STREET DATE: 5/14/2024
AUTHOR(S): Serj Tankian
PUBLISHER: Hachette Books
An exhilarating, thoughtful, and beautifully written debut memoir by musician, songwriter, and lead singer-lyricist of Grammy award-winning metal band, System Of A Down, Serj Tankian
Serj Tankian will be the first to admit that his band, System Of A Down, was "unlikely a chart-topper as had ever existed in modern music history: a band of Armenian-Americans playing a practically unclassifiable clash of wildly aggressive metal riffs, unconventional tempo-twisting rhythms, and Armenian folk melodies, with me alternately growling, screaming, and crooning lyrics that could pivot from avant-garde silliness to raging socio-political rants in the space of a single line." After all, as Serj concedes, "it's not easy listening."
Even so, there's no doubt that System's music had struck a chord with millions of listeners across the globe ever since they burst on the scene in the mid-1990s. With nearly 40 million album sales, three albums topping the Billboard charts, and a devoted legion of fans, the band dominated the alt-rock and metal scenes just as the world hurtled into a new millennium, redefining the very idea of what rockstars could and couldn't talk about, could and couldn't do, could and couldn't represent.
In DOWN WITH THE SYSTEM, Serj presents readers with a memoir that is far more than just a rock 'n' roll fable. It's an immigrant's tale, it's an activist's awakening, and it's a spiritual journey from darkness toward light. And all of this comes down to the fact that Serj himself has had the chance to live an extraordinary life--thanks to a combination of luck, circumstance, struggle, talent, and spiritual awakening. Born to Armenian parents in Beirut, Serj grows up hearing bombs drop outside his childhood home during the country's civil war, before moving to Los Angeles at the age of seven. As a young man, he is immersed in the SoCal community of "Little Armenia," learning more and more about the brutal genocide faced by his ancestors while helping his parents adapt to the constraints and contradictions of the American Dream. Then, during a pivotal drive home from an LSAT class, Serj decides to turn away from a promising future in business and law to make music instead--a decision that leads him to touring five continents as the lead singer of a hugely popular rock band, hitting number #1 on the Billboard album charts the morning of 9/11, and then having the hit single from the same album banned from radio two days later. In the years that follow, his uniquely singular story continues, as he evades glass bottles hurled at a cancelled show by angry Slayer fans, teams up with Tom Morello to push social justice causes on unsuspecting metalheads, argues with LAPD officers over the best way to quell rioting fans, and defines new sounds and singing tactics with Rick Rubin.
Braiding together Serj's thought-provoking insight with heartfelt and poetic prose, DOWN WITH THE SYSTEM retraces Serj's remarkable and unlikely journey, and explores what it's taught him--about music, about art, about activism, and about himself. It's an unforgettable ride that will leave you breathless--and an absolute delight for new fans and old ones alike