Interview: Satchel of Steel Panther Takes 'Balls Out' Approach to Gear, Strippers and New Album
Grunge might have killed '80s hair metal, but it couldn't destroy Steel Panther, the raunchiest glam rockers to emerge from the Sunset Strip. No genre convention is safe from the improv troupe, which topped the Billboard Comedy Albums Chart three times with its 2009 debut album, Feel the Steel.
Bassist Lexxi Foxx, drummer Stix Zadinia, singer Michael Starr and guitarist Satchel are a PMRC nightmare, filling concerts and interviews with every filthy ad-lib that comes to mind. A living love letter to a decade whose ridiculousness will never grow old, Steel Panther gets away with hysterical satire like "Asian Hooker" and "Community Property," thanks to musical chops that perfectly match their comedic timing.
Satchel checked in with Guitar World from Las Vegas before taking the stage for its Green Valley Ranch residency to discuss Steel Panther's epic new album, Balls Out, which arrives Nov. 1.
The band's latest recording takes on weighty topics like the deep meaning of commitment for the song "Why Don't You Trust Me" and explains why love is the best medicine on "It Won't Suck Itself," which features Nickback's Chad Kroeger and Extreme's Nuno Bettencourt. Balls Out was primarily recorded at Clear Lake Audio Studios in Burbank, California. It was a convenient location for the band since it's near Foxx's mother's house.
"We're pretty tight with Lexxi's mom, and she kind of takes care of the band. We'll go over there and she'll make us lunch. Occasionally we'll have sex with her and shit," Satchel says. "Don't tell Lexxi that."
GUITAR WORLD: When the band played Gramercy Theatre in New York recently, did you stop by the Occupy Wall Street protest to lend your support?
We don't know New York very well. I didn't know where Wall Street was. We tried to find it but Lexxi was driving the car, and we have a Ford Windstar instead of a tour bus, and he gets lost. He's afraid to make left turns, so it makes it very difficult, so we were driving around in a circle for a lot of the time.
Your first album hit No. 1 three times on the Billboard Comedy Albums chart. How did you guys celebrate?
We celebrated by partying and having sex with some girls. It's kind of what we normally do, but we just did it just a little bit more than normal. Our whole life is like a celebration because we don't really have real jobs, 'cuz we make most of our money hanging out with strippers and stuff. Strippers make a lot of money, don't know if you know that, but guys give them money all the time, so basically we just hang out with strippers and borrow money from them. It's killer 'cuz it's been working out for us for like 25 years straight and we haven't really had to work normal jobs. People ask me the definition of success; well, that's success — when you don't have to basically have a real job, you're successful. I think that's pretty much the whole point of the Occupy Wall Street thing, isn't it?
I didn't think of it that way, but that's a very good point.
Yes! Those people are down there saying, "We don't have a job, and why should the people that have jobs make more money than us?" That's what they're protesting.
Boy, they're real assholes.
[laughs] Yeah. They're saying, "Why should people that work make more money than me when I don't work?" I feel bad. We're basically proof that you can make a bunch of money by not working. Just hang out with strippers. Those people at that Occupy Wall Street thing, their whole problem is, they're not hanging out with strippers enough.
There's footage on YouTube of the band performing "Asian Hooker" in Tokyo, which is the city of the song's inspiration. How did the fans dig it?
They loved it. I was amazed. They understood that Americans, as well as the rest of the world — it's kind of like it's a universal subject. I don't know anybody at any age really, young or old, who doesn't love to fuck Asian hookers. If there was life from another planet, extra-terrestrials landed here on our planet, the first thing I would give them would be an Asian hooker. That would be the best gift you could give an alien from another planet. Everybody loves Asian hookers. I mean, what kid wouldn't want to wake up on Christmas morning and find an Asian hooker in its stocking? Anybody would.
Did any of them give you guys a freebie to show their appreciation?
