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 projects.

Xander Demos"With 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 played backwards."

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 well.

"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 yet."

Guitarcadio Album CoverI 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," Demos laughs.

"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 rescue cats.

"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 at www,steelcityguitar.com. A portion of proceeds from album sales will be donated to ASPCA. For more information on Xander

Demos, visit www.xanderdemos.com

Visit my blogs at http://mickieszoo.blogspot.com and www.insidesocal.com/doodah and follow me on Twitter @Mickieszoo

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