Serj Tankian discusses his unique vocals: "I didn't consider myself a singer… I was thrown into it"

System Of A Down's Serj Tankian explains the origins of his iconic and unique vocal style.

Serj Tankian discusses his unique vocals: "I didn't consider myself a singer… I was thrown into it"
Emily Carter
Travis Shinn

As Serj Tankian celebrates the release of his ace new solo EP Elasticity, the System Of A Down frontman has opened up about what makes his vocals so unique.

Speaking with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, Serj explains that his style really stems from his pre-SOAD band with Daron Malakian, Soil (not that SOiL).

"Soil was the sauce that System Of A Down was cooked in," the frontman describes. "And System Of A Down was a little more polished. It was more traditional songwriting with the epileptic gymnastic elements added in from Soil, yeah. So I think that's where I really got cooked as a singer.

"I didn't consider myself a singer," he admits. "I started out as a keyboardist and then I was thrown into it and I just started doing it. I never studied music, either, and for me it was like the idea of singing was always a matter of making interesting noises as an instrument would. So when the guitar is playing, what noise should I be making? I wasn't thinking of what I should say. What I should say was almost separate.

Read this: "I mean every word that I say, every lyric that I sing, every noise that I make": Meet the real Serj Tankian

"I was serious about my words because I wrote a lot. No-one taught me that you can't fit an X number of words within an X amount of music, and therefore it was like, I've got to get all my words."

Serj continues: "And therefore, it was like 'rat-ta-ta-ta-tat'. I got to get all my words in somehow, right? It was naivité. But it's naivité that is also creative because there's no can'ts. Right? It's all can. Had I gone to music school, I'd probably learn how to sing better from day one, and know that that phrase should be longer, and take your time with it, and stuff. I don't fucking know, I just was going for it, you know?

"And my voice wasn't great when I started at all… but over time, you spend enough time exercising any muscle it gets good, right? And I think that's literally what it is over the years. And in terms of the development of one's voice, but also kind of catering to it. And the backlash of that is, 'This guy, you don't scream like you're used to, bro.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I screamed because it would distort at a certain frequency in my voice. And now it's not distorting. What can I do about it?'"

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