Nikki Stringfield is a metal guitarist in the Los Angeles area, whose original band Before The Mourning is crushing eardrums statewide and beyond. I interview Nikki on this and her other gig as “Mega Murray” in the all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens, and more.
QueensOfMetal.com: I’ve heard that Nirvana was one of the bands that inspired you to pick up guitar. What did you love about them, and what other bands inspired you early on?
Nikki Stringfield: Nirvana, or Kurt Cobain I guess you could say, definitely inspired me to start learning guitar. I’m not sure why I fell in love with that band so much.. I guess the raw emotions just really struck me. I know it’s an odd band to inspire guitar playing since Kurt wasn’t exactly a shredder, but I picked up their tab book and learned every single song in it. After that I started listening to Avenged Sevenfold and they inspired me to start getting into more intricate soloing and structure, along with Pantera, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, and other bands that I grew up with.
QueensOfMetal.com: Your singer in B4TM Adam grew up with parents who listened to country music, which made him go the “anything but country” route in terms of musical taste and writing. But you grew up with metal-loving parents, and you’ve stuck with metal. From your own experience, what do you think makes some people love their parents’ music and some hate it? …or is metal just objectively better than country?
Nikki Stringfield: Well, luckily I didn’t grow up listening to country like Adam did haha. I honestly can’t stand listening to it because it usually makes me depressed due the lyrical content, etc. Weird, I know, because I’m from Texas. When I was young I listened to what my parents did, and I had a great relationship with both of them. I think maybe that might have something to do with it. Some kids rebel against their parents and think its uncool to be like them or listen to the same things as them; when you’re forced to do something, you usually don’t want to do it. I was lucky that I could go to rock concerts with my mom, and I’m extremely lucky to have both of my parents traveling out to see my shows. But in the end, metal is just better than country! 😉
Before the Mourning
QueensOfMetal.com: I had the opportunity to see B4TM at the Roxy in West Hollywood, and besides putting on an energetic show, B4TM has a catchiness to its riffs that comes from a mix of heaviness and melody in its riffs. Who would you say your bands’ influences are in terms of songwriting?
Nikki Stringfield: We all have different styles which helps to make our sound more unique. Phil has punk rock roots but also loves metal; Adam loves catchy riffs and bands like In Flames and Soilwork; I’m influenced heavily by anything that has good riffs and solos.. CJ and Nick are new additions so I’m still getting to know their tastes. But we really love all kinds of music. It really comes out when we’re on the road traveling to shows; that’s how you get to really know everyone’s taste!
B4TM. Photo by Robert Downs
QueensOfMetal.com: How does B4TM’s songwriting process work? Is it equally collaborative, or is there a main songwriter?
Nikki Stringfield: We’ve recently gone through some member changes, so we’re trying to now make everything equally collaborative. We’re in the process of writing new songs now!
QueensOfMetal.com: The B4TM EP was your first recording experience, what was it like? Is this also your first original project you’re in? if not, what others have you been in?
Nikki Stringfield: B4TM has been my first real project. I moved here from Texas because I couldn’t find anyone that was into the same music as me or as serious. I’ve gotta say it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! The first time in the studio was an awesome experience; I have to admit that I was nervous at first but it ended up just being fun actually. I love being in the studio now.
QueensOfMetal.com: Before the Mourning is managed by John Boecklin, drummer of Devil Driver — how did you guys get hooked up with him?
Nikki Stringfield: Phil and John have known each other for a long time and are really close friends. John heard the music and decided he’d like to get involved to help us to the next level. We’re really lucky to have him!
QueensOfMetal.com: When did B4TM form? How has the bands trajectory been going since then? What have been your biggest shows so far? Anything exciting coming up we should look forward to in terms of shows or recordings, or anything else?
Nikki Stringfield: B4TM formed around February of 2012 I believe.. at least that’s when I came into the group. Phil and our former guitarist had initially started things up with our song called “Dismember”, and Adam joined in on the vocals. After that we started writing songs and playing shows around Hollywood. We started up a “Hollywood and Heavy” event at the House of Blues Sunset Strip which featured all local bands; it started there and went on to the Roxy. We did a short tour through Texas, and recently played The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Halloween.. that was a blast! For the upcoming shows we found out yesterday that we’re opening for Sevendust and All That Remains November 23rd so we’re so stoked about that!
QueensOfMetal.com: I heard B4TM lives together, is that true? What’s that like for you, living with your band? Who is the messiest member?
Nikki Stringfield: At one time all of us did actually live together at Phil’s house. I lived there for an entire year! It was Phil, Adam, and I plus our friend Colin who’s also a guitarist. I had so much fun living there! I’m used to living with all guys so there’s not much that really bothers me. The only time it was every messy was when we’d have our friends over.. the next morning would always be a wreck haha. They’re the cleanest guys I know!
The Iron Maidens
QueensOfMetal.com: When did you join The Iron Maidens? How did you hear about them, what was the connection?
Nikki Stringfield: My first gig with the Maidens was April of 2012. I was actually introduced to Courtney and Nita through Phil at a get together at his house when I first moved here. The music scene here is a pretty tight knit group so everyone knows everyone. Courtney called one day and asked if I could fill in for a gig one day and that was the start of it!
QueensOfMetal.com: What has playing Dave Murray parts and leads been like for you — easy as pie, a fun challenge, or…?
