Sherinian, Derek (December 2001)

Derek Sherinian: The Lounge ... Leopard

Derek Sherinian (courtesy Anne Leighton Publicity)For someone who once was described as "arrogance personified," the "Caligula of the keyboards," the "pompous king of pop," "reeking of self-esteem," and "born with the rock star charisma" by none other than the fear of rock himself, Alice Cooper, keyboard player Derek Sherinian certainly has been around long enough to prove that he is one of a kind. Having toured with the likes of Buddy Miles, Alice Cooper, Kiss and Dream Theater, probably his most productive period as a solo performer has been noted since he left the prog metal meisters. Next to Platypus, and his very own band Planet X, comes a pure, full steam rock oriented solo album called Inertia. Backed by rock legends such as drummer Simon Phillips and guitarists Steve Lukather and Zakk Wylde, we simply had to know more about what happened during some sunny afternoons at the infamous Leopard Room in the Hollywood Hills. Maybe in a couple of years' time the famous Hollywood sign will be replaced by a huge display depicting a smiling Sherinian, shades 'n' all.

Derek Sherinian - Inertia"The idea for this album came to mind about a year ago," muses Sherinian. "Next to the more prog oriented Planet X project, I wanted to create a solo album which really kicked some ass. Because I knew that Zakk Wylde wanted to collaborate, I knew from the start I wanted to record a heavy rock version of the classic instrumental 'Frankenstein.' Then there was 'Evel Knievel' which was written with Zakk in mind and "What A Shame," which I had written with the current Megadeth axeman Al Pitrelli years ago. Especially where 'Frankenstein' is concerned, I wanted it to be played in D instead of G, which in the end makes it more aggressive. I definitely wanted to have the emphasis on guitar as I think keyboard dominated albums are boring. I wrote all of the guitar stuff myself, as I do play the guitar myself, but no shreds. Before I knew it, one of the world's best drummers and someone I have admired since my teens, Simon Phillips, Simon Phillps - Another Lifetime (1998)climbed on board as well. At one point Simon kind of told me that his Toto partner Steve Lukather would probably be interested in joining as well, so I asked Simon to give Steve a call. Two days later and he was already recording with us. In fact, Steve called me two days ago saying he must have played Inertia well over fifty times already and still can't get enough of it. Steve says of the album: 'it's the best solo album I never made,' which of course is awesome coming from a legend like him. I mean, I have been a fan of Steve and Simon since I was a kid. Even if a Lukather discography is only 75% complete, it still makes you dizzy to look at. Everything regarding Inertia is so overwhelming for me because I never thought the press would react so favourably, but I certainly could never have dreamed to have Steve and Simon being so enthusiastic about this album. At times I feel like pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. In fact, I wanted to deliver a more mainstream sounding album, a nice collection of 4/4 music that would reach a much wider audience. The recording of the album took place in my studio and in Simon's studio as well. Simon has a special drum boot and through the years he has managed to create and is able to record a fantastic, dry, powerful drum sound. Also, all of Steve's parts were recorded at Simon's place, whereas Zakk recorded his stuff at my place, probably because it looks more like a bordello than a studio [laughs]! In the end I called the album Inertia instead of Rhapsody In Black which I wanted in the beginning. One evening Simon called me saying Rhapsody In Black sounded more prog, more pompous than Inertia, so that same evening I opted for the latter."

When Derek parted ways with Dream Theater, all he had going for him at the time was a guest appearance on a Magna Carta tribute album, but it wasn't long before his luck changed in his favour. "Someone at Magna Carta asked me if I ever considered recording a solo album. Up until then it had never crossed my mind, but as I had nothing going for me anyway I thought I might give it a go. The result, Derek Sherinian - Planet X (1998)Planet X, was a step in the right direction, knowing I could deliver a good sounding all instrumental album backed by some outstanding musicians. You see, all over the world there are masses of great musicians and I'm sure there are guys and even girls out there with a much better technique than I'll ever have, but what I'm really after is an identity, a very distinctive style. I'm convinced that the musicians I have worked with so far all have style, all have their very own identity as opposed to copying someone else.

