Interview: Steel Panther's Satchel
May 6, 2009
In the early 1980s they were the greatest metal band in the world. They ruled LA’s Sunset Strip with a gloved fist and turned every show into a cataclysmic event. Steel Panther reigned supreme and was the spearhead of LA’s glam metal movement during the turbulent tide of a fickle music scene. They influenced a generation of musicians and created a style and a buzz that reverberates to this very day. Bands like Motley Crüe, Poison, Ratt, Quiet Riot and Warrant all felt the seismic shift and built careers from their simple philosophy, “Fuck all night and party all day.”
Known for their wild outfits, big hair, energetic stage presence and rockin’ tunes, Steel Panther was the ultimate party band. They sang songs about banging groupies, marathon drinking, snorting copious amounts of blow and havin’ a good time. Songs like “Fat Girl,” “Stripper Girl,” and “Death to All But Metal” were sing-a-long crowd favorites. Frontman Michael Starr, bassist Lexxi Foxxx, drummer Stix Zadinia and guitar phenom Satchel created a glam metal revolution. Satchel altered the lives of every guitarist within earshot, creating a new wave of Satchel-influenced guitarists. His influence was so pervasive that future guitarists would forever be labeled “pre-Satchel” or “post-Satchel.” His innovative guitar style shook the world and broke new ground in every genre of music. A collaboration with Miles Davis was even rumored.
In 1987, a fierce bidding war erupted from every major record label in the world. Steel Panther was about to become the biggest metal band on earth and was being offered the most lucrative record deal in music history. Suddenly it all ended. Shockingly, the band failed to appear at their own showcase. They remained missing for twenty years.
|Steel Panther's album, Feel the Steel comes out this fall. Until then, here's the official video for the track, "Death to All But Metal":
How do you feel?
Man, I been up all night doin’ drugs. That means I’m feelin’ pretty good.
Man, you’re livin’ the life.
Anybody can live the life. All you have to do is find a stripper to support you and your lifestyle.
I have no luck with that.
You know what you have to do? You have to lower the bar and go for older strippers in their fifties and up. The older they are the more desperate they get.
I’m really enjoying Feel The Steel. It truly rocks.
Right on! What’s your favorite song?
“Asian Hooker” is classic. They’ve already downloaded that song over a hundred times in Japan. It’s not released over there because it’s illegal, but they’ve been downloading it and we’ve been counting.
All the songs feel very honest. You guys really captured the onstage vibe in the studio.
All the songs were written from real experiences. That’s why the honesty shines through. There are a lot of bands where you can tell that the music is contrived. I know that’s a big word for people who read guitar magazines, but contrived means, “Forced” or “Made up.” You can print that so people will know what I’m talking about. What we do is very organic. It’s like food that you would buy at Whole Foods. There’s no preservatives. It’s totally healthy. It’s like holistic medicine for the soul.
It’s definitely a no bullshit record. You guys lived it, you wrote about it and it rocks.
I think part of that is because when we wrote the record we were all pretty stoned. We really got in touch with our inner selves. I don’t know if your readers are old enough to remember The Beatles, but when Sgt. Pepper came out I had just turned thirty, so I was pretty old already. They were on LSD when they wrote that record, and I thought, “Some day when I learn how to write songs, I’m going to do it while I’m on drugs.” Sgt. Pepper was a great record, but the only thing missing was the ripping guitar solos. I pretty much feel that we’ve created the heavy metal version of Sgt. Pepper. Maybe that’s a pretty bold statement, but we’re a pretty bold band. I think we can say something like that and get away with it.
It’s a unique vision and the sound of a lifestyle. It permeates the entire record.
There are all kinds of things that permeate that record.
Who are some of your influences?
Musically, The Beatles have influenced us. Naturally, if you talk about The Beatles, you have to talk about other great songwriters like Poison, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Motley Crüe and Whitesnake.
Which Whitesnake era is your favorite?
Whitesnake really hit their peak when they were looking their best. I think this was around 1986 or 1987. I don’t remember what album that was, but I do remember that they were looking totally sexy. The girl they had in their videos seemed to correspond with how sexy they looked. I was like, “Hey, this band knows what they’re doing!” I remember the first time I saw that video. I don’t remember what song it was, because I had the TV on mute so I couldn’t hear the song, but I do remember David Coverdale and Tawny Kitaen.
She was so hot.
