Nobody rocks quite like Steel Panther. Nobody even tries. From their early days playing note-perfect covers of ’80s hard rock classics on L.A.'s Sunset Strip to their current days of playing note-perfect covers of ’80s classics (and their own tunes) on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, they can always be counted on to bring the rock.
Guitarist Satchel, vocalist Michael Starr, drummer Stix Zadinia and bass player Lexxi Foxx are currently sequestered in the studio, putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2009’s Feel the Steel. Satchel caught up with Gibson.com to talk about the new album, guitars, and the lost art of the unaccompanied solo.
How’s the new album coming along?
It’s been killer. We decided to record this album in five-song chunks. We picked our top five songs that we liked, then we picked our next five, then we picked our [expletive]-iest songs at the end. So far we’ve got 10 recorded and we’re doing the vocals on the last five right now. It sounds awesome and I’m not just saying that because I’m usually high on Oxycontin when I’m listening to it.
Any titles you can give away yet?
I think some of the titles are floating around in cyberspace. We performed one of the songs live. It’s called “Critter.” It’s about having sex with a girl.
So, lyrically, it’s in a similar vein to Feel the Steel then?
We’ve got a lot of fans that wanted us to not grow. So there’s definitely a lot of stuff that could have been on the first record, lyrically. We definitely haven’t grown much as people. But musically, woo! There are more hooks than a tackle box on this one. We’ve got 10 songs recorded and I’m telling you, there’s at least nine worldwide singles. Huge smash hits. Now if we can just convince the radio stations that they can play songs with the F-word and the C-word in them, we’ll be stoked. But we’ve got a couple of songs that, believe it or not, don’t have any foul language. It’s more about the innuendo. That may really [expletive] off some of our fans, but we figure we can write songs that are awesome and fun and actually don’t use any cuss words, too.
When will the album be out?
Well, we were hoping to get it out by summer but we really never take a break from touring. We’re always on the road, we’re always doing gigs. And it takes a little bit longer for us, because our singer, he’s no spring chicken. He’s been singing for longer than most people live. Most people die at this point. But he sings all week long, and he’s got the strongest voice of anybody I know. He can sing all week long, [unsuitable for publication] and he still gets up the next morning and sings. But we do Vegas on the weekend, Hollywood on Monday nights, and then we go into the studio and record on the days in between. It’s not easy to sing in the studio because you have to get the right take. You have to sing for three hours on one song. On a lot of these songs, if I write a song, he’s gotta sing it the way I’m hearing it, and boy is that a pain in the ass. Oh my god. It’s like teaching a monkey how to type. It’s terrible. But then he gets it and it’s awesome.
You always put on a big show – it’s not like you’re rocking up, strumming a few songs and going home.
We pride ourselves not so much on our musicality but on our bombasticness. We started off as just a cover band. That’s how Van Halen started. They were just doing covers in Hollywood, and that’s how we started too, man. We would really do anything to keep the audience in the room. Our first show was actually in Vegas and people didn’t like us at all. They just wanted us to shut up and play Winger, but we would start talking about [expletive] and [expletive]. There were some people that got it and some that didn’t. Once we went to Hollywood, there was really no line we wouldn’t cross, subject-wise, to entertain people. Once we started talking about having sex with people’s parents – they thought we were really good then.
Let’s talk Kramer. For the kind of music you do, Kramer guitars are pretty much the iconic axe.
They actually contacted me a few years ago – I guess they must have seen my picture and thought, “That guy looks like he would play our guitars.” I went down and partied with them and [unsuitable for publication], and they said they’d sell me some guitars cheap. But they play great. They’re killer. I’ve got a few cool paint jobs. Their necks are a little thinner than some guitars, and I like that. They play great, the action’s really low and they sound killer. They sound good loud.
I’ve seen you play live with a tigerstripe-finish Kramer Pacer. Do you have any other cool finishes?
Well, y’know what? I'm thinking about getting another one. What should I get? I’m asking you.
I think neon is the way of the past and of the future.
Yeah! You can’t go wrong with neon. That’s definitely metal. I’ve got a white Kramer Pacer, and that just goes with every outfit. That’ll go with my purple spandex, my zebra spandex, everything. And I’ve got a lot of spandex, so it’s good to have a versatile guitar that’ll go with your spandex. Y'know, I used to hang out and party a lot with Paul Gilbert, and when you mention the neon, I was roommates with him and he used to paint everything neon when he was in Racer X. His whole apartment was neon. Their whole stage was neon. They would go on with neon clothes. It was crazy. They would turn on a blacklight and their teeth would glow. They would put, y’know, neon paint on their teeth, too. Crazy.
Your unaccompanied solo moment on stage is always a highlight of your gigs. The unaccompanied solo is really a lost art. What’s the secret?
Many, many times, while I’m doing it, I’m thinking “I’m not doing this right.” There’s really no right or wrong way to do a solo, and trust me, I’ve seen C.C. DeVille do a 25-minute solo before, and then you realize, “Okay, anybody can do this.”
I remember seeing Poison in 1988 or ’89 or something, and C.C. took a 30-minute solo, and I thought, “They’re doing this on purpose. They’re trying to get people to go buy T-shirts right now.” If you’re going to do a solo, there are a few guidelines. It should never be too long, like C.C. Deville. So stay off the blow before you do it. It should definitely have melody, because a lot of rock guitar players tend to go for super-fast licks, because it’s more impressive sounding, especially if you’re by yourself. It should have that element but you’re carrying everything by yourself, so you have to have some melody in there. The vast majority of your audience don’t give a [expletive] how fast you can play, they just want to be entertained. I used to fly above the audience on a harness, and that’s always fun. Sometimes the harness gets caught in my guitar strap and I can’t play at all, but most people don’t care. Most guitar players are too worried about if they’re playing good, but after my worst solos I’ll have more compliments backstage than ever. They don’t care about your technique. They care about melody and they want to see something cool, so I get behind the drums and I play drums and guitar at the same time. People are always very impressed by that, and that will usually get you laid after the show, which is awesome.
And, of course, you want to have some flash, too. I throw in “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and I’m not the first ’80s guitar player to play that, but it’s something that everybody knows, and it must be hard to play because it’s fast, right? So everybody goes, “Oh wow, he’s talented!” And then I end up having sex with their girlfriends. Awesome.