Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Man Out Of Time : An Exclusive Inteview With Black Country Communion Keyboardist Derek Sherinian

Keyboardist Derek Sherinian is a man out of time.

For if this were the 1970's, in the heyday of such titans of the keyboards such as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and Jon Jord, he would be among that elite circle of players whom were superstars - back in a time when such talent was not only appreciated, but celebrated in popular music.

Raised in Santa Cruz, California, the young Sherinian began playing piano at the age of five, then  came under the spell of the music of Elton John, particularly his 1973 sprawling double album 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'. The album, along with the early influences of The Beatles and Bob Dylan  - both mainstays of his parents' music collection- launched him on a music journey which continues to this day.

While still a junior in high school his musical talent was such that Sherinian was offered a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. After spending three semesters at the school, the keyboardist felt the time was right to test the waters of being a professional musician. Introduced to the ex drummer of Jimi Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys, Buddy Miles, who was in the process of putting together a touring band, he soon was invited to audition, ultimately impressing enough to earn a spot which saw him touring the so called "Chitlin Circuit" of the Southern United States.

After leaving Miles, he soon landed a gig with rock legend Alice Cooper through the efforts of good friend guitarist Al Pitrelli, now musical director of the hugely successful Trans -Siberian Orchestra, who at the time was holding down the same position for Cooper's band. It was during the time with Alice which saw him perform over 250 shows in support of his 'Trash' album, that he was bestowed with the nickname by the legendary shock rocker, "The Caligula Of The Keyboards". After completing another tour, in 1991 he became offstage keyboardist for hard rockers Kiss, at the suggestion of Eric Singer, who had been bandmates with Sherinian in the Cooper band, whom had also recently been hired as the band's drummer.

However, it was with him joining prog metal superstars Dream Theater that his profile began to rise. More technically challenging musically than anything he had previously been a part of apart from his studies at Berklee, nonetheless he rose to the challenge and in October 1994 he was named as the band's keyboardist just prior to the tour in support of the album 'Awake'. After spending four years with the band, during which time he recorded three albums and completed two world tours, the relationship ran its course, with Sherinian leaving in January 1999 due to the usual suspect i.e. "musical differences".

While being disappointed at the time, leaving the band allowed him the creative freedom to pursue a solo career which continues to the present day. First joining forces with Australian drummer Virgil Donati for his first offering in 1999, 'Planet X', it soon led to them forming the progressive rock-fusion group of the same name, releasing three albums, 2000's 'Universe', 2002's 'MoonBabies' and 2007's 'Quantum'. A live effort, 'Live From Oz', recorded in Melbourne, Australia was released in 2002. All feature technically advanced playing completely at odds of what is currently popular in the mainstream.

Aside from the albums recorded with Planet X, Sherinian has carved out a niche for himself in the progressive metal scene, assembling several fusion influenced solo projects which have seen him attract such guitar luminaries as Al DiMeola, Steve Lukather, Yngwie Malmsteen, Slash, John Petrucci. John Sykes and Zakk Wylde to record with him.

Favoring a guitar heavy rock based approach to fusion ala one of his musical heroes Jeff Beck, it allows an energy to come through the recordings, setting him apart from most jazz fusion in the process, making the music appeal to fans of technical heavy metal as well. In addition, touring with several well-known artists, including Billy Idol and the aforementioned Yngwie Malmsteen has reaffirmed his ability to adapt to ever changing musical genres with ease.

Earlier this year Sherinian was approached by uber producer Kevin Shirley, to join vocalist Glenn Hughes, drummer Jason Bonham, and blues guitar titan Joe Bonamassa in Anglo -Rock "Supergroup" Black Country Communion, recording the self titled debut album with the band, showcasing his talents in yet another setting - that of 70's influenced blues based hard rock, revealing another facet of his versatility once again.

Recently we had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Derek about the new Black Country Communion album, his inspiration and influences and much, much more. In part III of our exclusive Black Country Communion series, please join us as we have an exclusive conversation with the "Caligula Of The Keyboards", Mr. Derek Sherinian. (Editor's note : Since the time this interview was conducted, it has been annnounced that Black Country Communion will be playing two dates in the UK a show at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on December 29th, and a gig in Shepherd's Bush, London the following night December 30th.) Read the interview at this location.

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