I had sex with a lot of girls when I went to Japan, but most of those were groupies. Which doesn't really count as a hooker. [Unless] you're paying for it, it's a groupie. That's pretty much the whole difference. You could be a slut, but most of the girls we find are groupies 'cuz they're at our shows, so they're definitely there to screw the band. It's very rare that I could find a slut that isn't a groupie. Most groupies are sluts; not all sluts are groupies. Some hookers are groupies and sluts, and some sluts are hookers, but not all hookers are sluts. Understand?
Yeah. Just one thing: What's the difference between a slut and a groupie?
Well, a groupie is a slut that wants to fuck the band mainly. A slut will fuck pretty much anybody, so for us being in the band, the competition is a little bit stiffer, because a slut just wants to get fucking laid and they're just looking for cock, where the groupie is looking for band cock.
Oh, I see.
Yes. A groupie will fuck guys in the audience if she can't get into the band's spandex, but they're aiming for band cock first and foremost. Some of those girls are gold-diggin' whores, which is a song on our new record, and the gold-diggin' whores are lookin' for anybody with money. Now some girls who are groupies are gold-diggin' whores and that's why they try to get guys like Keith Urban or rich rock stars. Like Bon Jovi's got a lot of money. Some gold-diggin' whores go after him, but a lot of the groupies out there are just looking' for band cock to say that they slept with somebody in the band, and then a lot of them fall short and they end up fuckin' the roadies or they fuck somebody in the audience who has a Steel Panther shirt on. That's just how it works.
When you went back to the studio, did you feel pressure to live up to the success of the last album?
There was some pressure because the first album was so fuckin' awesome that we knew there was gonna be people that didn't think that we'd be able to make another album as awesome, because it was so fuckin' good, and then there were some people that hated the shit out of our first record and expected our second record to suck, just because they hated our first record. I think we're gonna be able to please both camps, because our second record is fucking awesome.
But the same people that hated our first record, those people are stupid, so they're gonna think that our second record sucks. But we expect that from stupid people because stupid people don't know shit when they hear it. So even though our second record is totally bitchin' and just as bitchin' as our first record, those stupid people that hated our first record are gonna hate our second record. But the people that loved our first record are gonna realize that our second record is just as genius as our first record.
What gear did you use for this album?
I play Kramer guitars, which are bitchin'. And they're totally heavy metal. Their guitars have six strings. I know a lot of kids these days are playing seven-string guitars and shit. But if you can't get the tone you need out of six strings then you need to fucking put the guitar away and pick up like a harp or a fuckin' bassoon or something, because the guitar is a fucking six-string beast. You should be able to make a guitar sound bitchin' with six strings.
I understand some guys, the seven-string guys, they're tuning low and shit. If you're trying to hit these really low notes, tell the bass player to hit it, because he's got really, really low notes on his instrument. A lot of these guys don't understand that and a lot of kids these days, bass players are hard to find now, because there's a stigma attached to it. If you're playing bass everybody knows that you're probably not smart enough to play guitar. Guys are shying away from that. There's not that many smart bass players out there, so a lot of these guys are picking up guitar because they don't wanna be a bass player, and understandably so. Guitar players get way more pussy than their bass players do.
What Kramer model do you use?
I've been playing the Pacers, and they're awesome. They're absolutely killer, and you got Floyd Rose whammy bars. I'm a big fan of the Floyd Rose. There's a few companies out there that I fuckin' love; Floyd Rose is one of 'em. They're great. Kramer's great. Apple Computers are great. Shit. I don't know. Speedo makes the best bathing suits. Have you ever tried those bathing suits?
And they make your package look killer.
Was the band sad when Steve Jobs died?
I was a huge, huge Steve Jobs fan. He was fuckin' awesome and we've used Apple Computers to record a lot of stuff. I don't know how to use 'em very well but they're killer for lookin' at porn. Oh, my God. And Steve Jobs is a genius. I'm speaking to you on an iPhone right now. It's amazing.
Why the Floyd Rose whammy bar? What makes it so special?
