Latest release: Balls Out (Universal)
“That would never fly – a parody band?” says Michael Starr, looking quizzical. “I don’t get it.”
Loud Online is backstage at the House Of Blues in Hollywood, before Steel Panther go out for one of their celebrated House Of Blues Monday night residencies – and we’ve decided to indulge in some post-post-modern mindfuck questioning.
In the parallel universe Steel Panther inhabit, they are a serious band who’ve been treading the boards since the eighties, are all in their fifties, have had multiple plastic surgeries and suffer from most venereal diseases. To interview Steel Panther is to enter that world – they don’t speak out of character.
And that’s fine; it makes for plenty of hilarity. Singer Starr speaks of his intention to “root some bitches” in Australia and predicts Michael Hutchence will join SP on stage at some point of the Soundwave-motivated trek. But I ask Starr and bassist Lexxi Foxxx what they would think if a band of comedians came along to send up their clearly important, earnest heavy metal.
“I don’t get it either,” says Foxxx, preening and pouting as usual. “I think it’s stupid. Would they have their own songs? Play covers?”
Starr: “I know a band that’s a tribute to us. They’re called Surreal Panther. They play all our stuff and that is extremely flattering. There’s like, four of them now. There’s four guys in that band but there’s four other tribute bands. There’s Iron Python. They dress like us. They don’t look like us. All the guys in the European band Iron Python, they have big English features, no chin, bad teeth…”(These two bands actually exist, by the way. Surreal Panther are a tribute band, Iron Python could best be described as contemporaries of SP)
Steel Panther are a band in transition. Tonight represents their past – playing a wide variety of covers to a Monday night crowd of irony-hungry LA longhairs. But they have just wowed New York and the UK and they are, of course, on their way to Australia. All without any airplay – for reasons obvious to anyone who has heard “It Won’t Suck Itself”, “Just Like Tiger Woods” and the rest.
The “I don’t get it” comment is, of course, a reference to Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee saying exactly that about Steel Panther before the bands toured the UK together in December. Also on that tour was Def Leppard – who happily mentioned the band during their sets and posed for photos with them. Vivian Campbell recently jammed with SP at an Anaheim gig during the NAMM Expo
But the Crüe did not acknowledge their support act on stage at all. Lee “didn’t get” Steel Panther. “He does now,” Starr says, definitely ‘in’ character.
“It’s weird. He didn’t at first and I get it. It’s hard, when you’re on the road, you’re kind of sheltered. But once he jammed with us, he realised ‘fuck, this band is amazing’. I was hanging out in his dressingroom, we were hanging out with some bitches and he was like ‘yeah dude’ and I was like ‘yeah bro’ and we just kind of brought it out with the yeahs and stuff and … that was cool.”
“I actually chatted with each member of the band. I went and said (imitates knocking) ‘hey, it’s Michael Starr from Steel Panther, can I come in?’
“And I went into Vince’s dressingroom and he was hanging out with these two strippers and we hung out and I went back and I got him the CD of Balls Out and we all signed if for him and personalised it ‘To Vince’ and gave it to him because … he doesn’t want to bother anybody so he just stays in his room.
“I went and hung out with Nikki Sixx for a while, we exchanged emails and he taught me some business stuff about Live Nation and what not to do. He said ‘beware’ of certain stuff. He was actually really helpful. He gave us some hair tips as well because I’m kinda thinning a bit and so is he.
“He showed me how to hide your gut on stage, which is pretty cool. That’s hard. When you get older, you like to eat – except for Lexxi, he throws his food up.”
And now the schtick is in full flight. “Tommy, he knows that I like roller coasters so he let me go on his roller coaster,” says Lexxi. “It’s a rollercoaster attached to his drums. You’ve never seen anything like it. He does a drum solo and it flips around.”
Michael: “I think everybody saw it – when he was on tour! One of the road crew gave him a ride on it.”
When Steel Panther posed for a picture in front of the crowd at Wembley Arena in December, they were as excited as the multitudes in the background. Here was a midweek novelty act from Sunset Strip which had just about filled arguably the most famous venue in the world. Do SP have to start slowing down – hiring someone else to do their tweets and facebook updates, turn down gigs, submit to fewer interviews?
“It’s kinda like when you’re fucking a chick,” says Michael. “You’re fucking, her, rooting her, pounding that pussy and you want to come. It’s really hard to pull out. It’s the same thing.
“I don’t wanna pull out. We want to keep playing gigs…” he continues, before Lexxi adds “because it feels good to sperm in the vagina”.
Michael: “Fuck yeah! And you know if you punch her really hard in the stomach when you’re done, chances are there won’t be a baby.”
Lexxi: “I thought you have to wait a little while because the eggs aren’t … there’s all that science stuff.”
Starr: “If you hit it, go, ‘aw sorry’, accidentally.”
Starr: “Never turn down pussy. That’s the plan. If you turn down shows, you’re turning down pussy because shows equal…”
Lexxi: “….pussy …. and vaginas”
Starr: “and pussy equals … fun.”
When asked about recording plans and the long-term future, the pair deflect the question with more jokes. “Remember that song you came up with, “Pole Sledger”? Starr says to Lexxi. “That was bitchin’. It’s like a sledge hammer meeting a pole….
“If you look at us right now, I’m 53 years old. He’s 48, 49. It’s like saying is pizza ever gonna go out of style? Fuck no. Everybody loves pizza. Like beer. How many people thought beer’s gonna be around forever. And it is. We’re like cockroaches, man. We’re never going to go away.”
Everyone from Billy Sheehan to McLovin from Superbad regularly join Steel Panther on stage in Hollywood. In Australia, says Starr, “it would be pretty cool to have the singer from INXS get up and join us. That would be amazing because he would be, like, coming back from the dead and joining us. That would be, like, the top story on CNN. That never happens.”
Bon Scott, however, is not on the list.
“Dude, I think he’s in Hell because he parties,’’ says Starr. “Once you’re contracted to Hell, you gotta come back as a serial killer or something.”
The trip to Oz is six months late with SP falling victim to Van Halen’s withdrawal from Soundwave Revolution. So what’s the first thing the guys from Steel Panther will do when they touch down in Australia? “I have an ipad now and I have to make sure I don’t leave it in the seat pocket,” deadpans Michael. “It’s expensive, iPad 2, it holds 64 gigs of heavy metal.
“I have Stryper, I have Steelheart, I have fuckin’ TNT, a wide range of heavy metal. BulletBoys. I have music that most singers in bands probably don’t have in their ipads.”
Lexxi: “I wanted to go down under. Can I say vagina? Can I say fuck? Cool. I want to fuck girls in their vaginas down under.”
Steel Panther is appearing at the Soundwave Festival on the following dates:
25/2: Brisbane Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD (SOLD OUT)
26/2: Sydney Showground, Sydney NSW (SOLD OUT)
2/3: Melbourne Showground, Melbourne VIC (SOLD OUT)
3/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
5/3: Claremont Showgrounds, Perth WA
They are also playing with Alter Bridge:
28/2: Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW (SOLD OUT)
29/2: The Palace, Melbourne VIC