Nita Strauss is shredding her way through 2018. The member of the Femme Fatales and The Iron Maidens, best known as Alice Cooper‘s touring guitarist, has recently struck out on her own. Strauss was introduced to a new audience this year when she performed live at WWE events including at WrestleMania 34 for Shinsuke Nakamura‘s entrance and with Lzzy Halle at Evolution. Her song “Mariana Trench” was chosen by Triple H as the theme song for this weekend’s NXT TakeOver: War Games. But her most personal and exciting accomplishment this year is her first solo album, Controlled Chaos, set to be released on November 16 via Sumerian Records.
With Spandex spoke to Strauss ahead of her album release and War Games about her inspirations for her new album, her experience working with WWE so far, and more. That conversation is below and has been edited for length and clarity.
With Spandex: Let’s start by talking about your upcoming first solo album. I wanted to ask, why did you choose to fund the album via Kickstarter?
Nita Strauss: So the whole idea behind the Kickstarter was taking the album to the fans. You know, rather go direct to label and have them have say over every aspect of the album, you know, having them be able to dictate, “We think you should sing” and “We think you should write songs that will be played on this radio station” or whatever it is. Since it’s my first album, I wanted to do something that was just pure me, you know, just my brain child, my ideas, and my personality. And what better way to do that than take it to the fans directly and crowdfund it through them?
And the coolest thing was after the record was finished and completed, one of the labels came back to the table, one of the labels we originally went to, came back to the table, and they said, “We love what you did. We love what you’re doing. We don’t want to change anything. We just want to help you push it and promote it and get it out there best as we can.” So we really ended up with this beautiful, happy medium of making it for the fans, distributed by Sumerian, which, you know, was my dream record label anyway.
That’s awesome. Why was Sumerian your dream record label?
Well, first of all, they have so many of my favorite bands, you know, so many bands I love. All my gym playlist was all Sumerian bands, so… as a fan that was one of my top choices. But also they’re a really forward-thinking label. You know, they’re not just, “Hey, we put out the album and you’re on your own.” They have all kinds of ideas about promotion and cross-tie ins with different things and different industries and, you know, whether it’s WWE, which I have a strong passion for… They have all kinds of ideas beyond just, “You make a CD; we put the CD in stores.”
And how it is different working on a solo album than with a band?
A solo album you can be super indulgent. I think that’s the main difference. You know, with a band, you have to think about what’s best for the band, and what’s going to be the best key for the singer’s voice to sing in, and what key would be most marketable and play on the most radio stations and that kind of stuff, and with solo work you can just kind of do whatever is in your heart. There’s not really that constraint of a traditional song.
And who or what were your biggest inspirations on the album?
Well, my first hero ever was Steve Vai, and, you know, watching Steve play, I always wanted to capture that beautiful blend of technique, but still fun… That was, I would say, my main influence, to create something that, yes, is technically complex, you know, still aggressive and heavy and hard to play, but is also, like, that fun. I like to listen to it. It’s not just so overwhelmingly complex that it’s like, ugh, it’s hard to listen to.
Is it all instrumental, or are there any vocals or any notable features on the album?
It’s completely instrumental. The only thing that isn’t a complete instrumental work from my own brain was – we did the last song on the album is a cover of “The Show Must Go On” by Queen, and that’s a song I’ve been wanting to cover for a really, really long time, and just to change it up, it’s myself and Tina Guo playing on it. Tina Guo is an awesome cello player who plays on, you know, everything from video game soundtracks to the top Hollywood movies, you know, and she’s a really, really emotional, expressive player. Her cello trading off with my guitar is really, really cool.
And this year you’ve performed at a few WWE events. How did you get involved with them?
Yeah, it’s been amazing working with WWE. First, you know, the rock and wrestling connection is real. There’s so much crossover between, you know, rock fans and pro wrestling fans, and the first thing I did with WWE was WrestleMania… It’s kind of like being an NFL fan and going straight to the Super Bowl. I was a big WWE fan and I went straight to the biggest event all year, and played a wrestler named Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme music, and ever since then I’ve stayed in touch with the music team at WWE.