Interview: Guitarist Nita Strauss Discusses her new Signature Model, The Ibanez Jiva

Photo by: Samuel Lathrop

Nita Strauss, the Los Angeles-based guitarist known for her shredding skills as part of the Alice Cooper band, was recently awarded her first Signature model guitar from Ibanez.

The Ibanez JIVA gets its name from the Hindu word, which means the vital energy of life and the creative essence that lives on after the body passes away.

Strauss’ JIVA is based on Ibanez’s popular S-series model and features a quilted maple top on a mahogany body. There’s also a 24-fret, ebony fingerboard with a uniquely designed “Beaten Path” EKG-Style inlay. The guitar also comes with Strauss’ signature DiMarzio pickups, which the guitarist designed herself.

The Ibanez JIVA’s unveiling at this winter’s NAMM Convention makes Strauss the company’s first female guitarist with a Signature model. Strauss has been on the Ibanez roster since 2008 and the JIVA is a well-deserved award that recognizes one of the most inspiring and hardest working guitarists in music.

Strauss is currently gearing up for a new round of touring with Alice Cooper and is deep into production on her first guitar-driven, instrumental solo album.

AXS recently spoke with Nita Strauss about her new Signature model guitar, her upcoming tour with Alice Cooper and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: Where did the idea and inspiration for your Signature model come from?

Nita Strauss: I think once you start playing guitar and learning about their components, you start figuring out what features would make it better. So, like most guitars players, I started designing my Signature guitar when I was in grade school [laughs]. I would always write down all my ideas into a notebook that I would carry around. This year is my tenth anniversary with Ibanez, and last year was when the discussion for a Signature model first started. I already had a clear picture of what I wanted from all the endless decisions I’d done in my head. So, once the final decision was made, it was a pretty straightforward process.

AXS: Why the name, “JIVA”?

NS: The word “jiva” is a Hindu word that means the part of yourself where all your creativity, ideas and life force comes from. It’s your jiva manifesting itself. Whether it’s your art, music or creativity, it’s the part of you that lives on after your body passes away. I thought, what more appropriate thing to call my guitar. On a personal note, my Dad’s band was called Jiva a long time ago. Since my dad’s the one who taught me how to play guitar, it’s also a fitting tribute as well.

AXS: What can you tell me about the guitar?

NS: It’s a mahogany body with custom maple top and ebony fretboard that weighs exactly seven pounds. That combination of wood gives it the tone I love and sets the guitar apart from others in the S-series. The Deep Space Blonde color is also unique as well.

AXS: What about the guitar’s pickups?

NS: Choosing a pickup was a trial and error process. I wanted something with a lot of body and sustain. Something that could hit top harmonics and hold them out but also not be too noisy on stage. We have a happy medium with my DiMarzio Pandemonium pickups. They’re really bright with harmonic resonance but are also really quiet.

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‘Earworm’: Filmmaker Tara Price Discusses Her Latest Horror/Sci-Fi Short

Tara Price

When a reclusive man is repeatedly woken up over the course of a night by severe headaches, accompanied by musical repetition from an unknown source, his sanity begins to swiftly unravel.

The premise for writer/director Tara Price’s new short film, “Earworm”, is more than just a sinister play on words. It’s an eerily captivating, empathetic look at a man losing grip with his own reality. In mere minutes, Price is able to effectively weave a compelling web of cringe-worthy horror and uncertainty, while taking the viewer on a wild, emotional thrill ride.

The film, which stars veteran actor Ernest L. Thomas (“What’s Happening!!,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Malcolm X”) is as infectious as it is unsettling.

In addition to already being an acclaimed actress, Price wrote, produced, and starred in the award-winning, sci-fi short, “The Routine”, which was an “Official Selection” in thirty film festivals worldwide as well as being a nine-time award winner. “Earworm” is her directorial debut.

With endless enthusiasm and a profound knack for uniquely capturing a vision from written page to screen, Price is one to watch in 2018.

I recently spoke with Tara Price about “Earworm” and more in this exclusive new interview.

Where did the idea for “Earworm” originate?

