While attending the opening game of LA KISS Football a couple weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised when it was announced that the national anthem was going to be performed by guitarist Nita Strauss. Simply put, she came out and killed it, and the crowd went nuts..She also performed through out the game from the stage at the end of the field. I took the opportunity to chat with Nita to see what it’s like to be part of LA KISS Football and her to learn her philosophies on playing guitar.
RN ) What got you into music and playing guitar and who were your early influences?
Nita ) It was my dad who got me started playing guitar. Once I got through the basics I got into instructional videos like Yngwie Malmsteen “Play Loud” and John Petrucci “Rock Discipline”, and a lot of the old REH videos. That was really what helped me to shape my technique early on.
I played my first show with my first band the week I turned 13. It was a death metal band called Overt Display of Anger. The show was a battle of the bands and everyone left during our set, including one of the judges! So that gives you an indication of how good the band was.
RN ) What was your first good guitar?
Nita ) I found a badass 1984 Gibson Flying V at a pawnshop when I was 16 and about to leave on my second tour. It doesn’t see much action these days but I’ll never let it go.
RN ) Has being a woman made it more of a challenge in anyway to become a professional musician?
Nita ) It’s challenging of course, but being a musician in any field has its ups and downs. I’m grateful for the challenges that I’ve encountered in this business because I’ve always come out on the other end with thicker skin and even more determination.
RN ) Tell us about your practice and writing regime.
Nita ) Number one: I’m a firm believer in the metronome. Any time I need to get new licks or techniques down, I always speed train them with the metronome. It’s worth investing in one that works well and doesn’t have an annoying sound!
I have to learn a lot of songs and solos quickly as a hired gun, and I recently discovered a program called Transcribe that has helped me tremendously! You can isolate parts and slow them down without affecting the pitch, or change the pitch if the band wants to do the song a half step down from the record. It’s a great tool.
As far as writing, I don’t get to write much more than solos these days. But, when I write my solos, I try to take the whole song and its message into account so my solo tells another chapter of the story, rather than just being a bunch of notes played in sequence.
RN ) You got to play the national anthem and between plays at the LA KISS football season opener. What was that like playing for all those crazy sports fans?
Nita) I’m a big sports fan myself and a big America fan, so it was awesome! It felt very cool and natural. There’s a lot of camaraderie in the LA KISS camp, between the crew and the musicians and the players. When I’m on the field playing guitar, the guys really make me feel like a part of the team. It’s a great experience.
RN ) You’re a very busy musician and you’re a member of the Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale and Critical Hit. Tell us how you manage your busy schedule.
Nita ) With a very detailed calendar! Haha! I do a lot of session playing on top of working with those 3 bands, so I have a big wall calendar to keep things straight. The main thing is being focused each day on the band or artist I’m with and giving it my full attention.
RN ) Critical Hit is a video game music tribute band with some big musicians in it. Tell us a little about the band and how it came to be.
Nita ) Jason Hayes is the lead composer of the World of Warcraft soundtrack as well as tons of other amazing music, and he’s the one who approached me to be a part of the band. The first album “Critical Hit: Volume 1” was released last year and has me playing guitar along with some other insanely amazing musicians- Pedro Eustache, Carlitos Del Puerto, Taylor Davis, and of course the stunning and talented Tina Guo, just to name a few. We did the first show last year at BlizzCon, and now are booking more concerts through the summer. There are also a few music videos out now.
RN ) You’re the official guitarist for LA KISS Football tell us how you were contacted and how you nailed the gig. Also, tell us about playing your first game and what it was like.
Nita) I got the call from Harlan Hendrickson, who not is not only the mastermind of the Monsters Of Rock radio and cruise, but the executive producer of the LA KISS. He had seen me play many times, and I’m a big football fan, so it just kind of fell into place! Soundcheck in the big empty arena was wild! Of course, playing at the games has been a blast.
RN ) Run us through a typical day for you.
Nita ) My puppy wakes me up every morning when I’m at home, so taking her out comes first. I do most of my session work from my own studio, so I spend a lot of my time in there. I fit the gym in somewhere most days, and usually make something good for dinner. My best friend and partner in shredding crime Courtney bartends at a pub in the valley called McG’s, so that’s where we spend a lot of our evenings. Pretty low key I guess.
RN ) How do you set up your guitars? How is your action set and what gauge and brand of strings do you use?
Nita) I like my action fast and low. I use the Stewmac string action gauge to get an extremely precise setup whenever I have the extra time. I use GHS Boomers- 9-46 in standard tuning, 10-52 if I drop down to Eb and so forth.
RN ) Whats in your current live rig, and does playing for LA KISS Football have any special gear requirements?
Nita) My live rig has so many components and changes it’s ridiculous! It really depends on the gig. My main amp and prize possession is a custom Bogner Uberschall that was hand made for me by Reinhold himself. I don’t take it out as often as I’d like to because a) it’s really, REALLY heavy and b) if you have a Picasso painted by Picasso you gotta be careful of it getting knocked around! A lot of the time I go the exact opposite route and use either my fly rig which is a Boss GT-100, or if we’re not flying a Rocktron Prophesy II preamp with an All Access board into a Rocktron Velocity 300 power amp. Both are really versatile and easy to use! If I have my rack system with me I use an EV REV wireless, if it’s the fly rig I take a Line 6 Relay. I’ve downsized my 24 space rack to a 6 space now, which was a painful process hahaha! It includes a Samson power conditioner, the EV wireless, a Korg DTR-1000, a Rocktron Hush Pro and the Prophesy II. I could go on and on…
The LA KISS rig literally couldn’t be easier. GT-100 into a DI box to the House PA. Simple, effective, and huge sounding.
RN ) Do you have any gear endorsements and if so what companies do you endorse?
Nita) I do. I’m extremely proud to be on the artist roster at Ibanez, DiMarzio, Dunlop, Roland/ Boss, GHS/ Rocktron, Bogner, Korg, and Line 6. I would be using those companies’ products whether I was an endorser or not, and it’s a dream come true to see my name up there next to some of my guitar heroes!
RN ) Being as busy as you are, What do you have coming up for the rest of the year.
Nita) A whole lot of exciting stuff that I can’t talk about yet, muahahaha. Look for details coming very soon!
RN ) Do you have any advice for up and coming musicians and especially aspiring female players?
Nita) Like I said before, get a good metronome without an annoying sound, and USE IT! To aspiring female players- develop a mental coat of armour as early as you can. People are not all going to be kind to you. Be prepared for that but never let them discourage you from playing your heart out!
RN ) Give us all the info where people can see what you have going on and where to get your music.
Nita ) Right now you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at hurricanenita! Later in the year there will be a one stop shop for everything I’m up to… But that’s an announcement for another time 😉
Check out what Nita Strauss is about on her Facebook fan page www.facebook.com/nitastrauss