of these other countries. But something happened and they realized that they basically started doing acts of decentralized civil disobedience,
Starting point is 00:34:26 which no one's ever done before. And what that is, is instead of all being in one square and getting arrested, sitting and singing kumbaya and getting arrested, they would basically go all around the country and break the law in very minimal ways, block streets, for example. And they used Facebook Live to basically stream what they were doing during the revolution. It was a streamed revolution, just like Arab Spring. And it was pretty incredible.
Starting point is 00:34:57 It was very inspiring because the techniques were very interesting. It was new. So they started blocking traffic and they said, okay, wherever you live, you don't have to go anywhere else, block your street. When the cops come, they would be like, don't get arrested, run, wait till they leave, then go back and do it again. So it was almost like using the power of numbers to overwhelm the system. And they succeeded in a bloodless coup, not a single bullet was fired, and the revolution succeeded, and that parliamentarian became prime minister. The day that he became prime minister, I was there.
Starting point is 00:35:30 He greeted me at the airport, actually, when I flew into Armenia the day before that, and there was, Rick, there was thousands of people at the airport on the streets. Jubilation like I had never seen. Ever seen. These people, I felt like they had just broken the yokes of centuries of oppression off their backs.
Starting point is 00:35:52 It was just beautiful to see. And it's really sad because two years later, the war happened and everything changed. Yeah. Azerbaijan attacked and stuff. But Armenia is a thriving country now. It's got a really probably the highest economic growth in Europe, a lot of investment coming in. It's pivoted to the West specifically because, irrespective of its kind of Soviet era alliance with Russia and the poor man's NATO, which is the
Starting point is 00:36:20 local Russian led military alliance, it got thrown under the bus by Russia, because it allowed Azerbaijan in its territory, it allowed Turkey in its territory, it allowed the massacres, the wars, and all of that. You have a bilateral defense agreement with another country and they don't come. Not just that, but they're actually in cahoots with Turkey and Azerbaijan for sanctions evasion. Because basically, Russian oil is being funneled through Azeri pipelines to Europe right now. And Europe's buying that at a premium, knowing part of that is Russian oil, just so they're not saying we're buying from Russia.
Starting point is 00:36:59 So there's this axis of evil now for Armenia. And part of that is your biggest ally that was your ally, Russia. So Armenia's totally pivoted west, but it's very vulnerable because no Western boots are on the ground or will ever be on the ground in the near future. So it's making a very strong kind of determination to kind of join Europe and be more Western. But we don't know what's looming around the corner because Azerbaijan is threatening to attack any day. Like one week they'll be like, give us these four villages or we'll attack.
Starting point is 00:37:33 And now we feel like more than Azerbaijan, it's actually Russia pushing them. Because Russia is trying to punish Armenia for trying to pivot west. Wild story. for trying to pivot west. Wild story. Mm-hmm. It has been cherished in tribal wisdom traditions for thousands of years. Indigenous people the world over
Starting point is 00:37:57 have used this plant-based compound in spiritual healing and ceremonial rites and rituals for centuries. More recently, it has been shown to increase alertness, improve focus, elevate mood, enhance cognition, heightened reward sensation and more. We are talking about nicotine. Nicotine is a wonder worker, Inspired by indigenous practices throughout history and guided by a wealth of contemporary research,
Starting point is 00:38:30 the team at Lucy set out on a mission to create clean, grain-boosting nicotine products for the modern lifestyle, whether it's their nicotine breakers, parches or gum. Lucy's products are carefully formulated to deliver a pure and potent nicotine experience, free from the undesirable aspects of cigarette smoke. Backed by rigorous research, nicotine is known to amplify cognitive processes, emotional regulation, and modulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Experience the power of this natural nootropic by visiting lucy.co.uk and discover next level smoke-free nicotine.
Starting point is 00:39:16 Warning, this product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical. Did System ever play in Armenia? 2015. Tell me the story. In 2015, at the 100th anniversary of the genocide, the Armenian government officially invited the members of System of a Down to come and play. And we went and it was at Republic Square, it was a free show. And there were 50,000, they only allowed 50,000 people, capacity date, close enough at 50,000.
Starting point is 00:39:49 It was a rainy day, they say it always rains in Armenia, even though it's spring, because of the genocide, you know, April 23, April 24. And so it was like raining, it was cold, and I remember huddling with the guys at the hotel before we took off and I looked at them and I remember everyone felt like, everyone felt something different than we've ever felt playing a live show. It wasn't playing a live show. It was doing something way beyond. That's what it felt like. And for me personally, it felt like
Starting point is 00:40:27 the top of the mountain versus the Mubidoun. Like, after that, whatever, you know? Like, it felt like if that is all that we had achieved, then we've already achieved something amazing. Yeah. And the show was incredible. The 100th anniversary of the genocide to 50,000 Armenians in Armenia, outdoors, in the rain.
Starting point is 00:40:51 It sounds unbelievable. It was epic. It was epic. And System are celebrated in the Armenian community. Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. As their own. We are probably the most popular Armenian band in the world for Armenians, right?
Starting point is 00:41:06 You know, we are the band. There's no other, there's other musicians, but we are the band. And so yeah, that was incredible. And I remember when I met, during the revolution, when I met the current Prime Minister of Armenia, he was at that show with his wife. And he told me, he goes,
Starting point is 00:41:23 if you guys can bring 50,000 people here, I don't see why we can't bring people into the streets and change Armenia for good, you know, that kind of thing, which was amazing to just hear, you know? So it was a powerful show in many ways. And that's exactly why the police didn't want you to get on stage. Coming all the way back.
Starting point is 00:41:40 Exactly. They knew what they were doing. They knew what they were doing. They knew what they were doing. Exactly. While music does have power, we know that. What was the emotion? It's indescribable, Rick. It was nothing I've ever felt before. Because it wasn't about playing a show. It wasn't about doing an act of solidarity or protest.
Starting point is 00:42:01 It was all of the above and beyond. It felt like the perfect show. Did it feel like a dream? solidarity or protest, it was all of the above and beyond. It felt like the perfect show. Did it feel like a dream? It felt like a dream. Yeah, I could imagine. I was lost in it. It sounds hard to grok the experience.
