Interview with Nita Strauss - Guitarist of Iron Maidens and Consume The Fire
We are all used to seeing gorgeous girls posing with beautifully crafted, highly polished guitars on advertising posters and magazine covers. No doubt these are nice to look at, but do we expect these babes to be able to play? Perhaps not. Would we even give them time of the day?
Enter Nita Strauss...
Not only does this girl have the looks and the moves, but she has the skill and the acumen to make it, in what is almost exclusively, the man’s world.
Let’s find out a little bit more...
There are more and more girls out there eager to pick up a guitar. Many of them are shredding away in front of the camera in their bedrooms, but you are out there threading the boards with the good and the great. What made you pick up the guitar?
Thank you! I actually started out in music playing drums, then bass. It wasn't until I was a teenager and saw the Steve Vai scene from the movie Crossroads that I knew I wanted to play guitar. I haven't seriously pursued anything else since that day.
Do you have any formal guitar training?
None whatsoever. I used to watch John Petrucci "Rock Discipline" and Yngwie Malmsteen "Play Loud" almost every day. That's as close to formal training as I could ever afford.
How did your first brake come about? Was it the case of practising in your bedroom, appearing at the school talent show, and onto more serious stuff, or was it a bit more structured?
I played my first show with my first death metal band when I was 12 years old and haven't stopped or taken a break since. I used to take any gig I could get in high school, from local parties to 3 month long DIY tours. I think that's the only real way to develop your personality as a performer.
Nita on stage
Tell us about your early carrier. What happened to Kill Slowly?
All those hot girls in my band Kill Slowly were actually really great musicians, and we're all still close friends. But think about your girlfriend. Isn't it impossible to get her to do things that you think are totally simple and logical? Now imagine that times 5.. That's how it is being in an all girl original band when there's no money involved. It's like herding cats. Next to impossible.
You are obviously drawing on your good looks. Do you think you got more opportunities being a girl? Do the doors open easier to girls?
The opposite! Less! A girl has to work twice as hard, especially playing heavy metal, to find a band that's willing to have her. Outside the metal world, it's a challenge to be taken seriously as a 24 year old girl when you're going up against seasoned guitar players, all men, that have been in the music business for 30-40 + years. You have to be on point all the time. You have to put aside a lot of your natural feelings and reactions. It's not easy. The trick is to make it look like it is.
Do you think that being a member of Iron Maiden tribute band gets you more exposure than if you tried to make own brand and make it with original songs?
Again, it's different. Playing with a band of girls, who are accomplished musicians and play popular metal covers with a huge stage show, opens the door to a very cool, very huge market. No original band could hope for that kind of instant success.
The Iron Maidens - Hallowed Be Thy Name
Hurricanenita? Is this how you see yourself? Can you elaborate a little on that?
That nickname actually came from the first time I was ever mentioned in a magazine! The quote said something like "look out, Los Angeles, Hurricane Nita is in town". I was so thrilled with that, that I sort of adopted it.
You have an inside on being a member of a boy and girl band. Is it an equal opportunity proposition? Do you carry your own amps when gigging with boys?
No one ever carries my amp. True story. I can stand next to my car with a pile of equipment looking forlorn and it makes no difference. I guess it just comes with the territory. I wouldn't carry someone else's amp either!
When with “Consume the fire”, the audience seems to be watching you more than other band members, even more than listening to the music? How do you cope with that? Is it flattering?
You think so?
Well... That's where the cameras are pointing most of the time.
I haven't noticed that. But, when I'm on stage, I'm focused on the interaction between myself, my instrument and the audience. If a person is looking at me or someone else in the band, it's not even on my radar.
Nita Strauss Consume The Fire intro solo
Where do you stand on interaction with the audience? Would you rather play to energy bursting crowd letting off steam or a group who listens attentively admiring your technique and way of delivery?
Energy, all the way! A huge part of the live show for me is the give and take of the energy between the band and the crowd. We give, they push back, we push harder. If that push isn't there, it's much harder to deliver the same performance.
You are endorsed by Ibanez and DiMarzio and perhaps some others. We have also seen your video from Namm show playing in front of "Boss" stand. How did those deals come about?
I've been lucky enough to get to work with just about all of my favorite gear companies. All my endorsements were from equipment I was either already using or had always wanted. I guess it was a mix of being approached by companies who knew who I was, and going out and seeking out the partnership myself.
Nita Strauss and Courtney Cox "Aces High" @NAMM 1-20-12
You obviously enjoy what you do. If you could change anything, what would it be?
I guess I'd like to take more time to learn new techniques and more theory. It's easy to get caught up in the joy of playing what I'm already good at.
You toured Africa, Americas, Indonesia... Do you have a manager who organise your gigs or do you answer direct calls from promoters? Who are the audience on tours? Do they get to see whom they expected or do they get pleasantly surprised? Are you coming to Europe anytime soon?
I handle almost all my own bookings at the moment. As far as the crowd is concerned, it really depends on the gig! When I'm out with my own band or the Maidens, I think the crowd basically knows what they're getting into. When I've done tours filling in with other bands, I suppose there's more of a surprise factor. I love playing in Europe, so I hope to be back as soon as possible.
What advice would you give to a young guitarists trying to make it in the industry? Would the advice be the same for both boys and girls?
Yes. Practice standing up with the lights out so you get used to the hand positions and not looking at the fretboard. And don't forget that what we do is called "playing" guitar, because it's fun!
Do you have a “I wish someone asked me this...” question?
Hmm. I don't know. I could think of a much longer list of "I wish I would never be asked this again…" questions! I guess if I had to pick one it would be "What kind of beer would you like in your dressing room Miss Strauss?"
Here we have a perfect opportunity for another endorsement, so... What kind of beer would you like in your dressing room Miss Strauss?
Good thinking! Corona for on stage and something light and Belgian, like Leffe for after the show!
I'll make sure that we have both of these chilled for your next visit to London. Any chance of you posting some chops at Live4guitar?
I love to show off, so sure thing!
We'll arange something soon.