How'd you get started in music?
JAD: Growing up I always had music in my home as my Mother played the organ and sang but not professionally. I grew up with music all around me as I started singing at 4 years old. I didn’t become a musician until much later in life as life got in the way of my dream. I never sang in the choir as back then I was too shy to project my voice although I did go to try outs but never got anywhere with it. My first band in the mid 1980’s was called “The Windy City Six”. We were a cover band of sorts performing at high school events. We weren’t really good because we were kind a lip-sink band but we did sing live when we performed. I kind a found my voice as a vocalist and found confidence in public performing. I got a lot better when Class Reunion was formed although Shaggy and I were playing music together since 2007 and we formed the band 2 years later. Our name is based on mine and his friendship history. We met in Art Class in 1983 and were only friends for about a year as he left school and the state at that time. Shaggy would come over to my house with his old Beatles records and his acoustic guitar. We would play the records, sing along and have fun with all that. We lost touch in 1984 and did not re-connect until the fall of 2007. My wife Val who I also met at the same high school and Shaggy were members of a website called “Classmates.com”. Shaggy saw my last name (Demas) with my wife’s and was curious and her a message asking about me. After she told him that we were married and I remembered Shaggy we arranged a meeting at a Martins gas station and we became friends again. It was like all those years apart never happen as we resumed where we left off in 1984. The band name is basic on that history.
Shaggy: When I was 13, I was going to a Baptist church and one of my Sunday School teachers was a guitar player. That drew my attention. So, I started writing Christian songs (none of which I have anymore). When I was 16 a friend gave me an acoustic guitar and I learned all the basic chords from a chord book that I had. A classmate asked me if I played guitar and aksed me to join his band (unfortunately, we never went anywhere).
Who are you're biggest influences & inspirations?
J: as a child I listened to believe it or not, Barry Manilow and 70 rock music on the loop fm radio. Manilow taught me how to sing but I could never hold those high notes that long like he did but I tried. In the 1980’s I got into the Beatles and Billy Joel. Both taught me how to harmonize vocally and I loved Paul McCartney’s Hoffner bass and the way he played. I bought a knock off Hoffner bass later but could not play it at the time. Singing like Billy Joel became a passion for me as I could change the sound of my voice too but I’m not as good at that as Billy was but I hear that in my singing now if we do a song that kind a like one of my influences it naturally can be heard in my voice now. I got into Elvis sometime later as well. Then Kiss and a lot of 1980’s rock as well. The 1980’s has always been my favorite decade in music.
S: Elvis and the Beatles. As a kid, I used to put on my father's Elvis records and stand in front of a mirror and sing along with the record and imitate Elvis' moves. Years before I picked up the guitar, I would get together with some friends and we would put on Beatles' records (before they came out with CDs) and lip-sync to the songs and pretend we were the Beatles, using brooms and/or guitars (without playing them).
How would you say music has impacted your life?
J: for me Music has always been there so it’s hard to say. Some of the best and worse times in my life music has had some role in what was happening. In high school I had a Walkman that played the radio and taps of music and I had tons of tapes to play. Now I have mp-3’s and CD’s to hear music everywhere in my home and car too. I would not be me or the person I am today without music as it like a family member, always there when need or want it. Music got me to propose to my wife as I got the advise from Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It” From 1983, I got engaged in 1986. When I started playing music now that took me to a different place. I think I love playing music more than listening although I listen too as I play and sing.
S: If not for music, I could honestly say that I would either be in jail, a looney bin, or dead. Music got me through my adolescence. Girl problems? Music. Family problems? Music. Personal problems? Music. Once I started playing guitar, I started writing songs. I mostly wrote love songs, but writing allowed me to express myself without going to Psychologist.
Any advice for any aspiring performers?
J:if that’s your passion, pursue it and never give up. I wish I had someone tell me that when I was young as never did. I didn’t have anyone say either way. Back then I was a much better singer when I was younger and would have had our success and much more earlier than what we have now and then some if I got that kind of advise.
