Nita Strauss is a premium axe-grinder who has cultivated a following over the years, not only through her work on the strings for the mighty Alice Cooper, but her commitment to excellence and dedication to a student mindset. Through her work with Cooper, The Iron Maidens, and independent hard work and study, Strauss has come into her own as a respected and in-demand guitarist and teacher, hosting guitar clinics for excited would-be face melters. Now, in 2017, Strauss has released her first single, “Pandemonium,” collaborated with other amazing shredders on a compilation album via the brilliance of Steve Vai, and formed her own all-female band of badasses, We Start Wars. The string slaying siren took some time out of her busy schedule to let us pick her brain about We Start Wars, “Pandemonium” and which “woman of war” she relates to the most.
AXS: How did We Start Wars come about?
NS: I’ve been wanting to start this band since I started playing guitar. Right away I saw a lack of serious musicianship represented in the majority of mainstream all female bands, and I always wanted to change that. So I started writing music with this project in mind in February of 2016, and shortly after started seeking out musicians in LA to be a part of it.
AXS: What was your biggest deciding factor when you were auditioning musicians?
NS: It was musicianship and technique. The second factor was professionalism and finding people who are easy to work with, and that’s what we ended up with. The girls in We Start Wars inspire and elevate me to play and write my best stuff. And we’re all so similar in personality. I can honestly say that the 6 of us are not only band members, but now extremely close friends.
AXS: What was the inspiration for “The Animal Inside?”
NS: “The Animal Inside" is about letting your doubts go, immersing yourself in your passion, and never giving up. It’s the adrenaline of the audience at the start of the show, the fighter before stepping into the ring, the musician about to step on stage. (It's) just that extra boost of power from within.
AXS: How much material have you already written and produced so far?
NS: We’ve written almost enough for a full-length album. Honestly though, with each song we write, we’re developing more and more into what our personality is going to be as a band. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if, when the full-length album does come out, it has a lot of different songs on it than the ones we have finished now.
AXS: When it comes to women at the heart of war, who would you say you most relate to and why?
NS: When I was researching this idea before deciding on the band name, I came across a lesser known Celtic queen named Boudica. To make a long story very short, after Boudica’s husband the king died in AD 60 without a male heir the Romans did not recognize her claim to the throne. They annexed his kingdom, and publicly flogged his wife and raped his daughters. Boudica rebelled, and avenged her and her daughters' brutal humiliation with "a merciless campaign of fire and blood”.
Fighting for justice and independence is what most women still do to this day... although most don’t have to kill 70,000 Romans to do it.
AXS: You’ve gained a lot of traction in over the years with The Iron Maidens, touring with Alice Cooper, branding your own merchandise, holding guitar clinics, and releasing your first single “Pandemonium” in January. What have been some of your favorite career highlights so far?
NS: It’s hard to say! It’s been such a crazy journey, it’s actually really hard to stop and look back and pinpoint the standout moments. Honestly, the real highlight for me is that I get to wake up every day and do what I love as a job. Getting better at my work is a joy for me. And I feel so lucky because of that!
AXS: You contributed your single “Pandemonium” to the “She Rocks” compilation and joined the ranks of some amazing players like Orianthi, Lita Ford, and Jennifer Batten. How was that experience for you?
NS: It was amazing. Jennifer has always been one of my heroes. She was the first great female guitar player I ever heard of. I got to play with her last year at the “She Rocks” awards and trade solos with her. After the song was over, I practically sprinted across the stage and frantically babbled, “Thank you, thank you so much, thank you so much” as I was hugging her, with our guitars still on. Probably the most fangirl thing I’ve ever done!
AXS: Who are some other artists you would like to collaborate with?
NS: I like to work with people who push me to do something different. Maybe an orchestra? Maybe a world wind player? Something cool. I’d like to do something totally unexpected. I’m not a fan of the “female vs male” dynamic, but I do feel strongly about elevating the standard of female musicianship in the music industry. We’ll see what I come up with.
AXS: What are your goals for the coming year, both individually and for We Start Wars?
NS: I have a full year of touring with Alice Cooper ahead, but what I’m most excited about is finishing up the We Start Wars album and getting the music out there to be heard. We have our first show in my hometown of Los Angeles on May 25 at the Whisky a Go Go, so right now we’re laser focused on that. After the show, it will be back to the grind of writing the record.
AXS: Given all you’ve experienced and learned, what is one non-music related piece of advice you’d give a young new artist?
NS: Don't read the comments! Seriously. Or if you have to read them, don’t listen to them. They don’t serve any purpose. Just practice hard, stay focused, develop yourself as an artist, and don’t let keyboard warriors who have never played outside their backyard tell you how to do you.