Interview by Victoria Llewelyn
Steel Panther are back – an album full of new songs to be released on 24th February, a UK tour and a bunch of outrageous plans. Michael Starr talks all things hair and make-up, how to recruit a bass player man enough to be in Steel Panther and what to expect from the band in 2023. Buckle up, kids, it’s quite a ride!
MGM: Michael, we are very much looking forward to welcoming Steel Panther back to the UK this May. Apart from your Download show last year it’s been three years since you graced a UK stage. A lot of fans can’t wait to see you partying over here again, how are you and the guys feeling about your return?
MS: Download was super exciting to do, to get back in front of all those people and perform together, so we’re really looking forward to coming back and doing our own shows. We’re bringing Winger along to play with us, they’re going to be amazing – it’s just going to be a great night to rock out!
MGM: Steel Panther always have really high-quality bands on as their support, Winger being a fine example; how do you decide who has what it takes to open a Steel Panther show?
MS: We have strong ideas about this; we don’t want to bring out an 80’s style covers band because we already have that covered ourselves. We want a band that are simply into playing rock and roll, like to have fun and are excited to be with us. We’re gonna be hanging out together a lot, it’s important. It’s a lot of fun to see new bands and every band that opens for us, I’ll go out and watch, I want to see what they’re doing. There are so many great new bands.
MGM: A Steel Panther show is quite unlike any other, it really is a thing to behold, with no limits on the glamour, the comedy and the risqué onstage banter; not to mention the musical talent and hellacious songs you perform. Do you have any surprises in store for the UK audiences this time around?
MS: The first big surprise will be that there’s no Lexxi Foxx. Lexxi is no longer in the band, so when you come to the show, you’re going to see a new band member – his name is Spyder. Spyder played Download with us before he joined, it was shortly afterwards that we asked him to be in the band permanently and thankfully he agreed!
We have our new record coming out February 24th, ‘On The Prowl’, so we’ll be playing a couple of songs from that, and our usual classic songs that people have come to hear. We picked five new songs that work really well for a live show. We may do a couple of album tracks as well that people have been requesting for a long time. And we’re going to bring a tiger. We’re named Steel Panther, we love cats, we were thinking of bringing a bunch of cats along to the meet and greet and then we thought why don’t we bring a super huge tiger to the show? Tigers are awesome and they’re very friendly. I think we’re going to use a UK based one to save money, we’re still looking for the right tiger.
MGM: You now have Spyder, Steel Panther’s new permanent bass player, and I understand he’s not all that new after all in fact, and you guys have known each other and played together for around 20 years! How has he been doing since he stepped forward and took up this coveted mantle?
MS: Oh, he’s not doing too good at all. Joking! He is in fact doing a great job. Prior to him joining after we played Download, he was Lexxi’s fill in, going way back to around 2004 when we were playing as a regular covers band. We always had subs in case anyone was sick or super hung over. He came to fill in on the European tour last summer and whilst we were out there, we realised he was the guy! We’ve known him over twenty years, played together all that time, so it’s great to have someone that’s been working alongside us, working behind the scenes also, which makes him a great fit. To begin with we were thinking ok, we’ll get some hot young 25-year-old guy that looks a lot like Lexxi… the idea of that was cool but when you’re in the room with somebody that hasn’t had as much experience working like this it’s quite different. Spyder is a great dude and we love him! I had to help him out with his costumes, I put him in touch with my seamstress and we designed some stuff for him, he also has his own logo which is very cool. I helped him out with his hair and make up for last summer’s tour, I used to do this for Satchel too, but Satchel can do it on his own now.
MGM: You had a great selection process when you were on your quest to find a bassist to fill the significantly large and sparkly shoes of Lexxi Foxx. Talk us through how this took shape, and how you eventually decided that Spyder was the man for you.
MS: When we put out there that we needed a new bass player we got around 600 submissions. A good 20% of those couldn’t even play bass. They said – give me the job and I’ll learn how! We went through every single one of these submissions, twice, and we whittled it down to a few people we thought would be a good fit. Then we took them out on the road and ‘test drove’ them. They had to come up with their own characters, and we had some great submissions, really funny guys and awesome players. We ended up picking this one guy and he was scheduled to come on tour, but it ended up not working out, which is why Spyder joined us last minute and we came to ask the question, why are we not just giving the job to him?
When we do a show, we go out and we improv, and we talk to the crowd, we make people laugh, and that’s such an important element to the job of being the bass player in Steel Panther. You have to be able to talk to the audience, engage with them, and also be connected with everyone else in the band. There’s a lot going on. It may look like we’re just screwing off and having a good time, but we take what we do very seriously, we put a lot into it, and that gives us the ability to fuck off and get high a lot so it’s awesome.
MGM: The eagerly anticipated new album ‘On The Prowl’ is coming out on 24th February. Written and recorded during the lockdown period it’s packed with all the joyful Steel Panther magic – a boisterous, celebratory escapade of great music and pure comedy. Fans will be delighted to get their hands on it, so what can you tell us about the new songs?
MS: Everyone that’s in a band will say the same thing when they make a new record – ‘this is the best record we’ve ever done’. I’m not going to say this because I love all our records. This one, it’s a new set of songs that were born in the time of the pandemic, when we all had such uncertainty in life. All this bad shit was going on and we were writing and recording these songs to reflect what life was like at that time, what it meant to us and how easily it could all be taken away. And what came out in those songs was in fact, the same thing as we always write about, which is having sex with women.
