In her solo work, American guitarist Nita Strauss is modern-voiced and metal-influenced in execution and production. But as a member of Alice Cooper’s band, cranking out classic rock hits with all the blues-based riffs and pentatonic solos that entails, it’s only natural that Nita has a deep appreciation for Jimmy Page’s work in Led Zeppelin and everything he has done to evolve guitar playing…
When you hear the name Jimmy Page, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
“The first thing I think of when I hear that name is ‘innovator’. On guitar there are so many things that one person did first and a lot of the time that person is Jimmy Page.
“Whether it’s the crazy bow technique that he occasionally used or those really interesting song arrangements that deviated from your traditional verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo/out. He pioneered ‘being different’ really early on for us guitar players.”
Is there a favorite Page riff for you?
“It’s hard to pick just one, but I guess there’s a reason why Whole Lotta Love is the classic. Actually, if I remember correctly, they even asked me to play that song as part of my audition for the Alice Cooper band!
“It’s such a classic straightforward riff that every guitarist can appreciate and play – it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or very advanced, you will be able to sit down and play that riff as well as really enjoy it.”
Another thing every guitar player loves about that song is the break roughly three minutes in, where the rest of the band cut out and Jimmy is given space to conjure up some E blues magic!
“Exactly! Every time I hear a band doing that, I know exactly where it came from. Let’s give credit where it’s due!”
Jimmy is a very free and fluid guitar player when it comes to time – you get the impression he was making it all up as he went along and feeling the moment, instead of premeditating every note and fitting it all to grid, so to speak…
“For sure. I almost think if a modern player delivered a Jimmy Page solo, they’d get crucified. People would be saying the bends are out of key or this note doesn’t fit in or blah, blah, blah. But whatever he comes out with, Jimmy always makes it work.
“He’s showed us what we play doesn’t always have to be perfectly time-coded or on the grid, the bends can go a little sharp, the vibrato can be a little erratic and that can work even better that perfectly executed and punched-in stuff. He’s organic and real… there’s all that feel in what he comes out with because he plays from the heart not the head.”
As well as straight pentatonic ideas, he knows when to incorporate more modal notes: whether it’s the Mixolydian major 3rd, the Dorian major 6th or the Aeolian minor 6th – the latter, of course, contributing greatly to the sober feel in the blues number Since I’ve Been Loving You…
“A lot of the time I get the impression he was learning the rules so he could break them. He’d have the theoretic arsenal to know what songs called for.
“But he also went beyond that – he didn’t feel like he could only use certain scales depending on the key. He had a modal sensibility that he’d explore in the right sections and he also knew when not to lean on it too much and stick to the blues.”
He was also able to distance himself from his instrument when looking at the music as a songwriter, arranger or producer – which is rare for a guitar player!
“Definitely. It’s not out of the normal for guitar players to think, ‘How can I make this song more about me?!’ and turn everything they play into a solo project. Jimmy Page is all about the song.”
- Nita Strauss’ latest album The Call of the Void is out now.