Stratospheerius explores ‘Next World’ tonight at Sherlock’s
Staff writer

Growing up, Joe Deninzon worshipped great guitarists such as Steve Vai and Jimi Hendrix, which doesn’t sound unusual except for this: He plays violin.

“From a writing standpoint and a performance standpoint, I was listening to guys like (Vai), even as a violinist, more than Itzhak Perlman or Jascha Heifetz,” Deninzon said. “I liked great guitar players like that who were also great showmen and entertainers. That’s what I strive for.”

With Joe Deninzon and Stratospheerius, he pulls off the unthinkable — leading a rock band with supercharged violin work that is — to his pleasure — signed to Vai’s record label.

“The Next World,” Stratospheerius’ latest CD, showcases a virtuoso band that dazzles technically and relishes stylistic diversity. The CD dives into progressive rock, fusion, hard rock, blues and, on “Tech Support,” electronica.

It’s all over the place, yet rocks with such conviction and impressive chops that it hardly matters.

“I always like a lot of different flavors every time I go to get a bagel or any kind of flavor of ice cream,” Deninzon said. “I’m always a guy who hates making up his mind.”

So he tries everything, though “Next World” finds the band especially diving into progressive rock.

“It’s a natural progression,” Deninzon said. “I started writing more songs with lyrics and singing more in the band. I’ve always been a fan of bands like Rush and Yes, bands with really great instrumental prowess but also great vocals and lyrics. So, its something I wanted to incorporate. Try to find a way to do it in cool way musically that works.”

“The Prism,” a CD highlight, features a Zeppelinesque feel.

“It’s kind of got a ‘Kashmir’ meets ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ meets whatever else feel,” Deninzon said, with a laugh. “I imagined it to be one of those epic songs. For that, I overdubbed a lot of strings. I have an octave violin tuned like a cello, so I cover cello, viola and violin parts. I wanted it to sound like a huge string (section).”

“Release” races with a Muse-like approach, while “Gods” features a crushing hook. Deninzon spent three years on the CD, which is nominated for best progressive rock album of 2012 by, alongside works by Ian Anderson and Steve Hackett.

At Sherlock’s, Deninzon will rely on his trusty Viper, a seven-string violin that he can tune down to cello and lower, and an acoustic one. And while his kinetic playing is the focal point, don’t overlook his powerhouse band with drummer Lucianna Padmore, guitarist Aurelian Budynek and bassist Jamie Bishop. They have more chops than a black belt. They couldn’t do punk if they tried.

“Any time you have a rock band full of music nerds, you’re going to get crazy time signatures and modulation and a lot of different stuff you can dig around,” Deninzon said. “If I wanted to form a punk band, it’d be hard for me stay in character, as much as I love the Sex Pistols, Ramones and Clash. You gotta be who you are. If you’re not honest with yourself and your music, people feel it. You got to accept who you are and go with it.”