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Since their early millennium inception, Steel Panther has sought to keep the spirit of '80s metal alive. Their fifth and latest, Heavy Metal Rules, serves up another sizzling slab of classic American metal with debaucherous, hard rocking anthems like "Let's Get High Tonight" and "I'm Not Your Bitch" and more contemplative offerings like "I Ain't Buying What You're Selling."
As always, they deliver the goods: the epic vocals of Michael Starr, the shredding fingerwork of Satchel, the gnarly grooves of Stix Zadinia and the gorgeous locks of Lexxi Foxx. (Oh yeah, he plays bass too. At least his studio double does.)
Yet one suspects that beneath the simultaneously glammy and overcompensating macho exterior lie men of greater depth. That within their hearts and minds stir sensitive musicians with the souls of poets. Who have great philosophical ruminations for us to....
Let's be real. This is Steel Panther we're talking about. Amazingly, Billboard managed to corral all four rambunctious members for a half-hour interview prior to a fan event at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. The stimulating banter was more than we expected. And less. After all, it's Steel Panther -- they're as subtle as a jackhammer.
So you're trying to stretch out a little bit on this new album. You even have an ode to self-love, "All I Wanna Do is Fuck (Myself Tonight)." Does this mean that we're getting beneath your rock star facade?
Michael Starr: Not really. I think we're just doing what we want to do. We want to play what we want to play, write what we want to write, and sing what we want to sing. We stay true to that, and I think that's what people like about us. Some bands conform just to get on Sirius Radio. We don't even need to do that because they won't play us anyways.
But you just came from playing there.
Michael Starr: We paid them off.
Satchel: You were there just now? How come I wasn't invited?
Michael Starr: I wasn't going to tell you, but I was afraid you'd say something really bad.
Satchel: Who played guitar?
Michael Starr: Nobody.
Satchel: Oh, that's cool.
Michael Starr: It was acoustic.
Satchel: You guys sounded like the Violent Femmes then.
Michael Starr: Yeah. Killer.
You have this lovely song, "Always Going To Be A Ho," which I call your love/hate power ballad. Aren't you really just jealous that your lady got more action on the side than you did?
Michael Starr: Kind of, but I love that band, Love/Hate, they're really good. And I'm glad we sound like them.
Satchel: "Always Gonna Be A Ho" – the thing about that song [is] I've have seen people online go, "This is sexist, talking about women like this!" We're not 100% talking about women. People need to really listen to our lyrics to understand.
Stix Zadinia: It could be a guy we're talking about.
Satchel: It could be anybody we're talking about. If the shoe fits...shove it up your ass.
Is there anybody in the band now who doesn't have an STD?
Stix Zadinia: No.
Satchel: There's never been a person...the day that they joined this band, they must have all the STDs. And if there's anything that you can clear up from that point on, that's cool.
Stix Zadinia: That's fair game. It's better than trying to join a gang, 'cause in a gang you've probably got to kill somebody, and that's not cool.
Satchel: You join this gang, you just have to have an STD.
Stix Zadinia: I guess really the name of the game is try to see how many you can clear up. Not how many you can acquire because you're coming in with all of them. Or you're not coming in.
If you guys had actually come out in the '80s, you would've been number one on the PMRC hit list.
Michael Starr: Thank you. Me and Dee Snider walking in the Supreme Court. I would've been like, "What's up, Congress?"
Why are the '80s still the coolest retro decade right now?
Stix: The '80s was a fucking great time. It was a great time for music. There was a lot of fucking awesome bands.
Lexxi Foxx: A lot of bitchin' fashion. Spandex. All the hot models were from the '80s.
Satchel: It was a great time for music – Guns N' Roses, Danger Danger. A lot of great bands back then.
Stix Zadinia: Well, those are the two main ones.
Satchel: There were only a handful of cable channels. There was no internet to ruin everything. There were no cell phones, so if you wanted to cheat on your girlfriend, all you had to do was pretend you weren't near the phone. You could go for days without having to call her up. In the '90s, when the pager got invented, it was like, "Aww, it's all going to go down from here. Now they can page me anytime they want." You can only come up with the excuse "my pager ran out of batteries" so many times.
Michael Starr: "There's no pay phone." "I lost my calling card."
Stix Zadinia: They fucking put that leash on you with that pager, bro.
Satchel: Now you're just fucked with social media.
Michael Starr: The best thing to do is just to enjoy yourself, enjoy your life, and do what the fuck you want to do.
Satchel: Do as many drugs as you can. That's what I say, kids.
Lexxi Foxx: It makes everybody get along a lot better, the higher you are.
Lexxi, you're still living at home with your mom. I know you have a close relationship with her.
Lexxi Foxx: A very close relationship.
Satchel: We all do.
So when do you think is gonna be the right time to fly the coop?
Stix Zadinia: He's not gonna fly the coop!
Lexxi Foxx: Thank you very much. My favorite animal doesn't have wings. It's a giraffe.
Satchel: Lexxi, you're welcome to stay as long as you don't get in the way around the house.
Michael Starr: I think that in all truthfulness, he's just there for his mom now. Before he needed her, and now that he's making all this money being in Steel Panther, he's taking care of her.
Satchel: Wait, wait, who's making money in this band?
Stix Zadinia: What are you talking about, money?
Lexxi Foxx: I'm doing other things on the side to help support myself. You know where that pizza came from tonight?
