Nita Strauss Discusses Her New Album ‘Controlled Chaos’ & Alice Cooper

By Andrew Catania

With an outrageously exceptional talent, astounding skills, brilliant pieces of work and an incessantly growing fandom, Nita Strauss is a renowned name which has gained immense talent and expertise within a short span of time and relatively young age. She is smart, gifted and knows her job.

Hailing from an ancestry comprised of a hierarchy of prominent and highly prized musicians of their time, this is from where Nita has derived her passion, and this is what makes the music flow in her blood.

Born on December 7th, 1986, in Los Angeles, Nita Strauss is also known by her stage name Mega Murray. Her initial exposure to music started in the early years of her childhood. Belonging to a family of musicians, she began to play and learn music a long time before reaching her teens. This allowed her to test her skills and explore her passions on a variety of music and instrument, before finally landing on playing guitars and taking it further as her passion and profession.

Photo by Sue Hebert

It is worth noting that unlike her contemporaries, Nita has not attended a music school nor has she received any professional education at home. Her gifted, inborn talents have only enhanced through her self-taught learning, and this primarily is the reason behind her strong and unique style and techniques.

Nita Strauss stepped in to conquer the metal music sphere as a professional musician the year she stepped into her teenage, in 1997. She started off playing for metal music shows that not only brought her exposure in metal music communities.

Her finely carved tunes are a real treat for the ears, and her enthralling stage presence is a delight to watch. It has not only boosted her confidence but has also brought her a strong repute among mental fandom, critics as well as music gear manufacturers. She has also extended her portfolio by also testing on her vocal strengths.

Nita Strauss career profile features some associations that he has established over time. By 2009, her name was making uproars and echoes in the metal music sphere. So much that she became one of the most sought-after names in the industry. She partnered with Bamboozle West and As Blood Runs Black, for their Europe and US tours, where she made impressive performances on the stage.

The year 2010 brought a break through the opportunity that took her career to a whole new notch. She was handpicked by Jermaine Jackson, the brother of the King of Pop. During her association with Jermaine, Nita Strauss played in the leading capacity for a series of public concerts that were held in Africa in 2010.

Aside from her partnership with Jermaine Jackson, Nita has also partnered with some famous bands and music groups including The Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale, Consume the Fire, Alice Cooper, LA KISSCritical Hit, and her new upcoming solo record “Controlled Chaos”  will be released on November 16th, 2018 via Sumerian Records.

Ranked as #1 among Guitar World’s Top 10 Female Guitarists, Nita’s professional profile is punctuated with some commercials, guest appearances, and gear endorsements.  We spoke to Nita about Controlled Chaos.

Female guitarists are being featured more in this once male-dominated industry.  Lita Ford surely opened a lot of doors, now you have players like Courtney Cox, Gretchen Menn, having more exposure.  How does it feel to be part of this group representing female guitarists?

NS:  It’s about time that somebody started paying attention to our players. There are sure enough out there. I remember being a young girl and I didn’t have any girlfriends who played guitar. I didn’t know any female guitar players; I didn’t know who Jennifer Batten, Michelle Meldrum or the Great Kat were.   I was only exposed to MetallicaGuns N Roses, and bands that were big at the time.  So to be on the front line of this new wave of amazing female guitar players and get to be a part of bringing that to the masses is, it’s just awesome. I love being a part of it.

Have you experienced any cases of sexism in this industry?

NS: Everybody’s been great.  I wouldn’t lie to you and your readers by saying that there have never been any times that I felt singled out or felt different. But by and large, the metal community, in particular, is inclusive. They’re really supportive and genuinely inclusive, and there’s a bad apple in every bunch. It’s not limited to the music industry.  Overall it’s been a fantastic experience for me.  A big part of that is I have always been a strong performer, have always been a strong player,  Even when I was a younger guitarist, I didn’t have any crew and I would never show up to shows and ask people to carry my stuff or carry my amp up a flight of stairs.

I never wanted to be treated differently because of my gender. So I think that earned me a lot of respect in my early days.  I’d carry my stuff, and I would show up,  do my show, go to merch and then I would load the truck with everybody else.

 

How did this Controlled Chaos come about?

NS:  it all started when I first started playing guitar because all of my heroes are instrumental guitar players, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman.   I was always into their instrumental records.  I had this love of instrumental shred records and just never thought that I was ready to take a step into that world.  When Steve Vai asked me to contribute the song pandemonium to his compilation album; She Rocks for Favored Nations.   Once I wrote the first song, I was like,  not only is this something that I can do, but it’s something I enjoy.

