Through her early days with the Iron Maidens, her current tenure in the Alice Cooper band, and her solo projects, Nita Strauss has forged a personal style and sound that has not only thrilled fans and other guitar players, it also cemented her selection as one of GP’s 50 top female guitarists in our May 2017 cover story. The long-time Ibanez artist further refined her sonic weapon of choice when she debuted her JIVA signature model at the 2018 NAMM show.
Can you describe your favorite rhythm and lead tones?
The perfect rhythm sound has to cut through with enough crunch and definition to be a good building block for a song. The rhythm guitars are the bricks of the house, and the drums and bass are the foundation. The lead guitar on the other hand, has to soar, sing, and ring out with a bold, vocal quality.
When you’re cutting tracks, do you craft one guitar sound, or do you layer different tones for a massive wall ‘o’ guitars?
Layering is key. I’m guilty of over-layering, but it’s amazing to see what new dimensions different tones can bring to a song.
Are there any differences between the tones you need to perform decades of Alice Cooper material and the sounds you seek for your own projects?
When I first joined Alice’s band, I obsessed about getting an “old school” tone. But I soon realized that they weren’t looking for someone to recreate the exact tones used on Welcome to my Nightmare in 1975. The three-guitar lineup we have now—Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, and myself—cover all bases of the sonic spectrum, and my tone fits in perfectly on the modern, brighter, and high-gain end of that spectrum. For my band, We Start Wars, I drop down to D or C, but I’ll just make a few adjustments to the low end and the noise gate. My tone is almost exactly the same. I don’t play like myself when I don’t sound like myself, so when I find something good, I tend to hold onto it for dear life!
What’s it like to co-design a signature guitar that nails your personal tonal colors?
It’s a dream. I think every guitar player designs their signature guitar in their head from the beginning of their musical journey. I mean, how many times have you gotten a new guitar, and no matter how much you love it, you think, “If only it had this instead of that. I had my heart set on a neck-through Ibanez S series for a long time, but when I finally got one made in the Los Angeles Custom Shop, it wasn’t as balanced as I would have liked. So I went with bolt-on construction for the JIVA, and now you can balance it on your palm at the neck joint, and it will lay flat in midair. I also asked for a mahogany body, a quilted-maple top, an ebony neck, and my signature DiMarzio pickups. Those are the main things that set my signature model apart, and it has amazing tone and sustain for a guitar that weighs just 7 lbs. Now, I have everything I’ve always wanted in one guitar.
Keep track of Strauss’ projects at nitastrauss.com.