May 12, 2020 Interview – Nita Strauss
In the world of Rock-n-Roll, we often hear about the guitar gods… but what about the goddesses? A supreme force, Nita Strauss is the queen of shred among mere mortals. Dedicating her life to the axe, Strauss has been ranked one of “10 Female Guitar Players You Should Know,” but why limit it to gender, because she is arguably a top 10 in Rock/Metal player period.
Combining a unique skill set with a fun approach, she has offered her talents to many, including an ongoing gig as Alice Cooper’s touring guitarist. Releasing her praised debut solo album Controlled Chaos in 2018, as well as being an active health and fitness advocate, Strauss now dabbles in the world of online guitar instruction. A project that comes at a perfect time, when many are tucked away at home due to COVID-19, Strauss sat down to chat about her career in music, insight into her routine, plus a whole lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You decided to dedicate your life to music at a young age, and over the past two decades you have accomplished a lot as a writer and performer. Working with everyone from Alice Cooper to recording your own material solo, how would you describe your career, thus far?
Nita Strauss – I think I’ve been so lucky to have had the career that I’ve had and gotten to play with so many different artists. I’ve gotten to live out all my childhood dreams doing what I’m doing, so I guess I would describe it as very fortunate.
Cryptic Rock – That fortune is greatly due to your immensely high skill set – you are an exceptional guitarist. At what point did you decide you wanted to do music full-time?
Nita Strauss – It was pretty much right away; I knew I wanted to play professionally from the first time I picked up the guitar. I fell in love with the instrument watching Steve Vai in the movie Crossroads (1986) and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. From that point on it was full speed ahead.
Cryptic Rock – And here we are today. In more recent years you have been touring with Alice Cooper. What has it been like working with him as part of the live band?
Nita Strauss – I’m happy with my role as Alice’s touring guitar player; it’s been an incredible experience. Alice is everything you would want in a boss and mentor. I’m very lucky and having a great time.
Cryptic Rock – You have done a great job as part of the touring band. Also, in 2018, you released your debut solo album Controlled Chaos. A fantastic collection of songs, what was it like writing and recording this album?
Nita Strauss – It was definitely a different experience to go in and do something that’s just me; it’s my own vision and I did not have to realize anyone else’s vision. So much of what I do in my career you have to really buckle down and say, “What does this artist want? How can I best realize what they want to bring to life?” To get to do something on my own was a pretty special experience.
Cryptic Rock – It is a very well-balanced album. It rocks heavy yet is extremely melodic, but also has more subtle moments, as well. Do you have any new material you are working on now?
Nita Strauss – Oh yeah. I’ve been working on material for a second album since last November. I’ve been working on it for about six months. It’s really just been now, that we’ve had this quarantine, that I’ve been able to buckle down and focus on it. We are definitely looking toward a 2020 release.
Cryptic Rock – That is good news. Will it be another instrumental album or will there be any guest vocals?
Nita Strauss – It will still be primarily instrumental, but I have been talking to a couple of vocalists. You can except a little bit of singing, just not from me.
Cryptic Rock – It will be exciting to hear the new music! You recently have become involved in providing guitar instruction via the internet. How did this new project come about for you?
Nita Strauss – We actually completed the filming of the course for the guitar lessons in 2019. It is one of those projects that we thought was such a cool idea. I love guitar clinics and I’ve never really had the time to do one on one classes via Skype or in-person, but I wanted to find some way to pass on that knowledge.
As mentioned, we completed the filming in 2019 and the plan was when I had a little bit of down time to go through it, edit it, and upload it on a website. We were going to release it sometime in the fall of 2020. Then, when the quarantine hit, and everyone was panicking at home, so my boyfriend Josh and I looked at each other and said, “We have to get this out now so people have something to do during this time.”
It is not that there are not other guitar lessons out there, but it offers a course that takes someone from the very beginning all the way through their guitar journey. I think that is a really cool thing for people during this time who have always wanted to pick up a guitar, but never had the chance to pursue it or didn’t know where to start. Also, if it’s an intermediate guitar player who just wants to brush up on stuff, they can jump into the course anywhere they want, just to get some knowledge.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. It seems like a great asset for anyone looking to learn how to play or simple polish their skills.
Nita Strauss – Absolutely. I think having a project during this time, when there is so much uncertainty going on in the world is important. I think listening to music is the best therapy in the world too. I feel like playing music is even better therapy, so why not give people a little bit of free therapy while we’re at it?
Cryptic Rock – Exactly! It is would be exciting to pick your brain too, since you have mastered your instrument. That said, how do you keep yourself in shape, musically?
Nita Strauss – I think just playing consistently. It feels like such a boring answer, but playing guitar a lot of the time – that’s by big trade secret. Just keep the instrument in your hands. Even if you’re not learning something new every single day and just going over things to keep your abilities sharp, that’s really been the key for me.
