Guitarist Nita Strauss Talks Touring with Alice Cooper, Gear and Three-Guitar Attacks
Following the April premiere of Alice Cooper’s film, Super Duper Alice Cooper, at the Tribeca Film Festival and its subsequent release on DVD, rock's greatest showman is hitting the road as a "very special guest" during Mötley Crüe’s final "All Bad Things Must Come To An End" North American tour, which starts in July.
But the tour also will mark the debut of Cooper's new guitarist, Nita Strauss, who recently was listed as one of GuitarWorld.com's "10 Female Guitar Players You Should Know." Strauss takes the place of Orianthi, who had toured with Cooper for the past several years.
Strauss — whose influences include Steve Vai, Marty Friedman, Paul Gilbert and Shawn Lane — has already made her mark with the Iron Maidens and Femme Fatale. She’ll now join Cooper’s three-guitar attack, sharing the stage with fellow six-stringers Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen.
I recently spoke to Strauss about the upcoming Cooper tour, her gear and how she got her start.
GUITAR WORLD: Tell me how you got involved with this project.
Kip Winger was the one who actually connected the dots. We met each other on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, where he saw me play. He later heard through the grapevine that Alice was looking for someone, so he sent them a few links and videos of me performing. I was then introduced to Shep Gordon [manager] and Bob Ezrin [producer] who sent me over a few tracks to learn and from there. Everything just seemed to fall into place. I'm so honored and excited to be a part of this project. It's hard to put into words.
What was it like when you first met Alice?
I first met Alice in LA when he was recording some material for his new album. Ezrin called and asked me if I’d like to come down to the studio and meet him. So I went down and got to sit in the studio for Alice’s recording session. He’s such a cool guy. The whole experience was pretty incredible.
What can you tell me about the tour?
Alice has his new film out, Super Duper Alice Cooper, which is a fantastic, super-fun movie. For the tour, we'll be doing 72 cities beginning with a few warmup shows in Michigan and then joining up with the Crüe on July 2. We have a little break in September and then go back out until mid-November.
Do you feel added pressure being in a three-guitar band situation?
I come from a band that played Iron Maiden songs, so the multi-guitar-player thing isn't something that’s really new to me. By the same token, these are iconic songs and I really want to make sure that I do them justice.
What's your live setup going to be like for this tour?
I'll be using Blackstar Series One EL34 heads. I picked those because they have a really classic sound. I also have a TC Electronic G-Force, which is going to run most of the effects, a Voodoo Lab Ground Control, Cry Baby Wah and a Whammy pedal. Simple and effective is the way to do it.
Can you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?
My dad is a musician and I come from a whole line of musicians going back to the composer Johann Strauss. I've always been around music in my house and one day my dad bought me a guitar. But it wasn’t until I saw the ending scene in the movie Crossroads — Steve Vai vs. Ralph Macchio — when it was like, That's what I want to do!" [laughs]. From then on, it was full-speed ahead, and I've never looked back. Just seeing how cool Steve Vai looked and the way he made the guitar sing was so inspirational. To this day, he's still my favorite guitar player.
Do you have advice for female guitar players?
The paramount thing is to always compare yourself to the guitarists you're influenced by. Don’t just limit yourself to female musicians. Compare yourself to the best of the best. If you strive to be the best, that's what you’re going to become.
At what point do you think the feeling of being on a tour of this magnitude will really sink in?
I think it will be that first show and first note — the surreal moment when I see myself standing on stage with Alice Cooper. He's got this larger-than-life persona and wants the same out of the band members. When I'm there playing to him, I think that's when it’s really going to hit me the most.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.