Xander Demos is one of today’s premier shred metal guitarists. Based in Pittsburgh, PA, he currently fronts his own band, XDB and national tribute act, James Rivera’s Sabbath Judas Sabbath, as well as playing in Rivera’s solo band. Xander performs in excess of 100 times a year, and he is active in recording collaborations with artists all over the world. Xander plays guitars from Suhr, McNaught and Conklin, with whom he has endorsement deals. His endorsement from these guitar companies is a testament to his impressive skills and his deep commitment to playing the best guitars in the world.
Pittsburgh Music Magazine caught up with Xander recently to talk to him about all the exciting things he has going on and what drew him to guitar in the first place…
What drew you to playing guitar opposed to other instruments?
Well, I actually started out on drums! I did the Eddie Van Halen thing, and switched to guitar. I started a little bit later than other peers, I’m sure. It was the big bands of the ‘80s with the great MTV videos and smokin’ guitar solos that made me want to pick up the guitar. Let’s face it…chicks dig guitarists! Lol. There was just something magical about those larger than life guitar heroes. I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Who would you say were the first influential guitarists that you latched onto?
Brad Gillis when he played with Ozzy. That was the first, for sure. Then, guys like Yngwie and Vai, Vandenberg, Sykes, the Whitesnake team. Neal Schon from Journey..possibly the most underrated guitarist on the planet.
How did you develop your shred style and at what age did that begin to develop?
I always loved those records that Shrapnel was putting out back in the day. Because of that, I think I was just always trying to develop my chops, and while wanting to remain melodic, I wanted to really show off my speed and technique. I started playing in bands in my late teens, early twenties, and from there, the shredability started to become more prevalent. When everyone else was going grunge, I said F-that! I went back to the shed and got my shred on.
What other styles of guitar playing do you enjoy performing?
Well, rock and metal are definitely where my strengths lie. I enjoy a little jazz and blues, but they are definitely not my forte, as far as playing goes. I’m just such a fan of those guys, to listen, but I wouldn’t say those styles are best for me to perform. I definitely enjoy being over the top with my melodies and my technique, and it doesn’t really translate as well in other genres of music.
How did your endorsement deals come about?
Different ones came in different ways. I’ve been going to Winter NAMM for about 5 years now, and I have been lucky enough to meet up with some amazing companies out there. Do a little jamming and pass out some cds, and it can lead to some great stuff. Lol. Lately, my management has really stepped up with the endorsement deals. I think I’ve gotten about 7 or 8 different, new endorsement deals this year. Having great press and strong social media will definitely help the aspiring endorsee get noticed. But, you can’t be afraid to go out and knock on some doors and say, “Here I am! Let’s do some business!”
What is the best thing about interacting with students in your guitar instruction?
Sharing my love of music and guitar with newer players. When someone says, “I want to do what you’re doing,” that’s the most flattering thing I think I could ever hear. It never gets old. I wish I had more time to do it. It’s been very busy in other areas, so I don’t get to teach as much these days.
Do you have an instructional DVD in production?
Sort of. Lol. It’s been a long-time goal for me, and I was planning on putting one together for this year. However, life and touring and recording and interviews all seem to take more time than I was anticipating. I’m not complaining, at all! I’m very lucky and blessed that things have taken off as much as they have. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, yet, but I’m well on my way to living the dream. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I hope I can get a video together for sometime after NAMM. Maybe if I hook up with a company that will have me do some video instruction, I could get more motivated to do it…squeeze it in somewhere!
What’s it like playing with Sabbath Judas Sabbath as opposed to XDB?
Not too different, but world’s apart! Haha. Well, Jeff, my drummer in XDB is also in Sabbath Judas Sabbath, and my vocalist, Mario, is our unofficial SJS “practice” vocalist, for when James Rivera is out of town. He helps us keep the music together. Both Jeff and Mario were in Sacred Dominion, another fantastic Pittsburgh area band. So, having them in XDB is just a dream experience. Those guys are incredible, as are Ben and Adam. All the guys in my band are honestly, amazing. It’s different for the two bands, because James has a killer cult following, having been in Helstar, Malice and several other popular metal bands. So, SJS has a great underground following. The songs are also popular, so everyone pretty much knows the material. With XDB, we’re out there playing original music, with a few covers that fit in, but it’s mainly an original project. It can be a little tougher going into some places when they don’t know your music. But, the most gratifying thing is when people come up to you afterwards and want to plop down their hard earned money to buy your original cd. That’s one of the reasons I keep striving to write great material, and keep putting it out.
We see that you donate portions of your record sales to the ASPCA. Do you have any pets? What types of animals do you have a passion for?
Yes, I have several dogs and cats, one of whom is very ill. I have to take him for treatments a few times a week. I just have a passion for all animals, but the furry ones really get me. They just have a vulnerability and dependence on us, and I think that it is our duty and privilege to treat them kindly and with respect, and to take care of them. I get so pissed when I hear about mistreatment of any animals. I want to find the people and tell them, “Hey, how about trying that with me? We’ll see who gets the hell beat out of them, then.” I’m very passionate about my animals, and I’m happy that I’ve been able to help raise some money and awareness for the cause.
As you can tell Xander is a pretty awesome dude and take it from us, one hell of a shredder. We are currently in talks with him to contribute a column once in a while here at PGHMUSICMAG about playing guitar and the music biz so stay tuned!!!