“Czar of Steel was written by Simon Phillips and myself with Steve Lukather in mind for the guitar parts,” explains Sherinian, “but due to scheduling conflicts it wasn’t to be. Petrucci was the next guitarist I considered for the track, and I felt it would be a good opportunity for us to work together again. Petrucci is the most meticulous of any guitarist I’ve worked with and can play pretty much anything you ask of him. When we were making Falling Into Infinity with Dream Theater, there were times when John would take a whole day to record just one guitar solo.”

When it comes to exploring his fusion and melodic side, Sherinian usually turns to Steve Lukather. Though best known as the guitarist in the Grammy-winning Toto, Lukather is among the most recorded session guitarists of our time, having played on nearly 600 albums since 1977, including the biggest-selling album ever, Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

“Lukather is a real pro,” says Sherinian. “He comes in, takes care of business, and plays with a lot of feel. He’d learn and record the melody line one phrase at a time. Lukather plays in the tradition of Jeff Beck in that his phrasing and nuances are so lyrical. Whereas Zakk would leisurely take three to five days to do three songs, Lukather will record three songs within a few hours.”

Some of Lukather’s most inspired playing is on Sherinian’s Inertia (2001), where the guitarist shines especially on the title track, Mata Hari and the Charles Mingus classic Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, an instrumental which Jeff Beck has also covered. “Inertia is among the best recorded work of my whole career,” Lukather says. “Simon [Phillips] got the best out of me. It's just me playing my Music Man guitar through a Marshall amp with no effects. It’s a great album! I'm very proud of it.”

Besides Inertia, Lukather has also played on Black Utopia and Mythology. “A lot of Derek’s music is very challenging to perform,” Lukather continues. “Playing some of the melodies he writes are really tough because they are not what they seem and they don’t repeat themselves. People don’t assume I’d play on music such as this because they have me bagged as the Toto dude or some anonymous session guy.”

guitarworld.com, September 2007