System of a Down singer Serj Tankian discussed meeting the man who signed Led Zeppelin, Ahmet Ertegun, before his death in a new RT ‘Going Underground’ interview.
“I had a band that we had signed to my imprint, to my label, and there were a number of record companies interested in doing a distribution deal. So we met up with Universal Records, Atlantic Records at the time, and a few others in New York with the band. And after the meeting, I remember the CEO of Atlantic saying, ‘Hey, do you wanna meet the old man? He’s still here. His office is right next door.’ And I’m, like, ‘Ertegun?’ I’m, like, ‘Yeah, I’d love to.’ He signed Ray Charles and Led Zeppelin and all these bands. So I went in and sat down with him and had a nice 10-minute chat.
I can’t tell you anything else, but I got an inkling that he had some defensive aspect of me being Armenian,” he continued. “When I said, ‘Listen, just so you know, I’m Armenian. I grew up in Los Angeles,’ and this and that, and he kind of got defensive. And it didn’t really affect me much. So I got on Google and I typed ‘Ahmet Ertegun’ and I typed ‘Genocide’ after, and I realized that he had been responsible for funding foreign policy institutes and chairs at universities who hired authors and writers that denied the Genocide. And that was an awakening for me.”
He called me, and he said, ‘I think the Armenian Genocide should be recognized. And I said, ‘Okay. Great. Why don’t you write it on a letterhead and send it to me? And I won’t publicize it unless my back is against the wall with my community.’ And he said, ‘I can’t do that, because I have homes in Turkey. I don’t know what would happen to that.’ And I’m, like, ‘Then don’t do it. I wouldn’t want any violence enacted upon you or your family or anyone else.’ But it was very clear that that was an incendiary issue. And even though he was very close, he said, to the prime minister and the government officials there, he didn’t wanna take that step.”