So hot. I remember writing a song after being inspired by that video. I don’t remember hearing the song because the TV was on mute, but I was very inspired by Tawny Kitaen. So I got out the guitar, started to write and I ended up just masturbating.
So you didn’t finish writing the song?
I wrote the song, but after I was done masturbating. It only took me 20–30 seconds to finish.
The song or the masturbation?
Masturbating. But then I went back to writing, and I was able to write something really great. Back then I couldn’t afford a little cassette recorder, so I forgot the whole song. I remembered how good that song must have been a couple of years after that, while I was on a coke binge. I wrote another song that was just as good.
Would you say that kind of stimulation is good for songwriting?
Absolutely. Anything that’s chemical-based is good for songwriting. A lot of people frown upon that because we live in a very politically correct era, which is totally lame. Let’s face it. They need to legalize it, that’s all I gotta say. Stop the drug war now! If they stop the drug war, the inevitable result from that is going to be a lot more good rock and heavy metal albums. That’s why the music scene sucks right now. People are afraid to score coke and write a great record.
Yeah, today you see people on stage with bottled water. What’s up with that?
What is that?! What is that?! I don’t think I’ve actually drank water in the last thirty years! Have you seen our pictures?! Have you seen how good I look?!
Don’t get too excited.
How much blow do you guys do before a performance?
It all depends on how you would quantify that. We start doing blow after a performance and we don’t really stop until the next performance. It’s a constant stream of blow. I try to give myself an extra little boost right before I go on stage. Like six or seven lines, or maybe an eight ball before I go on. I would not recommend that to newer bands. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve built up immunity to the substance. If you want to start bringing heavy metal back, you gotta start drinking more and doing more blow.
Kids need to not only focus on that, but also on the clothes they’re wearing. We look totally slamming hot. A lot bands these days suck musically, but they don’t suck just because of their music. Their music sucks because their clothes suck.
Bands also need to be pickier about who they get in their band. Don’t just get a guy because he’s a good bass player. You get a guy because he’s foxy! It’s a better idea to just go out and pick a guy who’s foxy like we did, then teach him how to play the bass. Bass is pretty easy.
It’s the “show” in show business.
Exactly! It’s easy to play an instrument. It’s hard to look killer. We found the foxiest guys for this band.
You’re all very good looking guys.
Thank you. It makes me wonder about you.
I’ll be honest and say I’m envious. I went to one of your shows and there were wall-to-wall, smokin’ hot women everywhere. I was sitting in the back thinking, “Oh my God! My whole life has been a huge mistake!”
Next time you come to a show, come backstage and I will totally let you have sex with any groupies that are there. I’ll throw you a bone. Not a literal bone, but a figurative bone. You can have any of the groupies that are there after we’re done with them. Just wipe them off and go to town.
You’re a good guy.
I really like your acoustic solo on the song “Girl From Oklahoma.” You’re usually known for face-melting guitar solos, but that solo is simply beautiful. It’s art.
When you get that kind of inspiration, it has to come from somewhere like God or Allah or Buddha. I don’t even know who it is, but it’s something otherworldly… like someone sent it down from another planet in the solar federation and it came out of my fingers.
It sounds like you’re reaching into your softer side.
Your softer side.
It sounds like you’re exploring your softer side. Your delicate side.
I do have a softer side. Sometimes if I’ve been doing a lot of cocaine, I can’t get a boner. That’s where my softer side really shows. That solo is very melodic and very emotional. That song and that solo are there on that record for one thing. Let’s face it, girls love ballads, and it gets their vaginas very wet and moist. That way, after we’re playing a song like that, they come backstage and we can skip all the foreplay. We just go right downtown if ya’ know what I mean. We get to business and that’s what that’s there for. Girls think, “Oh that solo is so emotional. This guy is really a guy I can get to know.” They don’t realize that I really don’t want to get to know them. I just wanna have sex.
What’s your main stage rig?
I usually go direct into a Marshall JCM2000. It’s got a lot of gain, and I don’t have to use any external foot pedals or distortion or anything. I just crank it up. I don’t even use any reverb. I just go totally dry so you can hear every note, and then I let the sound guy put stuff on it so it’s all garbled out front.
Do you control everything from the volume of your guitar?
Yeah, I’ve got a footswitch that will switch me to a clean channel. Obviously you need that once in a while, but most of the time it’s distorted and loud. That’s what heavy metal is all about. Sometimes I’ll turn my volume knob down like old-school Van Halen for the cleaner stuff, but usually we’re just loud and distorted. I just use one rippin’ channel on a JCM2000 and crank it.
