DEREK SHERINIAN Picks The Top-10 Guitarists He’s Played With – “They’re ALL On Mount Olympus”
September 30, 2020, a month ago
Throughout his career, keyboardist Derek Sherinian has played with some of the top guitarists of the metal, rock, and fusion worlds. And on his 2020 solo album, The Phoenix, he continues this trend – featuring guest spots by the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Zakk Wylde, Steve Vai, and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. To mark the release of the album, Sherinian told BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato the 10 favorite guitarists that he’s worked with over the years…but requested a disclaimer, before he began. “I want to start by saying I don’t want to start this in order from 10-1. These are going to be my 10 favorite…and they’re ALL on Mount Olympus – on equal footing.”
He – to me – is out of this world. If you talk to all the great guitar players and all the different styles, and you ask them to name one guitar player that they really just felt was on another level…all of them would say Allan Holdsworth. And I’ve been a huge fan of his since I was 16 years old – on his solo records and with Tony Williams. His legato improvising style, and his ability to play over any set of changes is unparalleled. I hope to one day be able to improvise a tenth as good as he does. I’m very blessed to have him on my Mythology record – on the song “Day Of The Dead”, with Zakk Wylde. A very first time event. His solo is amazing on that song. And then he also played in my band, Planet X, on a couple tracks.
When I was going to Berklee College of Music, everyone at school had the first Yngwie demo, and then the Alcatrazz record. He just took technique up to a new level – with his neo-classical style. I was a huge fan. And in 2000, Yngwie called me – after I was out of Dream Theater – and I went and toured with him for a while. And we became really, really good friends. He asked me to play on his record, and I asked him to play on mine. He’s been on a couple of mine and I’ve been on a couple of his. He was on Black Utopia, and then he was on Blood Of The Snake. And I’m on his record Attack!!, and then Perpetual Burn.
Edward Van Halen
He was the main guitar player on my bucket list. And it was a great circumstance on which we played. My friend has a club band that used to play on the Sunset Strip, and Edward Van Halen’s girlfriend – now his wife – came and hired this band to play at a private party at Edward’s house. So, my friend knew how much of a Van Halen fan I was, so he asked me if I would play on the gig. And I said, “Of course!” That was my opportunity to get a full day of rehearsal with Eddie – he ended up taking me up to the studio, 5150, and I got to see everything. All the guitars and gear. It was just amazing. And then we played a gig at his house the next night – five songs. It was very surreal, because he had such a huge impact on me. And I hope to play with him again in a more controlled environment.
Steve Lukather is one of the most recorded guitarists ever. I’ve been a fan of his since I was going to Berklee. He’s been in Toto all these years, and he’s been on so many iconic records – and he has such a great voice. He first played on my Inertia record, and I met him through Simon [Phillips] – because they were both in Toto, at the time. And Luke has been on four or five of my records. He’s as good as it gets. He really can play any style – and he makes it sing like Jeff Beck does. Just a one of a kind player.
My dear friend of over 30 years. I first met him when I was playing with Alice Cooper and he was playing with Ozzy. He and Ozzy came to our show when we played Wembley Arena in 1989. So, we just started talking afterwards, and he’s in LA and we’ve just been really good friends over the last 30 years. And he played first on my Inertia record, and he’s been on five or six of my records. I’ve played on some Black Label – I did his acoustic set, where he played all of his catalog acoustically. And I grew a beard out for it – because it was a special event! Zakk is definitely up there.
Al Di Meola
I was a huge Al Di Meola fan growing up. All the fusion stuff, his solo records, also Return To Forever. I had Di Meola play on my Black Utopia record – where he and Yngwie appear on the same song. If you look at a lot of my records, I do a lot of cool pairings of guitar players that you’d never normally hear together. I create events and I put them on my record.
Michael Schenker was the very first-ever guitar hero – before Edward Van Halen came out – for me. I really loved his playing – how he has that classical/minor beautiful feel and vibrato. And he has a blues influence like Leslie West – classic American rock. And the way he mixes the two styles together is really awesome. His vibrato and bending I’ve always said is like maple syrup – just totally amazing. And so, Michael Schenker asked me to play on his record last month, and I was totally honored. I played a couple of solos and he was blown away by what I played that he offered to play on my next record. So, I wrote a killer song in honor of Michael Schenker, sent it to him, and he played guitar on it. For my next record, I’ll have Michael Schenker on it – I’m very excited about it.
Killer player. I’ve been a fan of his since I was 17/18. He was in a band called Tygers Of Pan Tang, then Thin Lizzy, and then his great records with Whitesnake. Killer vibrato, killer tone…just bad ass. And he asked me to play in ’94 on a Japan tour – a solo tour. And there you go. And he ended up playing on my Mythology record. I do that a lot – where these guitar players will want me to go tour, and a lot of times, I work it into the deal, like, “If I play on your record, you’ll play on mine.” To me, the relationship is more important than getting paid for stuff like that. Like, when Michael Schenker called me, the manager said, “How much do we owe you?” I said, “I’m NOT going to charge Michael Schenker. Are you kidding me? To me, the honor is playing with him.” And I said, “If he wants to return the favor and play on my record, then great.” And he immediately said yes. That to me is cooler – that’s the cool way to do it.
Steve Vai has been a hero since ’86 – the Eat ‘Em And Smile band. I was very fortunate to become friends with him the last 20 years and we became close on the 2017 Generation Axe tour, when he asked me to be the keyboard player. I was sitting by the pool, when the phone rings, and it was Steve Vai…and then a second later, it was Yngwie - both of them were trying to call me at the same time, asking me to do the tour! That was pretty awesome. After I did that tour, I became closer with Vai, and I asked him if he would play on The Phoenix, and he gladly accepted.
Amazing player. We’ve been bandmates in Black Country Communion since 2010 – we’ve made four albums. Joe has played on my Oceana album in 2011, and he recently guested on The Phoenix, on “Them Changes.” He’s probably one of the best guitarists out there today. He’s just amazing. If you listen to his performance on my track “Them Changes” – there’s a video out – he’s a one or two take player, and it’s just amazing what comes out of his guitar. I’m really honored to have played with him.
(Photos by: Greg Vorobiov)