Do you know your prog and heavy metal? If you do, you will surely associate a couple of big names with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first one I come up with is, needless to say, the musician who has a dedicated section on my website: DC Cooper.
Very recently, I was introduced to another great talent based in Pittsburgh: heavy metal guitarist Xander Demos. As skeptical as I can be towards new music, I have now been won over by his work, wanting to hear more and learn more about him than what is on his website. So, here is my new (relatively tall!) guest on the blog today!
As much as I am ashamed to admit it, I had never heard his name before. If you like melodic heavy metal mixed with classical hard rock and prog, and especially if you appreciate curvy instrumentals, then this is the sort of music you need to listen to. Maybe start by checking him out on Facebook or SoundCloud, and see if you agree with me? If I say he sounds like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, this may give you a rough idea as to what to expect (as much as I don’t like stereotyping or putting musicians under one category). And, please, note: this comparison is drawn just for the sake of simplicity… and possibly converting you into his fan. Xander does not quite fit into this box, as there are many more dimensions to his music: starting with prolonged keyboard solos, through power metal speed and rhythm, to pure prog motifs. Oh, and some lovely cover versions of songs like… Chris De Burgh’s “Lady in Red”!
Hi there Xander, thanks so much for getting in touch with me and introducing your music to me. You have been nominated for an impressive number of prestigious awards! Do you want to prioritise which ones are most important?
Hello there! And thank YOU for the great compliments. I am humbled! Anyway, as far as the awards go, I don’t really prioritize which ones are more important because as a relatively humble person I appreciate the nomination alone. To me, they’re all important.
Where did your talent come from? Does it run in the family? Did you go to a music school? Or did you learn it all yourself?
I don’t know! I had some great guitar teachers in the 80s growing up and I was very disciplined when I was learning. I will say, however, that my mom claims that her grandfather was a “violin shredder”. Maybe somewhere in there? Also, my mom claimed my father was one hell of a piano player but he never did that around me.
I can hear a number of influences in your music, but what would you say they are? And is it tricky to avoid repetition of the best in your genre and be original yourself?
There truly are a number of influences in my world. Melodic music is first and foremost. I am a huge fan of film scores – especially modern composers like Hans Zimmer and James Horner. I like rock, pop and all sorts of genres that have hooks and memorable melodies associated with them as well. These will go from bands like Journey and Boston to Dream Theater and The Killers. As far as being original… yes, that’s a challenge. In this day of many people wanting to do a cover tune and get famous for it, I really try to stress being original and trying to break through barriers with original music and original musicality.
Your album “Guitarcadia” is brilliant from start to finish, you must be really proud of it! Do you have some interesting stories to share with my readers about its creation?
Thank you so much! It really was a proud moment for me to get it finished and out there. As far as anything “interesting”, it’s worth noting I wrote one of the songs (“Metagalactic”) back in late 1987-early 1988 and wrote the title track (“Guitarcadia”) about a week before I recorded it. So there are songs on there that span a whole host of time that I have been writing music. “Under a Darkened Sky” I wrote back in 2004 and “White Knuckle Driving” was pulled apart from a 12-minute power metal tune I wrote back in 1995! So there are all sorts of quirky things with the writing.
You are currently working on a new album. Is this going to be the same type of music, or have you decided to take a different path this time?
The new album is called “Gods of Jupiter”. It is going to be a much “fuller” album in that there will be more vocal-oriented material as well as each instrumental will have a new “feel” to it. There’s one or two of them that sound like they came from “Guitarcadia”. For example, a song called “The Awakening” was supposed to be on that release but it is now on this one. It has that feel, but it’s definitely at home with this material.
There is something else you are proud of: your signature guitar models with McNaught Guitars. What is it that makes you most proud about them?
That’s a proud moment for any guitar player: to be able to have their name stamped on a guitar available for others to purchase. Dave McNaught’s work is exceptional and I am so happy to be associated with him. That’s one of the things that makes me proud. The other is that he took many little details I offered into consideration for the design and features on the instruments, so that makes me feel great because many builders would just do their own thing. He’s one of a kind for sure!
You will be making an appearance in the movie and soundtrack “Hair I Go Again” (out in March). Why do we need to see this? 🙂
This is a great film! It’s a great story about taking another shot at something that impassions us as people – well, musicians – but still, I’m sure anyone would get the point. It really tells a great story and I am more than happy to have been involved both being interviewed as well as creating some music for it.
How does it feel to be the support act for musicians as big as Symphony X, UFO and Winger (as well as members of Whitesnake, Anthrax, Dio, Queensryche, Dio)? (feel free to add more names you’d like me to emphasise on) What did you learn from them? And is there anything you taught them?
It is always a wonderful feeling to open for these bands because it exposes my music to their audience and, at the same time, makes me feel great to share the stage with many of these artists I grew up admiring. As far as what I learned, I would say that I paid close attention to how they manage and conduct themselves and keep their machine rolling. I pay attention to little technical details like that. I don’t think I taught them very much though, ha ha! Although, I will say that Uli Jon Roth “borrowed” my ground lift plug and never gave it back…. it’s all good I guess! 🙂
A question I traditionally ask my guests: if there was one famous person you could have a beer with, who would that be and why?
That’s a great question… and it’s tough because I have met a great deal of musicians in my career so far. I am a huge movie buff as well, so I may lean towards wanting to have a beer with Hans Zimmer and ask where HE gets his inspiration from. His music can move me to tears in an instant (“Gladiator”) or give me wicked goosebumps when the “hero” comes on screen (“Nolan’s Dark Knight” trilogy). I want to have that effect on people. I would ask him how he does it.
Do you find there are advantages or disadvantages to being tall in the music business?
Well, I clock in at 6’0″ without the spike in my hair, so I consider myself average by height standards. But I will say that if I was super famous and on video all the time, I would want to slender way down because the camera adds like three million pounds – so maybe the shorter people appear normal and us, normal-height people, appear gigantic!