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Psathas Collaborates with Serj Tankian

Feb 4th, 2009

International fan and blog sites of Serj Tankian, frontman of rock band, System of a Down, are putting the spotlight on the announcement of his upcoming solo gig with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO), to take place on 16 March 2009. Quoted as ?one of the most unconventional frontmen in rock,? Serj Tankian has been collaborating with John Psathas to arrange his music for full orchestra for this concert.

Tankian will be playing songs from his debut solo album, Elect the Dead, as well as a few unreleased extras. ?Tankian will be joining with the APO to reinterpret Elect the Dead, an album that is both multifaceted and multilayered. Its tracklisting contains elements of psychedelia, classical, and the trademark surrealist images and skewed time signatures that Tankian has made his own, all of which will be scored by Tankian himself and arranged for full orchestra by respected New Zealand composer John Psathas.?

Tankian writes: ?I?m elated to have the opportunity to arrange my songs from Elect the Dead for a full orchestra with the APO. The arrangements will be quite different than those on the record including bonus tracks never played live, and John Psathas will be helping me outfit my string arrangements for the full orchestra. We?ll also be taping the performance for a worldwide DVD release later in the year.?

While Psathas has yet to meet Tankian in person, he says their collaboration has been very intense: ?The arrangements and orchestrations keep getting bigger and bigger. We?re scoring for a big orchestra, and the APO certainly have their work cut out for them. Serj is totally clear about how he wants this to sound, and I love that he?s been pushing me to come up with ways to create an energy that is different from, but as powerful as, the performances on the Elect the Dead CD. What makes this a unique experience is the absence of Serj?s band. Not having the drums and amplified guitars etc on stage, means that we can use the full spectrum of emotion and colour that an orchestra offers.?

This project follows up the critically-acclaimed collaboration between the APO and psychedelic rock band The Little Bushman (NZ), in which Psathas also arranged music for in 2008. Conductor Hamish McKeich, who directed the APO for the 2008 performance will return for this one with Tankian.

Psathas remarks that this one is a ?big project? and acknowledges the support of a team of specialists including Hamish Oliver, Jared Commerer and Alistair Gilkison. Though the live orchestrations will have to wait until the performance on 16 March, Psathas & Tankian have enjoyed the nearly instantaneous exchange of MIDI files through the internet, which Psathas says ?has proven very flexible? as a means of sharing ideas and receiving feedback.

While the work for the project continues, Psathas notes: ?this has been a privilege and I have to thank Antony Ernst at the APO for recommending me to Serj in the first place. Now to the thousand pages of proofing??

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