When I started Planet X, I had one goal: to start the sickest instrumental band in the world. I wanted to find musicans that played their instruments so fiercely, it would strike fear in the hearts of other musicians when they played,” declares the group’s founder Derek Sherinian.
Planet X’s second release, “Live From Oz”, showcases the powerful chops that define their over-the-top approach. Despite being highly technical players, the individual members – keyboardist Sherinian, drummer Virgil Donati, and guitarist Tony MacAlpine – strive for cohesion over chaos.
While Planet X has a very purposeful direction, its inception was very spontaneous. Back in 1999, when Sherinian was preparing his first solo album, entitled “Planet X”, he was writing and recording with Virgil Donati. What initially began as a side-project (primarily intended to impress his then-bandmates in Dream Theater) soon blossomed into a full-fledged band after Derek and Virgil discovered an immediate chemistry together.
While Derek’s first solo album also featured guitarist Brett Garsed and bassist Tony Franklin, the first Planet X album, “Universe” heralded the arrival of permanent guitarist Tony MacAlpine.
The metal fusion espoused by Planet X might overwhelm more mainstream listeners, yet the trio has already managed to tour the world in its first two years of existence. In 2001, the band performed in Australia, Japan, Europe, and America. They have struck a global nerve for example, when the group arrived in Bulgaria, fans were waiting at the airport with CDs in hand. “It was flattering to go to a country you’ve never been to before and have fans,” says Sherinian humbly. Planet X even played that country’s equivalent of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”. The keyboardist notes that a lot of Bulgarian music is in odd time signatures, so people there could appreciate the group’s complexity. “We played some of our most progressive stuff on Bulgarian national television.”
The Australian tour lasted two weeks, and Dixie Dregs/Steve Morse bassist, Dave LaRue, handled bass chores. The final show in Melbourne, before several hundred fans, was recorded for the “Live From Oz” album. “When we play together live, we just love it,” declares Sherinian. “It’s the ultimate form of freedom of expression. These guys are very serious players. They’re extraordinarily gifted, and they strike fear in MY heart everytime we are on stage!”
Following the April 23rd release of Live From Oz, fans can expect the next Planet X studio release, “MoonBabies”, to be unleashed in June. Bassists Billy Sheehan and Tom Kennedy (who guested on Universe) will make appearances on the album–Kennedy will be joining the band on its next world tour, scheduled to begin in August.
More good news is that veteran rock drummer Simon Phillips is co-producing and mixing “MoonBabies”. “Planet X is a band that is playing almost the impossible,” remarks Phillips. “It is great to hear some musicians really stretching their capabilities to the fullest. It kind of makes a change to what is going on these days!” The band is thrilled to be recording with the drumming legend. “Working with Simon Phillips has been absolutely incredible because he’s made so many records,” says Sherinian. “All of us have the greatest respect for him.”
For Sherinian, the odyssey from sideman for rock legends Alice Cooper and Kiss to Dream Theater member to solo artist and Planet X founder has been rewarding. “I’ve been fortunate, because each time I explore a new musical genre, I always go to the top people at it”, he observes. “For shock rock, I went to Kiss and Alice, and for progressive, Dream Theater”. Now for fusion, he has found Donati and MacAlpine.
Right now, Planet X is Sherinian’s main priority. “I’m very proud of the growth Planet X has made in the last two years,” he declares. “We look forward to playing all of the territories that we didn’t play on the Universe tour. We still need to play Latin America. We still need to go all throughout Europe.” Fans who missed their first world tour can at least enjoy the new live release until the group returns to the road.
“Live From Oz was basically a snapshot of our Australian tour in June of 2001,” states Sherinian. “It was recorded in Melbourne. What makes this album special for us, besides the fact that it’s Virgil’s hometown, is that it symbolizes the fact that Planet X has literally played halfway around the world from our home from then we first started. It’s symbolic of us taking it to the world.