Shred a dirty word? Nita Strauss says it’s a compliment: “I like it. Give me the shred term all day long”

Nita Strauss live onstage at the Ascend Amphitheater in Texas, 2021
(Image credit: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

Somewhere down the line, the art of shredding – defined as ripping it up on the electric guitar – became a practice that divided opinion among the rank and file of the guitar playing public. 

Even those who helped make high-performance rock playing a cultural phenomenon in the ‘80s disavowed the term, shredder. Like Marty Friedman – the term “virtuoso shredder” makes him cringe.

When Friedman was making his bones in music, making technically audacious records with Jason Becker, they respected their peers but thought of shredding as “wanking of the highest order”. Or worse, “We called it ‘NAMM show music.’” 

Ouch. But maybe it’s time to reclaim the word. Nita Strauss thinks so. Having just dropped The Call Of The Void, an album in which she goes all in with box-office lead guitar to complement her A-lister guest vocalists, Strauss says she is a shredder and proud. There’s no shame in shred. 

Quite the opposite. Speaking to MusicRadar about the album, she says she’s more than happy to be called a shredder.

“I like it. Give me the shred term all day long,” says Strauss. “Yeah, I don’t see the value in belittling anybody’s vibe. Whether you are down-talking people that play more straightforward rock riffs or if you’re talking about someone playing over-the-top fast stuff, they’re art forms. Art is subjective.

“I know the debate you are talking about, about shred being a dirty word, but who cares? If someone wants to play fast, let them play fast. If someone wants to play slow and melodic, let them play slow and melodic. There is no wrong way to make art.”

With so many different voices on the record, including Lzzy Hale, Anders Fridén, Chris Motionless, Dorothy, Alissa White-Gluz and of course Alice Cooper, Strauss got to stretch herself as a player. But none more so than on Surfacing, which saw her reach out to Marty Friedman for a heroic metal guitar instrument.

Strauss says it was not only an honour to work with the former Megadeth guitarist, whose ear for detail shaped the track, but it was a learning experience, too.

“Marty was so meticulous on the song that we did together,” she says. “I have a tendency to be a bit slap-dash with stuff, like I take my time with it but I don’t go back and re-do and re-do and re-do it. If it’s good, I can move on from it. And Marty really took a lot of time with every detail. 

“Marty was like, ‘Hey, well you’re playing this note here, I think we should bend on that note there because it leads on better to what I’m playing on the next phrase. That sort of thing. It was really an honour, truly and honour, to get feedback from somebody I have looked up to my entire guitar playing career.”

The only trouble now? Strauss has to recreate these tracks live and perform them. It’s all in hand, but there are tracks on the record when the bar is raised that give her a moment’s pause.

“Yes! Especially the instrumental stuff,” she laughs. “Yeah, definitely, you’ve got songs like Consume The Fire and Momentum on the record where I’m like, ‘What was I thinking!?’”

The Call Of The Void is out now via Sumerian. The full interview with Nita Strauss, in which she weighs in on the amp modeller versus real amp debate, talks tone and hails Jennifer Batten as the OG six-string trailblazer in pop, is coming soon to MusicRadar. 

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.