Starting point is 00:42:18 It's too much. Yeah, it is too much. I remember looking at the guys and just thinking, this is where we're meant to be. This is why we were created in the first place. It felt like you finally realized why you're a band. Yeah. You know?
Starting point is 00:42:34 I'm not talking about activism specifically or something. It's more emotional and spiritual that this is where we're meant to be and everything we've done and everything we've experienced brought us to this day. You don't feel that at every show. You don't feel that at every occasion.
Starting point is 00:42:49 Did it strike all the members as emotional? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, Darren at first was hesitant about going. He had his personal reasons and all of that, which we dealt with. But once he was there, and once we were faced with what was happening, he was overwhelmingly, like, incredibly taken back by it.
Starting point is 00:43:07 In fact, he decided to stay in Armenia longer, like he changed his flight back. And so I was on stage. I remember between songs, like, Darren was playing this beautiful guitar line, and it kind of made me just talk, you know, as I do. And I literally saw my grandparents looking over us, you know, and because we're kind of celebrating their legacy, who had survived the genocide. But
Starting point is 00:43:32 at the same time, I was dealing with a corrupt leadership in Armenia that at first didn't want us to play there, which is a whole different story in 2013, for example. So I was dealing with those issues. So I was basically thinking of my grandparents, but also kind of talking geopolitically. And at the time, I think Obama was president, and I said, it's a shame that as a candidate, Obama promised to recognize the genocide, but as president, he's failed to do so like all the rest. And Russia, they had recognized the genocide, but I said something like, it would be nice
Starting point is 00:44:08 if we can look at each other eye to eye, not as a client state to a master kind of thing. And then I criticized the Armenian government from that stage in the country, but in a smart way. And I said, there's depopulation, there's economic inequity, there's inequality in the courts, and we've come a long way, but there's economic inequity, there's inequality in the courts, and we've come a long way, but there's a lot of fucking work to do.
Starting point is 00:44:29 So it was this incredible moment that will not be replicated in my lifetime. Yeah. Was it filmed? Yeah. Great. It was actually streamed, Rolling Stones streamed it live immediately like millions of people were watching it around the world because it was such an amazing, it's still on YouTube. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:44:48 Fantastic. How do you describe what makes System of a Down System of a Down? I think it's our unique personalities. You know, when you're making a dish with four really diverse ingredients, you take one away and try to replace it, it's never gonna work. It's just who we are and it doesn't matter who's playing what
Starting point is 00:45:11 instrument or what it is, it's just a combination of four of us, you know? This is the wonderful advantage of the book that it just kind of opens up the memory logs. I was thinking of the first day Darren and I actually sat down and just harmonized. We weren't in a band together at the time. He was playing guitars for this other band that we were sharing and I was playing keyboards for a band and we were sharing studio space. And him and I got to know each other
Starting point is 00:45:39 and I realized he was 16 and I was probably early 20s. And I realized how dedicated he was to music, how serious he was to music. I remember he held up his guitar and he started playing something, and I started singing, and then he harmonized. I think we both stopped and looked at each other because that harmony was something I had never heard. Our voices harmonize in a very, very unique fashion. And our tone's completely different.
Starting point is 00:46:08 But together, they have this really interesting thing. And that's when we looked at each other and we realized there's something special there. I remembered that the other day. Beautiful. So I think it started with that, obviously, because Darren and I first connected before any other band members joined. But then it's the four of us. Beautiful. So I think it started with that, obviously, because Darren and I first connected
Starting point is 00:46:25 before any other band members joined. But then it's the four of us. It's what we do together. It's what we feel on stage together. And what comes out of us because of the other. When we jam on stage, for example, or even in a rehearsal studio, someone's playing something,
Starting point is 00:46:42 not necessarily a song that we've written or anything like that. We have an interesting way of grabbing that and turning it around ourselves and someone grabbing it and turning it. It's how you play off each other that's unique. I think a good band has that. It's not just these are your parts.
Starting point is 00:46:59 The difference between being a solo artist and being in a band is that what comes from the collaboration is unexpected. Right, yeah. You know, someone decides to put in a part that you would have never thought of. Correct. And the way those two parts bounce off each other creates something new, a third thing.
Starting point is 00:47:17 Yeah, absolutely. And it's also the multiplier effect in terms of power as well. Yeah. The one plus one becomes three. Tell me about the early days of being on the road. How much of a grind is it or was it? You know, I think I was a little older than the other guys.
Starting point is 00:47:33 I was like hitting 30 and they were in their early 20s. And I think also that music was a later love in life for me. You know, I had all these other experiences and when I thought of doing music, I always thought I was gonna be in a studio every day, creating, like that was my vision. I didn't know that, you know, you make the music for six months,
Starting point is 00:47:56 you record the music for six months, then you tour for two years, right? Like, and you're making videos and doing press and all this other stuff, which is not making music. But you thought of it, your idea of doing music was being in the studio making music. Pretty much. Creating.
Starting point is 00:48:09 Creating. And I did enjoy touring and I still enjoy performing, but it is a grind. The travel is the grind, it's not the performance. If you can just show up every day in the same place and play, it's a dream come true, right? Because the performance is fun, but it's that travel. And as I got older, especially in my 50s
Starting point is 00:48:28 and started having back problems and all this stuff, it became even more of a grind. And there's also the aspect of let's leave health aside. There's the, I don't know if it's a purest way of thinking about it, but repeating performance is artistic redundancy. So the first week, two weeks, fun. The first show, incredibly fun, right?
Starting point is 00:48:48 But then after a while, it's diminishing returns artistically. And you become a performer and you're doing the performance and you're being incredibly rewarded with love and everything else, right, economically. But that does kind of also add up over time and you go, why am I repeating myself? You know, art is not supposed to repeat itself that much.
Starting point is 00:49:09 So there's that aspect of it. I think David Bowie said, after two weeks, any tour is redundant, basically. Which is why doing a one-off, like we're doing Sick New World, for example, we did it last year, in May we're doing it this year. Oh great. In April.
