The upcoming “Elect the Dead Symphony” is just one of several projects Serj Tankian has planned for the coming year, including his second solo album and finishing work on a stage musical and a “classical jazz symphony.”
“Doing the symphony thing just made me feel a lot more confident as a composer,” the System of a Down frontman tells Billboard.com. “Whatever I want to do, whatever I want to use, any color I want to use…I’m more proficient in it. When you write for an orchestra, you can write for anything, you know?”
The “Elect the Dead Symphony,” due out Mar. 9 as a CD/DVD set, features orchestral arrangements of a dozen songs from Tankian’s 2007 solo debut, “Elect the Dead,” plus a pair of previously unreleased songs — including “Charades,” which was originally written for SOAD. It was recorded with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra last March in New Zealand, and Tankian is planning to take the symphonic show to Europe in June and July. He’s also talking to North American orchestras about performing it with them.
Meanwhile, Tankian has been hard at work on his next album, tentatively titled “Music Without Borders” with a hoped-for release in the summer.
“It’s a new genre of music in some ways,” Tankian says. “It’s electro orchestra jazz-rock. It’s basically a full orchestra, full, heavy electronic beats, live instrumentation and resampling…You name it, it’s there. It’s a huge wall of sound.”
Tankian says he’s doing most of the playing, producing and mixing himself, though he’s also working with members of his solo band, the F.C.C., Jimmy Urine from Mindless Self Indulgence, some guest singers and a corps of classical musicians, some of which play with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Tankian is “almost done with the recording phase” and plans to start mixing in late March.
Also on his plate is a contemporary musical adaptation of the ancient Greek classic “Prometheus Unbound” with “Spring Awakening” co-creator Steven Sater, which is scheduled to open at Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre in March of 2011.
“It’s pretty wild, musically,” Tankian reports. “It’s all over the place, from jazz to classical to noise to rock to electronic. And the story’s really powerful, a story of tyranny and justice.” The symphonic piece, meanwhile, is similarly unbound; Tankian says his three-quarters of the way done with that and hopes to have it in shape “to blend into some of these orchestral shows so that I can not just have songs that are being played with an orchestra but also have full orchestra classical pieces being played that are for the orchestra.”
As for SOAD, Tankian says that despite bassist Shavo Odadjian’s recent online teases, fans should not count on seeing the band again in the near future.
“We always have offers to play, from festivals and stuff, but we have not decided to do anything as of yet,” Tankian explains. “We’re in touch. We talk. We call it an indefinite hiatus, and that’s how we still look at it. Nothing’s really changed.”