I’ve written and produced several short films in the past, but this was the first one that I wrote with me specially wanting to direct. The whole concept behind it is actually a play on words. I’ve used the word “earworm” many times in my vocabulary. It means when you get a song stuck in your head. But what I’ve discovered over the years is that many people hear the word and relate it to “tapeworm” or “ringworm”. They don’t realize that it’s about music being stuck in your head. I thought it would be great to make a movie about both of those things.

Was the idea always for it to be a short film, or did you have something more feature-length in mind?

All of my other films were under ten minutes, so I always knew that it would be short. I like my material to pack a punch and end on a good beat. I’ve had people suggest that I make “Earworm” into a feature and I’m always flattered, but it was never meant to be one.

How did Ernest Thomas become involved in the film?

Ernie and I had worked together as actors in the past. All of our scenes were together so whenever there was downtime, we would spend it by hanging out and getting to know each other. He’s so kind, funny, generous and down to Earth. He’s also got an iconic smile that you immediately recognize. Ernie’s known primarily as a comedic actor, but he has such a great face for drama. I didn’t write the script with Ernie in mind, and I wasn’t even sure if it was going to be about a man or a woman. Ultimately, I decided it would be interesting to have a seasoned actor in the role, and Ernie was the first one who popped in my head. I shot him an email and was really lucky when he said yes. We had always hoped to work together again, and it was a wonderful thing.

What was the filming process like for “Earworm”?

We shot the entire film in one day. It was exhausting, but tons of credit goes to my team of people and to Ernie, because they never lost their momentum. I also had a wonderful producer, Billy Hanson. I’m so indebted to him for believing in this script and for being a great partner. To have someone that solid in your corner who believes in and trusts in you is so important.

Tara Price & Ernest Thomas

As a first-time director, what was the biggest challenge?

This may sound silly, but sometimes just believing in yourself can be the hardest thing. The idea of directing can be intimidating, but I was fortunate to have many positive influences in my life and a lot of people encouraging me. Directing sounds scary and is a lot of work, but it’s easier when you have a good script, go in with a plan and surround yourself with top-notch people.

How has the reaction been to “Earworm”?

It’s been great. I love going to festivals and sitting in the back and watching he audience. There’s one scene I won’t give away where the audience always shrieks [laughs]. It’s my favorite part.

What’s next for the film?

It’s recently screened in New York and Berlin and will be playing at the Indie Horror Film Festival in Illinois in March. It’s already been in forty-eight film festivals and has won seven awards.

Was a filmmaker something you always aspired to do?

Initially, I wanted to be an actor and moved to L.A. in pursuit of it. I always liked to write, but did it mostly to help me as an actor. Eventually, people started telling me that I should try directing. I was hesitant at first, but once I did everything else paled in comparison. It’s exciting to write something and then bring your vision to life. But it wouldn’t be possible without having a great team of people who bring everything they’ve got to the table.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I’ve recently directed a music video for the song that’s from “Earworm” – “The Worst Thing”. It’s a completely separate entity that has nothing to do with the movie, but it’s a catchy song that gets stuck in your head [laughs]. It’s funny how you can plan something and then things go a completely different way. Directing was never part of my plan, but my path got rerouted and here I am. It’s very exciting.

What are you most looking forward to about the next phase of your career?

Honestly? It’s wherever the chips fall. I’ve got a bunch of irons in the fire right now, and I’m looking forward to whatever happens first. I’ll just be lucky and happy to have the opportunity. Setting out to do something and then reaching the goal is very satisfying. Finding passion in something new is such a blessing, and I feel so fortunate.

For more information on ‘Earworm’ visit:

Out For ‘Blood’: Maria Brink Of In This Moment

MariaBrinkWhen it comes to women who rock, there are few who do it better or rock harder than Maria Brink. The feisty blonde singer of the band In This Moment is the Queen of Hardcore Metal. Brink is also one of the most charismatic and endearing women in music today. Believe it.