Stix Zadinia: Did you bring it?
Lexxi Foxx: I didn't bring it, but I told somebody to and that's the connection I have.
Michael Starr: Thank you, by the way. I really like pizza.
Lexxi Foxx: You're very welcome. I didn't bring it because of the press, but I used to work at a pizza place and I might be getting my job back there delivering when we're not traveling as much as we are. Michael taught me how to do that.
Did you do that before?
Michael Starr: My first job was at Taco Bell. I worked at McDonald's. Wendy's. Del Taco. I wouldn't cut my hair, and they made me wear a hair net at Wendy's to do French fries.
Satchel: He doesn't do that shit anymore. He's at Starbucks now because they have a really good...
Michael Starr: Health plan.
Stix Zadinia: You know how at Starbucks each person has a job, a role? So the cashier, the coffee maker, and then the person at the end puts the lid on and says the names. That's him. That's what he does. Because I think that they figured that was his biggest asset, his voice. So they're like, let's put Michael Starr on the end. So he could go, "Violet!"
Michael Starr: It's not just that. My personality is really outgoing. So for all the mobile pickups, I'm always there going, "Hey Tom, welcome back. Your drink's right here." You know, it keeps the line fresh.
Satchel: It's cool. He's like a kind of a local celebrity at the Starbucks. He works out in Sherman Oaks. They know that our last record was called Lower The Bar, so they call him the "lower the barista."
Michael Starr: Ha, straight up. You should see my electronic tip jar. Bam! It's not money, just all the compliments go right in here. [touches heart]
Satchel: Just the tip.
Michael Starr: It's like a prom date.
The closing ballad on the new album, "Ain't Buying What You're Selling."
Michael Starr: You listened to the whole record?
I did listen to the whole record.
Michael Starr: See? That was a test.
The vibe of that tune is that you guys are just gonna keep being –
Difficult. And you're going to party like crazy. So you just want to die of cardiac arrest onstage? Is that what's going to happen?
Stix Zadinia: There's only one way out. You gotta have all the STDs to get in, and you can only die to get out.
Satchel: If you thought we were all going and investing in 401Ks, you're fucking wrong, dude. There's no retirement plan here. This is rock until you die, bro.
Which rock stars do you guys want to collaborate with?
Michael Starr: I want to do a duet with Bret Michaels.
Stix Zadinia: Wow.
Satchel: That's the guy you want to do a duet with?
Stix Zadinia: Would you guys call it "Every Brose Has Its Thorn"?
Satchel: Wouldn't you want to do a duet with David Lee Roth?
Michael Starr: No.
Satchel: Why not?
Michael Starr: Because he'll take over and I won't be able to sing anything.
Satchel: Too much like you, huh.
Stix Zadinia: Two alpha dogs going at it.
Michael Starr: Well, Bret's an alpha.
Satchel: Wait, is he too much like you? Or are you too much like him?
Stix Zadinia: I would like to get Post Malone in the studio because the word on the street is he loves heavy metal, and to bring him into one of our sessions...
Satchel: I would like to get pre-Post Malone.
Stix Zadinia: Pre-Malone?
Satchel: Pre-Malone. Or just like really professional Post Malone. Like a provolone. Or swiss. Whatever you got. Cheddar.
Michael Starr: It's all Ozzy's fault that you guys are even talking about Post Malone.
Stix Zadinia: He loves metal, dude.
Michael Starr: So what? Kesha loves metal too. But she did the song with The Struts so she fucked up.
Satchel: I was thinking about maybe Zakk Wylde, but I heard he's actually pretty fucking nutty. So maybe like if we could tone it down a little bit, maybe a Zack Mild.
Stix Zadinia: Oh, snap!
Lexxi Foxx: I don't know that I'd want to be with any other musicians than the ones in my band...
Satchel: Ted Poley!
Michael Starr: Ted Poley!
Satchel: Dude, what the fuck is wrong with you? You want to collaborate with Ted.
Lexxi Foxx: I don't want to collaborate with Ted. I've already heard enough of his shit, and I like it but...
Michael Starr: George Michael?
Lexxi Foxx: He's already passed on.
Michael Starr: Dammit!
Lexxi Foxx: But I want to be in one of his videos with all his models. "Freedom."
Satchel: Don Dokken, I would like to collaborate with him.
Michael Starr: What?
Satchel: He's a great fucking singer.
Finally, why is this the greatest Steel Panther album ever made?
Satchel: You know what? We're like a fine wine/cheese combination. We get just better with age. I think it's obvious if you listen to the new record. Michael didn't even have any nodes on his vocal cords, but we decided let's just clean those babies up. We'll go in there and saw off any fucking little crusties.
Michael Starr: They actually sous vide me. They put me in this hot water and kept me in there until I was totally cooked.
Satchel: His voice is better than it's ever been, the drum parts sound fucking better than they've ever sounded, the bass player that we hired sounds fucking amazing.
Stix Zadinia: It's Bon Jovi's bass player.
Satchel: Lexxi looks amazing. I sound fucking great as normal, and the whole band just congeals into one fucking heavy metal... We're like Michelangelo in his prime. When he did the Sixteen [sic] Chapel, actually better that that, the Seventeen Chapel, he just painted that fucking scene like a gay guy on ecstasy, just going for it. Like painting all night, just works of art everywhere.
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