Starting point is 00:49:23 Just doing a one-off is fun because you're- Tell me, I don't know about this, tell me about it. Oh yeah, so we started a festival with Live Nation in Vegas called Sydney World. We did the first one last year, 60,000 people sold out like within hours. This year, same thing. Last year, it was just fun because
Starting point is 00:49:39 there's not the same pressure of touring, right? Doing so many shows, oh, you know, I got sick halfway through, or this happened, that happened. You know, it's more like you rehearse, you laugh, you, you know, with the guys, and then you go play this one show, and it becomes special, like the Armenia show. You know, it just becomes special.
Starting point is 00:49:59 It's an event. It's an event. Yeah. You know, you enjoy it. You know, your friends are there, cause it's an event. It's not like, okay, now we're in Oklahoma. Now we're in South Carolina.
Starting point is 00:50:07 You know, it's like, it's special. So performing when it's special. For example, I was doing this in April. I did an orchestral event at CSUN Soraya Theater. I had like five incredible soloists, singers, a choir, a 20-person choir, and an orchestra. And I had written music for it. Beautiful music, very singers, a choir, a 20-person choir and an orchestra. And I had written music for it, beautiful music,
Starting point is 00:50:27 very piano, moody, kind of with strings. They offered me a second night because the first night sold out. I said, thank you, but no, you know? Let's keep it one, let's keep it special. Same thing. Like there's something about it not repeating and it just being a one-off event
Starting point is 00:50:44 that just makes it more interesting. Yeah. Tell me about New Zealand. New Zealand's incredible. I went to New Zealand the first time in the year 2000 or 2001 with the band for a tour called the Big Day Out Tour, which is no longer around, but it was a great tour. And I had this incredible intuitive sense of belonging from the minute that we were there.
Starting point is 00:51:06 And this pervasive piece, this incredible greenery around, and I was just so curious to... Is it the visual thing or is it more than that? Is it like what you saw or what you felt? It's both. So I started exploring it. I kept going back every year and, you know, vacationing there, looking at different parts of the country
Starting point is 00:51:26 and traveling and whatnot. And it was a dream of mine to get residency and get a place there which I was able to do which was amazing. Amazing. Yeah. It's great being in a place where the land is clean, the water is clean, the air is pure.
Starting point is 00:51:44 Healthy food, I believe. Very healthy food. The fish is incredible. So we grow stuff. We have a little farm. We grow stuff on the farm. A lot of fruit trees, veggies and whatnot. And it's just, more than anything, my mind slows down.
Starting point is 00:51:59 It kind of balances out LA living for me. Because here it's all fast, fast, fast, right? Too many things to do, too many projects, which I enjoy each and every one. But I need that. I need that slowing down. And I still work there, but at a much slower pace. L-M-N-T. Element Electrolytes. Have you ever felt dehydrated after an intense workout or a long day in the sun? Do you want to maximize your endurance and feel your best?
Starting point is 00:52:46 Add Element Electrolytes to your daily routine. Perform better and sleep deeper. Improve your cognitive function. Experience an increase in steady energy with fewer headaches and fewer muscle cramps. Element Electrolytes. Drink it in the sauna. Refreshing flavors include grapefruit, citrus, watermelon, and chocolate salt.
Starting point is 00:53:15 Formulated with the perfect balance of sodium, potassium, and magnesium to keep you hydrated and energized throughout the day. These minerals help conduct the electricity that powers your nervous system so you can perform at your very best. Element electrolytes are sugar-free, keto friendly, and great tasting. Minerals are the stuff of life. So visit drinklmnt.com slash tetra and stay salty with Element Electrolyte. LMNT. Do you have big picture revelations when you slow down? Do you get to see things that you don't see when you're focused on the daily routine?
Starting point is 00:54:06 Sure. One thing I like about New Zealand is it's changing, of course, over the years, over the last 20 years, but the original, one of the reasons I went there was political neutrality. I like the fact that they were non-nuclear, that they were politically quite neutral at the time. That's changed over time.
Starting point is 00:54:25 How has it changed? It's become way more aligned with Western interests militarily and all of that stuff, economically militarily. During Helen Clark's time as prime minister, it felt like they had their own path, they were forced their own path. I remember during the Iraq war when I went to New Zealand, the foreign minister of New Zealand at the time kept on saying, why is America in Iraq? Like on TV, which you wouldn't see anywhere else, for example, right? Any Western country, let's say. But it's not like that now.
Starting point is 00:54:55 And it's like kind of more on board. But it's still a unique special place. And the more I slow down, the more I appreciate bigger picture things, you know, than just whatever's happening in my mind or my life and stuff. And some of it is nasty, you know, what's happening around the world and everything. You start feeling things more. I find it incredible that with all of the medical
Starting point is 00:55:24 and technological progress we've made as humanity, with everything that we've learned, with data at our fingertips, that no human being, no animal has ever been able to have, we have more wars, starvation, crazy shit. It's like none of it's making us better. No. And that is what saddens me the most. You said originally when you set out to work on the book, you thought of it as talking
Starting point is 00:55:51 about your spiritual life and your activism. And those are the two big pieces of your life. How do they fit together? Years ago, I had the honor of meeting the Dalai Lama for this TV special. They were doing this TV special. They were doing our movie special. It was in Philadelphia. They flew us in.
Starting point is 00:56:10 It was myself, Moby, Katy Tunstall, and Joss Stone. They picked four artists, and we each got to ask two questions on camera to the holiness. And first of all, he's a really funny guy. I don't know if you remember, but he's a really, yeah. But I'm going to that because I asked him that question. I asked him, I said, what do you think is the intersection of justice and spirituality?
Starting point is 00:56:36 And he thought about it for a second and he said, I'm paraphrasing of course, but he said something like, to follow a path of injustice is spiritually disconcerting. Now, first I thought that was like a double negative, of course, that's the case. I mean, it's a no brainer that that's the case, but if you really think about it, our intuition, our moral existence
Starting point is 00:57:04 connect to our spirituality, cannot allow us to be unjust. And if so, we're not gonna be unhappy with ourselves. Right? It is the connection, you know? So I kind of ended the book with that actually. That that's the realization that they are almost one and the same.
