Shockwaves: I read that you're really into Elton John...
DS: Yeah, Elton's great.

Shockwaves: Why?
DS: A lot of times if you listen to how I play piano on some of the Dream Theater stuff, it's very rock and roll, very Elton approach. The way I play mellow ballad-type stuff, very Elton influenced.

Shockwaves: So even though he's not very, um...(I almost say "good")...
DS: Yeah, he's got a cool style. I used to love Elton as a kid a lot, so it's rubbed off.

Shockwaves: What did you learn from playing with Alice Cooper?
DS: Alice... I have to give him credit for giving me my first big break in 1989 for the Trash Tour. I learned from Alice that...[long silence]'s all about presentation. He's the king of making it seem larger than life. I've learned a lot from him. He's such a legend, you can't help but learn lots of things. He's a true master.

Shockwaves: What was it like recording Planet X?
DS: Planet X was great. I recorded it right up here at my house. The first record I ever made in the Leopard Room, and it was awesome. I want to make all my records in the future right here.

Shockwaves: Convenient, huh?
DS: Yeah. That's the way to go.

Shockwaves: Alice Cooper's called you "arrogance personified." Is that a compliment?
DS: Yeah. It's all tongue-in-cheek. We have this shtick where when I see him, we both act like we're royalty. It's all fun and games...

Shockwaves: You went to Berklee for three years?
DS: Actually, about two years. I didn't graduate. I was to a point, after four semesters, that I felt ready to move to Los Angeles and take my best shot. Berklee was an incredible experience, but I felt that if I'd stayed the full four years it would have been counterproductive.

Speaking of Berklee, I mention that my guitarist in college went to Berklee for two years, as well. He doesn't seem to give a rat's ass. I move it along.

Shockwaves: Back to Planet X... What does the title of the first track, "Apocalypse 1470 B.C.," mean?
DS: With the whole Atlantis Trilogy [the first three tracks] I'm kind of making a mockery of progressive rock, because I think a lot of progressive bands take themselves very seriously, with their pompous titles and their opera singer vocalists, and that's not what Planet X is about. We're about making totally sick, kick-ass music. We have no message, whatsoever. We're not into gargoyles or Dungeons and Dragons, or any of that stuff.

Shockwaves: Do you think progressive rock is becoming its own Spinal Tap?
DS: It is. And it always had an overtone of these "musician" types that are so prim and proper, with no dirt under their fingernails, playing the tunes. And that's cool, but Virgil and I take a very hard rock approach to our prog. You could almost call us "glam-prog-fusion." That's what we call Planet X.

Shockwaves: I was listening to "Day in the Sun" and I thought I heard some Chick Corea influence in there.
DS: Yeah! Good ears! I love Chick Corea. I've been a fan since return to forever, and his solo works incredible.

Shockwaves: What do you like better, playing the sicker stuff, or the slammin' stuff?
DS: I like all of it. Every song on the record is a different shade of my personality that I like to tap into. That's why it's cool live, because you can just tap into all sorts of vibes. It's all about vibes.

Shockwaves: Because of your chops, I would think you'd get sort of bored playing the straight-ahead stuff.
DS: Like "State of Delirium"--it's so heavy that you can just sort of dig in. It's very cool.

Shockwaves: Why don't I throw some musicians' names at you and you can tell me what you think of them.
DS: Okay.

Shockwaves: Eddie Van Halen.
DS: The reason I play music. When I listened to him play as a kid, his playing moved me so much--all the intricacies and nuances, and his style, the way he approached things, and the fills in between the vocal lines... It just fascinated me how someone's personality could come through on a record like that, and I've pretty much dedicated my whole life to trying to come up with a style, an individual, original style on my keyboard, so when people hear it they can identify who it is. And that's what I'm working towards. Eddie's the king.

Shockwaves: Randy Rhoads.
DS: Awesome. He's right up there with Eddie. His playing moved me when I was at a very vulnerable age, like 15 to 17, right in there. In my solo style, there's a lot of the same Van Halen, Randy Rhoads spirit in the way I bend notes and use my pitch wheel.

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