By Richard Bienstock
As the newest guitarist in Alice Cooper’s touring band, Nita Strauss has some large shoes to fill.
The 27-year-old Los Angeles native, who assumed the post this past spring following the departure of virtuoso Orianthi, is the most recent in a line of esteemed six-stringers that have played alongside the rock legend.
“Alice has had this ridiculous lineup of guitar players,” Strauss says. “Guys like Al Pitrelli, Reb Beach, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner. To get to be one of the names on that list of players, I still can’t believe it.”
Strauss, however, can more than hold her own in this lineage. A self-taught player, she picked up the guitar at 13 after watching the “head-cutting” finale scene in the 1986 movie Crossroads, in which Ralph Macchio’s character battles Steve Vai in an epic guitar duel.
“As soon as I saw that, it was like a switch went off in my head,” Strauss says. “After that, it was Vai, Vai, Vai, all the time.”
Today, her approach, which mixes arena-rock flash with technique-heavy fretboard acrobatics and searing speed, has made her an in-demand player within guitar circles.
And her résumé is incredibly diverse: Strauss has, among other endeavors, logged time with Los Angeles deathcore act As Blood Runs Black, performed with Jermaine Jackson on a run of stadium shows in South Africa, tackled video-game music with the band Critical Hit, played with rejuvenated Eighties hair metalers Femme Fatale and acted as the in-house guitarist for the Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons–owned LA Kiss arena football team.
Prior to landing the Cooper gig, Strauss was best known for her work in the Iron Maidens, an all-female tribute act to the British metal masters. Strauss, who handled the rhythm and lead parts originally played by Maiden guitarist Dave Murray (her stage name in the group: Mega Murray), says her three years with the Maidens “has been so much fun. They’re pros, and they give the music the respect it deserves.”
The Iron Maidens, in a roundabout way, also helped prepare her for a summer with shock-master Cooper. Says Strauss, “Before the first show with Alice, the guys in his band were giving me all these warnings, like, ‘Be careful, because this is the part where the Frankenstein monster comes out…’ But I just said, ‘Yeah, I know how that is. With the Maidens we have an ‘Eddie’ onstage!’ ” She laughs. “Granted, the Eddie is person-size and the Frankenstein is 20-feet tall. But, you know, other than that it wasn’t such a huge adjustment.”
Photo: Chris Casella