An Interview with Britt Lightning of Vixen

All images courtesy of Britt Lightning


By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

It’s easy to see why the hard rock and the heavy metal world has long been enamored with axe-slinging bombshell Britt Lightning.

After all, what’s not to like? With six-string chops for days and endless swagger to back it up, the blonde bolt from the blue has reinvigorated Vixen. Once left for dead, but now revived, with Lightning being joined by Femme Fatale founder Lorraine Lewis and bassist Julia Lage, for the first time in a long time, it feels as if Vixen is a viable recording act rather than a band behold to its past.

In an age where more and more young women are picking up the guitar and fearlessly striking forward on new paths, the importance of Britt Lightning as a modern-day trailblazer cannot be understated. As a self-taught guitarist with an admitted case of Van Halen worship, Lightning opened doors in the modern era, doors many bright young stars behind her will now walk through in her wake.

Still, Lightning remains humble, an unlikely guitar hero and closeted virtuoso, who bares an innate ability to speed shred with the best, but wisely chooses melodic and fluid fretwork instead. At the ripe age of 37, Lightning is settling into the next phase of her career, wiser, mature, and prepared to dominate stages for decades to come.

Amidst her increasingly busy schedule, Lightning managed to dig in with me, shedding light on Vixen’s new music, her opinions on the world of guitar, and her ever-evolving approach to the guitar.

Andrew:
As I understand it, Vixen is finally working on some new music.

Britt:
Yes. We have so many ideas and are excited about a new record! It’s going a bit slower than we had hoped because we live in all different areas, but it’s coming along. Once the shows wind down this fall, I think we will have the time to dedicate to finishing things up!

Andrew:
Longtime bassist Share Ross recently left Vixen. What made Julia Lage the perfect replacement?

Britt:
I had worked with Julia in the past on various projects and knew how talented she was, but I also knew what a great person she was. When you are traveling with a band, you are together in close quarters a lot of the time so personality can be just as important as talent. She’s the whole package for sure, as is everyone in this band. We are so lucky; we all get along and have a great time together.

Andrew:
This will be your and Lorraine’s [Lewis] first record with Vixen. Will you stick to the original blueprint, or can we expect the unexpected?
What is Vixen’s compositional process like? 

Britt:
We will stick to the Vixen blueprint, but it will have our own unique stamp on it for sure just because we are different people. And I am sure it will have a slightly modern twist, too, with Julia and I being a little younger. We will still have the big harmonies and catchy choruses, cool guitar riffs and solos, driving bass lines, and badass drums. As far as composition, our favorite thing to do is write on the spot. I love leaving ideas at home and just starting fresh in the moment with the band, with the present energy, whether it’s with lyrics or music first.

All images courtesy of Britt Lightning

Andrew:
How would you best describe your approach to the guitar?

Britt:
I am self-taught for the most part, so my approach has mostly been shaped by the artists that influenced me when I first started playing, which ranged from Metallica, Van Halen, Pantera, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Johnson to Pink Floyd and Aerosmith and then bands like Bush, The Offspring, etc. I really enjoy melody, especially catchy ones, so the straight-up shredding doesn’t really get me off so much anymore as much as a great bend with great vibrato, for example. As I have been playing longer, I have also realized the importance of space, like the lack of notes, which is just as important as a note.

Andrew:
Are you comfortable being called a virtuoso?

Britt:
I don’t consider myself a virtuoso because people like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, and so many amazing players exist. But the cool thing is that guitar and all music itself is a never-ending process; it can never be mastered. And there is no end to its extent, so everyone always has something to work on and improve upon.

Andrew:
In my conversations with various guitarists, I’ve come to find that many players dislike the idea of shredding or being called shredders. What is your stance on that? 

Britt:
Well, the term definitely sounds cool and gives you street cred. But it also puts you in a box, like some people think if you shred, that’s all you can do. When I was a younger player, I focused a lot on speed and technique, and my favorite thing in life was sweep-picking. I just wanted to be a shredder. Now I am more focused on having more soul and feeling in my playing. But that’s part of my musical journey, and everyone’s is different. It will always be cool to be a shredder to me. 

Andrew:
We know where the guitar has been and where it stands today. From your perspective, where do you feel it’s going, and who is the best guitar player in the world right now?

Britt:
It will never go away because it’s the best, and I am happy to see it making a comeback and seeing so many young people on social media learning and embracing it. It is a huge relief from all the electronic music that was coming out where no actual humans played any real instruments. As for the best guitarist in the world right now, wow, what a question! To me, it will always be my hero, Eddie Van Halen.

Andrew:
To what do you attribute the rise in women playing the guitar?

Britt:
Seeing that it is possible through channels like social media and having artists take female players out on the road is so cool Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper, Alejandro Sanz, who I played for, etc. 

Andrew:
Walk me through your guitars, amps, and gear.
Does vintage gear interest you at all?

Britt:
I love Hughes & Kettner heads and old Marshalls. I love tube amps and have not jumped on the Kemper bandwagon yet. I love basic analog pedals; less is more; I don’t like dealing with programming things and all the crazy digital multi-effects out there. I like a wah, a boost, an analog delay, and occasionally a chorus, flanger, or phaser, and I love univibe, rotary, and fuzz pedals. Hell, yes to vintage gear! Because old stuff is the best stuff. They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Andrew:
What makes this incarnation of Vixen the best to date, and is there anything that would spur you to take on a solo career?

Britt:
The pure passion, talent, and drive that each member has to carry on the legacy of Vixen with the most integrity and love that we possibly can. And yes, I would love to do a solo project, I just need to find the time, but I hope to soon!

All images courtesy of Britt Lightning

Andrew Daly (@vwmusicrocks) is the Editor-in-Chief for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at andrew@vinylwriter.com

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