It’s something that I’m having so much fun doing.  As soon as I finished Pandemonium we put it out, and I was so pleased with how it turned out. That was what sort of sparked the beginning of writing the rest of the record.  I wrote the majority of Controlled Chaos actually on the road with Alice because we usually tour about ten months out of the year and I didn’t know when I was going to have a break to go and book studio time and do it. So I just started writing on tour.   I took an Apollo Twin; it’s sitting in front of me as I talk to you, take it to hotel desks, tour bus, a table and an in airport lounges.  Anywhere that I can find to sit and work for an hour, I would grab these little slices of time.  Alice decides to take the summer off from our band to tour with his band, Hollywood Vampires, that’s when I had the time to sit down and lock out the studio for two months and do the bulk of the real recording.

Did you produce this yourself?

I am the sole producer. I did about 85 percent of the engineering as well. And I did just about everything myself. The only thing I didn’t do at all myself was the mix and master.

Was getting your signature guitar from Ibanez a total surprise?

NS: I’ve been with Ibanez for ten years.  I’m by far the longest-tenured female guitar player they’ve had.  When I first signed with Ibanez in 2008, I was the only girl on the American roster on the guitar roster. I think it was just me and Jeanne Sagan, the bass player from All That Remains.  Ibanez isn’t one of those companies that hand out signature guitars to anybody.  They weren’t going to hand one to any girl that came off the street.  I’ve been a loyal Ibanez artist for a very long time.

My first meeting with Ibanez in 2008 as a young guitar player, I said I love playing guitar. If you want to work with me, I will always represent this brand proudly to the very best that I can, and if you don’t want to work with me, I’ll still play your guitars because they’re still my favorite.  I took away all my leverage in our initial meeting, but, at least I proved my love and my loyalty to the brand. So now ten years later, to be the first female signature artists in the companies 60 plus year history. It’s just a really, really an honor and something that I don’t take lightly.  I hope that I’m the first of many because there is a lot that deserves it.

Is your model made in Japan or Indonesia?

NS: Mine is made in Indonesian.  The reason that we did that is so it could be at a price point that people could afford. If we had done the same guitar with the same specs in Japan, it would have been a $3,500 guitar. If you do that same guitar in Indonesia, It’s $1,499.   I was reluctant at first because I had always heard the not so good things about the Indonesian factory, but they did a massive overhaul in the factory, and I said, well look, make mine there,  don’t make mine in Japan and then make everyone else’s in Indonesia, make mine in the Indonesian factory and let me try it out. If it’s good enough for me to play with one of the most prominent artists in rock music, they need to be good enough for me to put out there for everybody.  So they made it, I tried it, and I love it. I have not had a single problem with it, super stable, stays in tune and not a single issue with it.  I’m pleased with our choice because at the end of the day I didn’t want to make a collector’s piece. I want to make a guitar that people could take out and play.

How did you get the gig with Alice Cooper?

NS: When Orianthi left the band, I know that they were looking for a female guitar player.  I was getting emails saying hey, they’re looking for somebody, do you want me to put you in touch with them? The first person to connect the dots was Kip Winger.  I had been doing double duty with the Iron Maidens and Femme Fatale on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, and I was talking to Kip after one of the shows, and he said, what are you doing besides this? Are you doing any other gigs?

I said, you know, if you hear of anything, I would appreciate it to keep me in mind. That’s been my MO my entire career as anybody that I talked to, I say, hey, here’s my information, here’s my social media. If you hear of anything, I would appreciate you keep me in mind too.  That simple sentence goes a long way because the next time they hear of something they go, hey, you know who might be good is this guitar player that I talked to.  So he contacted Bob Ezrin and Shep Gordon who has been managing Alice since the very beginning and sent them my information.  Here I am today in his band.

What is one thing you enjoy about touring and what’s one thing you’ve learned from Alice Cooper?

NS:  I love the freedom that he gives us to play his songs. It’s not often that you play with somebody of Alice’s status that says, here’s the song. Do something to elevate the song.  There are about 18 songs that don’t have a guitar solo in the original song.   We put long extended solos that Ryan and I trade off because it elevates the song and elevates the show to another level.  It was unexpected when I joined the band because I was ready to walk on eggshells and not try to make any waves. I’m not trying to stand out at all.   The whole consensus is the Alice Cooper camp does whatever will make the show better.  If that means running around and spinning the guitar and lighting things on fire to make the audience have the best show, then that’s what we do.  It’s been amazing to experience that and to grow as a performer within the confines of the show.

One thing that I’ve learned touring with Alice, he’s 70, I’m 31, and even when I have days where I’m tired, I do seven days a week on this tour. I do five shows with Alice, and I do two clinics at Guitar Center.  So I haven’t had a day off for six weeks.  There are days when I’m like, I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m exhausted, I feel like I don’t really feel like going on stage and giving it a 100, 110 percent, but seeing Alice at more than twice my age, going out there and giving 110 percent every single night just shows that if he can do it, anybody can do it.

For information on Nita Strauss please visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NitaStrauss/

 

 

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