Let me set the scene for you. It’s my very first time in LA – my first time overseas, in fact. I’ve been in town for about a day, and I’m in the crowd at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. I’m surrounded by a bunch of Aussie musical instrument industry chaps who happened to be on my flight – scratch that, who happened to be drinking heavily and keeping everyone awake on my flight, and who I may or may not have told to shut the hell up cos I was trying to get some friggin’ sleep, dammit – but now we’re all the best of buddies as the beverages flow. Somewhere in the crowd is Lindsay Lohan, in between court appearances, I guess.
And in front of me on the stage is one of the hardest-working, hardest-partying, ass-kickinest bands LA has seen since the 80s glory days of the Sunset Strip. Also on that stage are some slammin’ hot LA ladies with their boobs out. One of them is being encouraged to lay down on her back and show the crowd whether her boobs stay put or whether gravity forces them to move away from each other and make her chest look “like a hammerhead shark.”
Welcome to Steel Panther.
Steel Panther – Michael Starr, Satchel, Stix Zadinia and Lexxi Foxxx – have been a regular fixture on the Strip for years now, initially as the hottest cover band since Van Halen’s early days. Gradually their own material has worked its way into their hometown sets, to the point that it’s about a 50/50 split between covers and originals like “Asian Hooker,” “Death To All But Metal” and “The Shocker.” But whether they’re playing covers or their own stuff, they bring the party with them wherever they go. I caught up with drummer Stix to get a preview of what we can expect when the Panther comes to Australia for Soundwave and their side shows with Alter Bridge.
So how are ya doing?
I’m good, man. I’ve been talking to other interviewers and I’m really fired up to come to Australia now. Not that I wasn’t, but talking about it for an hour I’m excited.
Sweet. The side shows with Alter Bridge are going to be pretty cool.
Yeah, man! They asked if we were interested in doing some shows with Alter Bridge and we said ‘absolutely,’ but we didn’t know if they’d be cool with it, even though we’re all friends with those guys. I mean, Alter Bridge is not Steel Panther, and Steel Panther is definitely not Alter Bridge. And I wasn’t sure if they wanted to rock with us, because it’s such a different style of rock. But to hear that we’re doing those Sidewaves, I’m really, really excited because all the guys in that band are really fuckin’ cool.
And Mark Tremonti [Alter Bridge guitarist] is a hell of a shredder. Any chance of dragging them out to riff with you guys?
You know what? I would seriously not be surprised if we ended setting up two drum kits and doing a full-blown eight-person all-star jam. How bitchen’ would that be?
This Soundwave includes a lot of bands that were booked for Soundwave Revolution before it was cancelled…
Dude, are you aware that I let the cat out of the bag on that? It’s a pretty prestigious honour that I hold in blowing it. A pretty monumental ‘blow it’ if I do say so myself. I was totally unaware that I was not allowed to tweet that, and it caused a shitstorm in our camp. It’s a drag that Van Halen isn’t doing it. I’m actually curious to see what would happen if David Lee Roth and Michael Starr were in the same place at the same time. I would like to see if the world would not implode.
Haha. Let’s talk about your new album, Balls Out. First of all, “Supersonic Sex Machine” is a great way to kick it off. It almost has a late 80s Megadeth vibe, if they were into hairspray instead of heroin.
Thank you! A song like “Supersonic Sex Machine” could only be the first song, in our eyes. If you put that song fourth it wouldn’t work. It kicks the record off and you go “Oh, okay, I guess I know what I’m in store for.” It really sets up the record to me. I think it’s a bitchen’ song and we’re probably going to open with that at Soundwave.
The intro to the album – a spoken word thing about a sex robot – reminds me of the Metal Sludge Hey! That’s What I Call Sludge compilation CD, which you guys did all those spoken-word interludes to.
Dude, you’re old school and I like it! That’s awesome, man.
Totally! Well, I dig this stuff. I was a teenager in the grunge era and I hated it. I was into Motley Crue, Def Leppard…
Dude, that’s so killer. So was I, but I was not a teenager! That music, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dokken, RATT, Dio, all that stuff, those bands made music that gave you energy and they rocked you. It was a good feeling. No matter what, it was just killer. You were like, “Oh my god, that’s bitchen’ guitar!” or whatever it was. And then when the grunge stuff came out it was like, “What’s the fuckin’ dark cloud doing over my music?” And now there’s this resurgence. The fact that people are paying attention to Steel Panther and Balls Out at all tells me that people are ready to rock again.
