DEREK SHERINIAN Starts Fresh Post-SONS OF APOLLO With WHOM GODS DESTROY: 'Everyone Is Blown Away By It'

March 19, 2024

By David E. Gehlke

Veteran keyboardist Derek Sherinian has about as good of a resume as any thanks to stints with KISS, Alice Cooper, DREAM THEATER, Billy Idol, Yngwie J. Malmsteen and SONS OF APOLLO. He's also enjoyed a long-running solo career that is dotted with multiple awards, yet when talking to Sherinian, it's clear it's the band environment he craves. According to the keyboardist, SONS OF APOLLO was to be the band for him to ride off into the sunset alongside his other supergroup, BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION, but the combination of COVID and drummer Mike Portnoy rejoining DREAM THEATER last October meant SONS OF APOLLO had met its demise, leaving Sherinian and guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal to move ahead with a new band, WHOM GODS DESTROY.

Joined by Croatian singer Dino Jelusick, WHOM GODS DESTROY can be seen not only as a platform for Thal and Sherinian's unbridled musicality and progressive metal chops but also as a coming-out party for Jelusick, who has recently been performing live with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA and WHITESNAKE. It adds up to a group that Sherinian now hopes will have a long, sustained career that begins with their debut studio album, "Insanium". In chatting with BLABBERMOUTH.NET, the acclaimed keyboardist acknowledges the challenges in launching a new band circa 2024, yet he appears to be game.

Blabbermouth: If COVID doesn't happen, are we talking about the third SONS OF APOLLO record instead of WHOM GODS DESTROY?

Derek: "No. I don't think so. I think the band made some great records and played some great shows, but I think it ran its course. I think it was time. There were a lot of conflicts of interest, and everyone was in different bands and had different commitments. Ron and I really were on the same page, wanting to make music, be focused and keep moving forward. Once COVID did happen and Mike's schedule got super-busy, as it always is, And I think Jeff [Scott Soto, vocals] and Billy [Sheehan, bass] had other stuff to do, but the bottom line, Ron and I wanted to do something different. I corresponded with Dino online and sent him stuff. His voice blew me away. I looked at COVID as the perfect opportunity to close the chapter on this and move forward with something new and fresh, with new and fresh players, but keep the writing chemistry and vibe I had with Ron in SONS OF APOLLO. It's that simple. No harm, no foul. There's no bad blood and stuff worked out great for everyone. Mike is back in DREAM THEATER and that's what he wanted. I wish him the best. I wish Billy and Jeff the best, but Ron and I are super excited about this new band because it totally kicks ass, and everyone is blown away by it. There's a huge international buzz about the band. I'm focused on the positives."

Blabbermouth: It sounds like COVID was used as a stopping point for SONS OF APOLLO, right?

Derek: "It worked out. Everything worked out. There was no drama or blow-ups. Everything kind of…worked out the way it should, you know?"

Blabbermouth: What's the intersection between you and Ron? What makes you work so well together?

Derek: "The intersection between Ron and I is that we're both adventurous and we play unfiltered. We just let it fucking rip. We both have extremely identifiable styles on our instruments, and for some reason, they go well together. Our instruments sound great together. Writing-wise, I think he's fantastic. I wrote a couple of sections for the start of 'In The Name Of War', I came up with the piano intro and orchestration, but once the beat came in, Ron took my riff and mutated it into this ugly way which was fucking awesome in the heaviness. He's such a great partner and collaborator. He's the exact type of person I want to be in a band with and have as a partner who's focused and hard-working. I'm blessed to have Ron in this band, but all of these members are fantastic in their own right. The young blood is really refreshing, all these young guys who are hungry and ready to kick-ass. It adds a whole new energy to things."

Blabbermouth: Did you and Ron hit it off in SONS OF APOLLO? That was the first time you worked together.

Derek: "Basically, the first day we met was during the recording of the first SONS OF APOLLO record. We were thrown right into the fire. It was intense, but we came together. I think there was an immediate, mutual respect for the playing, and there were a lot of common denominators as far as musical influences. We just jelled. We really did. We get along really well."

Blabbermouth: I hate to use the term "old," but you and Ron are the "old" guys in the band, and you are paired with three younger guys, Dino, Bruno (Valverde drums, ANGRA) and Yas (Nomura, bass). Is that the secret sauce?

Derek: "Oh, you can call me old. [Laughs] I think the secret sauce is me and Ron and Dino, the chemistry between us and the writing. We had the album written before we had the other two members join, but I think part of the overall secret sauce is, yes, having this youthful vibe. The bottom line is this: There are a lot of bands who play really great, but your band is only as great as your singer and how they sound or look. That's the bottom line. There are a lot of bands out there that have guys who have been out there for a few years. It's hard to keep that voice up over 20 or 30 years. It's very hard for the audience to listen to someone struggling up there. Dino can go up there and fucking nail it every night, just like the record. He looks amazing. He's a world-class frontman. In my career, I've been blessed to have played with real stars, like Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Billy Idol and Glenn Hughes in my other band, BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION, is an amazing singer. There's a certain level of excellence that needs to be there if you want your band to be in the conversation of greatness as far as I'm concerned."

