Sherinian, Derek (August 2006)

Derek Sherinian w/Planet X at NF 2004 (photo: Stephanie Sollow)Derek Sherinian probably needs no introduction on these pages, having played keyboards for Dream Theater for a time, and later with own fusion group Planet X, which grew out of and runs parallel with his solo career. Nevermind the other artists he's played with over the years, including Alice Cooper. The collaborations with Ty Tabor, Rod Morganstein, and John Myung in Platypus, and Tybor again with Matt and Greg Bissonette (Jughead). Sherinan has a new album coming out, Blood Of The Snake, which features such guests as Zakk Wylde, Billy Idol, Slash, Yngwie Malmsteen and John Petrucci among others. Last month, Joshua Turner spoke with Sherinian about the new album and what lies ahead for this versatile keyboardist.

Joshua Turner: I heard that you have some tours lined up. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

DS: Yeah; I'm leaving with Billy Idol on the 27th of this month [June], I'm doing three weeks of festivals in Europe and then we're going to come back and do three weeks in the States up until August 20th.

JT: Recently I've been listening to that new album that you just put together, that you're going to be coming out with soon, Blood Of The Snake. It's a great album; I've just got to say that.

DS: Thank you.

JT: Every track is a little different. Can you explain your approach to this album; what your songwriting process might have been behind it?

DS: It's pretty much the same on every album. My musical tastes are very versatile and I just try to cover a lot of musical ground on every album.

JT: Okay.

DS: And, try to hit like a bunch of different styles.

JT: You're a connected individual. You've got some big names on your album. How have you met these people and gotten connected with them.

DS: Since I started playing with Alice Cooper in '89, I've just accumulated a lot of high-placed friends and I've just been working with them over the years and my cast of players is constantly expanding.

JT: You may have been asked this many times, but I just became aware that you were in the Wayne's World movie. What was it like to be in that movie?

DS: It's very good. I'm hardly in it at all, so don't blink when you watch it. We were... at the time, I was touring with Alice Cooper and they got a call. Alice got a call to do this movie from the Saturday Night Live guy, so we went down for two days and shot the movie and six months later, it was the biggest movie of the summer.

JT: That's pretty cool. Talking about the album, I liked a lot of the tracks in there, but I think the one called "Viking Massacre," that's probably my favorite one.

DS: Oh, wow, that's cool. That was written for Yngwie Malmsteen.

JT: If you had to pick a favorite track, what would you say it is?

DS: I like all of them for different reasons, so it's really hard to just pinpoint one.

JT: You're probably asked this quite a bit, too, but it's hard to narrow down what your influences might be because you do have quite a range. Who would you say are your musical influences?

DS: Well, I think a lot of it is hard rock music, Van Halen, Ozzy in the early days, but I'm also influenced by jazz fusion like Al Di Meola, Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth. So, I've always kind of tried to fuse the two of them in a creative way.

JT: How did your involvement in music actually begin and how did you decide you wanted to become a keyboardist?

DS: As a kid, I gravitated towards the piano, so my mom got me on lessons at age five and this has always been the instrument. It's always been in my life. So, I just stuck at it.

JT: I also see on the album that you've got John Petrucci playing on it. Do you have any plans in the future to maybe do some more projects with him?

DS: I would love to work with John in any capacity. I think he's fantastic and it was nice to record with him again after all these years. He came over to my home studio and we took all day to record that song and he just did a great job. He's always invited to play on my records.

Platypus circa 1999 (Tabor, Sherinian, Morgenstein and Myung)JT: That's great to hear that. Is there going to be any more Platypus or Jughead albums?

DS: I would say no.

JT: Is there any other projects like that, which you might be putting together.

DS: Nothing down the line. The only thing is I have is a Planet X record that needs to be finished and I think that it's going to come out early 2007.

JT: Is that something that you're already working on right now?

DS: Yeah, we've been working on it for a while. We're just waiting for Allan Holdsworth to finish up his tracks. He's been taking a long time, but when they come through, it's going to sound great.

JT: How do you approach that project as opposed to your solo work? How does that differ?

Virgil Donati (circa 1999)DS: Planet X. Uh, Virgil Donati, the drummer, is the primary writer for Planet X. So, he kind of sets the tone compositionally, whereas my solo records I collaborate with different people and have complete creative control with that, but Planet X is more of a band effort.

JT: How did you come up with that name Planet X?

DS: Planet X was a name? as a kid I named, when I used to smoke pot, if you smoked too much, you started seeing these little dots that are twirling in front of your face and I used to call that Planet X.