Starting point is 00:57:24 How could you live a spiritual life in a world of injustice? Or how could you live in a non-spiritual life in a world of justice? It's like they are almost one and the same. Have you ever been to an Armenian Orthodox church? Sure. Yeah, I grew up going to church. There was this church right across our school. I used to actually sing there.
Starting point is 00:57:46 The head priest would kind of enlist us and we would sing. And at one point, I kind of got tired of it and I asked to be excused. You know, I said, I don't want to do this anymore. And at first he's like, why? You've got a great voice. You should sing. I'm like, yeah, you know. He said something like, in our age, we would be too embarrassed to tell the priest that we don't want to sing and
Starting point is 00:58:07 say no. And I said, it's not your age. So I guess I'm thinking back right now. So I had the singing thing then and the rebellious spirit at the same time, but I was a straight A student, nice kid, you know, all of that stuff. It's interesting. Were the teachings done in English or were they done in Armenian? We had both. It was a school in Hollywood. Pili Bost is the name.
Starting point is 00:58:31 It's actually a really good Armenian school. And most of our classes are in English, but then you have Armenian language class and Armenian history class, which would be done in Armenian. What was it like working with an orchestra and how is it different than being on stage with an orchestra versus being on stage with a band? It's different.
Starting point is 00:58:49 Working with an orchestra has taught me a lot. Specifically, different orchestras. So you have the same written music, and you go from, let's say, Russia to Italy, to Germany, to Poland. They all play it differently. They're all great orchestras, but they play it differently. They're all great orchestras, but they play it differently. And it taught me that they play based on their cultural
Starting point is 00:59:09 strengths and weaknesses. So with the Italians, phenomenal soloists. When they play together, not so tight. Yeah, I mean, tight sometimes, but not, yeah. With the Russians, Germans, Austrians, they play like, when the baton comes down, they're all hitting that one or three or whatever. That's interesting to me. Really interesting. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:59:32 To hear the music you've written, interpreted by different players, just by the nature of who they are, it's fascinating. It is fascinating. I wouldn't have guessed that. And to be a songwriter versus a composer is a whole different feeling as well. Because songwriter, you're in it.
Starting point is 00:59:48 You know, you're performing it, you wrote it, you're vibing with other people on stage, you're playing it. But being a composer and stepping back and listening to others interpret your music is a whole different feeling. And with an orchestra, you know, you have all these acoustic instruments playing, you could have up to 80, 90 people playing music on stage. And what I do is with an orchestra, you have all these acoustic instruments playing, you could have up to 80, 90 people playing music on stage.
Starting point is 01:00:07 And what I do is with the band, I have both my ear monitors in, otherwise I'd go deaf. But with an orchestra, I drop one, if I'm performing with them, like if I'm going to sing for example, I'll drop one so I could hear my voice in one and hear the full orchestra in the room in the other, because I have to, like I want to hear it, you know? It's a different feeling. I think classical music and its dynamics lend themselves to emotions that electronic music or electrified music, I should say, cannot touch
Starting point is 01:00:38 and vice versa, you know? Rock music is... The power of loud guitars is, or, you know, program music could be very powerful. Yeah. And, you know, like rock music overall is music of protest. It's a fuck you, right? Like whereas classical music, with classical music, you can get so vulnerable emotionally with a beautiful solo violin or something like that, that you can't get there with rock.
Starting point is 01:01:05 And same with jazz, like jazz music has its own beautiful emotions it portrays, you know? The diversity in colors of those different genres that really, really that I love to explore, because I can only express so many emotions with one genre, right? Are you writing songs all the time? I'm so busy scoring that I'm not writing as many songs. Is that more main job now? Kind of, yeah. Yeah, I mean, I find it incredibly fun and challenging.
Starting point is 01:01:37 I'm doing two films and a Netflix series now, which is cool, you know, but different. One of the films is fun because it's kind of like a Hollywood funny film kind of thing. I'm enjoying being creative within limitations. Yes. Because writing a song is, there are no limitations. Like it comes to you, you write it. Yeah, it's more of a puzzle when it has to fit somewhere. Exactly.
Starting point is 01:01:59 Exactly. And sometimes you do like a bunch of cues and everything's perfect, then there's one cue you do 10 times. And you're struggling because that one thing and everything's perfect, then there's one cue you do 10 times. And you're struggling, because that one thing for whatever it is, you know? And you learn it, you figure out, you have to figure that out. Yeah.
Starting point is 01:02:12 And each score is a completely different tone, sound musically, like it's, you know, one could be like synths, all synths, one is orchestral, one is more rocky or modern, you know? One is more electronic. Is there an idea before it happens, or is it more of a feeling? So, as a composer for media,
Starting point is 01:02:30 you always want to find something you can sink your teeth into. So, conversation with the director, for example, you're always looking for something that musically makes sense, right? And that's where you will eventually figure out what you need to do. So, in my conversations with the director You're always looking for something that musically makes sense, right? And that's where you will eventually figure out what you need to do.
Starting point is 01:02:47 So in my conversations with a director or a creative producer, whoever's making decisions, I try to get the tone, but they don't know the tone, so you have to kind of be like, what are the emotions you're trying to portray? What type of instrumentation are you thinking of? Sometimes it's I don't know. And then you're like, okay, what's going on through the story?
Starting point is 01:03:06 Is there any music in the story? I've had instances where a director will come and say, we're using this old ancient lullaby. I'm like, great, I wanna hear it, send it to me. And I listened to it, I'm like, perfect. So you use the chorus to create like an orchestral thing around that. It's just anywhere to start.
Starting point is 01:03:23 And usually if there's some relation already within the film, musically, then as soon as you grasp on to it, the door's open musically for it. And then the next step is to do a small suite of music and send it to the director and be like, are we on the same wavelength or is this totally off field? And you send it in picture or just as a piece of music? Generally just as a piece of music.
Starting point is 01:03:47 And do you know where the music's gonna go in the film? There might not even be a film at that point. There might not be video at that point. They might still be in script mode or shooting or they might have dailies, yeah. Sometimes you start early, sometimes you start late. It's rare to have a final cut where they hire you and go, we want a composer, you know,
Starting point is 01:04:05 and here's the final cut, like along the way that you develop it. And there's some cool directors that like integrating the music in their shoots too, because it helps set up the tempo. Yeah, and also imagine the mood of the scene. The mood of the scene. And when the actors hear it, they act differently, right?