Blabbermouth: You and Ron are the marquee names here, but do you also see it as a coming-out party for Dino?

Derek: "Absolutely. This is the style he wants to do. Everyone hears his voice, and everyone wants him to be in a WHITESNAKE classic rock band, and that's not what he wants to do. He loves progressive metal and the style we did on this record. This is what he wants to do. Fuck, he's awesome. There's a great mix of that heavy [Ronnie James] Dio/[David] Coverdale style over the stuff that Ron and I do. It's perfect. It's fucking perfect. I wouldn't want anyone else."

Blabbermouth: I thought your description of WHOM GODS DESTROY as being a mix of MUSE, MESHUGGAH and LED ZEPPELIN was fitting.

Derek: "It is, and it covers a lot of ground. That comes from Ron and me being fearless in the writing, and we can go everywhere and morph it within the same song often."

Blabbermouth: Given how much he can do, did you and Ron have to give Dino any parameters when recording?

Derek: "It was an open canvas at first, then we helped with the melodies that we thought could be strong, but he was totally workable, totally easy to work with. Everyone made suggestions. He had suggestions for keyboard parts, and some of them were really good, so we all helped each other. In the end, we wanted to have the best-sounding music, and that's it."

Blabbermouth: You have a sustained, long career, Derek, but starting a new band circa 2024 is no small task. Was there any trepidation toward doing it all over again?

Derek: "It wasn't ideal. I was hoping that when we did SONS OF APOLLO, that would be the band to sail off into the sunset, but there were too many conflicts of interest in people wanting to do other things. At this point, I want to have one band that I'm totally focused on, be on a schedule and make it happen. That's what we're doing."

Blabbermouth: How did you envision schedules working out for WHOM GODS DESTROY?

Derek: "Basically, as far as touring this year, we'll probably play a couple of festivals later in the year and a couple of select shows. It's going to be extremely light for this album. We're focusing on writing album number two right now. The plan is to release album two around this time next year and be ready to really go out and do some touring for the summer of 2025 behind two albums. We're in no hurry to go out there. I want to make sure the demand is there and when we go out, it will be a success and not a struggle. I think this is the smart way to do it."

Blabbermouth: You have to be very pragmatic when it comes to touring since so many bands are out there, not to mention it has gotten to be cost-prohibitive in certain territories.

Derek: "Absolutely. It has to make sense, but we want to do it right. I want to wait until the demand is there. I think by the time our album comes out and people absorb it, people are going to be really excited to see us. When album two comes out, they'll be really excited. I think it will do really well."

Blabbermouth: You mentioned sticking with one band and making it a priority, but you also have BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION. Are you just going to stick with these two?

Derek: "BLACK COUNTRY is not going to be doing a lot of touring. We're playing a cruise in a couple of weeks. I think there will be some shows at the end of the year. This year, I'm going to be spending writing the next WHOM GODS DESTROY. I'm also working on a piano trio album with [legendary drummer] Simon Phillips, and it's taking a lot of time for me to practice on the piano. I need to get better fast. [Laughs] I can only practice so much before my hands start hurting. I'm working on that and the new WHOM GODS DESTROY."

Blabbermouth: People may be surprised that you need to practice on the piano. What do you mean by that?

Derek: "I'll speak frankly: As far as keyboards and everything, I'm really comfortable. That's all good. There's always stuff to learn and get better at, but piano, I mean, there are some really amazing piano players out there who are fucking incredible. For me, to get to that level will take a certain amount of dedication and practice. I'm trying. [Laughs] It's getting harder for me the older I get to put those hours in. I'm doing my best to make it happen."

Blabbermouth: Have you developed any injuries?

Derek: "Yeah. I don't know what it is, but my hands are getting sore. It happens faster. I can't play too long at once on the piano. It starts to hurt after a while. It is what it is. I just have to work through it."

Blabbermouth: And to think, 30 years ago, when you joined DREAM THEATER, you were all guns blazing. Now, you have to be a little more careful.

Derek: "That's the good thing about BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION. Everything is slowed down. Everything is in 4/4, and I am digging into the B3 and the chords. It's really nice. It's a nice contrast, for sure. It's nice to have versatility in both. There's a new single that came out, 'Stay Free' for BLACK COUNTRY. It's funky. It's almost like ZEPPELIN's 'Trampled Under Foot' — that kind of vibe. It's totally different than progressive metal. We had just released the WHOM GODS DESTROY single two days earlier, 'Crawl'. The difference between the two songs is funny, but what is interesting is that you can tell it's me playing in both bands."

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