Last year, following the one-two punch of being dropped by their management and losing two band members, Brink and guitarist Chris Howorth found themselves in a bit of a quagmire. But rather than wallowing in the negative, the duo instead armed themselves with a new-found sense of direction and channeled that energy into Blood, an album that has become their most successful to date.

Reunited once again with producer Kevin Churko (The Dream, A Star-Crossed Wasteland) the combination of Howorth’s guitars and Brink’s infectious vocal lines make Blood a must have album for both die-hard and new fans alike.

The video for the album’s title track features haunting innuendos of both strength and vulnerability and showcases Brink’s seductive nature and vocal prowess.

In This Moment plans to continue to tour extensively in 2013, giving fans more than enough opportunity to pay homage to the Queen.

I had the chance to speak with Maria about “Blood”, her upbringing and where she finds her own inspiration in this exclusive interview.

What was the spark that ignited the new album?

Everything just kind of hit rock bottom and everyone had thought the band was finished. The idea that everyone had given up on us is what lit this fire. The truth is, we haven’t even touched on many of the things we want to accomplish so we couldn’t let go.

In the studio, how do you develop the melodies for your songs?

What I like to do is go into the vocal booth, listen to music and start feeling it and then seeing what comes out. Then we’ll go back and listen to all of the different takes and find the one that’s most exciting. Sometimes, that’s the most organic way of doing things.

Do you find it difficult at times being a female lead singer in a primarily “male dominated” genre?

I don’t think it matters if you’re a woman or a man as long as you’re confident and know exactly what you’re there to do. When I go out there, I control that crowd. I see myself as a queen, commanding and strong. I don’t let anything pull me down or let anyone take that away from me.  We’ve opened up for Megadeth, DevilDriver and some of the heaviest, underground metal bands. Those crowds can be a little bit challenging, but I don’t think that it’s because I’m a girl. From my perspective, We’re a metal band at heart.

Did you always aspire to be a singer?

Ever since I was a little girl it was always a dream. I used to pull all of the kids together from the neighborhood and put on plays where I was the singer. But it wasn’t until I was around 22 that I  started to really believe that I could do this. I realized that I could create this if I really wanted to.

There’s so much power and range in your voice. Have you ever taken vocal lessons?

I’ve never taken lessons, but I’ve been singing for so long that I’ve learned to grow and know how to push my voice. I’m fortunate that I can go from being emotional, raspy and intense to the softer, more feminine sound.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love to paint, visit underground coffee shops and of course, the spa. That’s probably my favorite thing. I love just going to a spa and shutting off. For eight hours straight if possible. [laughs]

Which of your tattoos is your favorite?

I’d have to say it’s my knuckles because they say “Believe”. It continuously inspires me to realize that we can all create our own destiny and manifest whatever it is we truly want and desire. If we just believe, we can make it happen.

In This Moment (Photo by: Robert John Kley)
In This Moment (Photo by: Robert John Kley)

What does In This Moment have planned tour wise for 2013?

We’re working on a bunch of things that we can’t announce just yet. But one thing’s for sure, great things are going to happen.

Article first published as Out For Blood: Maria Brink Of In This Moment on Technorati.

Nothing Like The S.U.N: Sass Jordan Discusses New Album

sassjordanSass Jordan’s new project, Something Unto Nothing (S.U.N.) is a much welcome relief from the force fed blandness that’s currently being marketed as “music” these days. With a raw vibe and groovy goodness to it, the 13 track opus is reminiscent of the epic rock albums that ruled the charts in the 1970′s. Together with guitarist Brian Tichy, bassist Michael Devin and drummer Tommy Stewart, Jordan and S.U.N take the listener on a rock and roll journey of honest songwriting and cool hooks.

S.U.N is infused with a variety of Jordan and Tichy’s influences. From the opening lines of ‘Burned’ to  songs like ‘Nomad’, ‘Mobile Again, ‘I’m the One’ and the title track, it’s a sound music fans have been jonesin for a long time.

S.U.N isn’t just a record. Something Unto Nothing is an experience. One that brings back the days when wearing huge headphones, listening to new vinyl and becoming immersed in music was all the rage. And that’s no jive.