We have a great, up tempo opening track – ‘Never Too Late (to get some pussy tonight) – it’s full of energy and gives a positive message. ‘Friends With Benefits’ is a song about some special girlfriends we have who come with, well, benefits; without getting too graphic. It’s all surrounded by love. I believe in a thing called love. We have male friends with benefits also, like free cocaine.
‘Magical Vagina’ celebrates the circle of life, a tribute to all the moms pumping metal kids out of theirs, and then how you get older and all you do is try and get back inside other ones. It’s our appreciation of the vagina.
MGM: Have you ever written a song about anything other than having sex with women?
MS: No. I don’t think any band has ever written a song that isn’t to do with love or sex. It’s a humanitarian thing. People like to have sex and people like to fall in love. We just leave the love part out and talk about the sex. It’s like The Darkness said, I believe in a thing called love. Just listen to the rhythm of your heart.
We’re not out there with any kind of agenda, we’re just having fun and talking about stuff that most people think about naturally. If people come to a show and they don’t really like what we’re about they leave, just as if I were listening to a song and I don’t really care for what it’s singing about I don’t have to listen to it. I’m not going to complain about it, I just won’t listen to it.
There’s one song on the new record called ‘1987’ that’s a bit different, it’s more of a reflective song about that time in our lives, it’s already out so you can go listen to it now. I think people will really connect with it.
MGM: You’ve said that 1987 was such a great time to be alive, where everyone laughed, no one worried, and people wore a lot of Spandex. Makes me wonder what you were doing in 1987?
MS: I was going to gigs and playing in a band! I started playing music in 1979 when Van Halen 2 came out. I’m pretty old. I don’t look it. This is down to Lexxi Foxx, he gives me a whole bunch of skincare and make up tips, contouring, looking after your eyebrows. Eyebrow protection is so important. You don’t want your eyebrows to go away so you moisturise the fuck out of them.
MGM: Keeping within the realms of what’s printable, what’s the most outrageous thing Steel Panther have ever done?
MS: Back in 2009 we played a festival in Arizona, and the promoter said – ‘hey, I have a great idea. You guys are gonna skydive in out of a plane, right? We’ll have instructors with you to take you down, and you’ll wear these smoke cannisters that are connected to your feet, so it leaves a trail.’ I think Van Halen did this back in the day, but they used stunt doubles. We didn’t. We jumped out of a plane, and we parachuted down and landed onstage. We would have done anything to play at that festival. We had a new record and we wanted to make a statement, and we did. Heavy metal rules. You can’t keep it down.
MGM: You all clearly love the 80’s rock and metal era, Steel Panther epitomise that time perfectly with the look, sound and essence of the band. Do you think the 80’s were the ultimate generation for rock and roll?
MS: For me, it’s got to be the 80’s, but I like a lot of new music that’s coming out now. I love the new Metallica song. Those guys are kicking ass right now, they sound like they did back in 1987 with a bit of Van Halen and a bit of Motley Crue mixed in. It’s a genuine heavy metal song and it’s great that Metallica have finally seen the light. I feel like Steel Panther has been able to show them how to go more heavy metal. I was talking to James (Hetfield) about it in fact, he said to me – ‘Dude, you guys rock.’ We showed them the way. Someone had to do it.
MGM: When you’re not providing guidance to Metallica who else do you like to listen to on your own time?
MS: I love Corey Taylor, his solo stuff, Slipknot and Stone Sour, I love Disturbed, they are one of my favourite bands. I like Papa Roach a lot too. There are a lot of great bands that have been around a long time and are now putting out all this awesome new material they wrote and recorded over the past two, three years, and someday we’ll look back on it and know it as the pandemic era. Everyone got creative and they did it with little or no money, some bands broke up and some bands excelled. That’s what we’re seeing now.
MGM: Having been around for so long now and still holding the immense popularity you have, where would you want to go from here? For the band that’s seen it all, done it all, laughed at it all and bought the T shirt, what does the future hold for Steel Panther?
MS: Obviously, we want to take over the world, and I feel like we’ve put our footprint in a lot of countries which is an achievement in itself for us, and we’re extremely grateful for that. But it’d be cool to fuck some new bitches on the road, that’d be fun, and then experience some different parties and stuff. We always wanted to have a song that could be played on the radio but that’s never going to happen without compromising our values, which we could never do. Fortunately, ‘1987’ doesn’t compromise our values as Steel Panther and it’s now in the top 50.
We want to go on for as long as we can, we love it. I think it’s a big part of why people love to go to see live music – because the people that are doing it, the legacy bands that have been together 40 years or more, they’re doing it for the love of it. Bands like Metallica – they don’t need the money; they are up there because they love it. When people come to see us perform, we aren’t there all bummed out because we have to play a show. We’re fucking stoked, we’re happy, it’s fun and I think it always will be for us.
I guess you’re going to have to kill us to get us to stop. That’s been our charm, never going away. It’s like a really persistent guy until the girl goes, okay, I’ll go on a date with you. There’s a great song on the new record – ‘Ain’t Dead Yet’, and that’s who we are. We just don’t stop. We keep going, keep going, keep coming back. Heavy metal rules.
Steel Panther’s new album ‘On the prowl’ is released on 24th February
Their UK & Ireland tour runs from 14th – 28th May
Tickets and information: https://steelpantherrocks.com/pages/tour
May 14th: O2 Academy, Glasgow
May 15th: O2 City Hall, Newcastle
May 17th: Manchester Academy
May 18th: O2 Academy, Birmingham
May 20th: O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London
May 21st: O2 Academy, Bristol
May 23rd: O2 Academy, Leeds
May 25th: Ulster Hall, Belfast
May 26th: Cyprus Avenue, Cork, Ireland
May 28th: Vicar St, Dublin, Ireland