Derek Sherinian is a prominent American keyboardist, known for his work with a vast variety of bands and projects. Sherinian worked mainly as a hired hand for rock tours and session man before eventually joining Dream Theater which launched his extensive solo career. Sherinian is highly respected in the music industry, being called "King of the Keys" and "The Caligula of Keyboards", and has worked with many high profile artists such as Alice Cooper, Kiss and Billy Idol.
- 1 Early life and career
- 2 Dream Theater and side-projects
- 3 Solo career, Planet X and more opportunities
- 4 Influences
- 5 Equipment
- 6 Relationships with other musicians and fans
- 7 Discography
Early life and career
Not a lot is known about Sherinian's early life. He received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music after his junior year of high school, which he attended for a short period before leaving, much like his future bandmates Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci and John Myung. Sherinian returned to California and entered the local scene, gaining notoriety for his skill. Sherinian enjoyed a brief stint with KISS, playing background keyboards on tour with them and appearing on the album Alive III.
Sherinian eventually won a spot with The Alice Cooper Band, appearing both on the album The Last Temptation and in concert, being on stage with a prominent group for the first time, as his stint with Kiss he remained backstage. Sherinian even appeared in the film Wayne's World, playing himself in a scene with Alice Cooper.
Dream Theater and side-projects
Soon after finishing touring with Alice Cooper, Cooper told him that Dream Theater was looking for a keyboardist. Though he was slightly intimidated by the complexity of their music, Sherinian auditioned successfully, though he was initially hired only as a tour keyboardist. During the tour in support of Awake, with Sherinian replacing Kevin Moore, who played on that album, the band decided to make Sherinian a full member of the band, which James LaBrie announced live in concert.
According to Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Sherinian completely changed after being made a full member. Initially dressing and acting very conservatively, Sherinian unleashed his full personality after becoming a full member, trading his conservative dress and manner for Elton John style clothing and a rock star personality.
Sherinian joined Dream Theater in the studio for the first time during the recording of A Change of Seasons. Though the song A Change of Seasons was written before he joined, he added his own flair to the keyboard parts and wrote the new intro. The first song that Dream Theater wrote with him was Raise the Knife which would ironically never appear on a Dream Theater album, excepting the live version on Score, 10 years later.
Sherinian worked with Dream Theater on Falling Into Infinity and toured with them in support of the album. During this time, the band was going through a very dark period, and Sherinian's humor, optimism and over-the-top personality was said to be a factor in the band staying together. Sherinian came up with the idea for Nightmare Cinema and also performed as his alter ego Nicky Lemons on stage with them at certain shows. One example of Sherinian's outrageous personality happened while the band was on tour in Japan, and a large-scale earthquake rocked the hotel they were staying at. Band members understandably panicked, but Sherinian, a California native who was used to earthquakes, only came out of his room briefly with two toweled Japanese groupies and yelled "Rock and Roll, baby!" before retiring back into his room.
Despite his stint in Dream Theater being considered successful, the band replaced him soon after with Jordan Rudess whom they had originally wanted to recruit in 1994. Sherinian was initially upset at being replaced but he remains on good terms with the band, and appeared with them on stage in 2004 for the 15th anniversary of When Dream and Day Unite along with Charlie Dominici where he played an extended solo session during Metropolis with Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci.
During his tenure with Dream Theater, he and John Myung co-founded the band Platypus who have since released two albums. Myung was said to be conflicted about the decision to replace Sherinian due to being in Platypus with him. Sherinian eventually left Platypus and the remaining members formed The Jelly Jam.
Solo career, Planet X and more opportunities
Sherinian springboarded his stint in Dream Theater into a successful solo career. He released his first solo album, Planet X in 1999. Ironically, it's rumored that Sherinian's motivation was to impress his bandmates in Dream Theater by showing off his skills, though this is unconfirmed. The band he played with on Planet X afterwards took the name Planet X and released several albums, though Sherinian continued to release solo albums under his own name, leading to some confusion.
Sherinian's solo style is extremely varied. With Planet X, he employs a large deal of jazz fusion, creating incredibly complex, always instrumental music. His solo albums are more eclectic, offering a range in styles that differs from song to song, and is considerably more guitar driven. He is known to employ a lot of guests on his albums, and for working with guitarist Zakk Wylde. His former bandmate John Petrucci appeared on the album Blood of the Snake.
Sherinian also returned to working with high profile musicians as a hired hand, appearing on Billy Idol's album Devil's Playground and the tour to support it. He has also appeared on albums by Jughead, Ayreon and Yngwie Malmsteen.
Sherinian also currently owns Beechwood Manor Studios, and mixes albums for hire.
In a 2000 interview, Sherinian cited his early influences as being Jan Hammer (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The Nice), Rick Wakeman (Yes), and Elton John. Other influences include guitarists Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck, and Eddie Van Halen. He shares most of his influences with drummer Brian Tichy, a fellow ex-student of Berklee; Sherinian enjoys co-writing material with fellow musicians, and often finds that he writes better material with drummers. One of his favorite keyboardists is Jens Johansson, who he deems the "coolest keyboardist out there." Sherinian cites Van Halen's guitar playing as having a direct influence on his unique approach to keyboards in terms of technique as well as tone; his unique "Monster Lead" lead patch contains numerous elements of guitar sounds such as distortion, harmonics, and palm-muting.