Jordan, the beautiful blonde, vocal dynamo, is one of the best singers in rock. With a bluesy tone and power that commands an audience’s attention, perhaps it’s no surprise that same command may have been a reason why she was chosen to become an Honorary Colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force; a title bestowed upon her this year while touring with the Canadian Forces.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Sass about the new album. We also discuss the day she realized she wanted to become a singer, her stint with the Canadian Forces as well as the origin of one of her biggest hits, “Make You A Believer”. With an infectious new album and spirit about music, she’s certainly made one out of me.

goJimmygo (gJg): Congratulations on the new album! How did the release event go?

Sass Jordan (SJ): It was amazing! We held it at the Key Club in Hollywood. I’m very happy.

Brian (Tichy) is known primarily for his drumming but in this band, when you play live, he’s the guitarist!

He’s an incredible drummer but also a great guitar player as well. He played both instruments on our album.

gJg: You guys were also recently joined onstage by another amazing guitarist – Jake E. Lee! How did that experience come about?

SJ: Jake is a bad ass! Still an amazing player and a lovely human being as well!  He knew we were playing and texted me ‘What am I coming up to play?’ It was so cool.  He also asked me to sing on a new record he’s currently working on. I’ll be singing a song that I co-wrote with him, Ron Mancuso and Derek Sharp.

SUNLogoWhat was the spark that ignited S.U.N.?

Tichy had played on a 1993 record of mine called ‘Rats’, but over the years we had lost touch with each other. We somehow got back together again through MySpace back in 2010 and we decided to get together and write some songs. So, we got together and started writing and instantly it was a fountain of creativity. One of the most creative relationships I’ve ever had. After we’d written 4 or 5 songs over the course of the year, we decided we needed to be a band. Being an equal part of a band is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

What would your songwriting process be like?

We would write in the loft at his house. First, we’d write and arrange a song and then he’d go downstairs and get on the drum kit and record the drum part from his head. Then we’d start putting on the guitars, bass and vocals. We recorded the entire album in his house, up at Tish Rock Ranch, in the California Canyons. There’s something about the light and space in the Canyons that inspires this kind of big rock sound. We wanted to make a record of songs that sound like you’ve heard them before, but not quite – so that it would be familiar but still fresh!

One of my favorite songs from the album is the title track, Something Unto Nothing. It reminds me of the days of big headphones, putting a song on the turntable and being taken to another plane of existence.

SJ: It’s so cool that you say that because that’s exactly what we were trying to achieve. It’s like early Styx or Kansas; or even Genesis – those epic songs that they used to play on the radio. FM radio back in the seventies was so great. Back then, they’d play everything, and it was up to the disk jockey’s what they would play on their own shows. Before radio became a corporate entity designed to sell things other than music.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a singer?

When I was young, my parents only listened to classical music. Then one day, my brother and I discovered that if you changed the dial on the radio, a different sound would come out. [laughs] That’s when I first started to hear pop/rock music. In fact, the very first song I ever heard was “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band. That changed my life. I remember my Mom came home from grocery shopping and I went running up to her and said “MOM! I know what I want to do. I want to be a singer!”

When I was 14, I started singing in Westmount Park, Montreal, with my friends. We’d just sit in the park, play acoustic guitars and sing songs of the day: The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young … that’s how I started. My last two solo records are rootsy like that: ‘Get What You Give’ and ‘From Dusk til Dawn’. I recorded ‘Get What You Give’ in Nashville and there are a lot of amazing players on it. Colin Linden, the great blues/roots guitarist and Audley Freed from ‘Cry of Love’. Richard Bell from the Band (keyboards) and Bob Babbit (bass) from The Funk Brothers both played on it as well. That was one of the last recordings that Bob and Richard played on, as both of them are no longer with us, unfortunately. They were two of the greats, and I am honored to have had the chance to work with them.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

SJ: I’m an honorary Colonel in the Canadian Forces. My squadron is up at 4 Wing in Cold Lake, Alberta, 417 Combat Support Squadron. We’re working on a TV show about my experiences with them, but the show is mostly about the men and women who serve, and what fascinating and incredible people they are – it’s a chance to get to know them, and maybe get a feel for their lives and lifestyle.