Starting point is 01:04:23 So I haven't had that experience yet where the music's been used in the film, but there are some creative directors that do that. But again, like you said, it's the problem solving, the puzzle solving element that I find interesting, and the fact that each of them are gonna be musically completely different. So that's fun.
Starting point is 01:04:41 Sometimes I don't even watch, I listen. Because especially with documentaries, if you listen to dialogue, you don't even watch, I listen. Because if you listen, especially with documentaries, if you listen to dialogue, you don't even have to watch. You just compose on the spot, listening, you're going in between, when there's a change, you feel it emotionally, you play your modulator or whatever. It's interesting.
Starting point is 01:04:59 It's like scoring a conversation. Sounds cool. Yeah, it's fun. When you're writing a song, do the lyrics start with a sound or do they start with words? Is it about the way they sound or is it about what the words mean? It's mostly sound. Sometimes words come in because I think your consciousness starts bringing in certain words and then you go backwards and
Starting point is 01:05:22 say, well, why did my mind use that word there? What does that mean? Is that what this song is about? So it's like a puzzle that your spirit or your consciousness is solving while you're going through the process. And then you go and you fill in the blanks of the gibberish words that you were using to make up for, you know, once you figure out what that puzzle is, and you go backwards, and sometimes you don't figure it out correctly.
Starting point is 01:05:48 I've written one song I remember where the song was funny, but I wasn't giving it enough credence for its funniness, and the lyrics were not, and it just wasn't working. And I'm like, yeah, but those lyrics are great. The music's great. Why isn't it working? And then I just realized it, like out of the blue, I'm like, wait a minute, this is a funnier song than, you know, I should change it. You know, so I rewrote the lyrics, boom, worked perfectly.
Starting point is 01:06:12 So sometimes it's confusing, but you know, I think stream of consciousness is the best way vocally to help write. And do you always do it out loud or can you do it silently? Oh, I can do it silently. And would it still, you'd find vocal phrasing and words even silently? You can find it, but you've got to do it out loud to remember it. So whether it's on your phone or whatever that you want to record. So like you might be thinking of it, but if you can't record it, you're going to forget it because it goes like that, right?
Starting point is 01:06:43 Have you ever started with lyrics? Yes. And what's that like? It wasn't my lyrics. So it's actually a funny story, because the current Prime Minister of Armenia had written lyrics. He had said this one thing,
Starting point is 01:06:58 and it was a flowery thing about Armenia, and being Armenian and stuff. And he had hit me up and said, do you think you could put music to this? And I'm like, yeah, let me try. Let me play with it, you know? And I picked up an acoustic guitar and wrote a song using those exact same lyrics, sang them,
Starting point is 01:07:17 sent it to him, and he was like, wow. And I put it out, like, I think in 2020 or 2019, something like that. It's called Hayastan, which is the Armenian word for Armenia. They are being buried in the ground They are buried in the ground By the sound of the I'll be best Beautiful. What are the words being? It's basically talking about Armenia. Well, Armenia is a country where the roads get lost, friends gather together around a
Starting point is 01:08:54 khotavaz which is kebab, basically fire. Armenia is a country where the autumn is serene and warm and pure wine shines and grapes. It's very visual. Armenia is a land of fruits, a garden of apricots, a cellar full of dry lavash, a ringing thump of an anvil. And then the chorus is the names of all of the capitals of Armenia historically. I love it.
Starting point is 01:09:20 Thank you. Want to play anything else? Anything you feel. There's a song I did with my dad. Yeah. Should I play it now? Yeah. I am a bird, a bird of the sky, I am a bird of the sky, I am a bird of the sky, Free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free, free Yer chonik, yer chonik, yer ki Faree anakil, baqt-i anakil Anakil karnan, anakil amran
Starting point is 01:10:18 Indamo dabril, faree anakil Boy nusir zarin, bardu gadaarin That was great. Finally got the chorus down. How would you do it with your dad when you were a kid? Who would play? Nobody would play. So you'd just do it acapella? Or he would be listening to the song on vinyl.
Starting point is 01:10:59 I see. And you guys would sing along? He would sing along, then I'd sing along with him. And would you ever sing unison or immediately harmony? Mostly unison, and then over time harmony. But when I sang with him, there are parts I sing in unison on his record, parts I sing. There's actually a video on YouTube where I just brought him into my studio and we did the song live and recorded it basically, which was beautiful.
Starting point is 01:11:24 As a way of putting out the record at the time, you know? Yeah, it was an amazing feeling. Welcome to the house of macadamias. Macadamias are a delicious superfood, sustainably sourced directly from farmers. Macadamias, a rare source of omega-7. Linked to collagen regeneration, enhanced weight management, and better fat metabolism. Macadamias, are healthy and brain boosting fats. Macadamias.
Starting point is 01:12:06 Paleo-friendly. Keto and plant-based. Macadamias. No wheat, no dairy, no gluten, no GMOs. No preservatives, no palm oil, no added sugar. House of Macadamias. Thigh roasted with Namibian sea salt, cracked black pepper, and chocolate dips. Snack bars come in chocolate. Coconut white chocolate and blueberry white chocolate.
Starting point is 01:12:40 Visit houseofmacadamias.com slash tetra. I was going to ask you what would be a good piece of classic Armenian folk music that we could listen to together. Ooh, something from Khachatur Avedishyan. My dad's name popped up because it's Khachatur as well. Okay, great. And there's some really beautiful Armenian folk music in there. I'm I am very happy and grateful for the love I received from my beloved. Yarsin chasat teghdanvergit artiro vashu Ser yerkeluts sadg tseregit vartiro vashu Yalani cholar nengneyi
Starting point is 01:14:42 Andunu andegh mnayi I'm Oh I'm sorry. Oh Oh Yanaani chole rne ngneyi, andu nu ande ngme nai Sari bes dar du ne nai, yar chu ne nai Yanaani chole rne ngneyi, andu nu ande ngme nai I had no idea your dad could sing like that. That's unbelievable. Yeah. When would you hear your dad singing? Growing up. He'd sing all the time.
