Nita Strauss: It doesn't matter if you play a cheap or expensive guitar, the important thing is just to start playing
One of the best guitar virtuosos today has returned to her role as guitarist for Alice Cooper after a brief stint with pop diva Demi Lovato last year. Ibanez player Nita Strauss has been appearing alongside the legendary master of horror since 2014 and is featured on his upcoming album Road, due out in August. The singer, on the other hand, is one of the guests on Nita Strauss' just released second solo album The Call Of The Void.
Five years after your album Controlled Chaos, you have a new solo album The Call Of The Void. Compared to the previous album, the main change is that this time you have some special guests who sing a few songs. Did you know you wanted to have songs with vocals from the beginning or did the idea come later during the songwriting process?
I really knew that from the beginning of the process. I wanted the follow-up to Controlled Chaos to be fresh, exciting and different in some way. It seemed like a natural progression. To keep the whole thing fresh, we decided to invite a lot of different guests, instead of having just one singer on the whole record. This way we could cover lots of different genres and styles, and make the album more interesting.
Did you know exactly who you wanted to have on what song? How did you decide? Or did you give the singers the opportunity to choose their own songs?
I had a wish list, I had some people in mind. But it often happened that when we were writing a song, afterwards we thought that this could be a song for a powerful female vocalist, for example. It could be Dorothy or Lzzy or Lilith Czar. We didn't immediately think of specific names, we just knew it was a song for female vocals and then we tried to find the right person.
The album features a lot of interesting guests from Lzzy Hale, Marty Friedman to Alice Cooper. Were there any names that you wanted to have on the album but in the end it didn't work out with them for whatever reason?
Yes, there were a few. The only reason it didn't work was because of scheduling reasons. Either they were on tour or they had their own album coming out at the same time, so of course we couldn't compete with their main projects. Actually, I would say it's a good thing I didn't get every single person on the wishlist because now I have more people for a third album.
In the press release you mention that The Call Of The Void is not one of those albums that were easy to make and that it took you a lot of work to prepare it. When did you actually start working on the album and what was the most difficult stage in the whole process?
I actually started working on music at the end of 2019, right before the pandemic. I'd say the most difficult part for me was when I had to take a step back, pile as many notes as possible, write songs for the vocalist, to really let the guitarist take a back seat and let the vocalist drive the whole song. I think that was the most difficult learning thing for me.
Controlled Chaos was created with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, through which you raised the finances to make the album. That wasn't needed for the current album?
Exactly, now I have a record deal. I signed with Sumerian Records, so the whole record was made in a more traditional way as far as funding goes. I have a Patreon page where I did share a lot of information about the making of the album and the whole process. I did it in a similar way to when I went through Kickstarter to give fans an opportunity to have a closer look at what was going on. But in terms of funding, it was very traditional this time.
At what age did you start playing guitar and why did it become your instrument of choice?
I started when I was 13. I saw a guitar movie with the great Steve Vai called Crossroads. When I saw him in that movie, it was like a light went on over my head and I knew that's exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
You've never played another instrument before?
I come from a musical family (their roots go back to the famous composer Johann Strauss – author's note), so a little bit of piano and some instruments at school, but nothing serious.
Did you often hear classical music at home?
Yes, when I was growing up, the music in the house was really exclusively classical. Lots of opera, lots of waltzes, of course. Since my mom was a ballet dancer and my sister and I were also doing ballet growing up, there was a lot of ballet music listened to as well, composers like Tchaikovsky and stuff like that.
You started performing with your own band as a teenager. How much has your guitar playing changed over the years?
I'm still improving. I play most days. Now my practice routine depends on my calendar and what my schedule is. For example, right now I'm on a solo tour, so I'm working on the songs we're going to play on that tour. We're rehearsing stuff from the new record because I have to play those. After that, I'm going on the road again with Alice Cooper and I'll have to rehearse this set and go over all the solos and make sure everything is tight and ready for these shows.
I've read in some interviews with you that you didn't own an acoustic guitar until recently. Why was that? Didn't you enjoy playing it?
(laughs) I've never had that need. But now I have one. I used it on tour with Demi Lovato. I just didn't need one.
So you're not one of those players who consider acoustic guitar as a first step, something that every guitarist should get familiar with before switching to electric?
No. Personally, I don't think so. I started out on electric and I don't think that's a bad way to start with guitar. As long as you play, it doesn't matter if you play a cheap or expensive guitar, acoustic or electric. The important thing is to just start playing. Of course, there's a massive difference, for me the acoustic guitar is like a completely different instrument. The strings are thicker, they're higher above the neck. The tone and sound is different, and the way the strings react to your fingers is also different.
You announced last year that you wouldn't be part of Alice Cooper's band and you started a new adventure when you joined Demi Lovato's band. Did you just want to try something different?
It wasn't that I announced that I wasn't part of Alice Cooper's band anymore, in fact, I said I wasn't doing one tour. Alice had a three-week tour coming up, which I took a break from because I was going to play with Demi. I had a feeling I'd be back in the band. Of course, nothing is ever for sure in this industry, he could have had a great time with Kane Roberts and said, "This is my guitar player now, you shouldn't have taken a break." (laughs) I had a great time with Demi, we have a great relationship, I text her almost every day. And I have a wonderful time with Alice and I'm looking forward to touring again in the fall. It was very friendly on all sides.
It's definitely great that women are respected in rock music today. Definitely more so than they used to be. But do you still encounter people who perhaps have doubts about women as rock guitarists?
Yes, it's definitely better today. These people who perhaps have doubts still exist, but they don't have the courage to come to me and tell me to my face. They can only talk like that on the internet. These people are definitely not brave, they are cowards who can only tell you their shit on the internet but never tell you in person.
When I interviewed Chuck Garric, he told me that Alice Cooper had an influence on him not only in songwriting and stage presence, but also in his life outside of rock 'n' roll. He says it has influenced him in every aspect of his life. Is Alice Cooper also a kind of inspiration in your life?
Absolutely! He is an inspiration for me in so many ways off the stage. Of course, on stage it's obvious, it's a given, but for example the way he treats his fans, the relationship he has with his wife, the way he has his faith in sobriety, those things inspire me as a person and not as a rock star. It's easy to look at Alice Cooper and say he's the rock star that influenced you with his songs and stage presence. But I've had the opportunity to get to know Alice Cooper as a man, the type of husband and father he is, and how he treats his fans. That's to me the most inspiring thing of all.
There will also be a new Alice Cooper album coming out soon. Were you part of its creation? What can we look forward to?
Yes, I'm very proud of it. I was involved in the writing and recording process with his touring band, which along with myself is Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, Chuck Garric and Glen Sobel.
When you play older songs from Alice's catalogue with him, are you inspired by the original recordings or do you tweak the guitar parts to suit yourself?
I definitely stick to the original recordings. I mean, I'll always sound like Nita, always sound like me playing it, but I don't try to change things on purpose and I prefer to try to get as close to the original as possible because that's what the fans want to hear too.
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