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Serj Tankian: The 10 albums that changed my life

System Of A Down's frontman chooses the records that made him the musical force his is today – from Depeche Mode to Slayer

The first album I bought was...

Various Artists – Saturday Night Fever OST [Polydor, 1977]

“Rick James, or possibly ABBA, or The Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever! I was 14 or 15 and I got a subscription to Columbia House, where you could get six records for free if you bought one record a year. I ordered five or six records and those were the first I bought on my own.”

My favourite album artwork is...

Earth, Wind & Fire – I Am [Columbia, 1979]

“Earth, Wind & Fire had this record with, I think, a sun god. It was so awesome. As a kid I thought it was incredible! Am I a fan of their music? I am!”

The album I wish I'd made is...

Ennico Morricone – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly OST [EMI, 1966]

“It’s genius – I find his compositions incredible, because they are orchestral compositions done in a very classical style, but also really modern and unique. He uses jazz and rock elements, and it’s extremely memorable.”

The album I break the speed limit to is...

Metallica – ...And Justice For All [Elektra, 1988]

“Metallica’s song arrangements are so unique. They write really intense, complex songs, that are so popular. They’ve sold millions, and you’re like, ‘These are really complex songs!’”

The most underrated album ever is...

Miles Davis – Decoy [Columbia, 1984]

“Miles Davis was making these really crazy compositions in the 80s, and he fell in love with the electric guitar and turned off all his fans. I think that’s pretty amazing!”

The album I want to be remembered for is...

Serj Tankian – Orca [Reprise/Serjical Strike, 2013]

Orca – it’s my first symphony! I’d choose that because it’s just so different. Harakiri is great, too, and Imperfect Harmonies! I’d rather not be remembered for one record, but for the scope of everything.”

No one will believe I have a copy of...

Depeche Mode – Greatest Hits [Amiga, 1987]

“We started on ABBA, so it’s hard, ha ha! What’s interesting is to try to see from someone else’s perspective and look at what they’d be surprised at. I didn’t listen to any rock and metal until my late teens. I liked goth and new wave in the 80s – Depeche Mode, Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus...”

A kid asks me what metal is. I hand them a copy of...

Slayer – Reign In Blood [Def Jam, 1986]

“I’d go with Slayer – Reign In Blood most likely, because I think the historical significance of Slayer as a band is very interesting. They opened up a lot for death and black metal.”

The album that reminds me of school is...

Khatchadour Tankian – Inchbes Moranank [Serjical Strike, 2010]

“It’s a song I did on one of my dad’s records, a cover of an Armenian song. I just remember playing that with him when I was young. I actually covered it again a couple of years ago with him and released it on my own label!”

The album that took a risk and won is...

Radiohead – Kid A [Capitol, 2000]

“Artists don’t take enough risks. I always say, ‘We’re not surgeons; no one’s dying on the operation table, so go for it.’ Radiohead took a risk with the transition from OK Computer to Kid A. It was a huge step for them. I remember all my rock friends going, ‘Argh, I don’t like it!’ but now looking back, you can really see that Radiohead grew with that album.”


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