DEREK SHERINIAN - Inertia Personified!

September 16, 2001, 17 years ago

by David Perri

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Prog metal is filled with quirky characters. One look at the individuals that make up the majority of prog labels will confirm this fact. But no one in the prog world, it seems, possesses the quirkiness of Derek Sherinian. Part LA hipster, and part nasally sarcastic (ever seen Dream Theater's home video?), Sherinian is a walking contradiction. His music is impressive though, and that's all that mattered to this scribe while listening to his latest work, Inertia.

"This album is the best representation of all my influences," remarked an articulate Sherinian. "It's basically my dream list of players." For the record, those players represent an exhaustive spectrum, and include Ozzy/Black Label Society legend Zakk Wylde, Simon Philips, Tom Kennedy, Tony Franklin, Steve Lukather, Jerry Goodman and Jimmy Johnson. "I hooked up with Simon Philips eight months ago in a writing partnership. He became very involved and decided to play on the record, and co-produce it with me."

Inertia is a record based on prog metal and jazz fusion. If you've heard any of the so-called 'supergroups' to come out of Magna Carta Records, you know exactly what that implies. "Zakk and I have been friends for ten years going all the way back to when I was in Alice Cooper's band and we toured with Ozzy. I have all his records, and I was glad to have him on the album. He's a very busy guy though, with Ozzy and his solo stuff so I didn't get that much time to work with him. But I like the fact that I've got many different guitar players on this record."

Given Sherinian's history -- mainly gigs in KISS and Alice Cooper -- just how did he ever venture into the world of prog? "Five or six years ago, I had no clue I would ever be in prog. But Alice went on hiatus in '94, and I didn't have a job. Then I heard that Dream Theater was looking for a keyboard player. I didn't know their music, but I had seen them in magazines and it was a job." The transition from standard rock to the world of complex time signatures was a difficult one. "It was a hard transition. I didn't have the chops back then. Sure, I had technique and used it when I went to Berkeley, but not to that level. So Dream Theater forced me to get my shit together."

As for touring to promote Inertia, Derek is optimistic. "Yes, we will be touring. We're talking to promoters now, and we just want to take this music to the people. We'll be going to do some shows in Japan, and we hope to get some in North America, as well." Sherinian has been good about coming to Canada in the past, and doesn't seem to want to end that tradition. "I look forward to coming into the country through London (Ontario), and working my way up. I've been coming up there ever since I toured with Buddy Myles in 1988, and with Alice Cooper."

The most intriguing metal track on the record has to be Derek and Zakk's cover of Edgar Winter's 'Frankenstein'. How did this come about? "'Frankenstein' is the only rock instrumental ever to reach #1. We also enjoyed down-tuning to D to play it, and it's a pretty keyboard-driven song." Will vocals be appearing on any Sherinian album anytime soon? "I don't know. I don't write lyrics or sing, so I'm not sure."

Given that Sherinian has been a major-player in the prog semi-revival we've seen over the last little while (with gigs in Platypus and Planet X, among others), his opinion on the scene was requested. "I think it's always a dead scene, but it's nice that a few of us are still here. As long as the few of us continue, it will be fun."

And isn't prog really just about emotion (under all the layers of 17/8 time), anyway? "Emotion is the most important part of my playing, always. But to convey emotion, you need technique. The art is in finding the balance, so then your personality can come out. That's what makes it unique."

Unique and quirky, I'm sure he meant to say.

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