I’ve played with a lot of my heroes in my career, Simon Phillips, Al Di Meola, Steve Lukather, Yngwie. But Eddie Van Halen was just on a whole different level.”
Derek Sherenian: Hey, Daniel.
Wikimetal (Daniel Dystyler): Hey, Derek, how are you?
DS: Fine, how are you?
W (DD): Excellent. It’s amazing that you answered so quickly, it’s really, really great to have you here on such a short notice.
DS: Oh, man, that’s cool. Yeah, today the timing’s really good, because I have a busy weekend, so I’m just relaxing right now, so let’s get it done, man.
W (DD): Excellent, excellent. It’s a real honor and a pleasure to have the great Derek Sherenian, one of the greatest keyboards ever in rock history, so it’s really, really amazing, so in the name of all the Brazilian headbangers, I’d like to welcome you to the Wikimetal show.
W (DD): Derek, I’m going to start asking, like, back in the day, do you remember how you first became involved with music?
DS: Well, there was a piano in my parents house, and I would always go to the piano, and then at some point I started to figure out songs. And my parents got me a teacher that taught classical to young kids, and that’s where I started. As I got older, I started playing in bands, and then the rest is history.
W (DD): Yes, and it is a great and amazing history. And talking about that, what are the greatest keyboard players in Rock and Heavy Metal, that really inspired you to follow this career?
DS: Yeah, Jon Lord… And then, in Progressive Metal, like, Deep Purple is a pretty big influence. Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and Jan Hammer, for Fusion…
W (DD): Yeah, those are great names. And did you have the opportunity to meet the late Jon Lord?
DS: Yeah, I met him once, I think in 95 or 96… When I was in Dream Theater, we were on tour with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Deep Purple, so… I remember that was really cool for me to be on the same tour with Emerson and Jon Lord.
W (DD): Excellent, excellent. And Alice Cooper, I think, was your first big break In 1989, if I’m not mistaken. How was the invitation to play with him, and tell us a little bit about being around such a nice person as Alice Cooper, can you share some memories from those days?
DS: Yeah, I was very young at the time, and Alice Cooper was making a big comeback with his Thrash album, and everyone in town was trying to get in on that gig, and I just went in for the keyboard audition, and, you know, Alice and I got on, he liked my playing, and I ended up getting the job. And it was a very exciting time in my life, because it was the first time I ever was paid full time to be a musician, and go on a big tour, and on MTV, and all that. And so, yeah, that was one of the great years of my life – that whole tour, 89, 90.
W (DD): Great, great. Excellent story. Derek, we have a classic question on our show that we ask every single guest, which is, imagine you’re listening to your iPod on shuffle mode or you’re listening to a rock station while driving your car and all of a sudden a song starts that makes you lose your mind and you feel you need to start head banging immediately, regardless of where you are you can’t stop, you can’t refrain yourself. What song is that so we can listen to that one on our show right now?
DS: Van Halen, Unchained.
W (DD): Oh, great, great choice! Van Halen, Unchained, here on Wikimetal! Derek, and then, before joining Dream Theater, you’ve also played on the “Alive III” album from the Revenge tour of Kiss, right?
DS: That’s right.
W (DD): Any memories from that?
DS: That was a fun tour also… I was recommended by Eric Singer, who played with me in Alice Cooper, he just got hired for the drum position in Kiss, and so… Eric said that I should come down, and I got a call from Gene Simmons, so I went for the audition, and he basically just shook my hand, and I had the job. And, you know, it was a great tour, watching how Gene and Paul run that band, because they’re so knowledgeable, and experienced, and fun guys also, so… I had a good time.
W (DD): Very good. On your first solo album, Planet X, which is amazing, by the way, you play with such great musicians as Virgil Donati and Tony MacAlpine. And that was so great that you’ve formed a band called Planet X. Any plans in the future for more stuff coming from Planet X?
DS: You know, there’s nothing planned for right now… But never say never, you know. Maybe an opportunity will come up, where the three of us will get back together and play, because we made some pretty adventurous, insane music together.
