NITA STRAUSS CHATS WITH ANNE ERICKSON ABOUT HER PUMMELING NEW SOLO ALBUM, “CONTROLLED CHAOS,” AND MORE IN THIS IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW
Nita Strauss is nothing short of a guitar superstar. Head to an Alice Cooper show, and you’ll see Strauss shredding from start to finish, showing off the hard-won chops she perfected playing for years in all-female Iron Maiden tribute band The Iron Maidens and a bevy of other musical projects.
Now, Strauss is stepping out on her own with her debut solo album, “Controlled Chaos.” The collection features Strauss’ fiery brand of guitar playing and the sky-high soloing that makes her one of the most in-demand guitarists in heavy music today.
Strauss caught up with Anne Erickson and Audio Ink to talk about “Controlled Chaos,” her experience as a women in the heavy music world and what makes Alice Cooper such a long-lasting metal icon. Read the full interview below, and find Strauss online at NitaStrauss.com.
Congrats on your debut solo album, “Controlled Chaos.” What was your vision for this album, and how did that evolve?
I wanted to make a record that showcased all sides of my personality. Being it was my first solo record and first time stepping out as a solo artist, I wanted to make a record about me and showcase my strengths and personality, and I think that’s really what we ended up with– a great cross section of who I am as an artist and person.
I would say my favorite thing about it was actually getting to write my own music. It’s something that’s often overlooked in the world of heavy guitar playing and music. Most people end up playing other people’s songs, whether they’re playing in cover bands or in a hired gun position like me in Alice Cooper, so for me to go out there and play songs that actually mean something to me personally was an incredible experience.
Do you have any plans to do a sophomore solo album?
Oh, definitely! I figure I’ll let the first one breathe a bit, since it’s not even two months old, but there are absolutely plans for a second album and probably third and fourth, as well, but this one still has some life left!
I’m always so happy to highlight and feature women in rock and metal. What has been your overall experience as a woman in the heavy music world?
Me, personally, I’ve had a great experience. I’d be lying if I said it’s all roses and perfect, but the metal community is so incredibly supportive, and I would say the main thing I faced as a female in this industry is being underestimated. But being underestimated isn’t always a bad thing. It’s nice to get out there and blow people’s minds when they think you aren’t going to be any good. So, it’s been a good experience and really fun overall, and I wouldn’t say I have any super negative stories about guys in the industry. I think men in this industry want to see women succeed.
What advice do you have for other women who want to be a part of the heavy music industry?
Go in, do a great job and be super professional. Don’t go in asking for special treatment or expecting special treatment because of your gender and just work hard and treat people with respect. Leave no doubt with whatever it is you want to do, whether you want to be on the management side or a musician or selling merch or whatever it is you want to do in our industry, just go in with the attitude of treating it like it’s a great job that you really want to have, and I think that’s a recipe for success.
It’s really cool that your manager and drummer is also your boyfriend, Josh Villalta. What is it like working together?
It’s amazing. Josh has been my boyfriend, my manager, my drummer– he does just about everything in the Nita Strauss world expect for the actual guitar playing! It’s amazing, because nobody will have my best interest at heart more than somebody that actually really cares about me. There are a lot of managers that do a great job for their clients, but at the end of the day, they don’t share their future hopes and dreams, so the person managing my career has those things at heart, not just what’s going to make me money right now. It’s a great relationship. It’s not perfect. We have our disagreements, but overall, I knew he has the best and clearest vision of what will work best for me in the long run, and as long as you have shared goals and dreams and aspirations, I think it’s a great thing to work with your significant other.
People love what you do in Alice Cooper’s band. How has Alice Cooper been supportive of your solo career and “Controlled Chaos?”
He has been extremely supportive of my solo career and really of all the guys in Alice’s band. Everybody has side projects, and we’re all very lucky that the Alice Cooper camp is so incredibly supportive in all aspects of what we do. They’ll post (our projects) on social media, and Alice has done guest appearances on some of the other guys’ albums. It’s really a blessing for us, because he doesn’t have to do any of that. He could say, “When you’re in my band, you’re in my band. If you want to do your own stuff, you’re on your own,” and we’re really lucky that he’s not like that.
What do you think it is about Alice Cooper that maintains his status as a metal icon?
I think it’s just that he loves what he does. He’s the type of person that loves to be on tour and loves to play with the band and loves to travel, and I can’t even believe he’s taking as much time off as he is right now! We’ve got a few months off, which is very uncharacteristic for Alice. It’s very cool for me as still sort of a younger artist to follow in the footsteps of someone who has made a career out of it for the better part of a century. Alice has been doing this more than 50 years now, so to be able to shadow him and see how he does things is a great education.