Alice Cooper Guitarist Nita Strauss Plays the Gothic Theatre in Denver | Westword

This Hired-Gun Guitarist Landed Alice Cooper for Her New Record

Nita Strauss, a bandmember for Cooper as well as Demi Lovato, plays the Gothic Theatre on Tuesday, November 28.
Guitarist Nita Strauss shows off her chops on new record.
Guitarist Nita Strauss shows off her chops on new record. Courtesy Nita Strauss
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While discussing her latest solo album, The Call of the Void, guitar maestro Nita Strauss casually mentions how her boss was kind enough to take some time away from his regular work and make an appearance on the song “Winner Takes All,” which is just one of a handful of heavy-hitting cameos on the record.

“I got to work with some incredible guest artists, like Lzzy Hale [of Halestorm]; Chris Motionless [of Motion in White]; Alissa White-Gluz [of Arch Enemy]; my boss, Alice Cooper; and one of my childhood guitar heroes, Marty Friedman [formerly of Megadeth],” she says.

She says it so quickly, so matter-of-factly, that it takes a minute to realize that Strauss is referring to the Alice Cooper — the shock-rock forefather known for wearing boa constrictors and beheading himself on stage — as her boss. Since 2014, Strauss has been a member of Cooper’s touring band, so he’s technically her boss. But that’s just how she approaches her work as a hired-gun guitarist: as a professional.

“I think the hallmark of a really good hired-gun guitar player is you can move smoothly from gig to gig," she explains, "and play in a way that makes sense for that gig, without losing your identity as a guitar player and who you are."

With a signature style and sound, Strauss has had the opportunity to play with a who’s-who list of musicians throughout her career, which is evident on The Call of the Void. Other than her day job with Cooper, she’s also a member of pop star Demi Lovato’s live band and the official guitarist of the Los Angeles Rams, as well as being a solo artist. So how does she keep it all straight from gig to gig, riff to riff?

“You can’t really compartmentalize it,” she says from her tour bus, parked behind a venue in Columbus, Ohio. “As much as I would like to say, ‘Well, I’m in Alice mode, and I don’t want to think about the solo set,’ I only had six days between tours this last time, and three of the six were production days and one was a travel day.”

Strauss is getting ready to do a sound check, and apologizes for the steady stream of text messages that are blowing up the band's group chat. But that’s life on the road, where there’s no rest for the wicked, and Strauss handles interviews between cities and sound checks. She’s currently out promoting and playing the new record with Mammoth WVH, Wolfgang Van Halen’s rock group. The tour stops in Denver on Tuesday, November 28, at the Gothic Theatre.

“If I had only started practicing the solo set in those two days that I had free, I wouldn’t be ready for this tour,” she continues, adding that it’s all about “being easy-going and going with the flow."

“I will go from playing a club show with my band to playing a football stadium of 70,000 people, then playing to 300 people the next day with my band, to 1,500 people the following week with Alice, then back to the packed football stadium,” Strauss explains.

She laughs at the logistics and roller-coaster schedule. “It keeps you humble, that’s for sure,” she says.

But that’s been her life ever since she was a guitar-wielding teenager who left high school during her junior year and started a band in order to pursue a musical career. Many may know her for her work with other artists nowadays, but Strauss’s successful solo career is a culmination of those early days.

“I think that very early on in my career, even though I’m better known playing for other people, I developed my style and influences. I feel really proud that I’ve been able to hone that and maintain that,” she says. “I think that little Nita would really dig what I’m doing now. It’s not too different from what I was trying to do back in the day.”

Some riffs that made it onto The Call of the Void were initially written by Strauss as a teenager. But unlike her instrumental 2018 debut, Controlled Chaos, which she calls a “temper tantrum of an album,” the sophomore record includes vocals — a new songwriting dimension for Strauss, but a natural next step.

Controlled Chaos was the culmination of spending so many years playing other people’s songs," she says, "whether it’s cover songs or tribute bands or touring in other artists’, let me just do my thing, my way.

“When we got to the next record, I was able to take a step back and take more of a mature approach to it,” she continues, adding that coming up with collabs "felt like texting friends" more than anything. She would "sit down and craft some really good songs, work with really good people and make sure that I’m making this record as strong as it can be without being like, 'This is my way or the highway.'

“It’s challenging, that’s for sure, but it’s not like digging ditches,” she concludes. “I play guitar. I realize every day how lucky I am.”

Nita Strauss, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 28, Gothic Theater, 3263 South Broadway. Tickets are $35.50.
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