JT: [I laugh] That's pretty funny.

DS: It's also the unknown planet and I think it's a great name for the music, because the music is kind of like unknown. [The first Planet X record came out after his collaboration with Ty Tabor of King's X, so I always thought there was a connection between the two. - JT*]

JT: Speaking of names, how did you come upon the name Blood Of The Snake for the album?

DS: It was just a title for one of the songs and it came down to the wire. I had to settle on a title, so that was the coolest title. So, that's what I decided on.

JT: I'm curious, your last name, Sherinian, what's the origins of that?

DS: Armenian.

JT: Oh, it's Armenian.

DS: Yeah, I'm half Greek, half Armenian.

JT: I'd like to ask you some of your favorites, just to kind of get an idea of where some of your influences might be coming from. I know it's hard to narrow down to one. So, whatever pops in your mind. Like, what is your favorite album?

DS: There's so many of them, I mean, the early Van Halen records were a huge influence. Jeff Beck - Wired. There's just a lot.

JT: Do you have a favorite band? Is there one you come back to more often than the others?

DS: Not really. Probably Van Halen with David Lee Roth.

JT: I wanted to get a taste of your favorites outside of music to see where influences might be coming from that aren't music-related. What is your favorite movie?

DS: Godfather.

JT: That's a good choice.

DS: I & II.

[It's true what they say - all guys pick that movie! - ed.]

JT: Do you have a favorite TV show?

DS: The Sopranos and The Shield.

JT: Cool. What about a favorite book?

DS: Mmm, I'm not sure.

JT: Not sure? That's a hard one.

DS: Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss.

JT: [I laugh] It's been awhile since I've seen that one? What is your sport of choice?

DS: I don't really have one, I don't play sports.

JT: Is there one that you follow? Are you into football, soccer?

DS: Nah, I could care less about them.

JT: We could say music is a sport in some ways? What's the last CD that you might have given a lot of playing time?

DS: Let me see. I can't remember the last time I bought a CD. Actually, Meshuggah, whatever the latest Meshuggah is. I think they're the coolest band out there as far as metal. [At this time, it's probably Catch Thirty-Three - JT]

JT: I know that you tour a lot and might not have the time, but has there been any concerts that you've attended as a fan?

DS: No.

JT: This might be one that you're asked quite a bit, but I like to ask for the comic relief aspect of it. Do you recall any Spinal Tap moments, maybe some recent ones on the tour or something comical might have happened on stage?

DS: Not really. Not really, no. Sorry.

JT: That's okay? On the new album, right at the end, you've got a hidden soundbyte in there. [He's already laughing] What actually inspired that and what's going on there?

DS: I do little goofy stuff like that on every record and me and Brian Tichy just put that together for the end just to be funny. It means nothing?

JT: Is there any chance fans could see the Blood Of The Snake album live? Do you plan on going out on your own?

DS: I hope so one day. It's really hard to assemble a band and find a guitar player that could play all of these styles, [no joke - JT] but eventually, I will get it together, but I think I'm going to be pretty busy with Billy Idol next year so we'll see what happens.

JT: How did this whole Billy Idol gig come about?

DS: Brian Tichy, the drummer, who has co-written with me the last three records, we were writing the Black Utopia record and he was playing with Billy Idol at the time and there was an opening in the keyboard department. So, he called me and I went down to audition and I've been doing the gig for over four years now.

JT: Speaking of Billy Idol, and Slash, that last track wouldn't be what I'd expect from these guys. How did that track come about?

DS: It's a song that I've loved, "In The Summertime," since I was a little kid, and Billy started singing it one day in rehearsal and I just said, hey, we could cover that one day. So, two years later, we actually covered it and decided to give Slash a call. He came down to my studio and recorded and it was fantastic.

JT: Would you have any interest or any plans to play in any music festivals?

DS: Sure, I would absolutely.

JT: Have you done anything like that in the past or do you mostly stick with touring?

Planet X at NEARfest 2004 (photo: Stephanie Sollow)DS: Planet X has played music festivals and we've done stuff. I just haven't done it solo. [Among perhaps others, Planet X was at NEARfest 2004 -ed.]

JT: Out of curiosity, what would you say is the worst part about being a musician?

DS: I don't think there is a worst part. It's great. I can't imagine doing anything else.

JT: Then what would you say is the best part about being a musician?

DS: Being able to make records and tour.

JT: What's the most memorable fan interaction that you've had?

DS: I don't know, it's all great. I really just like playing live and meeting people in every country in the world. It's just a great pleasure.

