Xander Demos - one
guitar lick from stardom
By Naughty Mickie
Pittsburgh guitarist Xander Demos
works hard and plays even harder. His specialty is rock
and metal and his projects include the Xander Demos
Band, a group spotlighting his talents, Into the Arena.
a much-lauded cover band and James Rivera's East Coast
chapter of Sabbath Judas Sabbath, a Black Sabbath and
Judas Priest tribute band. Demos recently
self-released the album, "Guitarcadia," and in March he
inked a deal with MTS Management.
"The guy that's been doing my
promotional stuff, Mike Stover, he has been helping me
get the word out," Demos says. "He told me he saw the
potential in what I had going on, so he took me on as a
management client and now he's working on inking a
record deal for me. We've got two or three things in the
works right now and there's a potential fourth."
I ask Demos about his different
the one cover band (Into The Arena), we do a variety."
Demos explains, "My biggest thing, especially as the
'band leader,' is being responsible for picking out the
material that we do. Some of
the guys in the band, they don't care, they're just
going to play it, but some of us are like, 'We've been
in bands before and we know what works and doesn't
work.' I would love to sit there and play a Dream
Theater tune or three or four, but we know that the
audiences are not going to dig that stuff. So we'll take
something, for example we do this Lady Gaga
medley and we metalized it. We do three of her songs, we
mash them together, but they're heavy keyboards and
massive amounts of female pop vocals, we throw a growl
to them and everything, but
they still retain the melodic nature of the song and
people like it. People are like, 'Hey, that's kind of
inventive.' We do the same thing with other cover tunes.
"For the solo band (Xander Demos
Band), though, it's a little different, we can reach out
a little bit more to guitar players and people who are
into technical music, so we could play a Dream Theater
song." Demos continues, "I'm working on a mashup of 'Hot
for Teacher' and 'Shy Boy' and 'Addicted to That Rush'
put together, they're all the same tempo and it would
create a really cool marathon of well-known hits from
those bands, but then again, when you're playing for a
niche market, you can play a niche song. But the focus,
of course, is on originality."
Demos shares his approach to
writing original material: "My process is pretty simple,
it's built on a hook. It's taking a hook and stringing
it together with another hook or a series of them. I
like the element of being able to add something
technical if I want to and not be restrained by that.
When you're doing instrumental guitar you have this
awesome canvas you can paint on, but you've really
got to be careful, you can really let yourself get away.
If you listen to some older Yngwie Malmsteen stuff, as
awesome as it is, it can go 13, 14 minutes with just
instrumental stuff, but unless you're a huge, huge fan
of that stuff, it might be a little bit tiring.
"That's why, when I approach
songwriting, I will make songs. I will make a song that
you can hum along the melody to and I would hope at
least half of the tunes on my album, people would
remember by the melodies, like the way you can remember
easily a Joe Satriani melody, that's the goal.
"I write when it hits, you've got
to go when inspiration hits you, but what inspires me
for it, I might hear a melody from a song and I might
play that melody on guitar," Demos goes on.
"When you play the melody on
guitar it sounds different from some vocalist doing it
and then you take that melody and add something else to
it or remove something from it and next thing you know,
you have a hook. Inspiration can strike from all kinds
of music and I don't just listen to metal, I play it, I
play rock and roll, but I listen to European techno
stuff, I listen to musicals, a lot of new age stuff.
I've actually taken melodies I've heard from Enya and
reworked something and there you go, sped up, maybe
What about lyrics?
"Vocals are an afterthought for
some of the originals, but that's not to say they're not
there," replies Demos. "I do background vocals fine, but
I don't like the way I sound any more doing lead vocals.
I did it years ago, but I don't have as powerful of a
voice as I once had, but that's not to say I'm adverse
to that because if it mixed together writing-wise, I'd
probably would add a lot more vocals, but I would
definitely have that element of technical writing as
"I like the modern stuff, like 30
Seconds to Mars, I love that band, they're awesome and I
would love to be able to sing exactly like him, but I
would take that modern edge and throw the classic old
guitar solos into that kinds of music. I think that
would be a pretty cool mix, no one's really done that
ask Demos about his childhood.
"My first instrument was drums, I
was 12. The drums didn't last long because electronic
drums were really nothing to write home about yet. It
was MTV that got me hooked. I saw the drum aspect of it
and I was like, 'OK, that's great.' But when I saw
people playing guitar and making all these really cool
sounds like Brad Gillis from Night Ranger, I was like,
'Wait a minute, this is a
little cooler.' And that's where I went, it snowballed
from there. I was like, 'Mom, I've got to talk to you
about my musical tastes' and she rolled her eyes and
reluctantly bought me a guitar. I was 13, so I'm going
into my 30th year playing guitar, but you want to take
off the one year when Nirvana became really popular, I
didn't want to play guitar any more for a while,"
"I took your basic music classes
in school, but I always had my eyes on a different
prize," says Demos.
Demos received a degree in marine
biology, graduating with honors and then returned to
college to study management of information systems,
which is what he does for a living now.
When he's not working or playing,
he enjoys hanging out with his girlfriend and his
friends, as well as his two Siberian huskies and three
"The goal is to get out there and
do some support on this album," Demos says of
"Guitarcadia." "I'm not expecting anyone to get behind
me just yet and say, 'Hey, look, we'll give you money to
tour.' It would be nice to get out there with some
similar players and do some serious support of the
album, get some playing done. I would like to get the
opportunity to tour with a working band, even if it's
just for a short time, to experience that."
"I'm trying to do something that
some other guitar players maybe haven't done with their
music. Don't get me wrong, this is so far from a knock
on that, I love all kinds of guitar
instrumental stuff, but sometimes it sounds too much
like 'guitar instrumental stuff.' I try to write songs
that have a catchy phrase in them and sometimes guitar
players don't do that, they just want to get out there.
It's a form of art, it's expression, so they want to get
out there and throw down and put their best licks
forward and that's perfectly fine, but sometimes I just
want to write a song that's memorable."
"Guitarcadia" is available on CD or for digital download
A portion of proceeds from album sales will be donated
to ASPCA. For more information on Xander
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