Frank Maddocks/Courtesy of the artist
Here’s a quotation about prison overcrowding: “All research and successful drug policies show that treatment should be increased and law enforcement decreased, while abolishing mandatory minimum sentences.” That’s not from some stodgy think tank. That’s metal.
Those lyrics from “Prison Song” foreshadow a politically active future for System of a Down, the progressive metal band that broke out big with its 2001 sophomore album,Toxicity. The four Armenian-Americans from Los Angeles established a massive presence in modern rock over the first half of the 2000s. This year, they’ve embarked on a special tour called “Wake Up The Souls,” which will end Thursday with their first-ever performance together in Armenia — part of a global effort to draw attention to the Armenian genocide, which reaches its centennial anniversary this month. (Turkey denies that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks were a genocide).
Serj Tankian, the group’s lead singer and songwriter, grew up intimately aware of the genocide: All four of his grandparents were survivors, and he heard their firsthand stories while they were alive. Tankian joined NPR’s Arun Rath to talk about how that century-old event has rippled into his own life and music, if not quite into common knowledge and conversation. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read more of the interview below.
Click here to read full interview: NPR