JT: I hate to jump around here, but we were talking about movies and that kind of stuff. Looking online (, it appears that you were a part of another movie. I don't know if I'm pronouncing this right, but it was Al Rojo Vivo.

DS: I don't know what that is.

JT: Oh, you don't even know what that even is? Because it said something about background cues and something like that.

DS: [he repeats in the same stern tone] I don't know what that is.

JT: I don't know what that is either.** [I laugh] Okay, so at least we've cleared that up. This is my own quirky thing I like to ask, because it helps me identify, but do you have any pets?

DS: I have no pets. I tour so much, it wouldn't be fair to the animal to leave them here at the house alone.

JT: It is Father's Day. I was surprised that you had time to talk to me. Do you have kids and a family?

DS: No, I don't.

JT: I kind of covered everything here. Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans at this time?

DS: Yeah, thank you so much for your support. There's soundclips of Blood Of The Snake on my website and thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, Josh.

JT: I appreciate it and you did a great job on the album. I'm surprised how you keep coming out with these albums and they keep getting better and better.

DS: I have a lot more in me. So, thanks.

JT: That's good to hear. At this point, just enjoy the rest of your weekend.

DS: Alright.

JT: I wish you a lot of luck and hopefully I can see you live at some point.

Sherinian will be on tour with Billy Idol in Europe and the UK now through July 23, and then in the US beginning July 28 (the date Blood Of The Snake is released in Europe) through August 19, 2006. Blood? will be released in North America on August 1.

[* Planet X , Sherinian's first solo album came out in 1998, just ahead of the first Platypus album in 1999; the first Planet X album proper came out in 2000; ** if the reference is correct, it's a Spanish language TV show on the Telemundo channel; I suspect the "background cues" means that some of Sherinian's music was used. -ed.]

Selected Discography (!!):
Brad Gillis - Gillrock Ranch (1993)
Kiss - Alive III (1993)
Alice Cooper - The Last Temptation (1994)
Various - To Cry You A Song - A Collection Of Tull Tales (1995)
Dream Theater - A Change Of Seasons (1995)
Alice Cooper - Classicks (1996)
Pat Torpey - Odd Man Out (1997)
Dream Theater - Falling Into Infinity (1997)
Explorer's Club - Age Of Impact (1998)
Dream Theater - Once In A Livetime (1998)
Various - Humanitary Stew - A Tribute To Alice Cooper (1999)
Various - A Tribute To Aerosmith - All Star Tribute To Aerosmith (1999)
Platypus - When Pus Comes To Shove (1999)
Planet X (1999)
Platypus - Ice Cycles (2000)
Planet X - Universe (2000)
Various - A Party Of The Times - A Tribute To Prince (2000)
Inertia (2001)
Various - Songs Of Pink Floyd - All Star Tribute To Pink Floyd (2001)
Various - One Way Street - All Star Tribute To Aerosmith (2001)
Todd Rundgren - Todd Rundgren And Friends (2002)
Various - We're A Happy Family - All Star Tribute To The Ramones (2002)
Einstein - Einstein Too (2002)
Gilby Clarke - Swag (2002)
Planet X - Moon Babies (2002)
Jughead - Jughead (2002)
Yngwie Malmsteen - Attack (2002)
Planet X - Live From Oz (2002)
Shaman - Ritual (2003)
Black Utopia (2003)
John Sykes - Bad Boy Live (2003)
House Of Lords - The Power And The Myth (2004)
Mythology (2004)
Billy Idol - Devil's Playground (2005)
Blood Of The Snake (2006)
Billy Idol - Happy Holidays (2006)
Planet X - Quantum (2007)
Ayreon - 01011001 (2008)
Billy Idol - Idolize Yourself (2008)
Yngwie Malmsteen - Perpetual Flame (2008)
Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (...And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs) (2008)
Molecular Heinosity (2009)
Black Country Communion - Black Country Communion (2010)
Black Country Communion - Black Country Communion 2 (2011)
Oceana (2011)
Black Country Communion - Live Over Europe (2011)
Various - Who Tribute - Who Are You (2012)
Black Country Communion - Afterglow (2012)
Nektar - A Spoonful Of Time (2012)
The Prog Collective - The Prog Collective (2012)
PSMS - Live In Tokyo (2013)
Black Label Society - Unblackened Live (2013)

Billy Idol - Live (DVD) (2009)
Black Country Communion - Live Over Europe (DVD) (2011)
PSMS - Live In Tokyo (DVD) (2013)
Black Label Society - Unblackened Live (DVD) (2013)

Added: August 7th 2006
Interviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner

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Hits: 2977
Language: english

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