There's always been a rivalry between Floyd Rose and Kahler, for instance. But to me, the design of the Floyd Rose is just superior to any other whammy bar ... the experience of the Floyd Rose and how well it stays in tune, you will never play another whammy bar. They haven't changed the design in frickin' 35 years. It's the best bridge tremolo system made. Any they're not even payin' me to say that. It's just bitchin'. It's always looked bitchin' and it's always worked perfectly, so I've never had a problem with it. They should hire me to endorse them. That's how much I like their shit. But they don't need to. You know why? 'Cuz they make great shit, kind of like Apple. I'm tryin' to get an iPhone endorsement right now and they keep tellin' me to fuck off, which is really not very nice.
Do you think Steel Panther might get an iPhone app made?
Yes. We're makin' an app right now. I don't know what the hell it's gonna do, but I'm pretty sure it's gonna sell. It's probably gonna make us very rich, 'cuz there's probably gonna be naked ladies involved. A whole lot of our bitchin' songs will be on there.
What made the band think that the song "17 Girls in a Row" was the best choice for the first single?
Believe it or not, it was the cleanest song we had. Most of the other ones are pretty filthy. And [the record company was] like, "Well, we gotta figure out something to play on the radio. You guys are filthy." That was the one that was kind of the cleanest song. Plus it really rocks and I don't know anything about radio. I'm an old guy, and I'm pretty bitter and jaded, and people who listen to the radio these days, there's not a whole lot of stuff on the radio that's good, so even getting on the radio is like, it's just strange.
Stuff that gets played on the radio, it's very political. I'm amazed that we're able to get on any radio stations. We sort of threw out that whole thing years ago and went, "You know what? Let's write songs that we really like and let fans spread the word," and that's the secret of our success. It certainly hasn't been radio or anything else. But that song has been getting played in certain markets and chicks seem to dig it. I mean, I've been getting laid even more than normal. Which is a lot.
One of the lyrics in the song says the band didn't believe Michael when he told you guys he banged 17 girls. Why the hate?
Well, Michael's 56 years old, and he's our lead singer and I love him, but I'd be very surprised if he could screw two girls in a row and keep an erection. Because he's not a spring chicken anymore. He's had two hip replacements and 18 liposuction surgeries, and if he can even get an erection at all at this point I'd be surprised. For him to say, "Yeah, I screwed 17 girls in a row," nobody's gonna believe that. But we're talking about Viagra maybe endorsing the band, so, if that happens, you know, you pop 10 or 12 Viagra and you can party for quite some time. Really, really do it for quite a while.
The album looks at some deep relationship issues — "Why Don't You Trust Me" talks trust and commitment and fidelity. Did the band grow up a bit since its last album?
On this album, we really tried not to grow as artists. Because our first record was so good and we figured, "If we grow, we might get worse, so let's try not to grow our artistry or our songwriting, and we'll just try to stagnate in our bitchin-ness. Instead of a second record, a sophomore effort, let's do a second debut record." So it's more like, instead of a sophomore effort, it's the second first record. And it's like the same, but different.
Most of us in the band, the longest relationships we've had have been like, one to two weeks. But girls have a tendency to, when you come home at 6, 7 in the morning, and you have lipstick all over your crotch, they tend to question you like you've been cheating on them, and that's happened to all of us. Girls tend to be jealous and they tend to control who you talk to and who you put your penis into, and that can be a big hassle when you're in a band. 'Cuz there's a lot of girls out there, and when we have sex with girls, as a band, that's not just, "Hey, I'm having sex with this girl because I want to have sex with her," that's also promoting the band. We are promoting the band, and if a girl is with us in the band, they have to understand that, you know? This is self-promotion. You ever heard the song "Community Property" on our first record?
It's my favorite.
Oh, I'm so glad. Like that. If you have a girlfriend, when you leave the house, it's kind of understood that even though your heart still belongs to her that your penis might go into some other vaginas here and there.
