System of a Down's sound is a mix of punk, metal and Armenian folk music. In 2006, their song B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Bombs) won a Grammy for best hard rock performance. Loyal fans are attracted to the band's activism for social justice just as much as the music. The new film Truth to Power follows Serj Tankian, the lead singer of System of a Down, from the band's formation to its years-long activism for Armenians, which in 2019 led to the US officially recognizing the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
"Originally the idea started with making a POV film," said Tankian. "I strapped cameras onto my head at different times and just shot everything that I did. Once I started looking at the footage, I realized that I'm going to make people throw up because I'm not really perfect for POV type of stuff. I'm more like a bird with my head turns."
At the core of Tankian's POV approach was the idea of showcasing an activist's journey through the eyes of an artist. With Garin K. Hovannisian on board as the film's director, the story grew further and follows the band's musical growth and how the members expressed their politics. It shows the far-reaching effects and repercussions of being both an artist and an activist.
During our conversation, Tankian discusses his life with System of a Down, new music from the band, and his love for composing film scores. He also articulates the pain and joy that he and his band endured fighting for social justice for Armenia.
You can listen to my entire conversation with Tankian on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. To find out more about Truth to Power check out the film's website. Also, you can subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo or I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about their work, career and current obsessions.