[MUSIC: Interview] Steel Panther
It’s been a few years since LA rock monsters Steel Panther vehemently penetrated the world’s eardrums with the resounding battle cry of ‘Death To All But Metal’, and they’ve stayed true to their all-conquering ethos ever since. Evidently, the world – Australia in particular – has heeded the call. After a typically turbulent recording process, the band unleashed their second serving of unabashed hair metal glory, Balls Out – featuring tracks like ‘17 Girls In A Row’ and ‘It Won’t Suck Itself’ (with Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, no less). Australian audiences first witnessed these songs during the band’s arrival for the massive Soundwave Festival earlier this year – a tour which included some decent-sized double-headline Sidewaves with Alter Bridge. With the announcement of a swift return to our fair land to hit even bigger venues, it seems we can’t get enough of Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx and Stix Zadinia.
I first spoke to Starr ahead of the Soundwave visit at the start of the year, when he then laid clear Steel Panther’s less-than-wholesome intentions. “So that’s where we want to infiltrate – the vagina of Australia – and work that magic.” It’s safe to say we can consider ourselves infiltrated.
“Oh my god, that tour was amazing. I think Australia has really great taste in music, that’s what I think it is,” Starr says the month before their triumphant return, trying to explain the phenomenon that was their Soundwave appearance. “We had no idea what the reception would be, and to come out on stage early – sometimes it was like noon, and it would just be packed. It was so fuckin’ fun, all the other bands on the tour would come to side-of-stage and watch our show. It was so flattering and so unexpected and overwhelming and fun. I dunno man, but to be received like that – I don’t want to sound corny – but it was really a blessing. We’re so stoked to have the opportunity to come jam there and fuck all those hot chicks too,” he beams. “Australian chicks are pretty fucking hot, dude.”
The release of Steel Panther’s debut record, Feel The Steel, was accompanied by a no-nonsense, pro-metal manifesto. “I gotta tell you man,” says Starr, “it’s time for heavy metal to come back. I think people are sick and fuckin’ tired of listening to Justin Bieber.” Indeed, the following years saw a massive resurgence in the long-dormant genre, from massive arena tours from the original titans, to the runaway success of the Rock Of Ages musical. So with their original goal seemingly achieved, what domains are left for Steel Panther to conquer? “I think we not only need to do world domination, but galaxy domination,” Starr declares. “First we have to start off by completely dominating the whole world. So far we have Australia, Europe, North America, Canada – and now we need South America, Asia; we need everything. I think everyone should be able to enjoy heavy metal, don’t you?”
A year after its release, their follow-up record, Balls Out, has more than seeped its way into the consciousness of the adoring Steel Panther fan base; live shows see full-throttle sing-alongs to anthems like ‘Just Like Tiger Woods’ (sometimes replete with a spot-on Woods impersonator on stage) and ‘Gold Digging Whore’. It’s a response that has even exceeded Starr’s decidedly cocksure expectations. “It’s been really good. We’re not a traditional band that sells a lot of records. Most people just download our stuff for free, which is totally cool,” he states with refreshing aplomb. “Everybody knows our stuff. It’s been great. What we try to do when we’ve been touring is play 50-50 – in other words, 50% off Feel The Steel and 50% off Balls Out. We try to mix it up as best we can. Even when we play a track from Balls Out that we think people may not really respond to, they seem to still get it and love it. So it’s been cool so far.”
Another Balls Out cut, ‘I Like Drugs’, displays both the four-piece’s aversion to metaphor and their penchant for drugs. The recording of the album was beset by a revolving door rotation into and out of rehab facilities. In fact, it’s a miracle the album even saw the light of day. “I don’t think they were actually demons, but we got our advance for the record and it was bad timing,” Starr admits. “You should never advance a band all their money from the record before they record, because there is no incentive. Once you start partying you’re like, ‘Fuck’. But everyone’s fine now. We have a new manager who made us go on salaries, so we don’t get anymore than we need for the month, you know what I mean? There’s no extra money just sitting in our pockets, so we’re not going, ‘What do we do with all this? Let’s go get some shit!’ That’s worked out really good, everyone’s cool, everyone’s really happy.
“That’s some advice I’d give anyone that’s trying to make it: don’t start shooting heroin. That’s a bad thing. If you’re going to shoot heroin, do it with your parents,” he states sagely. “Well, I wouldn’t recommend that. Just stay away from the opiates. They’re pretty addictive, and you’ll end up doing shit you regret. Cocaine is pretty safe.”
The Steel Panther following is spreading forth much like an out of control STI, to the point where fans focus their at-times lustful adoration on a singular band member. “Oh my god, are you kidding me? Lexxi Foxx has a lot of chicks that dig the fuck out of him. It’s crazy. I think the reason they love him so much is because he’s safe. Then I have my share of fans as well, there are definitely Michael Starr fans, there are definitely Stix fans, there are definitely Satchel fans. You can always tell who the Satchel fans are,” Starr explains, “because they’ll look you in the face and go, ‘Fuck you.’”
Besides the fans, each Steel Panther show seems to get the seal of approval from the rock gods of days gone by: the aforementioned side-of-stage nods, the tour support requests, or even special guest on-stage appearances. Are we witnessing the heavy metal torch being passed down? “No, I don’t think it’s been passed down,” Starr demurs. “I think what’s happening and what you’re witnessing is everybody coming together in the community. We were touring with Def Leppard and MЪtley CrЯe, and they don’t need to pass down any fuckin’ torch, quite honestly. It’s more like, ‘Come on, welcome Steel Panther, welcome to heavy metal-ville, we’ve been doing it for 25 years’. Def Leppard taught us a lot of shit about what it means to be on the road, and what it means to be an arena act. It’s a lot different than playing clubs. But I think we’re all just coming together, man, and rockin’. It’s fun watching Sebastian Bach jam, and fuckin’ hanging out with Scorpions. It’s a fuckin’ dream come true.”
What: Balls Out is out now
With: The Art
Where: Big Top, Luna Park
When: Friday October 5 (SOLD OUT) / Saturday October 6