Starting point is 01:17:11 What occasion? Family get togethers and stuff. Like he would just start singing. He has a very emotive voice. Would he sing a cappella? Yeah, he'd sing a cappella mostly. But when he grew up, I've written about him in the book in the sense he's got an interesting story
Starting point is 01:17:27 because he was a musician growing up. He played the oud and he sang at different events and stuff like that, he played drums and stuff. And he wanted to learn the oud. This was in Beirut. This was in Syria actually, because he was born in Syria. He later went to Beirut. My mom was born in Beirut.
Starting point is 01:17:44 So he decided to study with this one oud master in Syria, he later went to Beirut. My mom is born in Beirut. So he decided to study with this one Udmastar in Syria. So he took a bus to go see this teacher. At the time his dad had passed away, my grandfather had passed away when my dad was in second grade, pretty young. So he was young, but he was, you know, he was enjoying playing music. At this point, he's a young teen or whatever and he's taking the strip. Sitting near him is like this other guy that looks like a musician. So he kind of befriends him and starts talking to him and says, are you a musician? He's like, yeah, I am.
Starting point is 01:18:16 And he's like, oh, okay. And the guy sees my dad holding an oud and he says, how long have you been playing the oud? And he says, oh, I just started, I'm going to take classes, you know, from this one master. He's like, what's his name? And he knew him, obviously, because it's a small world kind of thing. And my dad goes, tell me about your life, tell me the life of a musician. And so this guy gives him like this whole kind of brief history of his life, the ups and downs, the tragic part of the music world, and whether it's drugs or being on the road away from family and just all of that stuff.
Starting point is 01:18:56 And my dad ends up stopping at a stop and taking another bus back. Never goes to that thing. Wow. He's a musician that never did music. He went to Milan, started to do design, he became a shoe manufacturer, he was successful in his life, all of that.
Starting point is 01:19:11 But music was always his love. So when he retired, one day we're at my parents' and mom just throws it out and just says, hey, you should make a record with your dad. And I'm like, yes, of course. And it was, for me, it was giving back because there were times in our family where, in the early 90s, where it was really difficult, my parents lost everything in a huge lawsuit, a civil lawsuit.
Starting point is 01:19:36 And I was coming of age at that time, I was 16, 17, helping them with legal briefs and it was a really, really stressful time. And we went from pretty much having a lot of things, a comfortable lifestyle, to back to zero, and starting over and renting and trying to make a living. And at that time I had realized that music's my calling, but I had started a software company to help pay the bills. It was a vertical industry software for jewelers, an industry I knew well because of my uncle's business. And so I remember having a conundrum.
Starting point is 01:20:11 I was like, I need the finances for the family, but I want to do music and I need more time for music. And my dad saw me grappling with that issue one day. And we sat down and he said, what's wrong? And I'm like, I'm playing it off. I'm like, oh, nothing's wrong. It's OK. And he said, what's wrong? And I'm like, I'm playing it off. I'm like, oh, nothing's wrong, it's okay, you know? And he goes, no, tell me.
Starting point is 01:20:27 And I said, look, I'm faced with a dilemma. I wanna do music, but I don't have enough time because I'm working, you know, this and that. And he goes, if I have to get a second fucking job, you do music, just like that. You are not gonna not do music if that's what it is that you wanna do. So that gave me the wings to be able to enter an industry
Starting point is 01:20:50 where all the odds are against you. And he wanted your dreams to come true because he couldn't follow his. Yeah. That's wild. Yeah. And then he got to make that record with him. I got to make his record.
Starting point is 01:21:02 And it's beautiful. Did he love it? He loves it, yeah. Great. Oh, he goes to adult daycare, he sings there. Great. You know, he has musician friends, you know, in his circle and stuff, so he loves it now. When you hear the music of System of a Down, are you aware of the Armenian roots in it, or is it just ordinary music to you?
Starting point is 01:21:24 I'm aware in retrospect now, I wasn't when we were making it originally. Yeah. Because it was just what we were making. So much part of your growing up. Yeah. It was just what we were making. It was the same as anything else.
Starting point is 01:21:37 I didn't think that our rhythms are that different. It was just natural to us, whether it's John playing the drums, or Darren writing something that would be Eastern. It was just part of, what's great is that- And the melodies too, the melodies and the harmonies, it all doesn't sound like anything that we're used to in that genre of music.
Starting point is 01:21:59 Yeah, no, it's true. It's all from somewhere else and it's so cool. Yeah, I think the greatest thing about System of Down's musical influence, I don't mean our influence on other people, but how we got influence is the diversity of our influence. Yes. Because Darren himself is like so diverse in his musical listening tastes, you know. And he grew up with Armenian music, Arabic music, and all sorts of stuff because of his
Starting point is 01:22:27 parents being from Iraq and all of that. And of course he has a love for many different types of genres. And where he started, which was very much rock oriented, he was a metalhead and all that, that wasn't my musical beginning. Rock to me was way later on. Rock, punk rock, hip hop. My origins were way more Armenian music, European music, Arabic music, all the Eastern music, but also like, you know, in goth and 80s music, new wave, like I, you know, although he's
Starting point is 01:22:56 got that too, but he got that later. I got that when I was in the 80s because of our age difference, you know? So I wasn't a heavy metal guy when I started singing in a heavy metal band, which also makes it interesting. Like learning to scream and... But it was great because I remember in our early days, all of the trauma in my life, I exercised through rehearsals. Forget about the shows.
Starting point is 01:23:22 That was amazing. And at one point, you learn to regulate the anger and frustration that's built into your music into a performative art, where you no longer are that angry, but you realize where it comes from. And I think also when it's... The music itself has energy that propels you can't help it.
Starting point is 01:23:46 You can't help but get swept up in the power of the groove. Totally. Yeah. Do you read much poetry? I used to. I read less poetry now. I read more prose than I do poetry. Once in a while, you know, something will touch me.
