Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1967 to Armenian parents during tumultuous political times, Tankian lived in Beirut until 1975 when his family emigrated to Los Angeles. A graduate of Marketing & Business from California State University, Tankian was running his own business developing Propriety Vertical Industry Modular Accounting Software (surely a first for a budding rock star?) when in 1995 he co-founded System Of A Down with three friends from the Armenian-American community.
Over the next ten years, System rose to become one of the most inventive hard rock bands of their generation — a band with a conscience, a message, and a desire to constantly evolve. Tankian's contributions included not only the confrontational and often cryptic lyrics, but also a unique singing voice heavily inspired by growing up listening to his father sing traditional Armenian music. Tankian sings in a cadence like no other: An abrasive, paint-stripping, pulpit-bashing roar one moment, a maudlin lament the next.
Having achieved their goals, the members of System Of A Down decided to pursue their own projects. Tankian continued his work with Axis Of Justice — the grass-roots activist organization he launched with Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello — and nurtured his own Serjical Strike Records. He also lent his vocal and remix skills to a number of artists, ranging from Tool and Deftones to Wu Tang Clan and Notorious B.I.G., and published a book of poetry, Cool Gardens (2002), which remains a best-selling poetry collection. In 2003, he recorded a pan-international sounding album with acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Arto Tunçboyac--yan, under the name SerArt.