NITA STRAUSS PERTH GUITAR MASTERCLASS
PRESENTED BY MEGA MUSIC AND IBANEZ AUSTRALIA
Photos by Caris Morcombe, some by Ash Lee
Review by Ash Lee
Nita Strauss, a confident woman with a powerful message…..
Hosted by Mega Music and held at Badlands Bar; Nita Strauss’s Masterclass was the first of its kind for Perth and indeed, Australia. Lucky Perth, thank you Nita for honouring us with such an occasion, Perth is rarely first on people’s agenda and we are grateful.
Nicknamed “The Hurricane,” Nita Strauss has been the touring guitarist for Alice Cooper for the past 5 years, she has played with The Iron Maidens, Critical Hit (video game supergroup), Femme Fatale, and Jermaine Jackson (just to name a few). In 2019, Nita Strauss received the accolade of becoming the first female artist to ever have a signature Ibanez guitar – the critically acclaimed, “Jiva.”
As one of the music industry’s most sought after clinicians, Nita Strauss has conducted Masterclasses and clinic tours across the globe. Featured worldwide in games, trailers, soundtracks, albums, and magazines; Nita Strauss is one confident individual who lives and breathes everything Guitar.
Unsure of what to expect, I arrived early to watch the influx of people arriving at Badlands. There was a steady flow of metal enthusiasts, closet-metal enthusiasts disguised in normal 9-5 attire, parents with young children and teenagers in tow, music industry representatives and of course…musicians. Musicians with guitars. Once inside, it was quickly apparent that Perth’s one-degree-of-separation, “Bound to know someone there” network was in play. With people mingling and shouting out hellos to each other, this Masterclasss was, in every sense, a reunion of sorts; one big musical family and if you weren’t already a part of that family well then, you are now.
With the venue full and the stage set, Ibanez Signature Artist, and BOSS Artist, Nita Strauss appears and the fans cheer in adoration as she introduces the Masterclasss. Nita explains that she will be demonstrating guitar techniques, riffs and how she uses the BOSS GT-1000 amp/effects processor but first things first, Nita wants to know how many people in attendance are guitar players. Just about every single person raised their hand, including me, I’d say approximately 95% of us held up our hands…
Nita responds with the remark, “Wow, a lot of guitar players in the same room, hopefully you guys had a chance to see Alice Cooper last night… if you saw that show last night at the end, I was a little excited at the end of my solo. Uh, I think I was just yelling wordlessly as I was doing that and just smashing this guitar on my knees which is crazy because I love this guitar so much but um, it will withstand anything, you guys, I am not lying when I say that I’ve had other guitar companies bring their new bridges to me to test. That’s how hard hard I am on these guitars so I needed a bridge that could withstand everything that I threw at it and for me the Ibanez bridges are it.”
For Nita, the Ibanez bridges outperform other guitar bridges in every single way and describing them as “vastly superior” she highly recommends that anyone who hasn’t tried them out do so right away.
Nita opens up the floor to answer her first question from an audience member: Why did you call it Jiva?
Nita: “Great question, we’ll first of all, it’s definitely not meant to be Diva with a “J” *laughs* Jiva is the name of my dads band. When my Dad was in a band in the 70’s he was in a band called Jiva and my Dad is the one who got me my first guitar so I thought it was a really cool way to honor him and then um, also, I was going to call it ‘The Hurricane’ and so we had the prototype, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the photos of the prototype but he had it on there and everything, and then about two weeks before the launch, they called me up when I was on tour with Alice in Europe and they said “Did you know there’s already a guitar called The Hurricane?” Which apparently is like a really big and commonly known guitar..I didn’t know and they were like “Yeah..It’s been done, It’s so done, it would be like calling it an SG or something, like just totally done.”
Upon hearing that the name ‘The Hurricane’ was already taken, Nita states that she was initially upset however she decided to contact her father to ask him if she could use the name Jiva. When speaking to him, Nita asked about the bands reasons for calling themselves Jiva. Nita’s father said “Your Jiva is the Hindu word for your soul, it’s your essence, it’s the thing that carries on after your body has left this earth.” In light of this, there is no more fitting way for Nita to have named her Ibanez guitar because Nita is an iconic musician, her contributions to the industry as a whole have been prolific and will continue to be so long after she has left this earth.
For Nita, “The quest for tone is endless…it never ever stops” and was important to her when deliberating over the design of Jiva. Responsible for designing the signature DiMarzio Pandemonium pickups, Nita specifically communicated to DiMarzio that she wanted the Bridge and Neck design to be a cross between the Evolution and D Activator pickups. Nita describes the D Activator as being “DiMarzio’s passive answer to the active pickup, to the MG.” Nita is not a fan of active pickups because firstly, she always has her guitar plugged in and secondly, the internal preamp of an active pickup tends to throttle a guitarists own sound.
Nita thinks that “A guitar should have a quality of your own voice to it and I find that the MG’s make you sound a little too much like everybody else and you have to work a little harder to get your own voice out of it.” Nita provided us with a demo of this but you can watch Nita Strauss as she demonstrates the DiMarzio Pandemonium Pickup below.
With 22 other Signature Artist’s, it took around 10 years for Ibanez to offer the signature model to Nita and when they finally did, Nita was ready, seriously ready.
