Some guitarists call it the opportunity of a lifetime, but don’t think for a minute that the chance to be part of Alice Cooper’s band happened by chance. Nita Strauss, the world renowned guitarist who has toured the globe and earned honors and recognition from top guitar magazines literally practiced until her fingers hurt to become the new guitar player in Cooper’s band and she opened up to music journalist Joe Dolan about the news.
An interview with Nita Strauss of the Alice Cooper Band
By Joe Dolan
Joe: Over the past six years performing, you’ve made great strides that many guitarists can only dream of achieving. For Los Angeles rock music fans, seeing you perform as part of the resurgence of vocalist/songwriter Lorraine Lewis with Femme Fatale, widely performing with the legendary Iron Maidens and touring throughout the world certainly proves you’ve earned the #1 rank on Guitar World’s list of Female Guitar Players You Should Know. This latest news of joining Alice Cooper’s incredible band of musicians is a huge leap into the archives of hard rock stardom. Can you share how the opportunity came about?
Nita: First of all, thank you so much! I'm incredibly excited! I was recommended to Alice's longtime manager Shep Gordon and producer Bob Ezrin when they were looking for a female guitarist for Alice's band. I met them in LA and we hit it off right away.
Joe: Did you do anything special to prepare for the audition?
Nita: I had an idea they might want me to play that day, so I took the 2 days before and got familiar with the songs the band was doing in the current set list. They didn't have me play on the spot, but I'm still glad I did it! Better to be prepared!
Joe: How long after that meeting did you get the call saying, “You’re who we’re looking for?”
Nita: After I met them they sent me some songs to learn and the whole thing moved swiftly through the course from there. Now we've just wrapped up some headline shows and we're about to join up with Motley Crue for the North American leg of their farewell tour.
Joe: As a self taught musician who learned drums, then bass and then guitar, you’ve broken the mold for aspiring female artists in the industry; can you share some influences that drove you to become a leader in your instrument of guitar?
Nita: Steve Vai has always been the guy for me. Passion and Warfare was an incredibly important album to my formative years of playing guitar. I also listened back then (and still do) to a lot of other instrumental albums - Marty Friedman, Jan Cyrka, Paul Gilbert, Greg Howe… the list goes on and on!
Joe: What sort of experiences and hurdles did you face from the early days and how did you find the encouragement to break through and reach your goals?
Nita: I did my first tour at age 15 and that was a huge learning experience. A few months of sleeping on a van bench (if you're lucky enough to get a whole bench to yourself!), showering at truck stops and eating most of your meals from gas stations on $10 per day will go a long way toward creating a pretty mean touring machine. If you can make it through that, anything seems possible! Any time I thought I wanted a normal bed or a hot or healthy meal, I used to remind myself that I could easily quit touring and go work at a bank at home or something and have all those things. Once I got that through my head, things got a lot easier. Keeping a positive attitude and being grateful to get to do what you love through all the adversity is absolutely key.
Joe: You’ve performed with a wide variety of top draw artists ranging from hard rockers to being hand selected to perform with the Jackson family. Performing with Alice seems to follow a trend you’re familiar with, having worked for years with the Iron Maidens, that is, perfecting the songs, note for note and giving fans the songs they’ve come to know and love the same way they’re used to with your own unique brand of “Hurricane” energy. you have any expectations to how performing a set of longstanding hit songs in a three guitar situation will unfold? Are there elements of your own style you hope to implement into the show?
Nita: I think having 3 guitars is a really great way to add new dynamics, not only from the perspective of the stage show but musically as well! Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen are both fantastic players with an encyclopedic knowledge of rock music and I'm so happy to be the third wheel on the tricycle so to speak! Those guys know the material backwards and forwards and we took a lot of time going over the set list in great detail making sure everyone is playing the right stuff and no one is making any extra noise where it isn't needed, etc. We're playing a set of classic material and giving it the respect it deserves, but we're also definitely putting a little of our own flair when it's appropriate.
Joe: Having toured most of the planet, are there locations that have been extremely memorable that you look forward to visiting with Alice?
Nita: I like playing everywhere! I really do. I don't think I could pick a favorite. I always have a great time in South America. I loved Indonesia too. I think I'll have to go back to all those places a few more times before I choose a favorite!
Joe: Where have the most responsive crowds been that you’ve performed?
Nita: Hmmm… that would probably be South America again! Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador… those crowds are insane! Also Texas!
Joe: Can you share in depth the equipment you’ll be using on tour, guitars, and or/effects that define your sound?
Nita: I have 2 beautiful new Ibanez S series that I'll be using on this tour. I'll also have my RGT320Z, which is my baby and the one that I've used all over the world, and one more surprise one that will be making its debut on the Motley run. I'm using Blackstar Series One EL34 heads and Series One cabs. In the rack things are constantly changing around, but right now I have a Furman power conditioner, Line 6 Relay G90 wireless, Korg tuner and a Rocktron Prophesy II.
Joe: Off the Alice subject, but for your fans, are there any projects you might be recording in the future that fans can look forward to collecting?
Nita: I'm always writing and working on ideas, but right now I'm totally focused on this gig! Maybe sometime next year I'll have time to put out the solo record that I've wanted to do for a while.
Joe: What music/videos are out there in circulation featuring you that you recommend to fans who want to learn more about your playing?
Nita: Here are a couple links to get started!
Joe: What are the best places for fans to connect online?
Nita: My official website will be launched soon, but for now just look for hurricanenita on Facebook, Twitter, IG and G+! I'll also be doing regular video guitar lessons on allaxess.com!