For a short while it was the biggest guitar story of the summer. Nita ‘Hurricane’ Strauss had left the Alice Cooper band. But with things like this, you’re advised to stick around; a bigger story will come along soon.
Sure enough, after a short period of radio silence, it was announced that Strauss would be hooking up with pop superstar Demi Lovato’s touring lineup, and they showcased Lovato’s new pop-punk sound when they made their live debut on Jimmy Kimmel playing Substance.
On the face of it, it was an unorthodox move, at least for those of us who had Strauss pegged as a dyed-in-the-wool rocker. But, as she explains in a recent interview with Louder, so too is Lovato. Strauss says Lovato’s band was a natural fit – they both want to take electric guitar-driven rock and pop to a wider audience. And, as it goes, the audience is there for it. Strauss is blowing their minds in real time.
“It’s good to do different things,” Strauss said. “Demi’s fans are absolutely rabid. And I mean rabid in the best possible way. It is wild, I put up a video of the first show that we did when I was doing a guitar solo, sort of back to back power stance with Demi, and the screaming and cheering from fans is something I’ve never heard before. I’ve never heard a reaction like that at a rock or metal show.”
This Strauss puts down to the shock of the new. Those weaned on the candied pop hooks of Lovato’s back catalogue are not necessarily going to be alienated – they are not jamming Motörhead covers.
But the fanbase is going to be be experiencing an altogether more intense Lovato show, many of whom are witnessing guitar-driven rock being performed live for the first time.
For Strauss, spreading the guitar gospel was a big part of the appeal of joining Lovato’s band. Already, she says, her the demographic of her followers on social media has changed.
“I remember being a young guitar player and seeing videos of Jennifer Batten playing with Michael Jackson and going, ‘Oh my god, this is so cool,’” said Strauss. “If I could give that experience with this next generation of fans, that will then go ‘Hey I want to go out and play guitar. I want to get a guitar for Christmas instead of a videogame console’, then hopefully inspire that next generation of girls who hopefully will pick up the guitar and carry the torch. That’s what it’s all about in the end.”
Lovato had already recorded Holy Fvck by the time Strauss joined the band. How Strauss influences future releases remains to be seen. But going by what she says, Lovato won’t need too much encouragement to foreground the electric guitar.
“I actually got a text from Demi’s musical director when I was on the road with my solo band on the Black Label Society tour, and essentially what it said was what we all know now: Demi is a huge rock and metal fan,” said Strauss – and one who has gravitated to an Ibanez Xiphos in recent weeks, a more-metal-than-thou metal guitar. We eagerly await Lovato's new technical death metal direction.
You can read the full interview with Strauss over at Louder, where the Ibanez signature guitar player talks about the importance of Taylor Swift as a role model for young players, and reflects on her time with Alice Cooper.
The Holy Fvck Tour visits Sao Paolo, Brazil, next on 30 August. See Demi Lovato for full dates. Holy Fvck is out now via Island.