Nita states that “The Jiva is the guitar that I’ve been designing in my head since I started playing guitar. You know how every guitar player, like, every guitar that you own is almost perfect but then it has that one thing you wish it had..like, if it only had this pickup or if it only had a jumbo fret board or if only had a maple finish…so, this guitar is that for me. It’s that if it only had everything.” There were only two versions made, the first with a matte finish and the second with a gloss finish.
Nita chose the gloss finish because it should the guitars features better. Knowing exactly what she wanted, Ibanez agreed to all of Nita’s specifications including her insistence that the Nita Strauss signature Ibanez guitar must be pro-level guitarthat is an affordable instrument because Nita “didn’t want to make a museum piece” and is a “firm believer that guitars are made to be played.”
With an Edge Zero II bridge, the Jiva’s tremolo profile is lower making it more comfortable and it’s double stud-lock function results in advanced tuning stability. Many guitarists would argue that this make the ability to change tuning harder but for Nita, this is a trade-off that makes it infinitely better and her solution is to use better strings.
Nita favours D’Addario NYXL strings Nita says that “They withstand all of the craziness that I put them through. They’re gauge 10-46, and if I don’t use them, I hear and feel a noticeable difference.”
The Nita Strauss signature Ibanez guitar, the Jiva10 will remain a permanent fixture in the Ibanez range and though it might be hard to source one right now, when you do get your hands on one, it’ll be your forever-guitar.
Nita asks the audience, “How many of you guys have seen me playing at Wrestlemania? How many of you guys have seen the video of me playing the National Anthem? How about the video of me and Courtney playing ‘The Trooper’? So the biggest gigs that I have done, from Wrestlemania, to the Anthem, to The Trooper…any of my fly gigs, even my own solo gigs, I use one piece of gear and that’s the BOSS GT-1000 amp/effects processor.”
Nita has been doing demonstrations for the BOSS GT-1000 amp since the GT-10 and GT-100 demonstrations and she is obsessed with it – her tours run like big tours but Nita actually has a very small team and operates on a low economised budget. There are no amps on stage on her tours, Nita only uses the GT-1000 and says that it’s “every single pedal, every single amp that you could possibly need and every effect, and expression pedal in one housing. It does wami, it does wah, all harmonisers and of course, it lets you choose your own presets. There’s a pressure switch on the pedal, right now it’s a volume peddle and when you step on that pressure switch it becomes whatever preset you’ve assigned to it and you can assign effect you want to the pedal which I think is kind of amazing.”
Chatting about her guitar roots, Nita tells us; “I started playing the guitar when I was 13 years old, I come from a musical family but I was inspired to start playing the guitar after seeing the movie Crossroads and I’m going to assign you some homework right now alright, so if you’ve never seen the movie Crossroads, you must watch it, especially if you’re a guitarist – it is required watching.”
After watching Steve Vai in Crossroads, and seeing the way he played and manipulated his guitar, Nita was totally hooked and embarked upon a journey with her Squier Strat gigging around Los Angeles. At 15, Nita started touring across the globe. Genre and material didn’t matter, Nita just wanted to play wherever and whenever possible because she fell in love with music, the culture and the thrill of being on the stage.
Nita reflects; “I’ve played in local bands, death metal bands, rock bands, punk bands, funk bands, playing backing guitar for a pop singer. For a lot of my life, I would play guitar for anyone that would let me, whether it was writing the music or learning other people’s songs. I just wanted to get onstage and play.”
Throughout the evening, Nita chatted with the audience candidly, she provide technical instruction, performed several examples of her own music and graciously took photos and autographed items during the meet and greet that concluded the Masterclass. I was lucky enough to have Nita answer one of my questions and here’s what she said;
Ash Lee asks Nita Strauss “What would like your legacy to be as a musician and also as a person?”
Nita: “That’s a good last question, I love that we’re ending on this question….how much time do we have? . I feel very strongly that the music industry is in need of a little bit of a face-lift. I think for a long time we’ve had this impression, especially the Rock and Metal scene, to outsiders, to people who aren’t a part of our family or a part of our tribe. They think we’re like these crazy, you know, drunken idiots who are disrespecting women and that Motley Crue video didn’t do us any favors and the majority of people that I know in the Rock and Metal scene…the vast vast vast majority are the kindest and most amazing, inspiring people that I have ever met. I think a moshpit is a perfect example because what happens when somebody falls down in a moshpit? You pick them up! An outsider looking in goes ‘Oh my god they’re trying to kill eachother’ but I think that’s the best analogy because a moshpit is like that’s our family, that’s us doing what we do and when somebody stumbles we pick them right up again, we’re there for each other, we have each other’s backs until the end. I think it’s important that more people in our industry and our scene step outside of scene and make it known like, hey , yeah we like to have fun, we like to have a good time but I think it’s important that people outside of industry know that this is a safe place to be, this is a safe place for young girls and women and kids and all ages, all races, all sexes, all sexualities, like, we don’t care about these things…we want you to be a part of our family and if you fall, we will pick you up. No matter what. If I can leave our community with a little bit more of that, people outside of our community knowing who we really are then I think I will have done a good thing. I think we’ll have done a really really good thing because I have a platform now to make that known. I really care about bring the amazing parts of our community to light so that the rest of the world can know who we are.”
Click here to listen to the Controlled Chaos album by Nita Strauss.
Click here for Ibanez!
Click here to view the BOSS GT-1000 amp/effects processor available at Mega Music Online now.
Click here watch the BOSS online YouTube product information demo.