Sherman himself, no longer on the road, has relaxed into New York-based Fluid, an unusual hybrid music/sound/visual effects company that opened in 1998, which he co-founded with executive music producer David Shapiro and design director Alex Frowein. "When we opened we were calling the company SFS, for Shapiro Frowein Sherman," he explains. "We'd answer the phone 'SFS' and people would think we were saying 'SFX.' Nobody ever understood what the hell we were saying. We decided to make it simpler, so we chose Fluid because Alex does Flame and editing, so you don't necessarily have to take your spot across town. We can work both sides of the fence."
Sherman, an Oregon native who attended the University of Oregon and the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he also taught for several years, was working with Shapiro at Boston's Shapiro Music before they decided to open in New York, which was relatively uncharted territory for them. "I think we knew three people in the ad business in New York, but we had Boston connections and connections on the West Coast," Sherman recalls. "So things went OK from the beginning." Sherman's West Coast connections are well represented on his reel, with four spots from Goodby, Silverstein, including a great Donizetti opera adaptation for Polaroid and stirringly orchestral movie music for TiVo and Pac Bell. From New York shops, he's also got fabulously "quirky techno," as he calls it, for Mercedes and Adidas spots (the latter being the Leagas Delaney brainstorm in which a bunch of overweight guys who spell YANKS with their bodypaint cram into a cab). In other words, he's all over the musical map adwise, "which is fairly natural," he says. "My dad was always playing Beatles and showtunes and I grew up with jazz and classical and studied both."
That's not the half of it. Sherman is also a theatrical composer with a passel of off-off- Broadway musical productions under his belt, many of them adaptations of Shakespeare, but he may be about to break into the New York stage scene big time - he's completed the score for the musical version of Debbie Does Dallas, a reworking of the 1978 porn classic that grew out of a production at the 2001 Fringe Festival in New York. The looming promise of Debbie is that it's now a production of Matthew and Michael Rego of the Araca Group, the producers behind the Broadway phenomenon called Urinetown, which was itself born at the Fringe Festival. Sherman knew the guys from an indie film he scored for them a few years earlier. "Debbie is '70s rock and pseudo porno music," he explains. "The creators describe the show as a 'rodeo football porno circus.' We started by working verbatim from the movie, which actually has a plot. It's not just the pool guy's coming over. It was funny, but it wasn't quite off-Broadway. Originally, I was just going to compile and rerecord some '70s tunes. As we went on, we realized this would be much better with original stuff." Debbie is expected to open in New York in the fall; Sherman is only too aware that being associated with a hit of anywhere near the level of a Urinetown will likely open all kinds of doors for him. But he's playing it semi-cautious. "The thing that really opens doors in the theater business is Tony Awards, and Urinetown has Tony Awards. Or not. I don't think Rocky Horror Picture Show won any Tony Awards, but what a franchise."
Then there's film scoring. He's done three indie films, "but it has to be a labor of love," he says. "You have to be on it for so long. If the movie's not good, it's hard. I find myself conflicted about movies because there's as much utilitarian stuff, as much client-relations stuff, everything that goes into commercials, in a movie - but it goes on for six months. Commercials not only have that short, fast appeal, they're never the same thing. One week we're recording an 80-piece symphony orchestra and the next week we're recording a Russian balalaika orchestra. Our clients run the gamut from those who have no idea what kind of music they want but they know how they want it to make them feel to those who have a particular style in mind. But if you have a very specific piece of music already attached to your spot and you want something just like that - those we tend to shy away from. We want to put a little originality into it - and we don't want to get sued," he laughs.