Since the one and only Steel Panther just announced their fifth studio album Heavy Metal Rules is coming this fall, it seemed as good a time as any to dredge up my 2009 interview with frontman Michael Starr. Far as I know, I was the first Canadian journalist to talk to him. At that time, their first album Feel the Steel had just been released and they had never played in Canada. But you could tell these guys knew what they were doing — Starr clearly had his cock-rock shtik down pat. Not surprisingly, because I was writing for the newspaper back then, a lot of his more ribald patter had to be edited out. But I can certainly include it here. So I have. Enjoy. I definitely did.
WARNING: EXPLICITLY ROCKIN’ CONTENT
Steel Panther’s Michael Starr is dealing with his first dose of fame. “I’m at the doctor getting some penicillin,” claims the newly minted hair-metal hero with a laugh down the line from Burbank, Calif. “Dude, I am not kidding! I don’t know what the f— is going on, but I got something going on down there, so I had to come see my bro.”
True or not, that ain’t all Starr has going on these days. He and his big-wigged bandmates — guitarist Satchel, bassist Lexxi Foxxx and drummer Stix Zadinia (say that five times fast) — are sitting on one of the unlikeliest hit CDs of the fall. The Spandex-sporting sleaze-rock outfit’s debut disc Feel the Steel — a hilarious but lovingly over-the-top spoof of ’80s hair-metal bands like Bon Jovi, Van Halen and Poison, complete with fearsome guitar shredding, tight-trousered vocals and lyrics offensive enough to make David Lee Roth blush — has rocketed straight to the top of the Billboard chart (OK, the comedy chart, but still). It’s landed them festival gigs from Japan to England. it’s got critics calling them the new Spinal Tap. And after 10 years of toiling in the metal trenches of Los Angeles, it’s helped make them the sultans of the Sunset Strip, drawing celebrities like Pink, Jessica Simpson and Kelly Clarkson to their Monday-night residency at the Key Club.
In short, as Starr puts it in our exclusive Canadian interview: “Life is f—ing good.” Even if he is supposedly waiting for a shot in the butt. While he cooled his heels, the foul-mouthed 44-year-old Starr shot from the hip about Cleveland steamers, Lexxi’s mom and 50 Cent’s bullet wounds.
Since you mentioned it, let’s start with penicillin. I would think you just get it every month in the mail at this point.
You know, normally if I’m on the road and I can’t find a doctor, I’ll usually just sleep with another chick and then rifle through her medicine cabinet and just try to find something. Usually I end up finding her Vicodin, which is kind of fun. It takes away the pain and we have sex again.
Congrats on having a No. 1 album — on the comedy charts. How does that feel?
I am stoked. I’ve never had a No. 1 album. I don’t care if it’s in the category of Oldest Heavy Metal Band in the World. If people find it funny, buy the record and laugh your ass off. Because you know what? We’re like herpes; you can’t stop Steel Panther from bringing heavy metal back. We just keep coming back, slow and steady.
It’s about time somebody brought back metal. What went wrong with music?
Honestly, it started back in the Nirvana / Pearl Jam days. In the mid-’80s, life was good. MTV was rockin’ Bon Jovi and Crüe and Guns N’ Roses. Then about ’92, everything started to change. Flannel shorts, stringy dirty hair, combat boots and jean shorts were what guys were wearing onstage. And honestly dude, when that s— started, all my friends in bands here in L.A. jumped on the bandwagon. And we were so p—ed off. We said, ‘F— this. We’re staying metal.’
So what have you been doing for the last 20 years?
Before Pearl Jam came along, we were an original band. We weren’t always Steel Panther; we’ve changed names several times. Some of the songs we wrote back then and we tried to get a record deal. And we came close a couple of times. But we’ve always sung about stuff that we do. And even back in the ’80s, it was a little harsh for the label to hear a song like Asian Hooker. But we stuck to our guns. But when we didn’t get a record deal, we kind of went our separate ways. I started playing in a Van Halen tribute band and Satchel started playing with Rob Halford for a while. And then we reconvened again. But at that time, the labels were all up in Seattle trying to sign the next Nirvana and Pearl Jam. So we started playing covers, and the weirdest thing happened, dude; we started getting paid. And we just kept doing it. We’ve been doing a Monday night in Hollywood for 10 years. When we started recording this album — it was maybe three, four years ago that we recorded Asian Hooker for the fourth f—ing time. But time just flies.
