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INTERVIEW – Michael Starr, Steel Panther, March 2014

| 2 April 2014 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Michael Starr, Steel Panther, March 2014

Brace yourselves – Steel Panther release third album, All You Can Eat, this week, and lyrically they’ve crossed even more taboo boundaries than ever before. SHANE PINNEGAR asks singer Michael Starr, “how far is too far?”

Steel Panther Michael Starr

“Well, we write our lyrics from personal experience,” he replies, “so it just depends on where we go in our life, and that’s the appeal of Steel Panther – the honesty behind it and I think that you can see that in our shows. When you watch us perform we’re not just 4 guys pretending to be heavy metal guys, we love heavy metal and we are heavy metal and what we do with our life is really what our songs are about. The cool thing about what we do is we have fun with it too as well, so you know we’ll take the piss out of ourselves and so you know we’ll sing about shit too. We also sing about shit that people think about and don’t talk about. So, I think there is no limit to where Steel Panther will go.”

That may seem disturbing when the new records features songs about girls crying during sex parties and gangbanging pensioners at a retirement home, but Steel Panther have always walked a blurry line between fact and fantasy.

“That’s good,” Starr laughs at the suggestion that the band must sit around trying to out-gross each other when they’re writing song lyrics, before continuing, somewhat open-endedly, “What we try to do is – Satchel will write the main base of the song and when we’re cutting the vocals in the studio we’re all there together and we really go over every lyric.

“Once we realised we have popularity throughout the world, we realised our lyrics had to be a little bit more universal for everybody to understand. So, we took out the stuff that was more like U.S. slang and we made it a little more universal basically, but at the same time we kept the essence of the disgustingness within the universal way of saying it. So instead of saying like ‘I want to hit that shit in the clit’ you would say ‘I want to fuck that pussy.’”

Steel Panther All You Can Eat gatefold

A conversation with Starr is never dull, that’s a given, but he is serious in his excitement for All You Can Eat.

“We’re REALLY excited with this record,” he states emphatically. “We spent a lot of time working on it. We went over every single lyric with a fine-toothed comb. We really took our time with it and we did something a little bit different.

“It’s a little bit darker of a record for us. Like our first song Pussywhipped is pretty fucking heavy and we’re excited because we feel like we took the best of Feel The Steel and Balls Out, and All You Can Eat is a combination of that. That’s where the title really came from – it’s like, it’s all you can eat: it’s every bit of Steel Panther you could ever want.”

There’s no sign of nerves about how the album will be received either, much less the inevitable negative feedback from people they’ve offended.

“Oh, man I look forward to [causing offence]” he says with a laugh. “I’ve got to tell you though, we haven’t had any [serious] backlash or any type of protesting against our records, except for Germany. We have a song on our record Balls Out called Critter and this song got us on an index in Germany which means that they found it unsuitable for children under 18 years of age to listen to our music. So we hired a lawyer and it turns out, [because] we have a lyric in the song that says ‘Hit her in the shitter, Treat her like a critter’, if you translate that, it basically implies bestiality so they freaked out about that. So, we made an agreement that we would not play that song in Germany anymore!”

1st Annual Epiphone Revolver Golden Gods Awards

In addition to causing offence with the sexual nature and swearing in their songs, Steel Panther have also raised the ire of a lot of people who love heavy metal, but who think you shouldn’t joke about it. Again, Starr is unrepentant.

“Well, I really spent most of my life having fun and enjoying myself,” he says, “and not taking myself too serious, because there was a time when I did take my self real serious and it got me nowhere. So, with this band, we don’t take ourselves too serious because I think that heavy metal’s not about being serious for us. It’s about having a good time. My main influence is Van Halen and when I first saw Van Halen, David Lee Roth didn’t take himself too seriously, but he was the baddest motherfucker on the planet back in the day. That’s what we’re all about.

“My message [to them] would be, ‘if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. If you like it, listen to it.’ That’s it. You know, some people listen to serious, serious, serious heavy metal and some people also like to listen to Steel Panther. It just depends on what your mood is. You know if you’re in a mood where you want to hang out with a chick that’s super-sensitive you might want to put on some Bruno Mars, but if you’re pissed off about your bills being due and you’re bummed out that your Mum’s kicking you out, you might want to listen to Steel Panther to escape.

“And then,” he adds, just in case anyone thought he was getting too serious, “if you’re feeling like you want to kill yourself, you can listen to some Nirvana.”

Steel Panther 04

Pather’s first album, Feel The Steel, featured guest cameos from Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Suede’s Brett Anderson. Balls Out featured Chad Kroeger and M. Shadows from Nickelback and Avenged Sevenfold respectively. Starr says they only managed to squeeze one guest into All You Can Eat, despite their best efforts.