I have nothing but great memories of the time with Dream Theater”
W (DD): It was, it was really, really great, and there are a lot of people, like famous people, and really great players, talking about how bad those albums influenced them. It’s really great, and hopefully you guys will get back together again and do some stuff in the future.
DS: Yeah, for sure.
W (DD): OK, let’s talk a little about Dream Theater, tell us a little bit about those years, what you miss, what you don’t miss, and also about the reunion concert “When Dream and Day Reunite” in 2004, how was that experience of playing again with the guys, including Jordan Rudess?
DS: Well, Dream Theater… When I got the call from them… Actually, let me rephrase that. At the time Alice Cooper was taking time off from work, the whole Seattle Grunge thing came out, and none of the big rock bands was doing business, so everyone was kind of chilling out, and figuring out what their next move was going to be. And so I heard that this band, Dream Theater, was looking for a keyboard player, and I didn’t know their music at all. And I heard that they were Progressive Metal, so… I arranged an audition, and they sent me the music, and I remember just being, like horrified, going “Oh, my God, this stuff is insane, I don’t know if I can… I’ve never played music like this before.” And so, it was a great challenge, and I really put a lot of time into it, preparing for the audition, and I went in, and as it turned out, there were three people that auditioned – it was Jordan Rudess, Jens Johansson, and myself. And when I heard Jens was auditioning, I was like “Well, he’s going to get the gig” because Jens is just an amazing keyboard player – he’s probably my favorite keyboardist in Metal, for sure. And so, as it turned out, they wanted Jordan originally, and I think Jordan may have had other things going on, I’m not sure what the story was, but he passed on the gig, and so then they called me. And then I went in and learned the set, and started doing the tour, and after six months, they made me a full member of the band. And I’ll say that the four years I was in that band, it was a great learning experience for me, musically, and it really helped elevate my ability, and just… You know, all around professionalism as a musician, so I’m very grateful for that opportunity. You know, I’m still friends with all those guys, and I just recently played with Mike Portnoy on a tour with Billy Sheehan and Tony MacAlpine. We played instrumental, we played a lot of those old Dream Theater songs. And that was just a very cool thing, and so… I have nothing but great memories of that time.
W (DD): Yeah, great. And since you mentioned the PSMS, an instrumental super group, that you guys toured last year, are there any plans in the future for that?
DS: Yeah, we’re talking about going back out this fall, including a South American run – we’re talking to a couple of big promoters down there, so that’s a big possibility that we’ll be playing down there, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
W (DD): That would be amazing to see yourself, Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan and Tony MacAlpine playing together, that might be like a dream come true, amazing. Great, great. Since you were talking about those years with Dream Theater, can you choose a song from Dream Theater that you are really proud of being part of, and recording, so we can listen to, here in our show, as well?
DS: I think the most famous composition I wrote during that time, for the Dream Theater people was Lines in the Sand, and so that was a very… That was the first big piece that I brought to the band, and everyone seemed to like it, so I would say that.
W (DD): Excellent, excellent. Derek, we had the opportunity of talking to the great Glenn Hughes last year and he was so nice, telling us a bunch of things, including about the Black Country Communion amazing group that you guys assembled. Are there any plans on doing more things with the Black Country Communion and also, how was the concert you guys played last year in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic?
DS: Oh, that was amazing, but that wasn’t Black Country Communion – that was Glenn and I sitting in with an Armenian band called Dorians. And that was a great experience, we played in Armenia, and then we played in Karabakh, the show that you just mentioned. So that was a really cool thing. Regarding Black Country Communion, the band’s in a state of uncertainty, and we’re trying to figure out what the next move is. I don’t think Joe’s going to be with the band anymore, because he’s really focused on his solo career, and he doesn’t want to go out and tour with the band, so we need to figure out whether we want to move on, or just let it fold, so… It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
W (DD): It will, it will. And we’ll also cross our fingers, because it’s a great band, great sounds, and great music.
