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After a string of popular albums, years of heavy touring and doubtlessly hard partying, one could be forgiven for thinking that—just maybe—some of the gloss is starting to wear off for heavy metal superstars Steel Panther.
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On track five of their latest opus, Heavy Metal Rules, vocalist Michael Starr uses the f-word about 40 times in three and a half minutes—and not in a good way talking about fun stuff.
“There’s some anger there,” admits guitarist Satchel, whose playing is so legendary he needs only one name. “I don’t know why … I think that, whenever you write songs, personally, when I write songs, I just try to write the best songs that I can and every time I write a record, it’s just a bunch of songs that I happened to be writing at the time. This particular record happened to be a little bit angrier than normal.”
Identifying the source of that dissatisfaction has been harder for him to pin down, unlike the guitar action the album that features some of his heaviest work yet.
“We all seem to get along great and there’s always super hot chicks at our shows,” he says, “and we have a great time. We get to make records and sing about pussy and drugs, which is great! I don’t know what I have to be bitter about. I think it’s just because I’m getting older.”
He concedes that these days he has to “stretch in the morning, and shit” which could well be difficult to do in the hotel rooms full of drug paraphernalia and naked women Steel Panther usually write about but (probably) don’t truly inhabit. At least (again, probably) not so much anymore.
We get to make records and sing about pussy and drugs, which is great! I don’t know what I have to be bitter about. I think it’s just because I’m getting older.
[ Satchel ]
“I listened to the whole thing back, you know, songs like Fuck Everybody and I’m Not Your Bitch and even the song Heavy Metal Rules has got some bitter-sounding lyrics. But there’s humour underneath all that too, because we can’t help that! We’re Steel Panther and I laugh at everything we do anyway. This particular record happened to have a lot more bitterness in it, which I kind of like, because it’s heavy metal!”
Heavy Metal Rules very much lives up to its name. From the opening sample to the guitar solo fade out of Gods of Pussy, it’s metal all the way, at least right up until the last track, a Poison-style acoustic kiss-off called I Ain’t Buying What You’re Selling. The rant that introduces the album is taken from the 1986 documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Steel Panther paid the guy to let them use it.
“I don’t know if he regrets [the rant], but he made a thousand bucks from us, so that’s kind of cool!” the guitarist says “I think he doesn’t want to be necessarily associated with it anymore, but I think, ‘That guy went down in history for being awesome, so I would embrace it if I was you, dude’.”
“We wanted to make a heavy metal record,” Satchel goes on, as if they haven’t done this before. “We all feel like heavy metal rules and we love heavy metal. Of course there’s a lot of heavy metal out there, and there’s a lot of bands that are heavier than us, but we love our own special brand of heavy metal. We feel like we’ve delivered a great Steel Panther record on this go, so we’re really proud of it.”
Naturally, there will be those lining up to disagree. From those who think the jokes wore thin long ago and others who never bought into their OTT crass humour, Steel Panther have borne the brunt of caustic criticism since their 2009 debut Feel the Steel and likely before that in previous incarnations as Metal Shop and Metal Skool. While the band has won a huge worldwide following for their comedic take on heavy rock, there are probably just as many who have accused them of endlessly repeating themselves.
There’s too many people who don’t even listen to us because they think we look like goofballs.
[ Satchel ]
“People always mention that: ‘Oh, these guys sing about the same shit all the time. It’s over! Why don’t they just hang it up?’ But I think to myself, ‘Doesn’t every band sing about the same shit every time?’ Every fucking band does the same shit every time! I don’t know what band … what bands do you know puts out a record and you go, ‘Oh, that’s really different!’? It’s a fine line, because you got fans that are going to get mad at you if you go too far to the left, and get mad at you if you don’t sound the way you normally sound.”
To that end, Satchel says his band is going to keep doing right on what they’ve always done. It’s been working very well for them so far.
“We’re just going to keep doing what we do, and of course we’re going to sing about pussy! Of course we’re going to sing about partying. Because that’s what we love to sing about!”
Most importantly, however, the songs have to be good for them to work. Regardless of their cartoonish image and behaviour, Steel Panther are still musicians and artists. Whatever one’s perception of them, they are a band first. The music matters.
“The goal is to write songs that are hooky and catchy,” Satchel declares, “which I feel we have done on this record. There’s a lot of hooks, lot of catchy stuff to sing along to and stuff that makes you smile and stuff that makes me laugh. And if I like it, and the rest of the band like it, then I think we’re on the right track. We’re not trying to rewrite history here. We’re just trying to have fun. There’s too many people who don’t even listen to us because they think we look like goofballs. It’s not my job to try and determine or try to steer people in one direction or another. I don’t care if people think we’re a parody band, or if we’re not a real band at all. We’re very fortunate to have a lot of fans that love what we do, and we keep putting out records because we know they’re going to love it, and we love it too.”