Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. This month’s piece features an interview with guitarist Nita Strauss of Alice Cooper’s band.
Nita Strauss is a guitar virtuoso, playing lead for the legendary Alice Cooper. While she’s certainly not the first prominent female guitarist, there’s no denying Strauss’ continued impact in bringing female shredders to the forefront and showing young girls that they, too, can take the lead guitar role.
The guitarist first emerged as a standout performer in the all-female Iron Maiden tribute band the Iron Maidens, before joining Cooper’s band in 2014. She recently released her debut solo album, an instrumental collection of fiery, guitar-driven songs called Controlled Chaos.
She’s currently touring in support of her solo disc, and will soon join Cooper for an extensive run of 2019 dates, including a co-headlining summer tour with Halestorm, making 2019 her busiest year yet.
Strauss spoke with Heavy Consequence for the latest Beyond the Boys’ Club column, discussing the rise of women in rock and metal music, her belief that the rock and metal world is inclusive, her experience touring with Alice Cooper, and more. Read the full interview below:
On which female musicians she looked up to when she was starting out
My first real female guitar hero was Jennifer Batten. I saw a video of her performing with Michael Jackson and was blown away. I knew about all the other female guitar heroes, like Joan Jett and Lita Ford, but I was also drawn to shredding and crazy solos, so it I wasn’t until I saw Jennifer that I was like, “There’s a girl doing it!” That opened my eyes to being on a bigger stage. From there, I was on the front line of female guitarists — myself, Orianthi, Courtney Cox of The Iron Maidens. We were all out there, trying to create more awareness.
On the #MeToo movement and how it applies to the rock and metal world
I will champion this forever — that the rock and metal scene is absolutely the most inclusive, amazing, supportive community that I’ve ever been a part of. There are a few bad apples in the bunch, but with the #MeToo movement, we really didn’t see that. Take a mosh pit — a most pit is the perfect example. It’s a bunch of kids pushing each other around, but when one person falls, the rest of the people pick them up. I’ve always found the rock and metal worlds to be inclusive. Again, there are some bad apples in the bunch that ruin it for everybody else, but in the metal and rock communities, we don’t do that. I’ve had people talk down to me, but never band members, and never at shows. We just don’t do that.
On seeing more women get into rock and metal music than years ago
How could you not witness this change that has happened? People talk a lot about females in music, and often somebody will comment, “There were lots of girls in bands before, like The Donnas and The Runaways and Kittie,” but you’re talking about 10 all-female bands at most that actually had worldwide recognition. Literally, 10 all-female bands! Now, there are so many. It’s not odd to be a female in a band anymore. It’s not odd to be a girl carrying a guitar case to a gig.
On inspiring young girls to pick up the guitar and make music
That’s all I’ve ever wanted. I don’t know how much I had to do with it, but if I even had a tiny bit to do with it, then I’m very, very proud. I’ve had people come to concerts and clinics saying, “My daughter saw you playing guitar and wanted a guitar for her birthday.” If I can give that back to one little girl, much less thousands, and if they start on this journey because they saw me do this, then I did a good thing with my career and my life.
On her debut solo album, Controlled Chaos, and how it feels to play the music at shows around the world
It’s an incredible feeling. I’ve been touring my whole life, playing my own songs and playing other people’s songs, but to be out there playing guitar and have people actually signing along to the guitar melodies is surreal and a lot of fun.
On what makes her most proud to have released her first solo album
I think I’m most proud of the response people have had to an instrumental guitar album. A lot of people said, “You have to form a band and be a singer and learn how to sing,” and I’m really glad that I stuck to my guns and did an instrumental record, and the world liked it, and the world cared. We charted at No. 7 on the iTunes rock chart, right behind Queen and Chris Cornell, so we made a real statement in the rock world, and that was cool.
On the biggest challenge that came with releasing a solo album
The biggest challenge was the whole learning curve of being solo artist. I’ve been in bands for so long that being a solo artist was completely new thing. Luckily, I have a great solo artist that I tour with, Alice Cooper, and I’ve learned a lot from him, so it’s great to have someone like Alice to really learn from.