S: Yeah, keep on rocking. Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. My father told me, when I was 17, to give it up, that I wasn't going anywhere with it. He turned me into a lazy musician (I don't practice as often as I should). In the last 30 years, I've seen what I am capable of doing. During my coffeehouse days, in the late '90s, I saw the positive reaction from the audience towards my songs. They would start singing along, even after only hearing them for the first time. They not only sang along to my songs, but to cover songs I used to do, Beatles, Elvis, whatever. Plus, with JAD’s lyrics, I've come up with some great music. I just wish I hadn't let my father's words get to me. Who knows where I'd be right now. Although, I admit that Class Reunion would probably be non-existent, but things happen for a reason.I guess, I wasn't meant to be famous, just play good music.
Any new gigs or albums?
J:we are currently working two new album projects: “HoBo Mafia Music Club”. It will be our first concept album as we are kind a taking a que from the Beatles “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”, all original songs. We are playing, singing and writing like we are and all new band with noting to to top but more like a Chicago old town native. The Hobos of the 1950 to the Mafia of the 1960’s and 70’s.
Our other album projects for our 10 year anniversary in May of 2019. The album will be a collection of original songs going back to when the band was first formed. These songs didn’t get a good shot at being the best due to a lot of bad things that were going on at the time. Our drummer lived in a different state so our 1st 4-5 albums were drum machined and were experimenting with a lot of different sounds that overall didn’t work. Shaggy and I were the whole band during the 1st few years before the band that we are now so we decided to record in a new different studios with an outside engineer 12-13 songs live in studio with a minimal of overdubbing as our live sound is outstanding. The album will be called “Songs From The Attic”. Both projects will be out sometime in 2019 I think at least for now.
We do have 2 new singles out now. The first one is called “Wishing You Were Here”. This song is already #1 in some markets in the internet seems to be doing pretty well written by our great friend and Shaggy former music partner George Getner. The other is a song I wrote for my Father who passed away in 2012 called “Dad”. This song was on our last album “Tell It To The People” but this is a slowed down take with just two acoustic guitars, one them a 12 string guitar and just one single vocal with a different intro and ending too. Both of these song are featured on the “HoBo Mafia Music Club” project.
S: At the moment, no new gigs, but we're hoping that something comes up soon. I'm at my best when I'm performing and seeing the audience appreciating what we do. As for albums, JAD always has a new idea and as CEO of Class Records (our own little recording company)(also see he’s answer for our up coming projects etc.), he tells me his ideas and I, as president, am in agreement. When it comes to music, I'm usually always up for it. Plus, there's enough songs in our catalog which include songs I wrote by myself or with other people, including Jon and a former band mate, to last us for a good while. Or until I can't play guitar anymore.
Also how do you set yourself apart from other bands & performers?
J: I think it’s about us being original but also our influences whether we are playing an original or a cover song. The fact that all of us in the band have been influenced by different artists sets us apart from the pack. Mine is Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Elvis and the Beatles for the most part. Shaggy‘ sis Elvis, Kiss and the Beatles with a lot of others too. Dave our drummer is heavily influenced by U2. Each of us bring something of what has influenced us to all songs we play and sing too.
S: I think it's because we're all about being as original as possible. When we do cover songs, I don't care how the original artist did it. I learned, from the Beatles, to make the songs our own. Are they going to be better than the original? Maybe, maybe not, but I'm not out to please anyone but myself. I don't sit down to think about what to write. It doesn't work for me. When a song comes to me, I'm usually walking down the street. The words and melody seem to come together. After 3 days, I write down on paper, grab my guitar, search the notes, then put the chords. With JAD’s songs when he emails me lyrics, I look for a rhythm pattern, depending on the tempo that he suggests. Then I think about what scale works best for that type of song. Like most musicians, especially the Beatles, I'm not a trained musician. I've never took a music lesson, ever. I learned music in First Grade. I learned to count, musically (which is why I don't like to use a metronome) and I go from there. I think that was one of the reasons JAD wanted to start a band with me, I've helped him listen for the change in songs. Now, nearly 10 years later, we're still doing it. With and without artistic differences.
I wish them nothing but luck in their success. So with that said until then be righteous & rock n roll!
I wish them nothing but luck in their success. So with that said until then be righteous & rock n roll!