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Derek Sherinian

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Derek Sherinian From 1998
MSJ: How would you describe Platypus?
In reality, the platypus is the most obscure mammal on the planet, because scientists can`t classify it in a phylum. They had to put a distinct category for it. That`s how I would describe the Platypus album sonically. It`s like so many different influences thrown in that you just don`t know what it is. It`s hard to believe that we wrote and recorded the whole thing in two weeks. Take into consideration that the last Dream Theater album I did, we took a year to write it and three months to record it. The Platypus record was done in two weeks. Literally, we were working around the clock. There was not a wasted hour. We were constantly cutting tracks or writing, and it finally all came together. We were all exhausted by the time it was done.
MSJ: You have worked with some interesting people through the years. Could you tell me a little bit about working with Alice Cooper?
I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and I was doing different jobs. I was a janitor on movie sets. I was delivering Christmas baskets. I was working at Guitar Center. I was doing all sorts of different stuff to stay afloat. Alice Cooper had a big comeback album, the Trash album, which was top ten on Billboard. He was having this big comeback, and he was holding auditions. So every musician in Hollywood knew about the Alice Cooper auditions and went down there. He hired a guitar player named Al Pitrelli, who I went to Berkley College of Music with. Al recommended me for the gig, so I went down to audition, and Alice wound up hiring me. I quit my janitor job the next day. The funniest thing is that was the biggest tour I ever was on, was my first tour, ten years ago. Playing arenas, doing all the big shows, all the stuff like that. Every year it`s gone down hill, as far as the magnitude of the tour, so I started backwards.
MSJ: You also worked with Kiss, didn`t you?
eah, I did a tour with Kiss in `93, I believe. It was the Revenge tour, on the Revenge album. Eric Singer, the drummer, played with me in Alice Cooper. He got hired for Kiss. They needed a keyboard player. He recommended me. I walked into the rehearsal place. Gene Simmons goes "Who are you?" I said, "I`m Derek". He said, "You look like Paul Stanley and Cher`s love child." Paul never took to me for some reason. I was always more of a Gene fan. I never really got along with Paul, but Gene is very cool."
MSJ: Would you care to talk about the recent Dream Theater developments?
I was recording keyboard tracks for my solo album last week. I got a phone call. It was the guys saying that they wanted to hire Jordan Rudess as their keyboard player, plain and simple. It was weird, I wasn`t really too inspired to finish tracking that night, but the next day, I dealt with it. I have no hard feelings toward the guys. My experience in Dream Theater was incredible. It`s opened up a lot of opportunities for me, and I`m just trying to make lemonade out of the lemons. The bottom line is, it`s their band, they`ve been in it a long time, and they`ve developed it, and they have to what they think is best for their direction. I have no hard feelings whatsoever.
MSJ: Are there any thoughts you`d like to share about your time with Dream Theater?
It was a great learning experience. I really learned a lot. I think my playing has increased in the last four years. Definitely playing a lot more notes than I used to, and my sounds have really gotten better, as far as getting a handle on my equipment, getting world class sounds, doing it on the fly. That`s been something I really learned in Dream Theater. It`s been a very positive experience. I have nothing bad to say.
MSJ: Where do you see your career going from here?
This year, what I have on my plate is I have to finish up my solo record, which will be out in May on Magna Carta Records. We`ll do another Platypus record. I`m gonna do the next Alice Cooper record. I`m actually writing some songs with Alice right now. I`m going to be touring with him. My main focus right now is, I want to find my next home. Whether I start a band or join a rock band. I want it to be very cool, whatever it is. I want to be very patient, and choose my options carefully.
MSJ: Is there anything you`d like to share about the upcoming solo album?
My solo record is called "Planet X". It has Virgil Donati on drums and Brett Garsed on guitar. They`re two Australians, great musicians. A bass player named Tony Franklin, who is incredible. He used to play in The Firm with Jimmy Page and Blue Murder. The record is all instrumental. It will be out in May.
MSJ: Who would you consider to be your biggest musical influences?
My biggest influences, as a kid was Van Halen with David Lee Roth. That to me is the whole reason I love playing in bands, because they looked like they were having so much fun. That just seemed to me to me the coolest way to go through life, being in a huge rock band.
MSJ: I`ve heard that you look more at guitarists rather than keyboardists as your influences. Is that true?
I do, because guitar is such an expressive instrument. I`m fascinated how different guitar players you can turn on the radio and hear just one bend or a lick that they play and you can identify that player. If you turn on the radio, and you hear Carlos Santana, you know that`s him, or if you hear Jeff Beck, you know it`s him. I`ve found a lot of times that keyboard players, because of the way the instrument is, it`s hard to bring out a lot of nuances, and to have a personal style. That`s why I was always drawn more to guitar players, because of their little nuances and isms that they put in their playing, and I try to duplicate that on a keyboard.
MSJ: How is it you wound up playing keyboards instead of guitar then?
Probably because everyone and their brother wants to be a guitar player, and I started playing classical piano when I was younger. So, when it got to the point where I was playing in bands, there was already someone playing guitar. I go "Well, I used to play piano". So, I started doing that.
MSJ: Are there any musicians with whom you would really like to work?
I would love to work with Edward Van Halen, obviously. I`d love to work with Jeff Beck.
MSJ: What`s been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
There are too many to even mention. It`s Spinal Tap every day.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
I just bought an old Herbie Hancock jazz CD, Maiden Voyage. It`s awesome. I`ve been really trying to get back into jazz and study it, become good at it.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended?
I went and saw a group Niacin with Billy Sheehan, Dennis Chambers, and this keyboardist.
MSJ: How can fans keep up to date with you?
They can go to, and they will be able to use that site if they want to write to me.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 5 at
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