"It's such a complete record, that perfect balance of technique, songwriting, emotion and energy": Nita Strauss on the music that's soundtracked her life

Nita Strauss
(Image credit: Ana Massard)

“She looks like a model and plays like Eddie Van Halen," was Alice Cooper’s assessment of Nita Strauss when she joined his live band on guitar in 2014 – but the Californian virtuoso has always made sure it was her fretwork that opened doors. 

Beyond Alice, Strauss has lent her blazing licks to projects spanning from tribute band the Iron Maidens to this year’s star-studded second solo album The Call Of The Void, while her eclectic listening tastes suggest there isn’t a gig in the world she couldn’t handle.


The first music I remember hearing

My sister and I grew up doing ballet, so we listened to a lot of classical, and Bizet’s Carmen is probably my strongest childhood music memory.

The first riff I learned

As a young player in the early 2000s, I specifically remember learning Linkin Park’s One Step Closer. Getting the harmonic in the middle of that main riff, I just felt like I was the greatest guitar player in the world! 

The song that reminds me of adolescence

I get to play it every night with Alice Cooper – I’m Eighteen. I think that’s the quintessential adolescence song. When I was eighteen I was single-mindedly set on becoming a professional musician. But at that time I thought the way to get taken seriously in the industry was to be able to party and hang with the older bands. So I was a mess at the time.

The first song I performed live

Smashing PumpkinsBullet With Butterfly Wings, at a middle school jog-a-thon, with everyone running in laps while I played. I probably didn’t pull it off as well as I thought I did, but I don’t think anyone was paying attention.

The greatest album of all time

Impossible! But if we’re talking guitar albums, I don’t know that anything tops Steve Vai’s Passion And Warfare. It’s such a complete record, that perfect balance of technique, songwriting, emotion and energy.

The singer

The first person that pops into my head is Bruce Dickinson. But I also had the pleasure recently to work with Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy. For my money she’s up there with the best of the best. She can do anything from high cleans to death-metal growls.

The guitar hero

I’m talking about Steve Vai a lot, but he’s the reason I picked up a guitar. The Crossroads movie did it for me. He played the Devil’s guitar player and had this sexy charisma. The first time I met him was after a Generation Axe show. I remember he came out, quintessential Steve Vai, in a black mesh shirt and jewellery. He told me he was putting together a compilation album of female guitar players and would I like to contribute? I was like: “Absolutely! One hundred per cent! Wonderful!” I must have said ‘yes’ twelve different ways.

The best live band I've seen

I just saw Muse for the first time and that show was unbelievable. The production, the lights, the big inflatables, it was just unreal. I’m used to big production from playing with Alice, which makes it even more impressive that I was so floored. They have such a huge sound for a three-piece too.

The songwriter

I still don’t think anyone has ever done it better than The Beatles. Bands these days are still following their formula. I love Revolver, it’s a bit more rock’n’roll, a harder-driving album.

The anthem

It doesn’t get much better than Queen’s We Will Rock You. That’s one of those songs where if you’re alone in the car, you just have to beat the steering wheel.

My karaoke song

Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer. I have a secret weapon, because my best friend and keyboard player, Katt Scarlett, is also my karaoke partner. She is a phenomenal singer. And while I may not be a great vocalist, I harmonise well. I haven’t done karaoke since I’ve been sober.

My sober coach

I first met Zakk Wylde – another one of my great heroes – backstage at a festival. I was newly sober and he’s been sober a little longer. I was like a little kid, going up to everyone saying: “Do you have any advice?” And Zakk says: “Little hurricane… just stop being a pussy.” He gave me this locker-room pep talk: “You are a badass woman and that liquid has no power over you.” By the end of this conversation I felt so powerful I could have run through a wall. It was the nicest way anyone has ever told me to stop being a pussy.

My guilty pleasure

I’ve made no secret of my love of nineties boy bands. And actually, this is a common thread of the girls I know in metal bands: we all love Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. We had some Backstreet Boys on when I was at merch doing autographs the other day, and everyone in my band was singing every single word and our fans were laughing at us. It’s good to be silly sometimes.

The song I want played at my funeral

Not to do a shameless plug, but I have a song on my record called Kintsugi, about how when something’s broken in our life it’s our human nature just to throw it away. But the art of kintsugi is about repairing the things that are broken and becoming stronger for it. So that song might give people the inspiration to carry on.

The Call Of The Void is available now via Sumerian.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.