Interview with Xander Demos
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
I’ve been hearing about Xander Demos for a while now, and have really enjoyed listen to their latest release “Guitarcadia, which was mixed by C.J. Snare from Firehouse. Xander and I finally had a chance to connect our busy schedules to talk about the band, their style, their recent release, and their future plans.
Metal Babe: Tell me about the Xander Demos Band. (XDB) Who’s in the band and where did they come from?
Xander: As of right now, myself on lead guitar, keyboardist Adam Heusey, vocalist Mario Brescia, Drummer Jeff Anzelone, and bassist Keith Uram. Adam has been with me since the beginning and he was also the co-founder of our cover band Into The Arena. Mario and Jeff are new additions, and they come from the band Sacred Dominion. Jeff and I also play together in James Rivera’s Sabbath Judas Sabbath, and Mario is our “localized vocalist” who attends our rehearsals and keeps us in time. It’s a very selfless act on his part. Keith is a very scary bassist with amazing chops. He has played in various bands around the Pittsburgh area like the rest of us.
Metal Babe: How would you describe the musical style of the band?
Xander: Well, the first version of the band concentrated on supporting my (mostly instrumental) album along with doing some vocal-oriented music with myself doing lead vocals. This new version is really pushing the boundaries of progressive rock/metal with the addition of Mario as lead vocalist. We will still perform instrumental tunes, obviously, but there is far more vocal presence now.
Metal Babe: You recently released your first full-length album, “Guitarcadia.” How did you come up with the name, and what does it mean to you?
Xander: I came up with the name because of the word “Arcadia.” It means a place of peace and serenity. I just mashed up the word “Guitar” with it and that was how it came to be. Basically, it’s like saying “a place of peace and serenity…. With some loud guitars!”
Metal Babe: What is the overall ‘feel’ for this CD and how does it compare to your EP “Road To Guitarcadia?
Xander: Well, “Road To Guitarcadia” was simply a preview of the full-length album. All five of the songs on RTG are present on Guitarcadia but each one of them has gone under a tremendous transformation in mixing and arranging. For example, “Up From The Skies” has been renamed to Metagalactic. I did that because “Up From the Skies” was used before, and since it was a unique name, I wanted to preserve that with the originator of that title… who just so happens to be Jimi Hendrix. I would say that the feel of Guitarcadia is a very high energy sound. CJ Snare took all of these songs and brought out nuances that made them sound huge. So the feel is like that of a punchy rock record – I love the way it turned out.
Metal Babe: CJ Snare from Firehouse mixed this CD. How did you connect with him?
Xander: He and I were connected already on Facebook for a while. Then one day he posted about offering his mixing services, so I immediately messaged him. And being a big Firehouse fan, it was great that he was eager to chat and get the ball rolling. He did such a stellar job. I couldn’t be happier.
Metal Babe: How do you think having him involved affected your sound?
Xander: That’s a great question. I would have to say that since he is a very accomplished rock vocalist, that his approach to a mostly instrumental album was vital in capturing what I envisioned in having guitar instrumental songs that you could “sing along” to. Basically meaning that my personal goal was to have people listen to my music and see something more than just instrumental guitar tracks. I wanted to write SONGS above everything else.
Metal Babe: That can definitely be hard to do in an instrumental. I read that you would be following up the CD Release with an instructional DVD. Has that been released yet?
Xander: The instructional DVD has not been released yet. I have, however, filmed some footage. I need to get someone involved that would be interested in helping me complete it because I am not the best editor and I don’t have a clue on where to begin as far as directing or producing it!
Metal Babe: Maybe someone reading this will be able to help out! In addition to working on this DVD, you also give online and in-person guitar lessons. What is your teaching style?
Xander: My teaching style is to assess what the student wants to accomplish in taking lessons. Do they want to learn technique, become more musical, etc… I like to make sure they’ll get their money’s worth for sure. I don’t make anyone obligate themselves to a block of lessons, for example. If they just want one, and basically take what I have showed them and come back in a month or two, there’s no worries about that. No pressure.
Metal Babe: That’s a great way to go about giving lessons. The fact that you also give lessons online is amazing. What are some of the benefits and challenges of teaching this way?
Xander: The main benefit is that you’re available to the world… The challenge is, well, that you’re available to the world! But seriously, the benefits outweigh the challenges in my opinion. You can basically connect over the web and trade ideas and never have to worry about being restricted to face-to-face meetings. I have done a couple lessons myself with guitar wizard Derryl Gabel. He’s just incredible, and a great teacher
Metal Babe: Very cool. What advice would you give someone who wants to take their guitar playing to the next level?
Xander: I would say, study everything. Bring all kinds of music into your playing if you can. If you just want to improve technique, try to take a few online lessons with accomplished players and see what works. Some of the best players in the world can end up being lousy teachers because of bad habits. In this day and age, you can reach out to some of the world’s most accomplished guitarists because of the Internet, so one can really have so much variety at their disposal. It wasn’t like that back in my day!
Metal Babe: I know! In addition to XDB, you also play in a party rock band Into The Arena, and a tribute band Sabbath Judas Sabbath. What does a typical week look like for you, as far as playing out?
Xander: Well, I am no longer with Into The Arena as we have disbanded until December of this year. We are playing a farewell show at one of our most well-known venues and then going our separate ways. Pretty much everyone has moved on in that band. Because of that, playing out is far and few between right now until probably the beginning of 2013. With a new band, there’s going to be some ramp-up time to learn old and new material. Plus, I have already begun writing a new album.
Metal Babe: Oh, okay. I didn’t know that. I’m sure you will have one hell of a farewell show! What’s next for you and Xander Demos Band?
Xander: Basically, touring (hopefully) and doing the next record. Where Guitarcadia was 80% instrumental and 20% vocal, I would say that the next album is going to be at the very least 50/50. In fact, I would guess that out of ten songs there’s a good chance that six or seven could be vocal. I have two instrumentals already done, but I can foresee us sitting down and really getting crazy with some vocal tunes.
Metal Babe: That’s great. I can’t wait to hear it. Anything else you would like to add or say to your fans?
Xander: I would like to say thank you to them for buying “Guitarcadia” and supporting me on Facebook and other social media outlets. I am hoping that over time things go well enough to play in all parts of the world because I have gotten to chat with people from all over the place and it thrills me to chat with fans. Two years ago if you’d have told me that I would have fans, I would have laughed at you!
Metal Babe: Wow. You definitely have made a lot of progress in the last two years. Thank you so much for your time Xander.
Xander: Thank YOU! I appreciate that you took the time to interview me. Anytime you’d like to chat again, please let me know.
Metal Babe: Yes, we definitely should chat again soon!
For more information on Xander, please check out: