Tag Archives: Iron Maidens

Interview: The Iron Maidens Axe Master Courtney Cox

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.

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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/

https://www.facebook.com/TheIronMaidensOfficial/

 

 

The Queen of Strings Nikki Stringfield Interview

By Andrew Catania

Young, intelligent, talented, flamboyant and high on life, the next-age music sensation, Nikki Stringfield has managed to make herself a household name. With a myriad of  accolades to her name, including a Schecter Guitar endorsement and bagging in tremendous praise from the critic’s camp. This Red Oak, Texas native is a sure sign that she’s definitely going places and adding more on her acclaim and well-established fame as she progresses in her career.

She started off by attending the University of Texas graduating with a degree in Radio/TV Film.  After interning for Warner Brothers Music, Nikki relocated to Los Angeles to join the band Before the Mourning.  With superior guitar skills, Nikki also joined the all female tribute band The Iron Maidens.  The Iron Maidens have featured guitarists such as Nita Strauss, who’s with The Alice Cooper band, and Courtney Cox, who presently shreds with Nikki on the extensive collection of Iron Maiden covers.   Since then, she has toured worldwide, joined forces with Femme Fatale, guitarist Brad Jurjens, and shared the stage with many other acclaimed artists. Nikki also won Guitar World’sModel Search” contest and was featured in the Guitar Review Guide for 2015.

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The chronology of her career is a strong validation of the mastery and expertise that she holds, with the riffs, shreds, and chords of her signature Schecter Guitar..

Being extremely busy these days with multiple projects in the pipeline and planning future tours, it was quite a feat getting the “Queen of Strings” for a brief music canvass, but it turned out to be absolutely worthwhile as we managed to gain first hand insights from her about her musical endeavors, the instruments she’s playing, and future aspirations.

Bright, talented, witty and meticulous as she is, we share the quizzy-conversation as it played out as an informative and thrilling treat for the readers and her fan base. Read on.

You’re becoming a household name with your guitar playing.  How did you start playing the guitar?

I started playing guitar when I was 14 years old. My dad had bought my first guitar when I was younger (I can’t remember exactly what age) but I didn’t really develop an interest in learning how to play it until I started listening to Nirvana. I bought a tab book of their greatest hits and learned every song and taught myself to play through that. Afterward, I moved on to things like Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, and then I heard Avenged Sevenfold’s City of Evil album. That really inspired me to start learning leads and got me into more challenging things. I tried taking a few lessons so I could learn theory, but they weren’t really for me.

What was your first guitar you had?

My very first guitar was a little starter Strat, but the first guitar that I picked out on my own was a Schecter Gryphon Diamond Series guitar. I still have it to this day! That started my obsession with Schecter guitars and I’ve been in love with them ever since.

Were you in a band during your teens?  If so, what kind?

I actually wasn’t in any bands growing up.. I’m from a small town in Texas and not many people were in bands or into the music I was. I decided to go to the University of Texas for college because I heard Austin was the “Music Capitol of Texas,” thinking I’d find people there to start something up. But still, nothing happened so I just kept posting guitar videos online instead. I jammed with a few people just for fun, but the first real band I joined was Before The Mourning when I moved to Los Angeles, and then I started playing with The Iron Maidens shortly after.

How did you get involved with the Maidens?

I actually met Courtney through the guys in Before the Mourning. They needed a guitar sub for a show, so they asked if I could fill in for a show or two. That ended up turning into a regular thing as Nita and I traded off shows since we were both in original bands at the time. And eventually it turned into a full-time position, which is a blast getting to travel so much and play Maiden tunes!

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How is it playing alongside Courtney Cox?

It’s always fun! We just like to have fun at the shows and make sure we put on a bad ass show for everyone.

Did you play with Nita Strauss before she left to join Alice Cooper?

Nita and I were both playing the Dave Murray position and rotating out shows so we never played a full show together. There was one show where she joined us for a few songs and we did a killer three guitar line up though!

Are you still playing in Femme Fetale?

Yep, still with Femme Fatale! We just played the Monsters of Rock Cruise on the west coast. Hopefully we’ll get more dates going soon!

How are you enjoying playing with the Maidens?

I love it! I couldn’t be in a band if I didn’t love what I was doing. I’ve always loved Iron Maiden, I get to travel the world with friends, and we always have fun. Plus I’ve got to make so many friends through playing these shows. Can’t beat that!

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Let’s talk about your rig.  What are you presently using? Are you still endorsed by Peavey?

I’m actually using a Schecter Hellraiser 100 amp, which I’ve been using since early 2014 I believe. The tone is amazing!  The only thing of Peavey that I still use is the Valveking slant cab until I can get something else. I’ve got a lot of pedals that I use off and on.. I have the Seymour Duncan 808 Overdrive and the Palladium Gain Stage Pedal, MXR Black Label Chorus, BBE Sonic Maximizer, BBE Boosta Grande, MXR Carbon Copy Delay, and Boss AutoWah pedals. I switch things out depending on who I’m playing with or what I’m playing.

Your’re endorsed by Schecter Guitars.  You have one nice signature guitar!  Tell me how this came about it.

Thank you!!! It’s truly a dream come true.. I still have to pinch myself haha. Michael Ciravolo, the president of Schecter, just emailed me one day and said he thought it was time to create a signature guitar for me. They had just made a one of a kind green avenger for me about a year before while I was on tour, and people had been asking about it a lot. So I decided to do something similar but still change things up a bit to make it new. When I finally saw it in person I was speechless!

What kind of strings are you using?

I’ve been using GHS Boomers, 9-42. They’re such a great company and the strings feel absolutely amazing to play!

Did Seymour Duncan approach you?

They contacted me after my signature model came out actually. I’ve always had Seymour Duncan in my guitars, usually a different one in each guitar, and my signature has an Invader. I took a tour of their factory in Santa Barbara and it was so cool to see that everything is actually made right there at that location. You can’t beat their quality!

Who are your influences?

There’s so many.. I guess the main influences would be Kurt Cobain since he got me into guitar initially, Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold, Dimebag Darrell from Pantera, Marty Friedman and Megadeth, I could go on and on!

What guitarists presently do you listen too?

In addition to all of the above influences, right now I’m listening to Jeff Loomis, Andy James, Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry, Nick Johnston, Daniele Gottardo.. the list goes on and on!

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What are your plans for 2017?  Will we see a solo album from you?

I’m really hoping to get at least a solo EP out at some point in 2017. I’ve got a few songs in the works right now and can’t wait to get them out there. I know there will probably be a lot of touring with the Iron Maidens as wells so it looks like it’s going to be a busy year!

You can view Nikki’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/xNikki.Stringfieldx/