DS: It is a great band, and if it was my choice, I would love for the original lineup with Joe to go out and play a bunch of gigs, but you know, Joe has other things going, and so my position is: I would love to see the band continue, even without Joe, so we’ll see what happens.
W (DD): OK. And what about playing with Yngwie Malmsteen?
DS: That was a great experience! I really think Yngwie is one of the greatest Metal guitar players alive. Certainly, one of the best I’ve ever played with. And we had some wild shows, and I played with him on and off for a few years, and played on a couple of his records – he’s played on a couple of my records, and I have a really good relationship with the maestro, so I always wish him the best, and I hope I get an opportunity to play with him again.
W (DD): Great, great. We are almost reaching the end of our interview, so in this final part here, one question that I’m kind of curious about is, you’ve had so many great moments in your career, playing with such great musicians and great bands, if you could think of one moment in your career that you’ll never forget, which one would that be?
DS: I had the opportunity to play with Eddie Van Halen at a private party at his house. And it was one day of rehearsal, and then the show. And I just remember… It just felt so surreal… It was like a dream, that “I can’t believe I’m playing with this guy, that was such a huge influence on me.” And I’ve played with a lot of my heroes in my career. Everyone, from Simon Phillips, Al Di Meola, you know, Steve Lukather, Yngwie, all these guys I was a very big fan of. But Eddie Van Halen was just on a whole different level. So that is something that I’ll always remember.
I’m a very big fan of MMA, and Anderson Silva, and Junior dos Santos, and all the great fighters down there.”
W (DD): Very good, very good. Last song that I’ll ask you to choose, so we can listen to here on our show, is one that you’re really proud of having written in your career, so we can listen to right now on Wikimetal.
DS: Oh, you know, I’d say: pick anything off of one of my solo records, they’re all… You know, I put a lot of time into them, and they’re all… They all mean a lot to me, so… I would just say… You know, as an album, I’m very proud of the “Black Utopia” album, I think that there are some really great songs on there, and the assembly of guests is very unique. So I would say listen to that, but any of my solo records I recommend to anybody.
W (DD): Excellent, excellent, so we’re going to pick one from “Black Utopia”.
DS: Pick the song Sons of Anu, and that features Yngwie and Al Di Meola.
W (DD): Very good, very good, Sons of Anu, from the “Black Utopia” album, by the great Derek Sherenian. Well, we’re almost reaching the end of the interview, but before we let you go, we’d like to ask you what would your advice be for a young kid that’s thinking on putting up a band and starting a career, or maybe just playing keyboards on a rock band?
DS: You know, just figure out what music you love to play the most, and do that. And then, just be ready to take a long, hard road, you know, there are going to be a lot of obstacles, and a lot of people telling you that it’s not going to happen, and you have to be ready to starve, and not have money for a while, but if you stick at it long enough, and you love it, things will work out eventually.
W (DD): Very good, great words, great advice, thanks so much, Derek, for your time, and for being with us on such short notice, it’s really amazing. You can count on Wikimetal to promote anything that you do in the future, all your projects, to promote Derek Sherenian here in Brazil, count on us, and thanks so much for your time and for the great interview here.
DS: Thanks, Daniel. My website is dereksherenian.com, and you can follow me on Twitter, @dereksherenian.
W (DD): Excellent, we really encourage all our listeners to follow Derek Sherenian on Twitter, and also go on his website to check out all this great music that he’s putting out on all these bands. Thanks so much, Derek.
DS: What city are you in?
W (DD): I’m in São Paulo.
DS: Oh, I miss playing in Brazil, and I’m a very big fan of MMA, and Anderson Silva, and Junior dos Santos, and all the great fighters down there. So I hope to come down there and play concerts and see you all again.
W (DD): And maybe meet those fighters, or at least…
DS: I haven’t met them yet, but I’m a very big fan. Especially Anderson Silva, he’s my favorite.
W (DD): Very good, very good. Nice to hear that. So, we’ll do whatever we can to help promote concerts here, and to bring you down to Brazil, we’ll do that, so let’s keep in touch.
DS: All right, take care, my friend.
W (DD): You too, thanks! Bye, bye.
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