By Andrew Catania
It isn’t very often that we get to see a female musician breaking barriers and setting milestones in the primarily male-dominated music sphere. Luckily, there’s a whole group of them that has emerged as a popular present-age music sensation. The Iron Maidens, an all-female English rock and heavy metal band, was formed in 2001 to pay tribute to the former 1970s classic English metal band ‘Iron Maiden’.
The band has gained immense popularity over time and has become the voice of millions of hearts, establishing a sound ad crazy global fandom for the beautiful and talented maiden members. Courtney Cox, the Iron Maiden’s lead guitarist, in particular, has enthralled the music world with her power and her audacious and explosive shreds, rocking the rock and roll and heavy metal genre through her refined techniques and extremity of pulls.
Having set her fingers on her very first guitar at the tender age of 13, Courtney decided to pursue her passion for music. By the time she turned 15, she was accepted at The Paul Green School of Rock Music that polished her natural playing skills through guidance under music maestros.
During her time at The Paul Green School of Rock Music, she received immense practical exposure during her tours and stage acts with established artists such as Adrian Belew, Jon Anderson, Perry Farrell and George Lynch. She co-founded Queen Diamond, a tribute band to the King Diamond.
Courtney’s natural playing skills refined and improved under the mentorship of the maestro Chris Gordon. After celebrating her 18th birthday in her native town in Philadelphia, Courtney moved over to Los Angeles where she made shared the stage with the Iron Maidens as a guest performer. Having sensed that she was just perfect missing puzzle piece of the band, the Iron Maidens offered her a permanent position as the lead guitarist.
Courtney Cox joined hands with the Iron Maidens replacing Heather Baker. The event turned out to be a professional milestone and brought her into the national as well as global limelight. Courtney plays for The Iron Maidens under the pseudonym Adriana Smith, to pay tribute to the Adrian Smith of the original Iron Maiden and has staged many shows and guest appearances in the United States and in Japan.
Aside from her guitar playing feats for The Iron Maidens, Courtney has successfully attained numerous other highlights on her professional profile. Courtney shared the stage with the Phantom Blue members at the Michelle Meldrum Memorial Concert, held at the famous Whisky a Go Go Nightclub in Hollywood, California. Courtney also made it to the Guitar World Magazine’s Buyer’s Guide Model Search list, where she was successfully bagged the 1st runners-up position.
After becoming a part of The Iron Maidens in 2008, Courtney has played on the band’s latest album titled Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan, which was released back in 2010. Make no mistake about it, this young lady can shred. Courtney and her fellow guitarist, Nikki Stringfield, are the modern day Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. Talented, precision, and dedicated to their craft.
We recently had a quizzy and interactive session with the young, lively and super-talented Courtney Cox. Here’s what she shared about her career hallmarks and future aspirations.
When did you first pick up the guitar?
I randomly picked up the guitar around thirteen/fourteen. I was definitely a late bloomer but I always took to music quickly. I was playing Metallica tunes within my first week of getting a guitar! I never looked back after that.
When you started playing, we’re you taking lessons or self-taught?
I am self-taught. I tried taking lessons but never was comfortable with it. I didn’t enjoy lessons because I didn’t want to sound like the teacher. I wanted to find my own sound and found it easier to just figure things out my own way. Some things you just can’t teach I believe. Even when I was enrolled in the School of rock way back when, I never went to lessons, which I got in trouble for. I just went on the tours! lol
Your first guitar was a black Cort electric. Do you still have this guitar in your possession?
HA! That guitar! When I wanted a guitar, I went to my father randomly and asked him to take me to the music shop in a nearby town called Glenolden in Delaware county, music .Pa. The shop was called Top Ten Music.It was a small shop and my father was still kind of confused over why I wanted a guitar because it was literally soo out of the blue but I just had the feeling I wanted one! I went in not knowing anything about guitars, models, woods, set ups , but saw this black thing on the wall and wanted it ( now thinking back I know there was a pretty cool green Ibanez on the wall that I should have picked up.. Ha oh well )… It was horrible haha but I guess it taught me how to make anything sound good because it was a challenge ! And yes I still have it back at my home in Essington, Pa.
When you enrolled into The Paul Green School of Rock Music, what kind of bands were you listening too?
Since I had no friends (ha) , music was everything. I always surrounded myself with heavy metal, thrash , hair metal etc. At that time I was really into old Metallica, Mercyfulfate/KingDiamond, Pantera, Priest , Anthrax, Exodus, Vio-lence, Overkill, Kreator to Ratt, Winger, and Queensryche and so on. A good song was a good song. I listened to everything.
When you were playing in the all-female tribute band Queen Diamond, was Andy Laroque an influence on your playing? Who were your other influences?
Andy is still a huge influence on my playing. A lot of my vibrato and whammy bar work comes from playing those tunes back when I was fifteen/sixteen. We were just babies! I still get excited when jamming on tunes like 7th day of July 1777 or black horsemen! Other influential players are Darrell Abbott, Glen Tipton, Reb Beach, Adrian Smith, Vinnie Moore, Warren Demartini, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Kiko Loureiro, Rob Marcello, Nuno Bettencourt, the list goes on and on. I love players that still make me air guitar to bends and solos! If I had to name one player that started everything for me, it would be Kirk Hammett. When I started I had to have everything he had. Same picks, strings, even moves on stage. I was obsessed. He is probably the only person that would make me feel star struck if I ever met him.
When you moved to Los Angeles from Phili, how did you get an invite to try out for the Maidens?