What I can tell you right now is that Platypus won't be recording any new material. Instead there will be two diverse Derek Sherinian projects simultaneously. On one side there will be Planet X, which will always be the more progressive direction of things. As a matter of fact we did a short American tour followed by a tour in Australia that was set up by our drummer and native Australian Virgil Donati. Virgil Donati Here we played a trilogy from our first album, a brand new song, a track from Tony MacAlpine's new solo album and the title track from Inertia, amongst others. The new album will be entirely recorded at Simon Phillips' house with Simon at the controls where mixing is concerned. Although I thought Inertia would just be a solo album, both Steve Lukather (photo: John Harrell)Steve Lukather and Simon Phillips are so into the music and the idea that we will make it a permanent band, which we'll call Inertia as well. It's up to Simon to appoint the bass player of his choice, as I think drums and bass should be a solid whole. We will embark on a world tour towards the fall, early winter of this year and we are all very much looking forward to it. The set will consist of all of the Inertia material, some stuff from my first solo album and probably some early Jeff Beck tunes as well. However, with this band, chances are the actual set might precede a string of encores, including loads of classics and improvisations. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the set would be different night after night, but then again that's what keeps this "circus" interesting throughout! Then when Simon and Steve decide it's time to do a new Toto album, I have the possibility to get on the road with Planet X again."

Derek SherinianWhilst Inertia is on general release through Inside Out America, Derek has released a limited run of 100 copies that includes demos plus two songs that were omitted from the final release. "Yes, we did in fact record twelve songs but only allowed ten of them to go on the disc. The two that didn't make it were "Mulholland," a light jazzy/fusion track I was not that happy about and "Oh Effluvius" which is more of a jam between myself, Simon and Steve, resulting in barroom jazz, but not consistent enough to be on the actual album. I thought it wouldn't hurt to put these tracks out on a very limited run of homemade CDs just to please the hardcore fans. I have nothing against jazz because I like people like Allan Holdsworth, Mike Stern, Chick Corea. I have to admit that I can't play straight-ahead jazz or bebop but I do admire it. For me, though, this is not heavy enough. I grew up with Van Halen and Ozzy, which kind of is the core of my music. There is a little jazz influence on Inertia because of Jerry Goodman's violin. Jerry was introduced to me through Dave LaRue, yet I only wanted violin on one or two tracks just to add a little progressive touch. If I ended up with Jerry all over the album it would have been too much of a good thing, having people compare us to Kansas! To me Planet X is musical sports, it's the sickest metal instrumental prog you can think of [laughs half of Hollywood awake!]. Incidentally, there will be edits from both 'Mata Hari' and 'Frankenstein' that will run just under 4 minutes. That's necessary to get the needed radio airplay. 'Mata Hari' will be targeted for the jazz radio stations, whereas 'Frankenstein' is intended for metal radio."

Derek SherinianHaving toured both with Buddy Miles and Mike Portnoy, and now looking to share the stage with the legendary Simon Phillips, is there a difference between these drummers? "I'm not going to compare Portnoy with any of the other drummers you mention, as the only drummer you could mention there has to be Terry Bozzio. But Simon Phillips is a heavy Buddy Miles fan, always has been. Both musicians have great grooves. Buddy has that great R&B groove also known as 'the train.' Let's say that Simon does it very well for a white guy. Earlier on I did mention the impressive list of sessions from Lukather, but also Simon Phillips has delivered an amazing list of contributions, having played with some of the biggest names in the history of rock. It's because I get the chance to work with these guys and share their enthusiasm that I have no problem at all ditching Platypus completely. I would like to write new Inertia material together with Steve Lukather, if that would be possible. He has such a great sense of melody that I'm convinced we would be able to write timeless tunes. After I left Dream Theater, things didn't look very good but only a couple of years later I find myself surrounded by top musicians, which, of course, makes sure that I deliver some of the best playing I have ever done. With Planet X going in a more progressive direction and Inertia touching the more melodic instrumental rock spectrum I couldn't find myself in better company. The future really looks amazing!"

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: December 21st 2001
Interviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Language: english

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