Today, I present a question to all of the readers out there: What is metal? How do you define the genre? Is it screaming lyrics one can’t understand? Is it a clash of guitars and drums tangled into a heap of musical messiness of which you can’t possibly bear listening? Until I took the time to really listen to the genre, I wasn’t quite sure how it tasted on my palate. In reflection, I’m glad I took the time to explore the unfamiliar territory because had I not done so I wouldn’t be able to share with you a shred-worthy gem in the industry. Xander Demos, metal guitarist and all around polished musician, was kind enough to Skype with me in late March. He talked to me about his style and his projects. Demos currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had the honor of listening to his 2012 album, Guitarcadia, mixed by CJ Snare of FireHouse. Guitarcadia was voted one of the best metal albums of 2012 by Hair Metal Mansion. Xander’s work is praiseworthy not only for his talent but also because he is an asset to the metal genre!
Amanda Knight: Xander, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me! I really enjoyed listening to Guitarcadia!
Xander Demos: Thank you for checking that out! The new one is really coming along well.
Amanda Knight: Nice! Do you have a release date for your new album?
Xander Demos: Not yet. Summer hopefully.
Amanda Knight: Terrific! On Guitarcadia, how did the thought cross your mind to cover “Lady in Red”? When I heard your cover, my first impression was, “this is the least metal song ever and yet he has finessed it so well!”
Xander Demos: Haha! Well that’s why it worked out so well! Most people aren’t expecting that and when you throw them a curve ball, it really shows a different side of your playing. When you get right down to it, I’m all about melody and it doesn’t always matter how hard the rhythm is or how hard the song is to be perceived as long as it’s melodic.
Amanda Knight: I think it really showcased exactly that for you. You have these incredible solos and I thought both of the covers (Xander covers Chris DeBurgh’s “Lady in Red” and Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” on the album) were fantastic.
Xander Demos: Thank you for that compliment!!!
Amanda Knight: And speaking of covers, how do you draw audiences who perhaps don’t have the taste for your style? I appreciate your artistry and technique, but what about the folks that aren’t into the genre so much. Do you think the familiar covers help introduce it?
Xander Demos: Yeah, they’ll definitely help. The unfortunate thing is that people aren’t as curious about new music as much as they once were. Cover tunes and especially well known cover tunes are really going to draw an audience. That’s why so many of the hard rock and heavy metal bands throughout the years always used to throw a spin on an unusual cover song.
Amanda Knight: Kind of like when Alien Ant Farm covered “Annie Are You Okay”.
Xander Demos: Yes!!!! Great cover.
Amanda Knight: It really is! So what got you into music and in particular, guitar?
Xander Demos: In the very early 80s I got into it because of MTV. Watching the guitar players just killing it on the instrument made me want to pick it up. I started out on drums but wasn’t terribly good at it. Then, all of a sudden guitar was just calling me. Sounds a little cheesy, but it’s true.
Amanda Knight: The 80s are a perfect segue into the fact that CJ Snare mixed Guitarcadia. Is that right?
Xander Demos: CJ is amazing. He’s become a really good friend over the years and I’ve enjoyed working with him. He’s going to be mixing the new album as well. He just seems to have a really good set of ears that capture what I’m trying to say musically. I actually got to hang out with him back in October on a nonmusical event. Chris Risola from Steelheart, CJ and myself hung out and had a blast.
Amanda Knight: Has there been an album in particular that has influenced you and/or helped shape your style?
Xander Demos: Racer X’s Second Heat and Whitesnake’s 1987 album, for starters. Shawn Lane’s Powers of Ten was a big one too.
Amanda Knight: Speaking of Whitesnake, you have supported David Coverdale and the guys among some other major acts like Anthrax and Queensryche.
Xander Demos: Yes!
Amanda Knight: Terrific! Will you be heading out on the road this year?
Xander Demos: Yes. Neil Zaza and I are planning a mini-tour in August and I am working out some things with another promoter to embark on some tour dates around that time.
Amanda Knight: Very cool! I was reading that you are an animal lover. Did I read correctly that a portion of your album sales goes to the ASPCA?
Xander Demos: Haha, yes on both accounts.
Amanda Knight: What has the experience been like for you when playing in tribute bands?
Xander Demos: It’s been pretty fun! One of the things I like about playing in those types of bands is putting my own spin on certain cover tunes. Of course, there are some solos that you play note for note and phrase by phrase; however there are some solos that I really get to unleash. I think the hallmark of being a creative person is not being a clone. It’s a fine line that people walk when playing in those types of bands.
Amanda Knight: One last thing. When you need to get the creative juice flowing, what do you like to do?
Xander Demos: Get in the car, put the windows down, and blast the music. Lather, rinse, repeat, ha ha! Also, I will usually unplug away from music to clear my head and you’d be surprised how creative you can get when you come back to it. I will also try to spend some time flying. I’m trying to get my private pilot’s license right now so that’s another way to get the juices flowing.
Amanda Knight: That is incredible! I love it! Xander, I want to thank you for taking your time tonight to talk with me! It’s been a pleasure!
Xander Demos: Thank you as well!
Writer: Amanda Knight, AmandaJill82
All photos credit to: Xander Demos Official