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Dayton Daily News
When his two worlds collided, Greg Demos took the legal way out.
The New Creatures' bassist had broken a string, suspending the band's
1987 gig at the old Building Lounge in Dayton in an uneasy silence. Rather
than risk losing the audience, Greg Demos launched unto an impromptu solo,
while his bandmate hastily restrung the instrument.
As Demos sang, he realized something or someone was providing melodic
support. He looked up to find a stranger on stage nailing the harmonies.
The stranger was Robert Pollard, songwriter and leader of the Dayton band
Guided by Voices.
From this chance meeting
grew a friendship and musical collaboration.
This year, as Guided by Voices flirted with rock stardom, Demos, a lawyer
in Lebanon, had to abandon the pursuit of his lofelong dream for a career
and financial stability.
"I just remember
laboring over the decision to the point I was making
myself sick," said Demos, who lives in Centerville. "At that point, I did
what I thought I had to do."
Demos' dream was sparked by
his reaction as a sixth-grader to his
first rock concert featuring Gene Simmons and Kiss in 1977.
"That was the first rock show I saw. Shortly after that, I got a
guitar. I've been into music ever since," he said. "It was always my
dream to be a rock star."
Demos started his first
band, before starting the New Creatures in
1981 with Don Thrasher and Bill Hustad, which played local clubs. At Ohio
State University, the band continued to play in clubs near campus. But it
was during his college years that Demos began to doubt he was destined for
"I still loved it. It
had become a hobby," he said.
His father, John Demos, was a corporate lawyer. His interest in the
law grew as he worked during summer breaks for Daniel O'Brien, a well-known
criminal-defense attorney in Dayton.
When Pollard completed the
songs for Same Place the Fly Got Smashed in
1990, he asked Demos to join him in the studio. "I was thrilled," Demos said.
Guided by Voices has played
in more than 50 personnel combinations.
"[Pollard] is the band. You take Michael Jordan off the Bulls, they
don't go to the NBA playoffs. You can't take Bob out of Guided by Voices,
but the other players are interchangeable," Demos said.
Demos also played on
Propeller in 1992, Bee Thousand in 1994, and
Alien Lanes in 1995, for which he also recorded some tracks on an
eight-track recorder. Critics took calling this no-frills production "lo-fi."
"We called it financial necessity," Demos said.
Demo was finding it more
and more difficult to keep his commitment to
the band, while studying for his law degree in Michigan from 1990 to 1994.
In February 1994, the band embarked on a coast-to-coast tour,
including a second-stage performance at Lollapalooza. In August, he joined
the law firm Sheets, Ernst & Diehl. Soon he was immersed in what became
known as The Sleepwalker Case, involving Lee Hines, a Milford man accused
of attacking two members of the Schuchter family, which owns the Valley
Vineyards, after the vineyard's 1993 Wine Festival.
In March 1995, with Demos
assisting lawyer Tom Diehl, a jury acquitted
Hines. The defense had been based on shaky evidence placing Hines at the
scene of the crime and Hines' history of sleep disorders. The case became
fodder for tabloid TV.
Although he wasn't
recording songs, Demos continued to play weekend
gigs at alternative clubs across the country. Weekdays, he switched to
suits and moved within the buttoned-down world of lawyers and judges. When
Friday rolled around, he grabbed his guitar, a trademark pair of
red-and-white striped pants and headed for the airport and concerts at
large clubs all over the country.
Few people knew the lawyer was a rocker.
"It was so much fun,
it really was two completely different lives," he
said. "I never said anything to anybody."
In December 1997, Pollard
called to ask Demos if he would play on the
latest album, Do the Collapse. They recorded at Electric Lady Studios in
New York City with Ric Ocasek, formerly of the Cars, producing and playing
A decided break from the
band's lo-fi tradition, the record has drawn
critical acclaim. One track, "Teenage FBI," is included on a Buffy the
Vampire Slayer soundtrack to be released October 19.
But the balancing act was becoming precarious.
"It was exciting, but
it was hectic. I was dragging on Monday
mornings," he said. "It couldn't go on perpetually. One side had to
He left the band in April
after an outdoor show at Ohio State, as it
prepared for an international tour.
"I would give anything
if I could do that, but I can't," Demos said.
"If I was still 20, it would be a no-brainer."
But Demos is 33, and he and
his wife, Roseanne, are expecting their
first child and paying off his student loans.
Most of Warren County's
legal community might still be unaware of his
musical side, except that People Magazine reviewed the album this year.
Flanking Pollard in the photo is Demos, apparently totally nonplusssed in
his striped pants. Someone tacked the page to the wall of a lawyer's
lounge at the Warren County Common Pleas Court. Attached was a Post-it
note questioning whether Demos had a jacket to match the pants. Before
long, Judge P. Daniel Fedders was greeting him, "Hey, Ringo."
Asked about the veil of
secrecy, Demos said, "I wanted to keep it low
key. I wanted to keep them separate."
Demos still catches the band whenever possible.
"Obviously I'd rather be playing than watching, but I'm just as excited either way," he said."