No pedalboard at all?
Not really. I’ve tried those before but most of the solos don’t have that many effects on them. Once in a while I’ll add some reverb and delay, or experiment with a new distortion pedal, but right now I’m just running it dry. To be honest, I do so many kicks and jumps onstage the pedalboard just gets in the way.
You wear your guitar very low and do lots of stage kicks. Do you ever accidentally smack yourself in the balls?
I do so much blow I can’t even feel my balls. One time I tried to throw my guitar around my back, backwards like the band Cinderella. I hit myself in the head. It was good though, because it’s when I started to write some of my best songs.
What’s your main guitar?
Right now I’m playing a Kramer Pacer. I have a couple of those and I’m diggin’ them. They were made a long time ago, and they’re just awesome. Totally vintage! I don’t know what kind of wood they use, balsa or basswood, but it sounds awesome—killer tone, sounds awesome, looks great and it’s got a Floyd Rose on it. They got the tone. It’s rad. I’ve got a Gibson Explorer that’s really nice too, but the Kramer is the main one I’m using now.
You have a lot of stylistic information on Feel The Steel. Who were your guitar influences?
I started out listening to guys like Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath and Ritchie Blackmore. One of my favorite guitar players of all time is Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult. He’s one of the greatest rock guitar players that ever lived. His phrasing is impeccable. His note choices are phenomenal. There are other obvious guys, like Eddie Van Halen. He was great. Alex Lifeson from Rush is insanely great and underrated at the same time. I was inspired when Yngwie first came out. He had so much fire and feel. He was awesome.
I hear a little of that neo-classical style on “Asian Hooker.”
Yeah, there’s a little bit of Yngwie going on, but obviously Yngwie got a lot of that from Ritchie Blackmore. I’m classically influenced. I like Paganini even though I don’t think his hair was as cool as it could have been.
The hair styles were different back then.
They didn’t have hair spray back then, that’s the thing.
What do you listen to in your car?
The first Dokken record. I’ve been listening to a lot of Judas Priest lately, too. Sad Wings of Destiny is a great record. It’s all about the tunes. I’ve also been cranking AC/DC, Kix and Rhino Bucket lately. I’ve mostly been in AC/DC mode.
The guitar solo on “Stripper Girl” has this bitchin’ legato thing. It sounds like it’s all left hand with absolutely no pick. How the hell do you do that?
It’s a little bit of right hand, too.
But it’s so seamless. I can’t hear the pick attack at all.
That was intentional, because sometimes the pick doesn’t need to be used. That solo was one take in the studio. I dropped my pick but I just kept going. It’s a lot of left hand, but I do a lot of tapping with my right hand, too. I picked up the pick at the last minute to do a pick squeal. It worked out well. I like that solo.
Do you guys consider yourselves rebels?
In this age we are rebels because a lot of people are afraid to wear spandex and makeup. We are the new alternative. We’re the alternative to “Alternative.” It used to be that “Alternative” was the alternative to heavy metal. Now metal is the alternative to “Alternative.” So we’re like alternative alt. Control, alt, delete. That’s what we are.
What does the future hold for Steel Panther?
This record is going to come out, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to make us the biggest band in the world… probably bigger than U2 or Led Zeppelin. We’re going to be bigger than pretty much any band in the world, so after that things are going to get really busy. I’m probably going to have to quit my job at Target, and we’re probably going to have to tour. The other guys in the band sell drugs, but they’re going to keep doing that. That’s always good supplemental income and you can pretty much do that anywhere. We’re going to blow up, the record is going to take off, and we’re going to have to spend more time hanging out with groupies because we’re going to get hotter chicks.
The chicks get hotter, and it gets really hard to turn them down because you’re like, “When am I gonna get to have sex with this girl again?” So we’re gonna do that a lot, which is having sex and keep on rockin’, which is what we’ve been doing for twenty or thirty years. It’s going to be incredible. In between all that we have to write the next record. It took us twenty-five years to write Feel The Steel, so it’s going to be very difficult to live up to a record as good as this one.
I just hope you guys don’t lose the fire along the way.
We probably will. We’re probably going to self-destruct because we’re going to have so much success. We’re all probably gonna
|SATCHEL'S GEAR BOX
Whatever you do, don’t mellow out.
Dude, there’s always gonna be distortion on my guitar
For more information on Steel Panther, check out these links:
Steel Panther Official Website
Steel Panther MySpace
Behind the Music Video