Another thing I think is really cool about Balls Out is the cameo by Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt on “It Won’t Suck Itself.” He doesn’t really play in that pure hard rock style any more.
Yeah! Having Nuno on “It Won’t Suck Itself” says two things to me. One is, you know he’s been playing with Rihanna for a long time, and that’s not heavy metal. So when we asked him to do this song, I think inside he was going “Oh my god!” and Nuno Bettencourt is a heavy metal shredder, bottom line. And you give him the right platform to do it and you get “It Won’t Suck Itself,” and that solo is perfect for that song.
And the other part of what I was saying is it says a lot about Satchel, because he was the first one to ask him, “Dude, play on this song please.” And to have an ego that enables another guitar player who shreds to play on that song, to have that kind of confidence and not-dickishness, it says a lot about Satchel and how confident he is of his playing. And it’s like having a bro on the record. Instead of an adversary, it’s like having your homeboy on the record.
I’ve seen you guys a few times over the years and I’ve noticed more and more original stuff creeping in. Do you ever see a day where that will be all you do?
Yeah! As a matter of fact, everywhere we play other than LA and Vegas is all originals. We started in these two markets and whenever we go anywhere else, now especially since we have a lot of original songs to choose from, people are not just coming because they’re curious, they’re coming because they love the tunes.
And like when we do “Party All Day” the fuckin’ room is on fire. “Community Property,” it’s hard to hear Michael Starr singing because the crowd are on top of the lyrics. So do I foresee a day? Yeah! It’s happening now, and I foresee a day when we’re not playing the cover stuff in LA and Vegas any more on a weekly basis, but we become a global touring force.
Well while you’re still doing the LA and Vegas residencies, is there anyone from the 80s hard rock era that you’d like to get up on stage who you haven’t had yet?
I would love to get David Coverdale [Whitesnake]. It’s hard to think because there’s not many we haven’t had. We’ve had Klaus Meine from Scorpions, Paul Stanley, Steven Tyler… David Coverdale to me would be so awesome to have, just to hear him sing live, y’know?
I saw Whitesnake a couple of years ago and you could hear him over the PA.
It’s amazing man. It’s so cool. He’s just, dude, he’s just a legend. Somebody told me that [former Whitesnake drummer] Tommy Aldridge went full religious. That’s what I heard. I could be wrong. I would love to have Tommy Aldridge come to jam too. He can play! And James Hetfield. He’s not an 80s hair metal guy but it would be legendary. We’ve hand Anthrax’s Scott Ian and he’s a legend himself, but to have James Hetfield would be pretty monumental.
Yeah! He could get up and do AC/DC songs, like Scott did when I saw him jam with you a few years ago.
Yeah! He’s done “Highway To Hell,” “Whole Lotta Rosie” and other things. He did “Asian Hooker” with us at Download Festival. That was killer.
Well that’s almost our time up. While I was getting ready for this interview, my 5-year-old saw your website – he’s way into music so he knows about a lot of bands – and he wanted to know why he hadn’t heard you before. I said you have naughty lyrics that he’s not allowed to listen to and he said “Oh no! They don’t say ‘You shut up!’ do they?”
Haha. Yes, we say “You shut up” several times. It’s funny because people ask me “Can you play any of these songs for kids?” like if I’m in line at the airport and someone says “What band are you in?” and I say “Steel Panther,” they go “Oh I’ve heard of you guys.” I tell them to check it out online but not in front of little kids, because if you’ve got a five-year-old and they hear “I’m gonna stick my head inside your pussy and lick your butthole from inside,” that’s not something you want to teach your five-year-old. When they’re nine, that’s a whole different ballgame.
Balls Out is out now.
Soundwave 2012 dates:
Saturday 25th February – Brisbane – SOLD OUT
Sunday 26th February – Sydney – SOLD OUT
Friday 2nd March – Melbourne – SOLD OUT
Saturday 3rd March – Adelaide – Some tickets still available
Monday 5th March – Perth – Some tickets still available