How did you get involved with them?

I was doing a Canadian Northern Entertainment Show Tour (similar to a USO Tour) and we were up at the North Pole, CF Alert, on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. While we were there, it was 24-hour darkness. The sun never came up. I ran into the station warrant officer, MWO Rob Dumelie, and he said to me, “My squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta would like to have someone like you as our Honorary Colonel. Would you ever consider it?” And I said, “Absolutely!”

What duties does your job entail?

I’m a liaison (or public face) for my squadron and get to go out into the world and talk about them. I’m also a big part of morale and get to hang out with the families. It’s truly an amazing honor, because these men and women are performing such a huge service for us. It’s good to acknowledge them and let them know that people care.

One of my favorite Sass songs is “Make You A Believer”.  How did that song come to be?

Rick Neigher and I were at his writing studio in Hollywood, and I wanted to write a song that sounded like the Faces mixed with a southern rock kind of vibe. So he just started playing that chord progression and I just started singing… “I’ve been sitting here all night, tryin’ to make this thing work out right…” and it just flowed from there. At that moment, we pretty much knew we had something!

What are you most looking forward to with S.U.N and this new music?

We really want to tour and we know that we have to build this person by person. The good thing is, when people see the band they love it. This type of music and attitude seems to be something that people are really hungry for, if all the comments and reviews we’ve been getting are any indication. We aren’t neophytes – we’re veterans – we’ve been working our whole lives to be this good at what we do, and we are the real deal. We don’t use auto tune, we don’t use click tracks we don’t use any studio trickery. What you hear on the record is what you get live. This music is genuine and it comes from our hearts and souls. And if we can provide what’s missing in that little niche gap, that’s the greatest thing on Earth!

For more on S.U.N. (Something Unto Nothing), visit their Official Website and Facebook

Article first published as Nothing Like The S.U.N: Sass Jordan Discusses New Album on Technorati.

Women Who Rock: Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy

Lisa McClowry is one of a kind! The beautiful songstress has performed on more than 25 albums with a singing style that intertwines the best elements soul, jazz, rock and pop have to offer.

Lisa’s resume includes writing the song, ‘Through the Eyes of a Child‘ for the movie, ‘The Adventures Of Rocky and Bullwinkle’ (with Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo). She was also the singing voice of the princess in the movie, ‘Rug Rats in Paris’.

Now Lisa gets to flex her vocal muscles in a truly unique and fascinating way. Together with songwriter/producer Jim Peterik (Eye of The Tiger, The Search is Over), the duo has joined forces with the guitar inspired sounds of Acoustic Alchemy’s Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale to bring us, “Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy”.

Peterik’s lyrics to ten existing Acoustic Alchemy smooth jazz instrumentals have given the songs a new life and a fresh sound. (Lisa herself joins Peterik in songwriting duties for the track, Visions Of Marrakesh). It’s the combination of  lyric, melody and most of all, Lisa’s sensual voice that makes the partnership with Acoustic Alchemy so musically satisfying!

I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Lisa and get her thoughts on the Acoustic Alchemy album. We also discuss her new Christmas release and her Christmas show at The Montrose Room in Rosemont, IL on December 14th.

LM: I had opened up for Acoustic Alchemy about a year prior to the album coming out. That’s when I first met them. Jim Peterik also came to the show and we were all behind stage when Jim told the manager that he’d always wanted to try to put a lyric to one of the Acoustic Alchemy songs. So the manager said to him, “Well, have a go at it, mate!” [laughs]

So, Jim wrote lyrics to one of the songs and we all liked it so much that we decided to do an entire albums’ worth of songs! Jim picked out his favorites and wrote lyrics for all of the tracks except for ‘Visions of Marrakesh’; which was a song that he and I sat at a Starbucks and wrote together.

gJg: What is it like to sit and write a song with Jim Peterik?