Derek Sherinian currently uses and endorses Clavia Nord and Korg Triton-series keyboards. Sherinian was presented the G2 Modular synth serial number 001 by Clavia representative Bengt Lilja in January 2004. As an KORG endorsee, Sherinian was one of the first artists to adopt the Korg Trinity keyboard series in 1996. In collaboration with KORG sound designer Jack Hotop, they created Sherinian's signature guitaristic lead sound (the "Monster Lead") on the Trinity, as well as other, more "modern" and "aggressive" keyboard patches, owing to his fondness of guitar tones and technique. Derek continues to use the Trinity's successors, the Korg Triton and Korg Triton Extreme both in the studio and live. On Yngwie Malmsteen's "Unleash The Fury 2006 Asia/Australia Tour" rehearsals, Sherinian obtained a 61-key Korg Triton Extreme and other Korg keyboards.. Sherinian feels his "most identifiable sound is on the Korg Triton and Trinity"; he uses the Triton "for 70% of [his] work".
Derek has also used the Hammond B3 organ; he thinks that "every rock keyboardist should have a Leslie and a distorted Hammond as part of their hammond sound. It just gives it edge." Sherinian records with a vintage B3 but on tour uses digital emulations from his Nord and Triton keyboards, as well as specifically a Korg CX-3 organ of which he was a beta-tester and has contributed several patches, such as his signature distorted "Rock Balls". However, he's also describes the sound of lesser digital emulations as "the sound of a puckered..."
Sherinian is also an accomplished guitarist who was going to take over the rhythm guitar spot in Alice Cooper's touring band in 1994 before being offered his Dream Theater audition. He played guitar live with Dream Theater during their Nightmare Cinema performances in 1997 and '98.
Derek is also known for being one of the first keyboardists to use vertical keyboard stands, as well as one of the first to make a "fashion statement" (much like guitarists do with their finishes) by using red-chrome plated stands that match his red Nord keyboards and work well with the neutral silver of his KORG instruments. A more detailed list of equipment can be found at Sherinian's Web site.
Sherinian currently uses the following gear: Korg Triton Extreme, Clavia Nord Lead 3, Clavia Nord G2X Modular, and Yamaha C9 Conservatory Series Grand Piano. His vintage gear includes: Moog Taurus Pedals, Hammond B3, Leslie 127, Rhodes 73 Suitcase, and Wurlitzer Electric piano.
Relationships with other musicians and fans
Sherinian is extremely respected in the music industry for his skill. Sherinian maintains an effective working relationship with prominent musicians such as Billy Idol, Joe Bonamassa, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Slash and many others. He remains in contact with his former bandmates in Dream Theater, and is said to be really good friends with John Myung, as well as John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy.
Sherinian's relationship with fans is solid. Derek is known to sign any record that he has played on or concert ticket that any fan puts in front of him.
With Dream Theater
- 1997 - Falling Into Infinity
- 1998 - Once in a LIVEtime
Fan Club CDs
- 1996 - International Fan Club Christmas CD
- 1997 - The Making of Falling Into Infinity
- 1998 - Once in a LIVEtime Outtakes
- 1999 - Cleaning Out the Closet
- 2007 - Falling Into Infinity Demos
- 2003 - Los Angeles, California 5/18/98
- 2004 - Tokyo, Japan 10/28/95
- 2005 - When Dream and Day Reunite
- 2006 - Old Bridge, New Jersey 12/14/96
- 1999 - Planet X
- 2001 - Inertia
- 2003 - Black Utopia
- 2004 - Mythology
- 2006 - Blood of the Snake
- 2009 - Molecular Heinosity
With Planet X
- 2000 - Universe
- 2002 - Moonbabies
- 2002 - Live From Oz (live)
- 2007 - Quantum
- 1999 - When Pus Comes to Shove
- 2000 - Ice Cycles
- 1991 - Guitar Practicing Musicians Vol. 2 (compilation)
- 1993 - Gillrock Ranch with Brad Gillis
- 1993 - Alive III with KISS
- 1994 - The Last Temptation with Alice Cooper
- 1995 - To Cry You a Song: A Collection of Tull Tales tribute album
- 1996 - Alice Cooper Classicks compilation
- 1997 - Odd Man Out with Pat Torpey
- 1998 - Age of Impact with Explorer's Club
- 1999 - Humanity Stew: A Tribute to Alice Cooper tribute album
- 1999 - All Star Tribute to Aerosmith tribute album
- 2000 - A Party of the Times: A Tribute to Prince tribute album
- 2002 - Songs of Pink Floyd tribute album
- 2002 - One Way Street: An All Star Tribute to Aerosmith tribute album
- 2002 - We're a Happy Family: An All Star Tribute to the Ramones tribute album
- 2002 - Einstien Too with Einstien
- 2004 - The Power and the Myth with House Of Lords
- 2005 - Bad Boy Live with John Sykes
- 2005 - Devil's Playground with Billy Idol
- 2006 - Happy Holidays with Billy Idol
- 2008 - 01011001 with Ayreon
- 2008 - Idolize Yourself compilation
- 2008 - Perpetual Flame with Yngwie Malmsteen
- 2017 - Psychotic Symphony with Sons of Apollo