Starting point is 01:24:03 I like your words. They come to me as poetry, whether you intended for them to be or not, because they have weight to them. Each word is weighed, and no unnecessary ones are there. I think that's good poetry. Hmm. Thank you. What are your typical reading habits today and pros? Audiobooks.
Starting point is 01:24:23 Yeah. More than anything. I've been listening to prose? Audiobooks. More than anything. I've been listening to a lot of memoirs. I just listened to Fleas, Getty Lees, a lot of music memoirs. Anthony Bourdain's, I've already heard Kitchen Confidential, but I listened to the second one, Medium something. Great.
Starting point is 01:24:40 I love his writing style. What was he like? He was really cool, man. Like he...the way I even got to meet him was, we were in New Zealand. Angela and I, my wife, we were watching CNN parts of known with Anthony Bourdain. And I think it was Georgia or some other country near Armenia.
Starting point is 01:25:00 And she's like, you know what? He's never been to Armenia. He's done a special with all these other countries. She's like, why don't you hit him up? And he likes rock music. Like, you know, you can hit him up. And I'm like, come on, I'm just going to hit up someone I don't know.
Starting point is 01:25:12 Our mutual friend, Dave Worshafter, actually, helped make the connection. So I hit him up, and I just got an email, and I wrote to him, never thinking I'd hear back. Within minutes, he responded. He's like, you got it. I'll have my production people contact you. And I'm like, it was almost like this is a joke.
Starting point is 01:25:29 Someone's pranking me, right? So cool. You know? And then they did. And then we worked through people they should meet, places we should go, restaurants and this, that, the food aspect, the political aspect. What was interesting about him is I wasn't really pushing the genocide thing or anything like that, but he really got into it.
Starting point is 01:25:48 He really got into it and like it was almost like he had this penchant for injustice. Like when he saw it, hypocrisy and injustice, he would go after it. Like that's what I loved about him and that's what I wrote to him in my email. First time I said, listen, here's who I am, and what I love about you is you're not like a typical talking head. If you don't like something, you say it, whether it's food or people or politics.
Starting point is 01:26:12 I appreciate that about you, you know? I said, but you've never been to Armenia. If you go, I got your back kind of thing, you know? Yeah, and it worked out, which was surprising for me. But he was very no-nonsense type of person, but he was very loving. And I think he really enjoyed being there. He really enjoyed things he hadn't experienced before.
Starting point is 01:26:32 He was an adventurer. What may fall within the sphere of Tetragrammaton? Counterculture? Tetragrammaton. Sacred geometry? Tetragrammaton. The Avant-Garde? Tetragrammaton. Generative art? Tetragrammaton. The Tarot? Tetragrammaton. Out of print music? Tetragrammaton.
Starting point is 01:27:01 Biodynamics? Tetragrammaton. Graphic design? Tetragrammaton. Mythology and magic? Tetragrammaton. Biodynamics. Tetragrammaton. Graphic design. Tetragrammaton. Mythology. And magic. Tetragrammaton. Obscure film. Tetragrammaton. Beach culture.
Starting point is 01:27:11 Tetragrammaton. Esoteric lectures. Tetragrammaton. Off the grid living. Tetragrammaton. Alt. Spirituality. Tetragrammaton.
Starting point is 01:27:21 The canon of fine objects. Tetragrammaton. Muscle cars. Tetragrammaton. the canon of fine objects. Tetragrammatin. Muscle cars. Tetragrammatin. Ancient wisdom for a new age. Upon entering, experience the artwork of the day. Take a breath and see where you are drawn. TETRAGRAMMATIN.COM Tell me about painting.
Starting point is 01:27:56 Yeah, I love painting. Painting gives me the same feeling of playing music 30 years ago. Wow, because you've done less of it over the course of your life. There's less intellectualizing of it. So more being lost. That sounds great. Yeah.
Starting point is 01:28:18 Do you paint on a regular basis? I do. I paint more when I have an exhibition to prepare for and stuff, but I paint on a regular basis, and all my paintings are musically scored. Do you finish the painting first and then score it? I do that more now or appropriate a music piece that I have, that I've composed and I just have it there and I'm like, oh, this works well with this kind of thing. I do that
Starting point is 01:28:40 now. But when I first started, it was the reverse. So I would have a piece of music, and then I'd go, what does this piece look like? I see, so you would paint the music. Yeah, I would paint to the specific music. And originally, I started using like the musical clef, the bass clef, and I started using clocks without arms to denote the notes in the first measure of the music as a score
Starting point is 01:29:05 and then paint all around it. So I've got these cool clocks and musical clefs on the paintings and stuff. Music has become so bastardized. It's become a commodity. And I was trying to create a situation where it would be an exclusive experience with something physical. Music's also not physical, you know? Having something physical associated with music creates this new dimension. And for the art, it becomes a multi-sensory experience.
Starting point is 01:29:38 It becomes a stronger way of interacting with multiple senses than just visual. I remember one time I came backstage to a show and you had a camera on your head and you were filming everything in your life for some window of time. Yeah, a whole year, actually. Ha ha ha! Tell me about that experience. How did you get the idea?
Starting point is 01:30:01 How did I get the idea? I must have seen something POV, like from a person's point of view with a camera strap. I don't remember what it was, but I must have seen something. It was the year 2011, I remember that vividly, and it was going to be a very busy year workwise. And I thought to myself, this is going to be an incredibly diverse year because the first year I started touring back with System, 2011. I was doing a symphony called Orca, which I did in Austria, in Linz.
Starting point is 01:30:32 I was doing a solo rock record, touring with my backup band as well as System, touring with orchestras around the world, and also wrote a jazz record that year. So I was like, I gotta record all this because I don't know how this is gonna turn out kind of thing. So I started strapping a camera to my head
Starting point is 01:30:50 and at shows, at everything, like I remember Rock in Rio I have from that camera. I had it on my head in the beginning and the audience is bouncing, you see that wave because the music reaches them later and so it's a wave, you know? And then I put the camera down on Shavo's bass rig, and, of course, the bass shook it,
Starting point is 01:31:07 so it became like Batman in the 1960s, that diagonal view. For me, there was also something incredibly psychological about it, too. I had inhibitions about working with the band again, because it had been six years, five, six years, whatever, which is really not a long period of time, about working with the band again, because it had been six years, five, six years, whatever, which is really not a long period of time, but with the things that had happened
Starting point is 01:31:30 in the last days of mesmerized hypnotized, and I had these inhibitions, and for me, being able to see behind the camera rather than through my own eyes, even though I had the camera and my own eyes, was a way of me dealing with it and processing it. It's really interesting. But I didn't realize that until later, of course.
