Photos by Jeremy Saffer
Guitar heroes Angel Vivaldi and Nita Strauss go head-to-head and interview each other while on the first date of this year’s The Guitar Collective tour, which is also Strauss’ first solo show and live debut of her new record Controlled Chaos. (And see below for a contest where you can win autographed copies of Angel, Nita, and Jacky’s new albums as well as a set of guitar picks!)
Nita: I’d like to start off by asking you how this whole Guitar Collective came to be?
Angel: The Guitar Collective is kind of like a modern G3. I wanted a platform for more modern guitar players to showcase what they do in front of a live audience, as opposed to droning out on their phones and laptops. There’s a lot of guitar instrumental talent out their today, and it gives it a really nice platform for people to get exposed to new guitarists who can inspire them and continue the cycle of inspiration.
Nita: I couldn’t agree more. It’s inspiring me, and it’s only the first day.
Angel: Love to hear it, love it! So, Nita, I want to know what your biggest challenge was in transitioning to a solo artist after being the hired gun for so many years?
Nita: The biggest challenge has been raising my strap up high enough to play the songs (laughs, while adjusting her guitar strap) No, but really I think the biggest challenge was learning how to find my own voice as an artist and not just play other peoples’ music. Because I have been doing that for such a long time, it was actually a challenge to remember who I am as a musician and to let that come out. But it was a really welcome challenge and a long time coming.
Angel: Do you find that the people you’ve played with influenced your writing and playing style?
Nita: Definitely, especially playing Alice Cooper songs really taught me a lot about structure, about what makes a good song, and melodies. Alice, while he’s not the most melodic singer, has really melodic songs, so getting to play his stuff was a great education for me. What about you? In the time that you’ve spent as a guitar player, were there any songs that you learned that influenced your playing?
Angel: For sure. Early on, it was Eric Johnson’s “Cliffs of Dover.” That chorus was incredibly melodic and was what showed me that guitar instrumental music existed, because I didn’t know. This was before YouTube. It was just word of mouth, and a neighbor of mine showed me Eric Johnson and my life changed. I had already been writing instrumental music at that point, but I never knew it was a thing that people wanted to hear.
Nita: What was your first instrumental album?
Angel: Yngwie Malmsteen Marching Out. “Anguish and Fear,” that riff, incredible, absolutely incredible. Yeah, that was my guy.
Nita: Yeah, I did a clinic right before Yngwie at Sweetwater at Gearfest this year, and Yngwie is my hero. I learned so much of what I do from watching Play Loud,his instructional, and someone asked him at his clinic, “How do you practice to stay in shape and keep those arpeggios so fast? Because you play like no one else.” And he’s like, “I don’t.” (laughs)
Angel: (laughs) Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had that? It would be great.
Nita: Angel and I have the same practice philosophy—we don’t like to, but we do.
Angel: We don’t like to, but we do it for the people.
Nita: Exactly. If we don’t, then we don’t play well (laughs).
Angel: It would break so many hearts. So, for you, what song is it that you’re most looking forward to playing in your set and most nervous to play in your set?
Nita: The one I’m looking forward to is “Pandemonium,” because I’ve played it the most (laughs). I’ve been playing that one in my clinics for a year. I love playing the single “Our Most Desperate Hour,” because that’s a song I felt on the album that showcased me at my best. It has everything I like—a cool breakdown, it’s got a good riff, it’s got a melody, it’s the all-encompassing Nita song. The one I would say I’m most nervous about is probably the Queen song, only because I really want to do it justice. If it’s my song, I wrote it, I can play it however I want, there’s no wrong way of playing my song, but the Queen song, I really want to make sure I do it well.
Angel: Is there any pressure being a female shredder? Obviously, you have Yvette Young and Gretchen Menn, but you are the one that’s spearheading the heavy music. Do you feel there’s this pressure or any type of responsibility?
Nita: Responsibility, yeah. I think there’s definitely that responsibility. There’s also even more than that. It’s almost a little chip on the shoulder feeling. I’m very used to walking into situations where people don’t think I’m going to be good—they walk in, see a girl guitar player. Even as recently as last month when I was on tour with Alice Cooper, I was meeting fans by the bus after the show and someone said to me, “My friends all said that wasn’t really you playing up there.” I was just like, “Uh, I did a five minute guitar solo. How could you think I was Milli Vanilli-ing it?” (laughs) But now it’s sort of a new era where I’m stepping into a situation where I’m expected to be good and not just surprising people, so it’s a whole new experience.
Angel: Right, for sure.
Nita: How has it been for you carrying the torch for so many upcoming solo artists?
Angel: It’s been great. I’m actually celebrating my 15th year doing instrumental music. I started in 2003, and I think there’s something to be said about being really sincere about what you’re playing from the get-go no matter what. And we always write music for ourselves, and I think that me starting out with that intention to begin with, I had very little hope. Well, not necessarily little hope, but realistic expectations. To constantly grow over the past 15 years has been a tremendous honor, like I’m to the moon with gratitude. I don’t take it for granted for a second, but I know in my heart I haven’t hit my ceiling yet, so I’m going to go for another 15 years, then 15 years after that until I physically can’t and that’s it. I think it’s a beautiful privilege to know why you’re here, and I know I’m here to make art and I don’t take that for granted.