LM: The first time I wrote with Jim was actually nine years ago. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. For Jim to sit at the piano and play ‘The Search is Over’ and then pull out his guitar and play ‘Eye of The  Tiger’ was unbelievable; almost like an explosion.

 I remember driving to his house and I was very nervous, as you can imagine. Here was a man I grew up with listening to on the radio and now I was going to be writing with him in his house. What happened was, I’d say something and then he’d have something to react to (and vice-versa). I don’t even know how the song was written. It was almost as if there was a third-party in the room that took over. The song was ‘These Open Arms’ which later was released on an album of mine.

From there, it then grew in to Jim becoming my producer and we’ve been dear friends ever since.

gJg: What was the recording process like for the Acoustic Alchemy record?

We actually never met with them during the process of recording. They were in London, and we were in Chicago. We’d have our band in Chicago lay down some tracks and then send them to Greg and Miles, who would lay down some guitar parts over what we did. It was a unique, wonderful experience recording back and forth. We definitely wanted to make sure we kept the original wonderful quality of Acoustic Alchemy.

gJg: How has the reaction been to the album?

LM: Fantastic! It’s a real treat to perform these songs live. As a singer, you really get to sink your teeth into them. The melodies allow you to show many colors in the voice. Our guitarist, Mike Aquino also enjoys the songs as well, because he can really let loose.

From left: Miles Gilderdale & Greg Carmichael (Acoustic Alchemy), Lisa McClowry, Jim Peterik , Michael Jeffers (Publisher of Chicago Jazz Magazine) – Photo: Gene Steinman

gJg: You also have a new Christmas EP that was recently released. Tell me about the beautiful song from that album, “Before The Tree Comes Down”.

LM: ‘Before The Tree Comes Down’ was originally written by Christa Wells and about three years ago, I released her version of the song. For this re-recorded version, Jim added a new chorus and produced it. So it went from a good song to a really, really good song with Jim’s touches.

gJg: The message of the song is so powerful.

LM: The military is a big part of me. I’m not from a military family, but am very empathic because I have friends who are in the military and live through them what it’s like to not being home for the holidays. It’s a song close to my heart because I think we can all understand family. I’m donating part of the proceeds from the song to Stars For Stripes so that we can help entertain the troops.

gJg: Tell me about how you first got into music.

LM: When I was 2 my mom said that’s when it really began. I would go up to the radio and just start singing  and dancing. At 7, I started playing piano by ear. I never had a lesson at the time, but was just eager to play melodies.

By the time I was 15, I was in a rock band called ‘Mischief’ as one of the keyboard players. Somehow, I found my way to the front and became the lead singer of the band and we eventually started playing in the clubs.

Because I wasn’t trained vocally (and because rock music was hard on the voice) I started taking classical lessons. I remember fighting with it at first but my teacher (who I’ve been with now for over 20 years) told me that this type of training was going to get me through five nights of singing. Through her teaching, I was able to apply a lot of those classical techniques and keep my voice healthy.

gJg: Who were some of your musical influences growing up?

LM: I remember listening to Olivia Newton John’s records. I loved the innocence of her voice. I listened to Pat Benatar, Heart and Journey as well, but I also loved my Dads’ collection of music: Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and Doris Day.

gJg: What are you working on now?

LM:  This past year, I was involved as the emcee for a special needs talent show called “Special Talents America”. It’s very much like American Idol but for special needs kids. It’s one of the biggest highlights of my career; being involved with these wonderful, gifted children. 

I’m also gearing up for a December 14th Christmas show at the Montrose Room in Rosemont, Illinois. It’s a 300 seat intimate room and I love the location. One of the winners from the talent show will be performing with me that night as well. Her name is Mia Strayer, and she plays harp. She has such a wonderful spirit and I want everyone to hear her!

When I did the show last year, it was one of the first of my shows mixing the Acoustic Alchemy album along with traditional Christmas music. That went over extremely well. This year, I’ll be doing a lot of the same songs but with a string section. It will be a little twist to the music that people are familiar with. I’m excited about it.

Keep Up with Lisa McClowry by checking out her official website and Facebook pages!

Article first published as Women Who Rock: Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy on Technorati.