Planet X's keyboardist speaks about his band, his tour and his up coming album.
By Grant Kikkert
Former Dream Theater/Alice Cooper keyboardist, Derek Sherinian has sure been busy the past 12 months. Last summer he released his critically praised solo CD Inertia, he toured with PlanetX and played keys for Yngwie Malmsteen in South America. For the last few months he's been in his recording studio "The Leopard Room" working on Planet X's new CD Moonbabieswith Simon Phillips, Virgil Donati, and Tony MacAlpine. Now on the eve of PlanetX's new live release "Live From Oz" Derek took time from his busy schedule of touring and recording to answer a few questions for those us here at Sea of Tranquility.org
SoT: We are all eagerly awaiting the release of the new Planet X's 'Live From OZ' disc here in America.
How was it to finally tour with your own band?
DS: It was extremely rewarding. Besides Melbourne being Virgil's hometown, doing a full national tour of a country so far away from home is very exciting.
SoT: How did you get Dave LaRue to play bass on the tour?
DS: Dave has played close to 50 shows with us around the world. The Planet X bass gig is a demanding gig to say the least, Dave is one of the few bassists that can hang.
SoT: Do you have plans on having a full-time bass player for the band in the future?
DS: We enjoy having the flexibility of using different cats in the studio and on tour. Billy Sheehan, Jimmy Johnson, and Tom Kennedy are guesting on "MoonBabies".
SoT: Planet X stuff is very fusion oriented. Did you plan to model the band after any classic fusion bands such as Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Lifetime, Weather Report, Miles Davis, etc?
DS: More Lifetime , and Return to Forever than the others. UK, Allan Holdsworth, Dixie Dregs, Jeff Beck, Al DiMeola, Jan Hammer were my musical heroes.
But my two biggest musical heroes were Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads.
Since Berklee, I have ALWAYS wanted to do a "Heavy Metal UK" or Van Halen meets UK" or "Metal Fusion" was the main term that I would always use. You can hear that influence on the song I wrote called "Lines in the Sand".
Because Virgil and Tony are so musically advanced, the band has pushed the envelope rhythmically and harmonically to a point that is out of this world....hence Planet X
SoT: Inertia is an amazing album. You had so many great musicians involved in the record. Simon Phillips (Toto), bassist Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, Lana Lane, and Tony McAlpine), bassists Jimmy Johnson and Tom Kennedy, and guitarists Steve Lukather (Toto) and Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy). How was it working with so many diverse musicians? Any future plans to tour with that matieral?
DS: Thank you. It is so cool to work with people that you admire. I am exploring a few touring options for a future solo tour.
SoT: I see that Simon Phillips who co-wrote some songs on 'Inertia' is also involved in the new Planet X release "MoonBabies" (release scheduled for July). Can you tell us the highlights of the new release and what's it's like working with Simon?
DS: Simon is musical excellence personified. We have done four CDs together in the last 2 years. His sense of efficency, and perfection is contagious. I watch him like a hawk, and try to absorb as much of his greatness as I can. He and Virgil had a great chemistry as Simon recorded Virgil's drum tracks.
SoT: When writing with PlanetX how much of the songs are written out as opposed to improvised?
DS: Three songs on MoonBabies were the result of the three of us jamming, and Virgil wrote the rest on his own.
SoT: What's your personal approach to song writing? Do you focus completely on just your keyboard parts or do you have an idea how all the parts (bass, guitar, drums) will end up?
DS: I hear the whole picture. I think of my keyboard parts last.
SoT: Your recording studio is called the Leopard Room. When did you start building it? Did you record all of your solo record and PlanetX albums there?
DS: I built the Leopard Room for my first solo CD ."Planet X" I do everything here at my house except drums, and mixing.
SoT: Congratulations on your new endorsements with Nord and Ultimate. What does your current setup look like? How do you decide on a new board? How much time do you spend reworking the presets to find a sound you like?
DS: The Nord gear is great, I use it all over MoonBabies, and will feature the Nord synths on the next tour. There is no set process for programming. I just tweak until it works.
SoT: What was your first professional synth? Over the years what boards stood out as your favorites? Any boards that you're particularly proud of... any collector's items?
DS: My first synth was a Sequential Circuits Pro-1, then i got a Moog Opus 3, then a Oberheim OB8 w MIDI, Roland SuperJX, then a Roland D50, JD800, then I started getting everything for free. :)
SoT: Can you tell us how you feel about the about the following players? Any we missed that were a big influence on you?
- Jan Hammer- Very big influence, he played very aggressively which appealed to me, and he always had cool sounds. He knew how to project his personality on Disc
- Jon Lord-I got to open for Jon Lord and Emerson while I was in Dream Theater. His B3 sound is so massive live. Anytime I play distorted B3, I always am thinking Jon Lord.
- Kevin Moore - Kevin was a very important part of Dream Theater. I hear he is going doing a side project with Mike Portnoy.
- Keith Emerson - He was one of my heros for sure. I got to hang with Keith a little bit on that tour in 1999.
- Rick Wakeman - He was a hero growing up. I loved that Emerson and Wakeman had personalities.
- Chick Corea-Great. As I said earlier, I loved RTF.
- Yanni- He should start a band with Kenny G, and Michael Bolton.
- Bill Bruford-BRUFORD!! I love Bill Bruford's drumming and music. "One of a Kind" is the strongest common denominator of Planet X.
- Jens Johanssen - Yngwie and I were discussing Jens last week, and we agreed that he is one of the greats.
- Jordan Rudess-Very nimble fingers, and a nice guy!
SoT: You've toured with everybody from Alice Cooper to Yngwie. Who was the most fun to tour with. Any war stories you care to share?
DS: You will have to wait for my book..... :)
SoT: Lastly anything you'd like to say regarding the live Planet X album, the new album, other projects? What next for Derek Sherininan fans?
DS: Live From OZ really captures a spirit of Planet X that any fan of the band, or any of the members should hear. Simon once again did a superb job of mixing, so it is one of the best sounding live recordings that I have heard.
Thanks Derek. The new "Live From OZ" (in stores May 21) is a real monster. We wish you lots of luck with it and we hope it's very successful.
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