“When I was about 14 a friend recommended Yes and ELP to me. To be completely honest I didn’t really like the music… I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought a prog album!” Derek Sherinian, keyboard warrior

Derek Sherinian
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In December 2023 Derek Sherinian announced details of his new band, Whom Gods Destroy, marking another new project in a career bedecked with them. The former Dream Theater keyboardist – also known for Sons of Apollo, Black Country Communion, stints with the late Allan Holdsworth, Steve Lukather and many others – offered Prog a look into his life in 2021, soon after the launch of solo album The Phoenix.

Where’s home?

I live in Los Angeles.

Your earliest prog memory?

When I was about 14 a friend recommended Yes and ELP to me. To be completely honest I didn’t really like the music, but Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson were the top keyboard guys and I loved their adventurous playing.

First prog album?

Someone bought me my own copy of Tarkus soon after, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought a prog album!

What was your first prog gig?

Dream Theater, when I joined them in 1994 [in Providence, New England, on the Waking Up The World Tour]. That was the proggiest show I’ve ever been involved with, or seen.

Latest prog discovery?

Not that recent, but it’s Meshuggah. They’re very metal but very progressive, especially |in the rhythms – drummer Tomas Haake is fantastic. I think they’re very exciting.

What’s your guilty musical pleasure?

Dr Dre, The Chronic – I love it! I like that early 90s gangster rap, the West Coast stuff – Dre, Snoop Doog, Tupac.

What would your specialist subject be on Mastermind?

Either mixed martial arts and the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] – or the history of the Italian Mafia.

Favourite venue?

I love playing outdoor shows at night, especially in amphitheatres. Red Rocks in Denver is awesome.

Who’s your prog hero?

Emerson and Wakeman. And Jan Hammer too, but he was more fusion. Then there’s Jon Lord, but he was more hard rock. There are so many!

Outside of music what are you into?

I stay very fit and exercise every morning. As you get older and you tour it gets harder, so it’s important to keep the energy up. I want my body to look more UFC than KFC!

Ever had a prog date?

Come on! I don’t think so! If you want to get laid that’s not where you take ’em!

Who do you call in the prog community for a good night out?

I love hanging out with Simon Phillips. I’ve done many records with him, including The Phoenix. He’s a fun guy and so smart – he’s been a great mentor to me.

What’s the most important piece of prog music?

Yes’ Roundabout has a little bit of everything you would want in a prog song. A lot of prog music is bad composition obfuscated by quirky time signatures and goofy lyrics, but Roundabout is a great prog song.

Recommend us a good read.

I thought The Millennium Trilogy [by Stieg Larsson] was fantastic.

Which prog muso would you most like to work with?

He’s not prog as such, but [the late] Jeff Beck. For Simon and I, he’s the unicorn...

Which proggy album gets you in a good mood?

Anything from Allan Holdsworth’s early catalogue – Road Games is great, Velvet Darkness, IOU. To me he’s the most ‘prog’ musician there is as far as improvisation goes. He’s truly channelling the gods when he plays, and I’m very blessed to have worked with him.

Your favourite prog album cover?

I love all the covers Roger Dean did for Yes! They hit it right on the money. They were a perfect fit.

And what are you up to at the moment?

The Phoenix is out and I’m utilising this downtime to write my next solo record with Simon. I’m working with a lot of guest artists who will be announced in due course.

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.