Few keyboardists can boast a resume as impressive and diverse as Derek Sherinian’s. He’s toured and recorded with iconic acts such as Alice Cooper, Kiss and Billy Idol, as well released seven solo albums featuring some of the world’s most renowned musicians, including Allan Holdsworth, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Bonamassa, Al Di Meola, Steve Lukather, Zakk Wylde and Slash. Sherinian was a member of Dream Theater from 1994 to 1999, having played on three of the progressive-metal titans releases. In 2004, Sherinian reunited with Dream Theater for a solo concert, which was recorded and released as “When Dream and Day Reunite.” The band’s performance of “Metropolis Pt. 1” featured an extended improvisation between Sherinian, keyboardist Jordan Rudess, and guitarist John Petrucci. Sherinian is also the founder of instrumental rock super group Planet X and one of the founding members of the English-American hard rock band Black Country Communion.
Sherinian is lauded around the world for his distinctive “guitaristic” approach to his keyboard style. He has appeared on the cover of numerous keyboard magazinesincluding Keyboard Magazine, which declared Sherinian a “Keyboard Hero for a new generation.” He has also been called the “King of the Keys” by Guitar Worldmagazine.
Today, Sherinian continues to record with world-class artists and has rejoined Black Country Communion, reunited after 5 years, along with bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, guitarist Joe Bonamassa and drummer Jason Bonham. Black Country Communion will be recording their fourth release and going on tour in early 2017.
Sherinian emerged on the rock scene as the keyboardist to watch and soon became one of the most coveted keyboard artists in the industry. Sherinian has an uncanny flexibility to work with the very best musicians in various genres while maintaining a signature voice on his instrument, alternating with ease from style to style. In Guitar World magazine’s article featuring Sherinian, Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci remarked “…Derek, considering the fact that he’s heavily into guitarists and rock music, his history, and the range of all the great guitarists he’s worked with, plays with a fire unheard of from most keyboardists.” “My musical tastes are very wide,” Sherinian says. “I like exploring different styles and feels, and I always strive to work with the very best in each genre that I choose to play in. I am constantly absorbing what I learn from all of these great artists and incorporating it into my playing and compositions. It’s a never-ending process.”
Sherinian has come along way since first discovering the piano more than 40 years ago. “There was an upright piano in my house when I was a kid,” explains Sherinian, who was raised in Santa Cruz, California. “I started my first private lessons at age five. Elton John was my first keyboard hero. I was able to learn his songs and solos by ear by the time I was 10.”
After completing high school, Sherinian received a scholarship at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston. Upon graduating, Sherinian garnered his first professional gig with Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys’ drummer Buddy Miles. “I was 21 at the time,” Sherinian recalls. “We toured throughout the U.S., especially the Chitlin’ Circuit in the south. We played mostly Hendrix songs and R&B classics.
Buddy’s nickname for me was Mortimer—I don’t know why. He would say to me, ‘Mortimer, you always have to listen for the train in the music to find the groove. You always have to feel the train.’ I carry that with me, to this day.”
Following the Miles gig, Sherinian got a call from his former Berklee roommate, guitarist Al Pitrelli, who was Alice Cooper’s musical director. Alice was hiring a brand-new band to tour in support of the shock rocker’s platinum-selling Trash album, and a slot was open for a keyboardist. “Pitrelli hooked me up with an audition,” Sherinian remarks. “I got the gig—a big break for me—and I was on top of the world!” Sherinian toured with Alice Cooper for roughly three years, playing more than 250 shows.
Following Alice’s Hey Stoopid tour, Cooper’s drummer, Eric Singer, was hired to play drums for Kiss. “Kiss needed an offstage keyboardist for their Revenge tour in 1992,” Sherinian recollects. “Eric gave Gene Simmons my phone number. I vividly remember getting the call from Gene Simmons about needing a keyboardist. I auditioned the next day and was hired. It was quite surreal working with Paul Stanley and Gene. They are pioneers in many aspects of the music industry.”
Unfortunately, when the Revenge tour came to a close, hard rock was losing popularity in the U.S. with the advent of grunge, whichunequivocally ruled the rock music industryin the early Nineties. “Kiss was playing to nearly empty arenas in 1992,” Sherinian recounts.
Sometime in 1994, Sherinian joinedprogressive metal band Dream Theater for their promotional tour for “Awake” and in 1995 joined fulltime. Dream Theater ultimately became the world’s most beloved progressive hard rock band since Rush.
Sherinian was a key member of Dream Theater for four years in the Nineties. His expansive playing is integral to his three releases with the group—A Change of Seasons (1995), Falling Into Infinity (1997) and Once in a LIVEtime (1998).
In 1999, Sherinian recorded his first solo album, Planet X which he turned into a concept band. An extreme fusion outfit that pushed serious rhythmic and melodic ground, Planet X also featured drummer Virgil Donati and guitar virtuoso Tony MacAlpine; the trio would go on to record another four albums following Planet X’s 1999 debut.
From 2000 and throughout much of the next 10 years, Sherinian also recorded several solo albums under his own name. “This was an important creative period for me,” he says, “because it was the first time I was putting out music as a solo artist and as Planet X’s band leader.”
In 2001, Sherinian was hired for Billy Idol’s touring band. “Billy Idol is a bona fide star frontman,” says the keyboardist. “I remember watching MTV when it first came out in the Eighties. I always thought Billy had a cool look, and his songs are great.”
Nearly a decade after joining Idol’s band, in 2010 producer Kevin Shirley asked Sherinian if he would record an album with Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Joe Bonamassa. Thus, Black Country Communion was born. “We ended up recording our debut Black Country Communion album “Black Country” in just five days,” Sherinian remarks, “and it sold very well. We released another three studio albums, and toured Europe, Japan and the U.S.”
Having performed in more than 2,000 shows around the globe, and recorded over 60 records and solo albums, keyboard virtuoso Derek Sherinian remains one of the most prolific and sought after keyboard session players in the world.