Nita: I couldn’t agree more. Any time that I talk about the modern guitar movement, your name is always the first that comes up because you really are the person that’s carrying that forward. And while there are many great modern guitar players, there aren’t many moving things forward the way you are, that are moving the chains the way you are.
Angel: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
Nita: I’d like to know, you said the first Guitar Collective came about when you had the idea to bring in a modern G3. How did you go about finding the artists for the first one?
Angel: The first one was actually a NAMM showcase, and it was myself, Nili Brosh, Dan Sugarman, James Norbert Ivanyi, Covet, and Felix Martin.
Nita: I love that you had Yvette [Covet] and Nili.
Angel: Yeah, because again, they have so much to say, and I wanted to give them that platform. So, we had an amazing time, and I think the other aspect of it is they are all genuinely good people who all want to support each other. And that intention alone is at the premise.
Nita: I love Dan, by the way. I love his flamenco stuff. It’s so cool.
Angel: Yeah, he’s so good at so many things.
Nita: I played in As Blood Runs Black, so crazy.
Angel: I know, but when it came time to do this as a tour, it actually happened prematurely. I didn’t expect it to be a tour for another couple years. We built it up at NAMM, and when myself, Scale the Summit, and James wanted to tour together after my tour with Andy in Europe, it just felt right. Three guitarists, and it just seemed to work out. Now, it’s going to be an annual thing for as long as I can hold it up (laughs).
Nita: I love that. It’s so challenging, starting something new in 2018.
Angel: It’s scary, but my philosophy is this, it’s going to be scarier starting it next year. Anything—whether you’re starting music, a band, a solo artist—start today. How is it playing with your significant other and having everything so entwined as far as manager, business, and musically. How do you balance that?
Nita: There is no balance (laughs). There’s no balance to be had. We have the most disproportionate life ever.
Angel: (laughs) But you make it work.
Nita: Also, it’s temporary. Like right now is go time, and we both know that and understand that. Our personal life is on the back burner, and we love each other so much. Our relationship is so solid, but as far as actually doing relationship things, we have four days scheduled in January and that’s when we are going to hang out and rest (laughs). It’s great, because Josh [Villalta]knows me better than I know myself. He knows what I want and what I don’t want, what I like and don’t like before I know it. So, it’s great to work with someone who knows me that well rather than a manager that would have to say, “Well, let me run it by Nita.” If Josh ever can’t get a hold of me, he knows what my answer would be anyway. He does always run everything by me, but he always will know what my answer would be anyway, which I love.
Angel: That’s amazing and so rare.
Nita: Yeah, and his drumming on the album was really reflective of that, too. He’s very intuitive with what he plays and how he plays it. It was amazing that his drum parts elevated what I was doing to such a high level.
Angel: What you guys have is incredibly special. It’s incredibly rare. You don’t really see that.
Nita: I feel it, too.
Outburn: What can people expect when they come to these shows?
Nita: We’re going to play all the notes on the whole guitar a thousand times (laughs).
Angel: All the notes, that’s it, numerous times (laughs). Love it. In true G3 fashion, we all have our sets, and at the end is a big finale, a big jam session with all of us, and Nita and I do something really special as well. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I don’t think they’re going to expect the big finale.
Nita: No, when Angel texted me and told me what the finale song was going to be my jaw dropped. He was like, “I think people are going to lose their minds,” and my first thought was, “If I went to this show and I saw this, I would lose my mind.”
Angel: Oh, for sure. That’s the thing I think knowing ourselves as a guitarist and knowing other guitarists who are just like ourselves, like if I saw anyone playing that song I would have a stroke.
Nita: Yeah, then I would think they are really brave (laughs).
Angel: Yeah, a lot of responsibility, for sure. Like I said, I want to make this an annual thing as long as I possibly can. Do something different every year, but as of right now, it’s interesting to see how the shows are going to morph. Like the more we get comfortable and the more confident we get, it’s going to be interesting to see and it’s going to go by like this (snaps fingers).
CONTEST: share this story on facebook, instagram, or twitter (3 ways to enter!) with the hashtag #angelnitaoutburn (make sure to tag nita angel and outburn in your post) – and you can win a copy of each of their new albums (autographed) and a set of Angel and Nita guitar picks. We will also have 3 other winners who will get a set of guitar picks from Angel and Nita.
You can enter up to 3 times (by sharing on facebook, instagram, and twitter) – must use the hashtag and tag Angel, Nita, and Outburn to win!
Winners will be announced January 7th.
Catch Angel Vivaldi and Nita Strauss on The Guitar Collective tour, and you can check out their new albums Synapse and Controlled Chaos here: The Official Angel Vivaldi Website The Official Nita Strauss Website