Cryptic Rock – Right, as they say, practice does make perfect. Speaking of keeping in shape, you are also an advocate for physical fitness. You have provided fitness training advice to others and even released an e-book on it. With us all locked in, now is also a time for mental health. What would you say is the key for you to keep mentally healthy during this time?
Nita Strauss – Music, of course. I also think keeping some semblance of productivity in your life. In a time like this it’s really easy to get bogged down in all the negativity. You’re looking at Facebook and there is nothing but arguing and fear, you look at news and it’s more fear; there is no news cycle that is not consumed with this pandemic right now. It is just about taking a step back from it and doing something you have always wants to do. Whether it’s learn a new language, learn an instrument, learn guitar with my course, or learn how to bake bread. Whatever it is, just do something that has a sense of accomplishment to it.
Also, I will say, I think physical fitness is a big part of mental health, as well. I’ve had people who do my Body Shred fitness program who have gotten off anti-depressants and lowered their blood pressure. I think keeping your body right is also really important to making your mental health feel better.
Cryptic Rock – There is no question that is the true. You can feel the difference in your mindset when you stick to a exercise routine.
Nita Strauss – 1,000%! You get the endorphins going and feel great afterwards. I have never regretted a workout – I’ve only regretted missing a workout.
Cryptic Rock – That is right. Also, sometimes you may not feel up to working out some days, but if you push yourself, sometimes those are the best workouts you have.
Nita Strauss – Absolutely! I could not possibly agree more. What I tell people in my program, if you’re having a day like that, just go to the gym, or in this case, go in your living room or outside. If you are reading this after the quarantine, just get dressed, go to the gym and just go! Tell yourself, “I’ll do ten minutes of walking on the treadmill, and if I’m still not feeling it, I’ll go home.” For me, ten times out of ten, I’ve got my sneakers laced up, I’m listening to music, I say, “Ok, now I’m here. I’ll do my workout.”
Cryptic Rock – That is how you have to do it. Back to the music. You have offered your talents to many musicians through the years, in fact, you were featured on the Netflix series Hired Guns. These thoughts in mind, have you considered devoting yourself to your own band on a more full-time basis?
Nita Strauss – I had a band a few years ago called We Start Wars, it was an all-female band here in L.A.; I had the best and brightest female musicians I could find. We put out one single and we played one amazing sold-out show at my own venue, The Whisky, then I left. I went on tour with Alice for eight months, and when I was gone the girls were texting me and we were trying to coordinate rehearsals for the ten days at a time that I was home.
With that experience I realized it was too selfish of me to try and create a band at this point in my career. I just don’t have the ability to be there for it full-time; it’s not fair to the other musicians in the band and fans who are excepting new music. Maybe someday down the line, but not right now.
Cryptic Rock – Understood, hopefully it can happen in the future. Since you have been on the road a lot touring, the food is not so healthy, your sleep patterns are altered, etc. How do you keep yourself in check nutritionally while out there?
Nita Strauss – I have workarounds for everything like that. I’ve been doing it for so long that it really becomes second nature for me. It’s actually easier for me to stay in shape on the road than at home now. I have a nutritionist I work with called RP Strength. They plan out my meals for me and let me know when to have this much carbs, protein, fats etc.
I’m a very structured person: if I don’t have structure in my life, I can’t be trusted to eat intuitively; I have to have a plan. RP Strength gives me my plan while I get all my food delivered on the road from a company called Trifecta Nutrition. You have basically everything you would need to put a meal together. I get that and it’s really clean and easy to follow on the road.
Cryptic Rock – It seems like you have a great plan.
Nita Strauss – You have to. I get my Trifecta deliveries at home too. I cook them up in the pan or the oven, even though it comes cooked; instead of heating it up in the microwave, sometimes I will even put it on the grill. I will put the Trifecta veggies in the air fryer too. Lately I have been getting these portabello mushrooms, and I’ve been putting those in the oven to roast them with garlic and pink sauce – it’s awesome!
Cryptic Rock – That sounds great, when is lunch? (Laughs) So, what are some of your influences as a musician?
Nita Strauss – I’ve always been inspired by shred guitar players, but the ones who really draw me in are the ones who make shredding sound fun. Sometimes you listen to these incredibly technical guitar players and it sounds a little intimidating. If you listen to someone like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Marty Friedman, or Jason Becker, they are some of the most technically proficient guitar players who have ever been, but it makes me as a guitar player say, “Wow, I really want to do that.”
Cryptic Rock – Good point. Joe Satriani just released a great new album, too. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror or Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
Nita Strauss – I’m a massive Star Wars fan. I’m not much of a movie person, but I’m a Star Wars person – it totally changed my life. I only have one tattoo and it’s a Star Wars tattoo. The original trilogy is my jam!
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