National Rock Review sat down with female guitarist Nita Strauss ( Alice Cooper/Iron Maidens ) during her recent stop
at the Token Lounge in Westland, Michigan
Touring in support of her solo album, Controlled Chaos, we sat down to discuss the ins and outs of being a female guitarist in the male dominated world of rock’n roll
NRR: Welcome to Detroit, the home of rock’n roll.
Nita Strauss: Thanks, I am so pumped to play my first headlining gig in Michigan.
I believe Michigan is where you got your start with Alice Cooper?
Yeh, I joined the band on tour in 2014 and we immediately played 3 gigs in northern Michigan. I remember landing at this tiny airport
with lots of strawberries painted on the walls….Traverse City. I didn’t even have time to meet the band members and we were off to
a casino in Manistee, followed by shows in Sault Saint Marie and Bay City. Right after, we joined the Motley Crue Fairwell Tour
Do you find it tough touring with a large group of men?
Not at all, we are like one big family of brothers and their sister. Alice is the ultimate prankster and you have to be on your toes at all times.
But, life wasn’t always easy for you with the boys on tour.
Yes, as a female, I fell into that trap of having to keep up with the boys. Downing drink after drink, worried that if I didn’t keep up they wouldn’t like me. A trap that led me down a very dark path.
Was Alice and his sobriety the key to your reform?
Actually no, Nikki Sixx took me under his wing, gave me some books to read, and pointed me in the right direction. I’ve never attended a meeting or counseling, my key was all mental. It’s a state of mind. It’s a self imposed mental decision to change my life style.
Prior to Cooper, you are most famous for your role with the Iron Maidens, what is your take on tribute bands?
I love tribute bands, they are the perfect way for fans to get their fix. As a band, we can’t be in every city,every night, so tribute bands allow our fans to have a night out to enjoy listening to their favorite tunes in a live environment. In fact, sometimes tribute bands are better than the real thing.
Because they sometimes play obscure songs, they have energy, they are not constrained.
Will we see any of that tonight?
Tonight’s setlist will be mostly tracks off the new album, but I’m sure you will get a little Alice and Maiden fill as well….
Have you always wanted to be a guitarist?
NO, actually growing up I was totally into gymnastics and got to the point where I was ranked #14 in the country. But then I heard music from Vai, Satriani, and my all time favorite Jason Becker and I was hooked on the speed and the feel of shredding.
Jason Becker, that’s a name I’m not familar with..who is he?
In my opinion, Jason Becker was destined to be the greatest shredder of all time. Better than Vai, better than Satriani, better than anyone. Unfortunately, he developed ALS at an early age and lost his ability to play. I got the chance to meet and play for him and it was the most humbling experience ever.
Unlike your run in with Steve Vai at the She Rocks Awards…
Oh my God, Yes!! I ran into him backstage and we were like “What are you doing here…No, what are you doing here ?” Vai had me completely fooled when he said he was “just there to see some friends at the awards.” I was so nervous, I had to play immediately after giving my acceptance speech, I was scared I was going to break down emotionally. So, they call me out to give me the award, and who is presenting but Steve…I totally lost it. Josh was in on it, I was totally caught off guard. I think there is a youtube video of it.
Speaking of Josh, what is it like to have your boyfriend as your manager as your drummer..in other words the whole package?
There are a lot of managers that do a great job for their clients, but at the end of the day, they don’t share their future hopes and dreams, so the person managing my career has those things at heart, not just what’s going to make me money right now. It’s a great relationship. ( Josh walks by and gives her a kiss ) I think it’s a great thing to work with your significant other.
Did Vai have a lot of influence on the new album’s content?
I wanted to make a record that showcased all sides of my personality and those that I admired growing up. Being it was my first solo record and first time stepping out as a solo artist, I wanted to make a record about me and showcase my strengths and personality.
We all know you were the first female guitarist to be sponsored by Ibanez, but what other equipment do you use?
I don’t usually use any pedals, but having said that I have been experimenting with Boss’ GT-100 Multi-Effects unit. Our biggest problem is the cost of moving our equipment around the country. Everything has to travel on the plane with us, so we need to keep things simple, be tech savvy or risk blowing our budget on cargo costs.
What would be your number 1 recommendation for a beginner?
My trick is to start slow. Maybe 5 beats per minute, like seriously slow. Something you could practice while watching TV. Build the muscle memory of the licks and then up it another 5 beats per minute. Keep working at that pace and you will be surprised how quickly the speed will come. I have worked that way my entire life…slow slow slow.
You have a tour this summer with Alice Cooper and Halestorm is opening up, any chance you might hop on stage with Lzzy?
You never know…I guess you’ll have to buy a ticket and check it out wink wink
Congratulations on the killer solo album and we look forward to the follow up!!
Event Date: 24-MAY-2019