Derek Sherinian
Black Utopia
22/04/2003
There are few international keyboardists/composers who enjoy as brilliant a reputation as Derek Sherinian. The American has played with acts such as Kiss, Billy Idol and Alice Cooper and was a member of elite prog metal stars Dream Theater. Since his 1999 solo debut, Planet X, he has released albums under his own name at frequent intervals. His latest Sherinian release – the sixth to date – is called Molecular Heinosity and presents, along with haunting prog metal compositions, another series of illustrious guests, among them Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne), Virgil Donati (Steve Vai, Steve Walsh, among others) and Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, Jimmy Page). “Why scratch with the turkeys when you can soar with the eagles,” Sherinian laughs. “I hand-pick musicians for my albums like a casting agent picks actors for a movie – they are each ideally suited for the role. I write material that is true to my influences and from the perspective of a listener. Once I come up with the structure or vibe of a song, I then try to imagine who the ultimate team of players would be for it. If I know in advance who will be on the track, I always try to compose with them in mind. I put tremendous effort into writing and arranging my music; it deserves only the world’s best musicians to make it come alive.”

Sherinian belongs to that species of musicians who look way beyond the limitations of their main instrument and cover a wide range in terms of their craft and compositions. As the exceptional guitarist John Petrucci, with whom Sherinian worked during his time with Dream Theater, put it so aptly: “Derek is heavily into guitarists and rock music, his history, and the range of all the great guitarists he’s worked with. He plays with a fire unheard of from most keyboardists.” In line with this statement, Molecular Heinosity, on which drummer Brian Tichy (Ozzy, Foreigner, Pride & Glory) took over the position which had been filled by Simon Phillips, sounds even more gritty and metallic than Sherinian’s previous releases. “Unfortunately, I was not able to work with Simon Phillips on Molecular Heinosity, sometimes schedules just do not permit. The result has less of the jazz fusion influence that Simon brings, and I was forced to lean more towards my metal side. Molecular Heinosity is more focused than my past releases. This record is more progressive metal.”

A perfect example is the expansive opener, a monumental 16-minute track with a title which hints at its stylistic dimensions - ‘Antarctica’. “I wanted to open the record with a very progressive trilogy like I did on my debut record,” Sherinian explains. “Virgil Donati wrote this epic piece very much in the spirit of Planet X.”

Along with world-class guitarists Rusty Cooley and Brett Garsed and the extraordinarily talented Taka Minamino, Zakk Wylde is the most renowned guest on Molecular Heinosity. “Zakk Wylde and I have been friends for 20 years now. He has played on my last five solo records. Zakk always brings in the balls to anything he touches,” Sherinian enthuses. “Zakk also contributed lyrically to the song ‘So Far Gone’, he will always have an open invitation to play on my music.” An offer which Wylde is always happy to accept: “It’s amazing we even get any work done because we’re in stitches constantly. Derek just says, ‘Dude, I want you to play a solo over here.’ He tells me he’s got all these amazing musicians coming in, and tells me to just do my thing. Life is easy – we just play, drink beer and laugh our balls off. I’m usually passed out on the floor or his couch by the end of the sessions.”

Celebrating his 10th year as a solo artist, Derek Sherinian continues to push the boundaries in heavy instrumental music.