“We actually had a bunch lined up,” the singer explained, “but unfortunately with scheduling and our new touring schedule we just weren’t able to work it out, but we were able to cross paths with a friend that we met. We were doing a tour with Motley Crue and Def Leppard in the UK, and we befriended Def Leppard and most of Motley, and we were able to get Vivian Campbell to do a guitar solo on the song Gangbang At The Old Folks Home.”

Steel Panther 03

Starr says that despite a relentless few years touring, the band are still pumped for more and will be supporting All You Can Eat around the world in 2014.

“As a matter of fact [touring is still] super exciting,” he enthuses. “It’s hard work and there’s times where I wish I could sleep in my own bed, but when you’re feeling the excitement of having a sold out show and they have to be moved to a bigger venue and then we’re playing in Russia right before they invade Ukraine – that’s exciting!

“In 2013, we had the most touring dates in heavy metal. We played 179 shows in 12 months and we’re not done. We’re old and we get tired, but we’re going to keep going. Our tour plans are to finish this European tour, which is a 10 week tour, and we come home and we do 3 dates in L.A. and then we go back out in May for 5 weeks. We’re going out to the U.S. to do a tour there and then we come back to Europe to do the whole festival run through August.”

Steel Panther were last in Australia in December 2013, and Starr reassures 100% ROCK MAGAZINE that they will be back to play All You Can Eat.

“I don’t know what our plans are yet, but I know it’s going to be at the end of the year, or hopefully it will the very beginning of [next] year – maybe Soundwave or something. I don’t know yet.

“I’ll tell you what. I want to tell you this really quick,” he digresses. “I got an email from a friend of mine in Alter Bridge when they were on the Soundwave tour [this year]. He sent me a picture of catering and there’s a picture of Steel Panther in all of the caterings throughout the Soundwave tours. I gotta tell you – for us that is the biggest compliment, like ‘we fucking made it!’ If you make catering that’s pretty heavy dude.”

Panther have long been trying to get their own TV show green lit in the U.S. 2014 looks like the year that will finally happen.

“Yes, we did actually,” Starr says. “Right now what we’re doing is working closely with a network and a production company, but obviously it’s not done yet. It wouldn’t be worth telling you [about it] even if I could, but what we’re in the middle of doing now is having all of our loose-ends within the TV process tightened up by our lawyers. Apparently before you go into a deal with these other entities, they have to be secure that there’s nobody out there that’s going to say ‘Wait a minute, I wrote that or I wrote that’, or ‘this is my idea’. So, that’s what we’re in the middle of doing right now.

“And we’re actually leaving open September, October, and November for shooting. But I got to tell you, with TV – TV is like a hot girl. They seem like they want to fuck you and then when you go to do it, they say no. So, you just never know.”

Steel Panther 2014 01

The band make no bones about the fact that with the costumes and wigs, they play up to the stereopytical Heavy Metal image. Starr says it’s all about the fun, and can’t see a day when they’ll go on tour without all those trappings.

“Steel Panther is four dudes that dress up the way we like to dress up,” he says plainly. “Kiss took their make-up off, but I don’t think that anyone ever takes their hair off. It’s just the way heavy metal is. It’s heavy metal… If the guys could grow it, they would’ve grown it. It just doesn’t happen. Fortunately, they like it and I like it. So, that’ll probably never happen.”

Steel Panther 02

The analogy with KISS is apt. The Detroit rockers unmasked themselves to ever-diminishing returns, before donning the slap again for another few years of huge shows.

“Right – and we haven’t even made it huge yet,” he laughs. “We’re still scraping to the top here. It’s a lot of work, man, but Lexxi’s extensions – I don’t think he will ever get rid of them. Obviously he can’t grow his hair that long, but he likes to flip it around and shit. You know, he’s like a big girl.”

After steadily building their fan-base up right around the world for five or six years now, where can Steel Panther go from here?

“Well our goal has always been to bring heavy metal back,” he says with disarming alacrity, “and once we started gaining some success throughout the world, we realised our goal is being met, but we came up with a new goal. We want to be the biggest heavy metal band ever. That’s our goal now. And also another goal is to make it so appealing to be the biggest heavy metal band in the world, that Motley Crue decides to come out of retirement.”

I remind Michael that Motley Crue haven’t even gone away, yet.

“Oh, yeah,” he says with a shrug. “But they will and it’s going to take us a few years to be the biggest band in the world.”

All You Can Eat is out NOW on Open E Records

An edited version of this interview first appeared in X-Press Magazine’s 26 March 2014 issue

 

Shane

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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