Guitarist Nita Strauss (ALICE COOPER, WE START WARS) was recently interviewed by Sweetwater’s Nick Bowcott. The full conversation can be seen below.
Strauss, who previously played with THE IRON MAIDENS and FEMME FATALE, joined Alice Cooper’s band in 2014. This year, she became the first female ever to launch a signature-series Ibanez guitar.
A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):On what motivates her:
Nita: “I guess sheer force of will and stubbornness. I’ve never met a girl in my life that wasn’t pretty stubborn about getting what she wanted, and what I wanted was to be a professional guitar player. People ask me a lot, ‘Being on the cover of magazines and playing with Alice Cooper and touring the world, did you ever imagine when you were a young guitar player that this would happen?’ And I hate to sound like that guy, but yeah, I did. I believe the law of attraction — whatever you put out there, you get back, and there was never a doubt in my mind that no matter what it took, I was going to make this happen. It is like the movie ‘Rock Star’ – I’m just a regular guy that grew up with pictures of these guys on my walls, with pictures of Steve Vai and Jason Becker and Marty Friedman. I actually had a picture of Ryan Roxie, who plays guitar in Alice now. I had a picture of an old GMP Guitars ad on my wall next to my CACOPHONY posters. Now I’m one of them. Now I stand on stage with him every night. The legacy of guitar players that have played with Alice is just mind-blowing. The fact that I get to do it is truly an honor. Even with all my law of attraction, even with everything that I’ve ever imagined, it is still an honor to be here today.”
On being inspired as a teenager by Steve Vai’s performance in the 1980s film “Crossroads”:
Nita: “When I watched that movie, I was super into gymnastics. I was an alternate on the Junior Olympic team — that’s how serious I was about doing gymnastics. The next day after watching that, I walked into the gym where I had been going as a child. Let’s say that practice started at 5 o’clock. I walked in [at] probably 5:10, 5:15. My coach looked at me like, [taps wrist], and I said, ‘I know. Yeah, yeah, I know.’ And I got my stuff out of my locker and I left, and I never went back. All I did from that moment forward was play the guitar. I never even thought about doing anything else. I loved it. I was that kid that was practicing every hour of the day. You could not take the guitar out of my hands. At the dinner table, under the cover with the lights out after bedtime, I was always playing. Taking the guitar to school, practicing at lunch… I didn’t start out being any good at this instrument. Everybody starts out at exactly the same level, and that’s something I love about music. No one can do your push-up for you. No one can practice for you. No one can run those hours of scales for you. No one starts out any better than anyone else.”
On continuing to be inspired by Vai, whom she cites as the inspiration for her debut solo single “Pandemonium”:
Nita: “Steve is actually the reason I did ‘Pandemonium’. I was so focused on launching WE START WARS, my original band, and I always wanted to do a solo record. All my heroes are instrumental guitar players, but I sort of had that ‘I’m not ready’ feeling — I was like, ‘I don’t feel like I’m the guitar player that I want to be when I put this out.’ That’s just called fear. Fear has no place in what we do here. The first time I met Vai was at ‘Generation Axe’ [his 2016 tour with Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi]. Stevesaid, ‘I’m putting together this compilation of female guitar players. Would you be willing to contribute a song to it?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah, absolutely. I definitely have something.’ [My boyfriend] and I were walking to the car, and he goes, ‘So, do you have something?’ I said, ‘No. Not a clue.’ [Laughs] ‘I have nothing. I don’t even have an idea.’ But I went home, and in the next few days, I formulated what would become ‘Pandemonium’, and I had so much fun doing it. I love doing instrumental music, so that’s definitely going to be my next focus from here on out.”
On playing with Alice Cooper:
Nita: “The ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ solo was played by Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, so I actually get to play a Steve Vai solo onstage with Alice every night. I play it as note-for-note as I can to how he did it, because what other opportunity am I going to get to do that? I love it. I’m so grateful — so, so grateful for this chance and this opportunity.”
On the importance of honing your skills on stage:
Nita: “I think it’s most important to do what you do and be able to do it in front of people. All this tricky stuff I do on stage, all the showoff-y stuff, you have to hone those skills in front of people. If you sit there and make YouTube videos, I think that’s an amazing way to reach out to a lot of people. It’s 2018; social media is an amazing tool, and I would never take anything away from that, but unless you’re able to do it on stage in front of people, it takes a lot away from your ability to grow as a professional musician. I think the real beauty and the real joy is being able to do it in front of an audience, and feel the audience reaction back to you.”
Nita is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to finance her debut solo album, “Controlled Chaos”. In just two days, she reached the project’s $20,000 goal, and in one week, she raised more than $75,000.