Starting point is 01:31:50 Yeah, no, but that's a really interesting point. It just made me more comfortable. Yeah. And you could also then go back and look at, I remember this happening, and you could watch it. It's like, oh, it didn't happen exactly like that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, it was fun. I was playing around.
Starting point is 01:32:04 So I had three cameras, from what I remember. One was like a GoPro where you see it, and it's like, oh, it didn't happen exactly like that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, it was fun. I was playing around. So I had three cameras, from what I remember. One was like a GoPro where you see it, and it's like, oh my god, that looks horrible on your head, right? But the other one was spy glasses. Wow. I didn't reveal anything or do anything bad. But I was just, again, it was a way of me, I was just trying to understand my own steps. Did you ever do a project with all the footage?
Starting point is 01:32:22 I did. Originally, I planned to make a movie out of it, but then once you actually look at the footage, you realize we're more like birds than you think because your head's, like, you know, going fast left and right. A lot of it becomes unwatchable. And without a story, visuals mean nothing, right?
Starting point is 01:32:40 So at the time, I was making a documentary called I Am Not Alone About the Revolution in Armenia. And my director friend, Gariin Hovannisyan, was also involved with me and I gave him all this footage and I said, I don't know what to do with all this footage. I want to make a film, but I'm not sure what the story is. Can you help me hash it out? And he did.
Starting point is 01:33:02 And we came up with a film called Truth to Power, which we put out a couple of years back, a documentary. hash it out, you know? And he did, and we came up with a film called Truth to Power, which we put out a couple of years back, a documentary, and it became more of an activist journey. But we did bring in some of those elements, because that's cool, you know, like cutting to funny stuff on tour, or weird stuff with protests, or whatever,
Starting point is 01:33:22 just from that shaky camera, the POV thing. And that was an interesting adventure. Again, sometimes you plan something and you get something else. You don't ever know where you're starting and where you're ending up as an artist, which is beautiful. Yeah.
Starting point is 01:33:36 How would you say your taste has evolved over the course of your life? I think as you get older, you try more things. And whether it's food or music or art. I think it's important to be always open as an artist to experiences and to try things or see things you don't necessarily gravitate with. I'll give an example. Years ago I got this one song from a DJ duo, a well-known DJ duo, and I didn't like the song. So I told my representative, I'm like,
Starting point is 01:34:09 eh, I'm not really into this, you know? But that experience taught me something. So the second time a similar thing happened, and I got some music from an electronic artist, a DJ artist, I didn't say no. I still didn't like the song, but I said, hey, I'm not really into this. Can we meet and have some coffee? Because I'd love to see what else you've got.
Starting point is 01:34:30 I was more open to an experience, and I ended up doing a song with that person. Oh, great. So I think that's important to not close things. Not close doors. Yeah. Is there a wrong way to interpret lyrics? No.
Starting point is 01:34:48 Nor music. Nor art. You know, nor anything, really. I always relate music to food, you know? You make a pizza, some people like the crust, some people like the cheese, some people like the pepperoni. You can't tell, like, you know? I've had people ask me in a different way the same question, saying, hey, do you think
Starting point is 01:35:08 your lyrics go over the head of some of your audience or something like that, or the activist or political stuff? And it's unfair as someone who creates something to tell people how to enjoy it. It's like me making a pillow and telling you you have to only have it on your back. Like that makes no sense. Tell me something that you believe today that you didn't believe when you were younger. When I was younger, I didn't,
Starting point is 01:35:33 I couldn't see how we're all interrelated. It's something that over time, over life, and spiritual kind of knowledge and experience, which by the way, started with you. Really? I don't know if you know, but you, early in the band's career, I was having these weird, nightmarish type of things,
Starting point is 01:35:55 but they were daydream nightmarish type of things. I'd be in a shower, and the hot water would hit me, probably lowering my blood pressure, and I'd have these weird things and I'd almost pass out. Like, just early days of the band. And I remember telling you about it at one of our sessions when we were working together, and you said, you know what, I'd like to introduce you to someone.
Starting point is 01:36:16 You introduced me to Nancy De Herrera, who became my teacher for TM, Transcendental Meditation. And that changed my life. Wow. Yeah. Beautiful. Yeah, yeah. I miss Nancy. She was the coolest lady.
Starting point is 01:36:32 She was the coolest lady. The coolest lady. Yeah, sometimes I'd go up to her house and she'd be walking the dogs, but her area was so peaceful. I was just waiting for her. I'd already be in a chill zone, you know? If you go to a place where someone's meditated for a long time,
Starting point is 01:36:45 it has a resonance of peace. It does. It does, yeah. You feel it in the space. And I remember meditating with her, and, you know, her getting a phone call or something, and she'll pick it up and talk and put it down, and she would look at me and say, meditation is a way of life.
Starting point is 01:37:02 You don't have to necessarily cut everything out. You don't have to necessarily cut everything out. You don't have to be thinking about it. And so I think all of that and experience in life, like to me, is the connection between all things, the energy, like all energy is neither created nor destroyed, Einstein, you know? It just changes forms and we are all energy.
Starting point is 01:37:24 And that is the biggest thing that's changed in my life, that it's not me anymore, it's everything, right? You know how the Bible says, at the end of times, we will be judged between good and evil. That good and evil, to me, is those that realize everything's interconnected and those that don't. That's all that it is. Turn off your lights. Turn off your lights. Turn off your lights. Turn off your lights.
Starting point is 01:38:08 Turn off your lights. Turn off your lights. Turn off your lights. Turn off your lights. Turn off your lights. Turn off your lights.

There aren't comments yet for this episode. Click on any sentence in the transcript to leave a comment.