On 23 April 2015, System of a Down (SOAD) gave a historic concert in Republic Square in Yerevan. Five years later, Serj Tankian is recalling the event at the request of Mediamax.
Five years ago SOAD played its first ever show in Armenia – and it was the night before the Armenian Genocide Centennial. What were your emotions before and after the concert?
I was up for 2 nights unable to properly sleep before the show because I was asked to speak and play at the Genocide memorial. I decided that as an artist I would only speak from our stage because that is where I felt the most comfortable.
But as the show got close, I felt this feeling of calmness rare before such large events. I felt like our path had brought us there and we were on the right path - a spiritual confirmation of sorts. After the concert I felt a sense of relief and pride that we had contributed to something unique and special for a band to have first played its homeland on such a centenary.
Daron Malakyan shouted from the stage: “To our murderers – this in not a rock’n’roll concert, this is revenge!”. However, I think that the show was a catharsis for the band.
Indeed. I felt like the band was destined to play that show and I could feel it in my bones. It almost felt like the band was created just for that one day. It was an incredible feeling actually. Millions of people around the world watched the concert online contributing to the Armenian Genocide becoming top news that week around the world. I have to also remind myself that the whole tour was dedicated to awareness of the genocide as we showed the video we had made and talked about it in every capital throughout the tour.
Some people say that the show helped to change the perception of the Genocide for many young Armenians. If before they were considering themselves as victims, after they started to think they are survivors and winners. Do you think that the concert had this message?
It may have had that message unintentionally as myself and my band partners in SOAD have always been unapologetic about our political stances, and especially regarding awareness of the genocide which we all consider personal. To take it a step further, some say that the show vitalized the youth in Armenia to feel like anything is possible in terms of making their dreams come true. This is something I've been told by many people. I saw the future of Armenia in the smiling eyes of the youth there. But no one at the time thought that that change would come so quickly and beautifully as it did with the Velvet Revolution in 2018.
5 years passed since the Centennial – do you think that we, Armenians, used this 5 years for better educating the world about the Armenian Genocide?
The 5 years since 2015 have been a rebirth for the Armenian nation thanks to the revolution. We have become a stronger nation with better diplomacy and are taken more seriously around the globe.
I think that is one of the factors that led to the U.S. Congress officially recognizing the genocide in 2019. Of course there is still more work to do in terms of genocide recognition but we are in a much better place now. I recently gave a speech at an event at New Zealand's Parliament arguing for recognition.
In October 2019 it was announced that SOAD will play a concert in Yerevan in 2020 within the European tour. Is this still the case, or all the plans were cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic?
Although we don't have an actual cancellation at hand, a lot of the European promoters for the tour have been starting to cancel their shows, so it is highly likely that the concert in Yerevan will also be rescheduled for a future date due to the COVID-19 breakdown and ensuing international lockdowns.
Ara Tadevosyan talked to Serj Tankian