Xander Demos is a metal guitar virtuoso, who has performed with his band, XDB, at several high-profile festivals including Skull Fest, Wolf Fest and Rock Harvest II. His debut album, “Guitarcadia,” was mixed by Cj Snare of Firehouse fame. Xander also plays guitar with metal legend, James Rivera, with whom he headlined the Warriors of Metal Open Air Festival. He has his own signature guitar model, and he is an animal rights supporter, too. He will be appearing in the upcoming movie, “Hair I Go Again.” We asked Xander a few questions about his musical background, a few of his side projects and his future plans for 2014!
Entertwine: When did you start playing guitar? Did you always have a desire to play metal, or have you dabbled in different genres?
Xander Demos: I started playing a bit later than a lot of my contemporaries. I started when I was in my early teens. I had actually started on drums, and did the Eddie Van Halen switch to guitar. I naturally gravitated towards hard rock and metal. I never really had much of a desire to play other genres. Once I was hooked by the melodic solos and blistering rhythms of some of the guitar gods on MTV, that was it for me. I knew that’s the kind of music that I wanted to play for the rest of my life…on the guitar. Those guys were so cool, and they always got the girl. Seemed like the perfect instrument and music genre for me!
ET:Who are a few of your influences when it comes to writing and performing?
XD: Man, there are so many…Brad Gillis from Ozzy’s band, back in the 80s was my first “hero.” Seeing him play was one of the reasons that I picked up a guitar in the first place. Then, guys like Adrian Vandenberg and John Sykes from Whitesnake really provided a lot of inspiration. Neal Schon from Journey: highly underrated as both a player and a writer. Then, I found guys like Shawn Lane, Guthrie Govan, Rusty Cooley, and Allan Holdsworth. Those guys blow my mind, consistently. They provide me with a lot of inspiration. I listen to a lot of different styles of music, so that probably influences me more than I realize. Even some pop stuff from the 80s or current dance music. It’s not all terrible! There are some good melodies that can be found, if you look hard enough. Classical music continues to be a huge influence. Movie scores…great stuff! My performances are influenced by the audience. The better the crowd, the more I go out there and just go apeshit on stage!
ET: Tell us about your band XDB? What has it been like to play notable metal festivals like Skull Fest, Wolf Fest, and Rock Harvest II? What do performances like these mean to you as a musician?
XD: My band, XDB: Incredible musicians and writers, and just good people, all around. Mario Brescia, vocals; Dan Bozym, bass; Jeff Morris, Keys/vocals; Jeff Anzelone, drums; and myself, of course. We’ve become very tight over the last couple years of touring and recording together. It’s more of a band feel these days, than it once was. We’ve been very humbled and honored to get asked to perform at some of these festivals. I mean, we’re playing on the same bills as some of the guys I’ve looked up to and listened to for years. It’s really a dream-come-true situation. When your heroes come up to you and tell you that you completely blew their minds…that’s a pretty surreal thing. Not to mention, getting in front of the same audiences that those guys play in front of, has really made us up our game. It has elevated us to that next level of performance. We have to bring our A game all the time. It’s also helped elevate our status on a national level. You get a lot more respect and interest, when you’re playing shows on a national level. You’re more than just a local act, at that point. I hope we can continue to do that. We’ve got some great opportunities at this year’s Skull Fest, and at Rock N Skull. If you check their facebook pages and websites out, you will see about the different VIP packages they have..and XDB is one of your choices. I hope people will eat that up! We’ll make it a time to remember!
ET: What has your experience been like playing guitar for James Rivera? How did this opportunity come about?
XD: A good friend of mine, Bill Staley, who I’ve known and played with for a long time, actually got that hooked up. Bill is an amazing player and he’s doing some great stuff with a band down in Florida now. Anyways, he got me hooked up with Sabbath Judas Sabbath, and we played some shows on the east coast. The crowds were amazing! The experience was nothing but positive. James is the consummate front man, who really knows how to work a crowd. Total pro, top to bottom. It’s easy to see why he’s held in such high regard, in the metal community. After SJS, James asked me to play at the Warriors of Metal Open Air fest last year. It was his very first “solo” show, and I played guitar for him. That’s a little trivia for ya! So, the show was amazing..they treated us very well. The crowd was incredible! Just a fantastic experience. I’m looking forward to doing some more SJS and James Rivera shows in the near future.
ET: You have a few upcoming personal mile-markers, such as featuring in the upcoming film, “Hair I Go Again,” and you also mentioned you have a signature guitar. Can you elaborate on how this movie appearance came about, and how you landed a signature guitar deal?
XD: Yeah, this is unbelievable stuff! Kyle Kruger, who I grew up with down in Florida, and we played in some of the same bands on that scene back in the 80s, started filming this story about that whole scene and his band trying to make a “comeback” in today’s music scene. There’s much more to the story, of course, but you can read more about the movie on their website. Anyways, through my manager at MTS, and Kyle, we hooked it up, where Kyle and his crew would film some stuff at last year’s Wolf Fest in Denver. There are a ton of rockers in the movie, and I am so honored to be amongst them. We also added a track to their compilation, which has some incredible artists on it, like Ron Keel, Lillian Axe, Lizzy Borden, Great White and many others. The signature guitar came about through my endorsement with McNaught Guitars. I had been playing their guitars for a while now, and Dave McNaught and I discussed putting a model out there, with my specs that I chose, and marketing it as the Xander Demos XD Model guitar. It’s probably the most incredible thing that has ever happened in my career, to date. Such an honor. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have those guitars created. We have a new 6 string model coming out very soon, too! Check out the XD727 on the McNaught website!
ET: What’s next for you in 2014?
XD: Well, we have a June 12th date with Stryper in Pittsburgh. Love those guys! Got to play with Michael and Oz from the band at Skull Fest last year. Then, we’re finishing up our EP and new album, Dancing Through Daggers. The new single is already out..mixed by JK Northrup of King Kobra/XYZ. Check that out on itunes. Then, we get ready for this fall’s festivals that I talked about. We’re backing John Elefante of Kansas and Shawn Pelata of Line of Fire at Rock N Skull, as well as doing our own set, so that’s gonna be a crazy weekend! I’ve also got a new instrumental album I’m planning on releasing later this year. Lots of stuff going on! Thanks for having me! I hope that the fans will visit my site at www.xanderdemos.com to find out everything we have going on.