Nikki Stringfield: I started playing Iron Maiden songs when I first started playing guitar.. I’ve known some of the songs for years. I’ve always loved the dueling guitars. I had to definitely practice the hammer ons and pull offs to pull it off but other than that it’s just fun!
QueensOfMetal.com: Iron Maidens recently did a free show at the Roxy, which was televised on AXS TV. In addition to the viewers at home, there were some young girls who came to your live show. How does it make you feel, knowing that young girls, and folks in general, just got exposed to a quality dose of woman shred power?
Nikki Stringfield: It’s always so amazing to meet young girls that are into rock and metal. With the current music industry model they get exposed to talentless, brainwashing music that has no substance. I was playing a show in San Diego with B4TM recently and a woman came up to me and thanked me for playing and was so shocked to see me playing metal. She had taken a photo and sent it to her daughter who’s starting to learn bass. It’s so inspiring to hear stories like that and feel like I can help show that it’s possible for a woman to make it and that we can shred too!
QueensOfMetal.com: You gals have tour dates in Trinidad, Hawaii, Dominican Republic this fall. How are these dates going, are the crowds as stoked on your show as they are in California, or are they even better? Do you get some time in those places to catch some rays or is it fly in, play, fly out?
Nikki Stringfield: The tour dates have been great! When we play outside of California, especially when it’s outside of the US, the fans are so passionate because they aren’t surrounded by live music like we are here in Los Angeles. When we were in Hawaii we actually had a few days to relax which is pretty rare! Usually we’re pretty much there for the gig and it’s a fly in, fly out situation.
QueensOfMetal.com: Both B4TM and The Iron Maidens are very active bands, how do you balance being in both, and do tour or other demands ever conflict?
Nikki Stringfield: There hasn’t been many problems with conflicting schedules thankfully! I rehearse with B4TM often, especially when we have shows coming up, so I’m usually extremely busy dealing with both bands. I pretty much go to work, rehearse, play guitar, and play gigs. I love my life!
QueensOfMetal.com: You’re endorsed by Schecter, what do you like about Schecter guitars, and have you always played them? What other guitars do you like? And you’re endorsed by Peavey as well, for your gear? What amp and cab combination do you use and what do you like about them?
Nikki Stringfield: I’ve played Schecter since I was 14 years old and have never played anything else since. When I moved to LA in January of 2012 I met the guys at Schecter at NAMM and was lucky enough to start working for Schecter shortly after. Now they’re like family! I work for Peavey Hollywood now; I’m not endorsed by Peavey but I’ve been playing a 3120 head. I really love the tone but I’m about to be switching over to the new Schecter amp, the Hellraiser. So, I’m currently in transition. I can’t wait to start playing live with it!
QueensOfMetal.com: What bands or guitarists are you excited about at the moment?
Nikki Stringfield: Hmm.. I was pretty stoked about the new Avenged Sevenfold album. I’ve been listening to Avantasia and Edguy a lot lately. I guess there’s not anyone or anything in particular at the moment.
QueensOfMetal.com: What’s your favourite album (or albums) of all time?
Pantera: Vulgar Display of Power
Avenged Sevenfold: City of Evil
Megadeth: Countdown to Extinction
Nirvana: In Utero
QueensOfMetal.com: What’s your favourite thing someone has said to you about your music or playing? What’s the weirdest?
Nikki Stringfield: It’s always great to hear about inspiring someone.. that probably has to be my favorite. Weirdest… that people say they’re in love with me because I play guitar haha. That’s always a good one.
QueensOfMetal.com: How would you describe your personality, how does metal fit that, and what does it do for you in your life?
Nikki Stringfield: I’m actually a very laid back person, but I’m weird haha. I don’t like being normal. I love horror movies, tattoos, art.. I don’t know what I’d do without music. I’d go crazy! I’ve always known that I wanted music to be an integral part of my life, and I intend to keep it that way!
QueensOfMetal.com: What other interests do you have, do you have time for other hobbies or does guitar/band stuff take up most of your time?
Nikki Stringfield: The bands and guitar take up most of my time, but I love drawing and film. I went to the University of Texas and got a Bachelors in Radio/TV/Film so I enjoy going to the movies a lot. Now that I have a little time off I can get back into my workout routine, yay! I love working out when I get the chance. And since I’m always busy, I really love having a lazy day off to just chill around the house and do absolutely nothing!
QueensOfMetal.com: What advice would you give to female metal guitarists starting out today? Anything you wished someone said to you when you were starting out?
Nikki Stringfield: I would say definitely stay determined and don’t get discouraged.. it gets hard hearing a lot of negative comments saying you can’t play when the person hasn’t even heard you or given you a chance just because you’re a girl. You’ve gotta just keep practicing so you can prove them wrong! But most importantly, you’ve gotta do it because it makes you happy and don’t compromise that at all. It just takes passion, dedication, and practice! The only thing I regret is not taking theory lessons when I was younger.. should’ve listened to my dad on that one!
QueensOfMetal.com: And finally, if not Mega Murray, what were you for Hallowe’en, or what was your best ever Hallowe’en costume?
Nikki Stringfield: I was a cop haha. For the Maidens show in Colorado our friend Christina, who does our hair when we visit, gave me a huge mohawk which looked so awesome! And I didn’t even have to shave my head. That was probably my favorite costume!