Heavy Metal Rules: A Conversation With Michael Starr of Steel Panther

They’re baaaaaaaaack. Yes, the kings of crotch — the one and only Steel Panther — are about to spew their brand of nubile, naked nastiness into awaiting orifices around the globe via a new record, “Heavy Metal Rules,” on Sept. 27.

It’s business as usual for the seminal quartet of vocalist Michael Starr, guitarist Satchel, bassist Lexxi Foxx and drummer Stix Zadinia, who have somehow managed to buck the industry trend by giving birth to their fifth studio album of new material in a decade.

One thing the band hasn’t done is the past 10 years is mature, much to the delight of their rapidly expanding fan base. The band continues to stick to its sex-filled guns, as is heard on the lead-off single and sing-along arena rock anthem, “All I Wanna Do Is F*** (Myself Tonight), “Always Gonna Be A Ho,” and “Gods of Pussy.”

ListenIowa spoke with Starr recently to discuss the new album, Trojan endorsements, and the dirty job of being Steel Panther. Oh, yeah, and to announce that a new video for the as-yet-to-be-announced next single will debut on Sept.27. Lick your chops. They’re coming.

ListenIowa: Congratulations on the upcoming release of the new platter of Panther, “Heavy Metal Rules.”
Michael Starr: Oh, hell yes, I like that one, dude. It’s a fun record, man. I think this is going to be our biggest selling album ever.

LI: With song titles like “F*** Everyone” and “Sneaky Little Bitch,” it’s apparent that you guys haven’t changed direction at all.
MS: You know, I’m surprised every time Satchel writes a song and plays it for me. I’m like, “Holy shit! So THAT’S what great songwriters do; they keep writing.” We’ll talk about an idea on the bus, and then he’ll go write it after the tour. He sings on the demo and plays all the instruments, and then when Stix does his drums, I do vocals, and Lexxi does the bass, it becomes Steel Panther. On this record, man, he outdid himself. He writes 15-20 songs, and then we pick what we want for the record. We have choices. It’s not all about f***ing bitches and getting high. We have that in there, but it’s not all about that.

LI: You need to have some variety.
MS: We have songs about waking up late in the morning, you’re late for work, someone cuts in front of you in line. And you’re like, “F*** everybody!”

LI: Which is the exact meaning behind the song, “F*** Everyone.”
MS: That’s no bullshit. Everybody can relate to that song. That shit happens.

LI: You mention in the song that “everyone can suck your d***.” Do you really mean, like, EVERYONE?
MS: Well, everyone can. But it’s just a way to express yourself. I mean, Lexxi might like it, but that’s his deal, you know.

LI: You guys lost an album due to a technical mishap last year. What happened?
MS: No, WE didn’t lose an album, Lexxi did. He dropped the hard drive. It was his only job to bring the hard drive to the studio and he dropped it. We tried to recover as much as we could. We didn’t cloud it, because the Internet was down at the studio. So we lost the guitars and the vocals and the bass. The drums were still there for some reason. We had to re-record everything, vocals, too. It wasn’t fun, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

LI: So you didn’t actually have to go back and start from scratch again?
MS: No. But on the second pass with my vocals, I realized my voice sounded weird. I went to voice doctor, and it turned out I had a node on my vocal cord, which made a weird vibration tone. I’ve never had that happen. We had to push back the release a few months. I had surgery, and recovered 100 percent. It was a scary time for us, but we got through it. Then I went back and re-recorded all the vocals again.

LI: There’s a piano intro on “Heavy Metal Rules” with Stix playing, I’m assuming. How are you going to pull that off in a live setting? Do like Motley Crue did with “Home Sweet Home,” when Tommy Lee played the piano and then ran back to his drum kit?
MS: You know, we haven’t thought about that yet. As we put out studio records, we have more and more songs so it makes it difficult to make setlists. I don’t know if we’ll do that song, and if we do, what we’re going to do. (Pause) You know what, I’ll play the piano. Monkeys play that.

LI: Satchel did a good job of copping Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days” riff on “Sneaky Little Bitch.”
MS: Yeah, there’s definitely a Led Zeppelin influence. And Greta Van Fleet. That came out, and I think it influenced everybody. It was like, “Oh my God, remember that shit?” You just don’t hear that anymore. Greta comes out, they nailed it, it sounds bitchin’, and we’re like, “Zeppelin rules!”

LI: On the last song on the album, “I Ain’t Buyin’ What You’re Selling,” you go into some uncharted waters there. It’s just Satchel and an acoustic guitar with you singing, “I don’t need the government or a social safety net/that Ponzie scheme will crack someday, if it hasn’t started yet.” Are you worried people are going to hear that and go, “Hold on, Michael Springsteen. What is this?”
MS: Hey man, you can’t please everybody all the time. If we go one way, some people are like, “What the f*** man, when are you going to do a normal record and be serious?” But then you do something that means something to you and they’re like, “What the hell? Are they changing?” So we flavor in a little stuff. Everyone’s getting older, and we just sing about it. Everybody knows what’s going on in the world. For Steel Panther fans, they appreciate it. We’re at a place in our career where we can do what we want, and we did it. We’re not doing it because we want to be on radio, or to please some record label. We’re putting this record out on our own. We paid for everything.

LI: Outside the small controversy you guys were involved in around the “Pussy Melter” guitar pedal, you’ve guys have been Teflon from the PC movement. How is that even possible in this day and age?
MS: Dude, I don’t know. That’s a good question, bro. We joke around, and we f*** around a lot, get girls to show their titties and all that. It’s affected us in that, before, we’d pull anyone up onstage and we wouldn’t even think about it. But now, with this stuff going on, nobody under 18 gets on the stage. There’s gotta be some sort of responsibility for us. We’re not 15 years old. If there are kids in the audience, that means their parents have brought them, and that’s the way they’re bringing them up, which is cool.

LI: Lexxi was admitted to a sex rehab clinic last year. How is he doing these days?
MS: He’s doing good, but he’s started his recovery over, though. He still f***ing girls irresponsibly and not wearing condoms. It’s dangerous. He’s only got herpes right now. The next thing he’s going to get is HIV. The thing with Lexxi, and the reason why it’s a problem, is because he’s into the downtown/skid row area. Getting high and f***ing bitches. It’s like, “Dude, settle down, man. We need you in this band.” I think he’s just feeling old and ugly.

LI: Speaking of protection, have you guys ever been approached by Trojan for an endorsement deal. Seems like it would be a natural fit, pardon the pun.
MS: We always joke about that. “Condoms are for dicks,” or “condoms are lame.” But I don’t think they’d want us representing them.

LI: If Eddie Van Halen called tomorrow and said, “Hey, David Lee Roth is doing his Vegas residency thing, and I saw you on YouTube. We’re starting a farewell tour, and it’s going to be a four-year commitment, starting tomorrow.” Are you in or out?
MS: That would be like a dream come true for me, and it would be really, really hard to say “no.” But we’ve already been booked through March right now, so if I were to just bail from Steel Panther to do what I wanted to do, they wouldn’t have a way to support themselves, and that would just suck. But if there’s a way to make it work, like Steel Panther opening for Van Halen, I’d be down for that.