Speaking of time, you’re pretty well preserved for 44.
I get Botox. I’ve had a facelift. And I get collagen injections in my lips. I don’t hide it. When you get older, stuff starts going. But for me, heavy metal needs to be preserved. If I need to get a hip replacement so I can do the kick off the drum riser, I’m gonna do it.
Where do you get your outfits? I’m amazed you can find animal-print Spandex anymore.
Once we got a record deal and they gave us an advance, we were able to hunt down the people that made clothes for guys back in the ’80s. I found the girl that made clothes for Aerosmith on the Permanent Vacation tour. She was totally smokin’ then; now, you know, she’s a cougar. But she can f—ing sew, dude!
What do you say to women who think your lyrics are misogynist?
Most of the girls who say that usually end up backstage sucking our d—s. I am not kidding! They say, ‘I can’t believe you’re talking like that!’ but they’re watching the show. It’s like when you drive by a car wreck on the freeway — there’s something about it you like, but you can’t figure it out. We let the girls know what it is they’re attracted to — and it’s usually our c—s.
You’ve already written one song about a sex move called The Shocker. Are there other songs in the works?
Yeah, actually. We have a song we’re working on right now called Cleveland Steamer. I’m telling you dude, the chicks are going to love this.
What about the record label?
The label is flying out their A&R to talk to our producer this week. We’re going to start writing for the next album. They really want us to write something that can get on the radio. Every radio station says the same thing: We love it — but we can’t play it. So maybe we’ll take a couple of swear words out. But for us, we want to stay true to our roots and sing about what’s important to us: Doing drugs, partying and bringing metal back. So we’re not going to water it down. Subtlety is not one of our attributes. We know it’s offensive; we did that deliberately. Our demographic — I learned that word from the label — is about 11 years old to about 60. People that were totally into metal back in the 70s fully love what we’re doing, and kids today love it because it’s bitching and it’s way better than what’s out there now.
Gene Simmons took Polaroids of groupies. What do you take to remember them by?
We don’t really like to take pictures of chicks; we like to keep the memory. Because when you’re totally hammered and partying, chicks look way hotter than they do when you’re sober. We prefer to leave it looking like they did when we were drunk.
The other thing you have to remember them by is the reason you’re at the doctor.
I got this from Lexxi’s mom. Don’t print that, because he’ll be hurt if he knew I did it again.
Van Halen refused to have brown M&Ms backstage. What do you refuse to have?
Nothing. We want everything. We’ll take it all back to the hotel. But dude, Van Halen were in a position to do that; we’re still fighting an uphill battle to bring metal back. Some people don’t want it to come back. It threatens their livelihood. You think 3 Doors Down wants us to bring metal back? You ever been to a 3 Doors Down concert? You don’t need to go; just watch a guy paint a house.
You’re not shy about naming names of people you hate on the CD either. You’re picking fights with a lot of people; has anybody come back at you?
Madonna’s called me a few times asking why I did that to her. And I told her, ‘You never called me back and it pissed me off.’ And Britney Spears, she deserves it.
But is it wise to start a feud with 50 Cent?
What, that whole putting-a-cap-in-your-ass thing? That’s all a f—ing show. He’s never been shot. I know his mom. That’s from chicken pox; he just scratched ’em really really hard.
You guys all have tattoos but Satchel. How come?
He’s afraid of needles, which is really good, because he was snorting heroin for a while, but never injected it. Who knows what would have happened to him. You really have to learn to moderate your drug and alcohol intake. For instance, you don’t want to do blow right before you go onstage; you just want to have a couple shots of Jack. Then during the guitar solo, you might want to partake of some energy boosters, if you know what I mean. Satchel’s guitar solo is about six minutes. That gives me time to change my wardrobe, dry my hair, redo my eyeliner and do some energy boosters. And maybe stretch out my hamstrings.
Is that a euphemism?
No, man. When you’re 44, you gotta stretch.