he guys in Steel Panther have a purpose. And that purpose is to make ’80s Metal popular again.
“Our whole mission is to bring Heavy Metal back,” singer Michael Starr declares. “If there’s a band that sees what we’re doing and digs it and wants to do it and grows their hair out and rocks and has a good time doing it, then we’re completing our mission. It’s fucking great. I say, ‘Hey, we’re the engine. Hop on the train. We’re going to Heavy-Metalville to make the population bigger.’ ”
For those who aren’t fans of bands like Ratt, Poison, Twisted Sister or Motley Crue — not to mention their big hair, makeup and flashy outfits — Steel Panther’s quest may seem, well, laughable.
It’s certainly shtick-y, but what’s really funny about Steel Panther is the way the foursome approaches its music, which is with lots of big riffs, lewd lyrical humor, enough hair spray to make Don King’s hair lay flat and a fashion sense that starts with that most iconic of ’80s fashion statements — Spandex.
A visit to Steel Panther’s website only reinforces the Spinal Tap comparisons, what with the cheeky bios of band members Starr (vocals), Satchel (guitar), Lexxi Foxx (bass) and Stix Zadinia (drums, of course) and glitzy glamour photos (yes, certain band members bear a resemblance to Poison members in their ’80s heyday).
But in recent phone interviews, both Starr and Satchel — who prefer to stay in character during encounters with the press — were quick to insist that Steel Panther is not another Spinal Tap and that what they do is not a joke.
At least not entirely.
“Our whole mission has stayed the same since we started because you’ve got to remember, once we got off the ground, by the time we started shopping our stuff around, we kept getting turned down (by record companies),” Starr says. “‘Oh, you guys sound like Bon Jovi,’ ‘You sound like Ratt.’ Then once we came back together in the early ’90s, Nirvana was out, Pearl Jam was out and it was like this whole Grunge thing (was in) and (then) we’re outdated and we’re useless. That’s one of the reasons we started playing cover stuff. We still wanted to play Heavy Metal.”
The decision to play ’80s Metal covers turned out to be the right move. Going at that time by the band name Metal Shop, Starr says the group got things going around 2000 by landing a Monday night gig playing its Metal covers at the famous Los Angeles club The Viper Room, which at the time wanted to start operating seven nights a week. The band played a Monday, ultimately turning it into a popular and long-running weekly event.
“At that point we were just so stoked to be playing Heavy Metal and playing shit that was not on the radio or on MTV anymore and kind of taboo,” Starr says. “If you were a Metal guy, you were a fucking loser because it’s not happening anymore. And we were like ‘We’re bringing it back.’ There were hot chicks coming to our show, showing their boobs and making out. It was fucking becoming a party.”
As time went on, Metal Shop became Metal Skool and eventually Steel Panther, and its shows gradually began to include original songs. Steel Panther definitely made a name for itself with its shows in Los Angeles, eventually getting signed by Universal Records, which has released the group’s two albums, 2009’s Feel The Steel and last year’s Balls Out. The band recently followed up those releases with the DVD, Steel Panther – British Invasion, which features live performances of many of its best-known songs.
The band’s affection for ’80s Metal appears authentic. Beyond all the funny business of the lyrics, Steel Panther works because it has catchy songs (most of which are written by Satchel). Once the laughter dies down over lyrics to songs like “Supersonic Sex Machine,” “17 Girls In A Row,” “It Won’t Suck Itself” and “Weenie Ride” (the first piano ballad by the band), one notices that the songs have solid choruses, instrumental hooks aplenty and even some deft, rapid-fire guitar solos.
“The reality is we love Heavy Metal and I think that comes through in the musicianship and the songwriting, which is really important,” Starr says. “If you’re going to have fun and make people laugh, you better be really good at playing Heavy Metal.”
Satchel says the band is serious about delivering the goods with its live show — even if it has to cut a few corners and employ a few tricks to achieve the desired effect.
“What we’re doing is we’re putting on the best Heavy Metal show we can possibly put on and that means being the most entertaining act that we can possibly be,” Satchel says. “We try to look our best by wearing bitchin’ Spandex and having our hair look rad. We put on makeup and make sure we look totally sexy because what happens is if we look totally bitchin’ and sexy, we draw a lot of girls. Then if there are a lot of girls at our shows, the guys will come, too. And usually girls will want to jump on stage, want to take their clothes off and then guys are more entertained. That means more and more people come to our shows and that means more girls come to our shows. And that means the more girls there are, the more we have sex with the girls.
“But we always make sure that we sound good,” the guitarist says with emphasis. “That’s why we have a tape player, so the vocals always sound good. And the bass is usually on tape, too, but our bass player looks really good. That way, he can jump around and he doesn’t have to worry about hitting the wrong note, because he’s not a very good bass player. So when we put his parts on tape, he can focus on looking bitchin’ the whole time.”
Whether it’s real or it’s Memorex, it’s a safe bet that Steel Panther will deliver the full Rock & Roll spectacle whenever it takes the stage.
STEEL PANTHER performs at Bogart’s Saturday with guests Total Dudes and Livid.