Niclas Müller-Hansen of RockSverige recently conducted an interview with Nita Strauss, the Los Angeles-based guitar shredder for the ALICE COOPER band. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
RockSverige: How long have you been thinking about [making your solo album, "Controlled Chaos"], and how old are the songs?
Nita: "I've been wanting to make this record really since I started playing, because all of my heroes were instrumental players. I started playing because of [Steve] Vai and then I got into [Joe] Satriani, Paul Gilbert and Marty Friedman and Jason Becker and all of those guys released instrumental albums. It's hard to get a start as an instrumental guitar player. It's a much quicker route to be in a band, so I was always in a band and writing songs with singers, but I always had the dream in the back of my mind to make an instrumental record. Then in 2016 I met Steve Vai for the first time and he invited me to do a song for a compilation that he was putting together. I said, 'Yeah, I'd love to. It would be an honor and I'd love to put a song on it.' And then I realized I didn't have a song. [Laughs] With a fire underneath, I created something quickly and I wrote what would become 'Pandemonium' the next day. I wrote that one in 2016 and they released the compilation record in January 2017, and once I created that song, I realized that this is something that is achievable. It's not just a dream, like, 'Oh, maybe some day I can get good enough to write instrumental music.' I realized that it's something I can actually do and actually be quite proud of. I thought it was so far out of reach to make a record like that and doing the one song made me realize that it was something that I could do. That was when the idea started to form and when Alice [Cooper] took the summer to tour with the HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES, that was the window that I needed to record the rest of the record."
RockSverige: I remember all those names you mentioned, like Satriani, Becker, Vai and also Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine. Those are records from the hey days of instrumental guitar records in the '80s. You don't really get those kind of records these days, do you?
Nita: "Well, you do, but they're not as known. Not as mainstream. The guitar player that I'm doing my solo tour with, Angel Vivaldi, he's been releasing incredible guitar albums and people just don't really know about them because instrumental guitar isn't really at the forefront of music these days. I really hope that with my album, because I have a bit more of a mainstream crossover following, I really hope that I can introduce some new listeners to this world of instrumental music. Maybe the casual rock fan will pick up Vinnie Moore's 'Mind's Eye' (1986) and be amazed. Maybe if they hear a record that they like, and if they're exposed to a record like mine and if they like it, maybe they'll go and check out some of those legendary albums and understand it a little better."
RockSverige: Your boyfriend plays drums on the album and he's also your manager, right?
Nita: "He is. He's more of Nita Strauss than I am. [Laughs]"
RockSverige: What's it like living together and also working together?
Nita: "It's not always easy, of course, but what it boils down to is that there is no one in the world that will have my best interest more than him. He's not out for the money, and he's not out for the quick cash grab. He and I are both in for the longevity and for the long haul. I would say the biggest challenge is that we never stop working. It's difficult to switch off from work. When you're your own business, and my business is called Nita Strauss Incorporated, and I am my business, so it's not like I get to stop working at 5 p.m. and go home and do other things. It's a full-time job. There's social media and press and the writing of the album and guest appearances on other people's albums, the master classes… it's really like a full-time job seven days a week, but when we do find the time to relax and take some time for each other, it makes it even more special."
Photo credit: Larry Dimarzio