Future of Music: Serj Tankian - Rolling Stone
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Future of Music: Serj Tankian

What has music done for you
Music was my hobby and my getaway, it was my escapism in a box, and since it became my career years ago, I had the awakening that I need to do this to be happy, and since I’ve been on that path, I’ve been a lot happier. I’ve been a lot more content and fulfilled. So personally, to me, it’s been a saving grace of my life. It’s a way to communicate, it’s a way to get all your emotions out, it’s a perfect form of exorcism, I guess. It’s a lot.

Do you think that, when you started playing music, you understood musicians?
Yeah. Music seemed to be an extension of my rebelliousness in the very positive way of expressing that rebellion, and when I got together with musicians, there was a sense of these people being on the outskirts of community, not necessarily the guys with the ties going to work everyday and the mainstay of the community where they’re given these honors and stuff. Musicians were always on the outskirts of what we call the core of, I guess, established community, and I like that.

Do you feel like younger audiences today make that same connection to music in the same way, or they seem the same way?
I’m not sure if they do. I think the perception of music has changed from my generation, when I was growing up, to now, whether it’s more pop or more commercialized. There was always that aspect, of course, but I think music’s community’s changed in the sense that, with online and stuff, it’s a lot more interactive, it’s not just music anymore, it’s video and music, it’s communication and music, it’s blogging and music. It’s remixing the music, doing videos to music and putting them up on YouTube, it’s become a lot more interactive. Whether it represents rebellion as much or not, I don’t know.

What changes do you see coming for music, stylistically or delivery-wise?
I have a strong feeling that in five to ten years that an artist will just be able to do everything on his or her Web site, rather than regular distribution channels. Some indies, I think will still remain, like the Amoebas and mom and pop stores that will always cater and have the knowledge and experience to really give someone, but otherwise, it’s going to go into kiosk mode. It’s going to be something you put your iPod in and it will be a huge hard drive and you pick what you want, just like iTunes, and you’ll be able to get it in any mall at a kiosk.

What do you think are the most important problems facing the world?
I think the biggest evil in the world is not realizing that everything is one. We’ve got a lot of problems, we’ve got global warming, we’ve got unnecessary invasions and wars, we’ve got hunger, we’ve got hurricanes, we’ve got tsunamis and starvation in some of the most industrial and healthy economic nations in the world. We’ve got a lot of problems, but I think to address them, we have to really address our intentions as human beings, and I think we have to look at where we are in the world. In my opinion, civilization is over. It’s a dead beast. We’ve got to figure out another way of interacting with each other, another way of interacting with nature around us, as nature, and redefining everything in our lives, because our current structure is over. We’re addicted to this thing called civilization. A lot of people I talk to this about equate humanity with civilization, and I laugh, because I think, “Well, there were people on this planet before civilization, and yet we’re so addicted to this concept that we think that if civilization is over, we’re over.” And in some ways, it’s right, because when you’re addicted to something and it’s gone, you might be gone, too.

Would you say you’re optimistic about the future or pessimistic?
I think I’m optimistic, but I don’t believe in the future. I believe in the eternal presence. I believe that it’s every moment that we have to count, that now is the time that we can make a change. Today, I can leave this house, never come back here, and change my life. I have the power to do that, I believe in destiny coupled with will, as far as where we’re going all together. I believe we have the power to change things. I believe that our biggest impediment is our inability to realize that power on a personal and collective level, and I also believe that it takes a very small amount of the population to change major things. If you look at all major changes on this planet, society, and everything that’s happened, it’s usually a small group of people that are very dedicated, focused and constructive that make it happen.

How are you trying to do that? How does that thought change the way you live your life?
In my personal small ways, I do things to leave a smaller footprint, to start with. I have a hybrid car, I try not to use a lot of this or that as far as waste. I’m sure I waste as much as anyone else nonetheless, but I’m aware of it, I’m conscious of it. To me, it feels more right.

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