Nita Strauss

An interview with Nita Strauss about her new album Controlled Chaos.
by Tommy Rage
December 2018

Nita Strauss Controlled Chaos

Nita Strauss Controlled Chaos

Not many people are familiar with instrumental albums, especially metal guitar only albums. A few names may come to mind: Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, or Steve Vai. One name which certainly deserves to be held in the same regard as these legendary musicians is Nita Strauss. Having been a touring guitarist for more than 16 years, most recently on tour with Alice Cooper; Nita has honed her skills as both a dazzling entertainer as well as a brilliant guitarist. Playing with dozens of musicians throughout her young career, Nita appeared in the rock documentary Hired Gun (Netflix), which showcases the up & downs of being a touring musician. The well-deserved praise brought her a contract with Ibanez guitars, releasing her own signature model JIVA10 as well as being on the cover of Guitar World magazine. Making a lifelong dream reality, Nita compiled 11 instrumental songs for her very first solo release Controlled Chaos.

With the freedom to do as she pleased, Nita self-produced Controlled Chaos with funds raised through a KickStarter campaign. When asked what drew her to release her own instrumental album, Nita shared, “Doing an instrumental only album is something I’ve dreamed about doing since I was five. From guys like Joe Satriani to guys who are in bands like Marty Friedman, they’ve all put out amazing instrumental records. That’s what I was always drawn to and inspired by. I always thought that instrumental records were put out by guitar players that were better than me, and that I had no business making an instrumental record, because I wasn’t good enough. But the more I thought about it, I realized that it’s a silly outlook to have. The only way to get better at something, is to do it. So, I continued my career and played with as many bands and artists as I could. I finally felt I was ready to take that leap and I’m really happy with the way it came out.”
The first single off Controlled Chaos is a grisly, fast-paced finger tapping tune, mixed with a barrage of dynamic drums. “Our Most Desperate Hour” was released with a video which is fueled by Nita’s guitar playing and with actual fire, laughs Nita, “We shot that video in downtown LA in the middle of July in the middle of the day. If you have ever been in an old warehouse, you know that they don’t have any ventilation, no air-conditioning. So, we were in 105-degree weather, in the middle of the day, in an unventilated warehouse, surrounded by an absurd amount of fire. So, if you think it looks hot in the video, it’s because it was! [laughter].”

Not having to worry about the constraints of writing for a lead singer, songs such as “Algeria”, “Mariana Trench”, and “Lion Among Wolves” break free from the standard instrumental sound. Nita’s quick fingers and powerful chords leave nothing behind. When asked about how she felt about building a whole record by herself, Nita shares the feeling she got from making Controlled Chaos. “When I listen to is as a whole, I thought, ‘Wow, this is the record I wanted to make.’ It’s actually very rare that you finish something, and that you know that you achieved that. It’s a great feeling.”

Nita makes an appearance in the 2016 music documentary, Hired Gun (available on Netflix) which takes a look at session and touring musicians who may not be household names but are talents in their own rights. When asked what was the most difficult song she ever had to learn to play on a short notice as a touring musician, Nita shares, “I would say that the hardest song I had to learn in a short time was Perpetual Burn by Jason Becker. It’s the hardest song I’ve ever had to learn to play, ever. Much less in short period of time. It was the most challenging and the most rewarding.” These technical skills, along with her ability to write a fluid metal song that captures the essence of an instrumental album is highlighted on songs “Here With You” and “Pandemonium 2.0”.

Knowing that Controlled Chaos was truly her own record, Nita challenged herself as both a song writer and as a musician. “I pushed myself a little. ‘Hope Grows’ is not the most technical song on the album, it’s the slowest song on the album.  But it’s the first time I recorded with a real acoustic guitar. I’ve always used a Boss AC-3 Acoustic Simulator [previously]. I wanted to really challenge myself and get that really raw and organic sound, with a good acoustic guitar. I did not imagine myself doing that when I started making this album. I wanted it as real as possible.”
It’s no surprise that Controlled Chaos is truly a joy to listen to. Nita has captured that total metal and rock feel in her debut album, while still sharing her personal history with music fans. Her family linage goes back to her father’s side, as she is related to Austrian composer Johann Strauss II. With piano and strings, “The Quest” and “The Show Must Go On” have a rock-classical feel. “Growing up in a classical family with classical music in the back ground, I’ve always had that in the back of my mind. I wouldn’t say it was a conscience effort on my part to pay homage to my roots, but I’m not surprised it’s in there.” 

While speaking with Nita from her tour bus, she was excited to be out on tour with Controlled Chaos and to be celebrating her 32nd birthday. “I’ve been on my solo tour for a couple weeks now and we have a few more weeks left this year. Touring is in my blood. I’ve been touring 16 years and you are the first interview now that I’m 32 [laughter]. I’ve been touring more of my life, than not touring. Playing with Alice Cooper has been an amazing experience. Alice has elevated my playing to a new level, a level of professionalism and how to do things. I’m out on my own tour bus, out on tour, and it gave me a whole new appreciation on stream-lining and how to do things. Man, they have it all together!” 

“The Stillness At The End”, a true highlight of Controlled Chaos is both a complex yet simple song. The riff-centric bed, along with her dancing fret-board tapping leave little to be desired. A truly humble and talented guitar virtuoso, Nita shares that her reception from rock fans has been a positive experience. “I’m sure there are still people who don’t expect a girl to be good at this, but I don’t really find that much anymore. It was a lot more like that when I was younger, because there wasn’t many girls playing guitar. Now it’s 2018, and it’s great to have so many female guitar players coming out every day, so many incredibly and insanely talented female guitar players. It’s just wonderful to be a part of that.”
Asked if she would ever settle down or marry (yes, I actually proposed to Nita Strauss over the phone), she laughed, “No, I going to have to decline. As flattered as I am, I’m going to have to decline [laughter].” You can’t blame a guy for trying, and you certainly can’t pass on picking up her debut solo release: Controlled Chaos.

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Nita Strauss Online:

Nita Strauss
CD: Controlled Chaos

Nita Strauss
DVD: Hired Gun Record Label: Sumerian Records
Purchase Controlled ChaosHired Gun on Amazon
Download Controlled Chaos on Amazon