By Jon Thibault

Derek Sherinian is Not Light in the Loafers "Avoid that D! For the love of God, do not play that D!" chides Derek Sherinian. "That D is bad. You're in the wrong mode." The guitarist renting Sherinian's home studio listens attentively and struggles through a new solo with a D sharp. Sherinian grins. "Yeessss... Do you hear it?"

"He's made of ham," is what his publicist told me when setting up the interview. Good Christ, I thought, he must weigh a ton... But she meant he loves to talk about himself. Alice Cooper concurs: "He is arrogance personified. He is the Caligula of the keyboards. He was born with the rock star charisma." Thankfully, he keeps his Caligulan urges at bay while we sit in the swank living room of his Studio City Love Palace and discuss what makes Sherinian, the idiosyncratic keyboardist of Alice Cooper fame, Dream Theater, and, most recently, Planet X, so Sherinianian.

Shockwaves: Who's the drummer for Planet X? He's incredible.
Derek Sherinian: Virgil Donati, from Australia. He's taking the drum world by storm. He was just on the cover of Modern Drummer.

Shockwaves: When you have friends working on your project--Planet X--how specific are you in terms of the parts they play?
DS: Oh, I'm totally open to everyone. The best music is when all the players involved have an opportunity to put their personality into the sound, so when you restrict somebody and say, "You can only do this," you're not getting the full benefit of that person's artistry. So I have a basic vision of what I want the outcome to be, but I leave room for interpretation.

Shockwaves: So you just say "Go with it"?
DS: "Go with it," yeah. As long as it sounds good.

Shockwaves: How did you pick these guys? (Virgil Donati, drums; Tony Franklin, bass; Brett Garsed, guitar.)
DS: Virgil was recommended to me, and I went to jam with him and totally fell in love with his playing, enough to the point where I wanted to start a band with him after I completed my solo record obligations. The name of my record is Planet X; we have morphed that concept into an actual band featuring Virgil and I, and a guitar player named Tony MacAlpine. We're going to take the show on the road in the year 2000. All instrumental prog-fusion. Tony Franklin I was a fan of when he was in Blue Murder. He has a very unique fretless sound, so I thought that would go good on my record, and he was great. He was a pleasure to work with. I knew he lived in Los Angeles so I just got his number and gave him a call. Brett is another Australian that Virgil had brought in, and Brett was a great player as well. He used to play in Nelson, in the eighties.

Shockwaves: How was it playing the Baked Potato last week?
DS: It's great. We've played three times now, and every time the draw increases by thirty percent. It's to the point where we're going to have to upgrade to a bigger club just because the fan base is getting really big--people are traveling from all over to check it out.

Shockwaves: Where do you think you'll be playing?
DS: I want to keep it at the Baked Potato until it gets to the point where we can just move right to the House of Blues.

Shockwaves: When you play a small venue like that, do you change your style?
DS: No, I bring in the same rig that I play at Wembley Arena. We have way too much gear for that small club, but I'm not gonna downscale. I like to take the KISS attitude.

Speaking of small venues, I mention that Queensryche is putting on a show at a local club and I might be attending, but he doesn't seem to give a rat's ass, so I move it along.

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