On how it feels to have fans embrace her solo music
It’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing. Within my show that I perform during the solo set, I do an Alice Cooper song and an Iron Maiden song, and I feel like the response for those songs is not as strong as it is for the instrumental stuff. That really shows me that people are there to hear my music, and that’s a very gratifying and flattering feeling.
On how she juggles her busy schedule, between solo shows and touring with Alice Cooper
I don’t have much downtime this year, which is the way I like it! I get home from my solo tour on June 23rd and start rehearsals with Alice Cooper on June 27th. It’s just enough time to take care of a few things. You work your whole life to get this busy, I might be a little tired, but it’s a good tired. It’s the kind of tired you feel when you really accomplish something.
On what she’s looking forward to when it comes to Alice Cooper’s summer tour with Halestorm
I think it’s going to be amazing to have another strong female on the bill. We’ve toured with other bands in the past, like Deep Purple and Mötley Crüe, but to have another girl [Lzzy Hale] on is so great. It’s the summer of female empowerment, and it’s going to be a blast.
On what makes Alice Cooper’s show a production that, year after year, fans flock to see
He’s a legend. Nobody does it like Alice Cooper. Nobody ever will. Often imitated, never duplicated. And the show keeps getting better and better. I just got the final setlist a couple of days ago, and it’s completely different. The show this year is completely revamped with a different set and different songs, and it’s going to make it super exciting for those people who have seen him before.
Nita Strauss Remaining 2019 North American Tour Dates:
06/19 – Austin, TX Come And Take It Live *
06/20 – Dallas, TX Trees *
06/21 – San Antonio, TX The Rock Box *
06/22 – Warehouse Live Studio ^
* with Kore Rozzik
^ with Static-X and DevilDriver
Alice Cooper 2019 North American Tour Dates:
07/04 – Mashantucket, CT @ Grant Theater @ Foxwoods Resort Casino
07/06 – Columbus, OH @ Express Live!
07/07 – Peoria, IL @ Peoria Civic Center Theatre
07/09 – Dubuque, IA @ Five Flags Center
07/10 – Madison, WI @ The Sylvee
07/11 – Wabash, IN @ Honeywell Center
07/13 – Stayner, ON @ Roxodus Festival
07/17 – Allentown, PA @ PPL Center *
07/19 – Pittsburgh, PA @ KeyBank Pavilion *
07/20 – Detroit, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre *
07/21 – Chicago, IL @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre *
07/23 – Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center *
07/25 – St Louis, MO @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre *
07/26 – Kansas City, MO @ Starlight Theatre *
07/28 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Zoo Amphitheatre *
07/29 – Cedar Park, TX @ H-E-B Center *
07/31 – Irving, TX @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory *
08/01 – Houston, TX @ The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion *
08/04 – Nashville, TN @ The Opry House *
08/07 – Canandaigua, NY @ CMAC *
08/08 – Bethel, NY @ Bethel Woods Center for the Arts *
08/10 – Portland, ME @ Maine Savings Pavilion at Rock Row *
08/11 – Gilford, NH @ Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion *
08/13 – Bristow, VA @ Jiffy Lube Live *
08/15 – Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center *
08/16 – Camden, NJ @ BB&T Pavilion *
11/03 – Ft. Myers, FL @ Barbara B Mann Performing Arts Hall
11/05 – Melbourne, FL @ King Center
11/06 – Orlando, FL @ Hard Rock Live
11/07 – Clearwater, FL @ Ruth Eckerd Hall
11/09 – Biloxi, MS @ Beau Rivage
11/10 – Montgomery, AL @ Montgomery Performing Arts Center
11/12 – Huntsville, AL @ Von Braun Center
11/14 – North Charleston, SC @ North Charleston Performing Arts Center
11/15 – Greenville, SC @ Peace Concert Hall
11/16 – Roanoke, VA @ Berglund Performing Arts Center
11/21 – Glen Falls, NY @ Cool Insuring Arena
11/25 – Indianapolis, IN @ Murat Theatre
11/27 – Evansville, IN @ Old National Events Plaza
11/29 – Prior Lake, MN @ Mystic Lake Casino Showroom
* = co-headlining with Halestorm