I always heard about the Maidens on the east coast while I was still in Queen Diamond. I moved out to California at 19 with a backpack and a guitar. I was filling time as Ace in a Kiss tribute when I heard the Maidens had an opening for Adrian. I was all over it. I contacted them through MySpace at that time ( ha MySpace seems so ancient now), but didn’t realize I turned off the reply function so they could not reply back to me! Ha, I thought they hated me until I realized duh they can’t respond. Once I turned that function on, I received their invitation for an audition. I went in and was nervous because I knew Linda from Phantom Blue and I was a huge fan. Nerves aside, I nailed the audition, second one, first show and that was that! A family was forged and is still gaining momentum every day!
When you started with the Maidens, what guitar/s were you primarily using?
I was fortunate enough to have an endorsement with Jackson since I was fifteen. Soo I was using Jacksons, but you could find me also playing an Ibanez or vtype peavey from time to time.
When did you get your Raspberry Peavey Vandenberg? Are you still playing that presently?
I acquired my vandy from Peavey a few years ago after I recorded a video for one of Peavey’s self-tuning guitars at Namm that received over a million views. They asked what I wanted for such a rewarding video and I said there is only one thing- A Vandenberg. They had a few left in the vault and luckily there was a raspberry one! I play the guitar at home. I used to take it out on the road until an unfortunate situation where some idiot tried stealing it at a jam I took it to. Nice try jerk! It’s irreplaceable at this point so I keep it safe at home.
How about your lime green Jackson Adrian Smith?
My green Adrian Smith model is a one of a kind gift Jackson had made for me. I saw that green when it first came out on a Flying V they released at Namm a good hmmm seven years ago? I had to have it! They were on board with the idea but had to get the blessing from a very important person – Adrian Smith himself. After he gave the green light, Greeny was on its way to me. I love that thing. I still play it today. It has taken a break from tours the last year or so but it may show its face again. You never know.
You being a big Maiden fan, was it easy for you to copy the band’s moves and playing styles?
Yes. The music was second nature to me since I grew up listening to all of their tunes. When it comes to my favorite music, I view myself as a chameleon of sorts. I like tearing things apart and becoming one with anything I am playing. Try to step inside their shoes or brain and try to understand why they choose this note or that phrase. After you do that for awhile you step back and see the huge canvas for what it is and how the paint works.
Do you improvise in the band?
I do. I’d probably go insane if I didn’t. As much as it is a tribute band, I am not Adrian Smith. I have my own twist on things, my own sound. I embellish on things when it feels right. I don’t intentionally do this but when you are live you get lost in the music and just play from the heart. There is nothing wrong with that.
What does your rig consist of?
My rig has been the same since I’ve been 16. Scary right? I use a valve king half stack from Peavey, Boss pedals ( chorus, delay, tuner), newly added BBE pedals ( boosta grande for solos) and that’s pretty much it. I get my distortion from the vk head. I like things simple. Less is more sometimes.
Are you presently endorsed by a Guitar Company?
I have been playing Caparison guitars lately. Their luthier used to make some of the original Jackson’s so the feel is very familiar. I highly recommend them to all players. Handmade in Japan. Caparisonguitars.com. Find them on Facebook as well… Facebook.com/caparisonguitarco. I still have my Jacksons but after nine years of torture on the road, they need some work. Once I have them serviced I will slowly incorporate them back into my arsenal.
What size strings do you use to play the Maiden songs?
Nines. We play in standard so they get the job done. Ghs.
What size picks are you using?
Hmm good question ( tries to find pick in purse) haha. I use Dunlop tortex Jazz picks 1.0 mm.
Do you have any specific preparations you do before any show?
I stretch and really just try to zone out and listen to music. I try to avoid the green room by sitting at the bar with fans or just walk around. I usually don’t even look at the set list until I walk on stage ha. I consider this my ” me” time.
Are you playing with other bands aside from the Maidens?
Yes! I currently play for Femme Fatale and recently joined another group called the ” Chelsea Girls” which is sort of a super group of female musicians from other bands. I swear I never sleep lol.
With your talent, Have you thought about, or been approached to do a solo album?
Original music is definitely in my near future. I have already been laying down tracks in my small home studio. The solo album thing really doesn’t interest me. I don’t believe in having my name alone on an album. I want a kick ass band that shares all duties and just has fun! I prefer to be in a family then be thrust to the front. You need people who have your back, not people who want to put a dagger in it haha. I kid I kid. Stay tuned for the originals.
What other types of music do you listen too? What other guitarists do you listen too?
I listen to everything. A good song is a good song regardless of genre. Even at the heaviest of shows, you can find me rocking out to let’s say. Backstreet Boys. Not kidding. I’ve been listening to a lot of Duran Duran too. The guitar work is very intriguing to me. Simple, well placed. And don’t get me started on the bass lines… perfection.
Do you have advice for any aspiring guitarist?
It’s not easy, not an easy lifestyle but if you truly love what you do there are no boundaries. Everyone has ups and down, we are only human. Play because you want to play. Not because you want to be famous or rich. Passion is something a lot of people lose over the years and it is sad. I’ve seen it happen to many friends. I even tell myself the minute it becomes a job for me I’m done. So stay true to yourself and push forward. Even if you fail, there is only one way to go once you’ve hit rock bottom and that is up.
What should we expect from you in 2017?
We shall see. I plan to take this new year by the horns and completely destroy. With every passing year you learn new things, embrace the tools you have learned or forget things that didn’t work. I’m ready for 2017 and what it has to offer.
Check Courtney Cox out @ https://www.facebook.com/Courtneycoxofficial/