You take your girlfriends out and show them a good time with the money you earn from the band. So really, when you bang those other chicks, you're really doing it for your girlfriend.
Yes! See? Now you're starting to understand this. Yes! You are a cool chick.
How did you convince Chad Kroeger to join you on "It Won't Suck Itself"?
Well, it was not easy to do. He is a very busy guy. We asked if he would write a song with us and after we gave him $25,000 he was like totally into it. So we gave him a bunch of money, and then we went and hung out with him. We went to his house in Vancouver. He's got a mansion. He's got a hockey rink in his house. Amazing. I'm not kidding. A real hockey rink. He was down there playing hockey and we were like, "Holy shit." But we wrote a song with him, and it was bitchin'. He's got a bitchin' studio and he's got like an engineer, and he's got like six different girlfriends in his house. And they all live in different parts of the house and each one of the girlfriends doesn't know that the other one exists. That's how big his house is. He keeps them locked in different parts of the house. It's crazy. So we wrote a song with him and it was fun.
Did you try to out-shred Nuno Bettencourt on that track or did you hold back since he was a guest?
Actually, he's the only one who plays lead guitar on that song, and he was awesome. Nuno is an awesome guitar player, so there is no out-shredding Nuno Bettencourt. I would love to out-shred Nuno Bettencourt but I'm older than him. I've got arthritis, so it's not easy to shred like that for me. But the cool thing is I look just as good as Nuno Bettencourt and that's the only thing that matters to me. And I think Nuno knows that. He knows that I'm hot. It's probably not easy for him to deal with. I sense a little bit of jealousy sometimes from Nuno 'cuz he knows I'm hot. But he's good looking', don't get me wrong. He might be able to outshine me but he can't outshine me with like hotness.
You have a song called "Just Like Tiger Woods" on the new album. Does he know you wrote that song about his experiences?
I think he does know, actually. I don't think he's heard it yet but he will hear it, 'cuz we know some people that know Tiger and I know a guy that's gonna put the CD in Tiger's locker. The guy's on the PGA tour. He's gonna put the CD in Tiger's locker and make sure that Tiger hears the song. So I think Tiger's gonna be stoked, because who wouldn't want a bitchin' song written about how many girls he's had sex with? We're promoting Tiger. He should be happy. He needs promotion now.
I was thinking: Charlie Sheen, he's a free agent right now. He knows porn stars and he knows drugs, and he knows entertainment. Do you think there could be a spot in Steel Panther for him?
Well, first of all I love Charlie Sheen, and he parties hard. We mention him on the new record. We sing about him in the song "Tomorrow Night." He's bad-ass but he's just not good-looking' enough to be in the band anymore because his teeth are fucked up now. I party as hard as the next guy but you gotta make sure that even as you party you don't let your face get fucked up, because now he looks like he's fucked up. He's trailer park Charlie Sheen. If I was gonna be gay for a night I wouldn't fuck Charlie Sheen, I would pick somebody else. And that's not good. And if you're not good-lookin' enough to make a guy wanna go gay then you're not good-lookin' enough to be in Steel Panther. That's the rule of thumb.
Brad Pitt could still get in?
Yes, yes, Brad Pitt could be in the band. I would totally bone him. I'm not gonna, 'cuz I'm not gay. If I had to bone a dude, I would totally bone Brad Pitt.
The band is touring with Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe at the end of the year, and Mötley are icons of '80s glam metal. Does this mean that Mötley gets first dibs on the groupies?
Mötley is going to have their own groupies that's gonna be there just for them, and Steel Panther, we're gonna have our own groupies too. There may be girls that want to have sex with both bands and there's probably a good chance that we're gonna get some of their sloppy seconds, but there's also a really good chance that they're gonna get some of our sloppy seconds too.
Some of these girls that go to more than one show, we're probably gonna be infecting each other with all kinds of new crazy strains of chlamydia and stuff. The good thing is I've pretty much got all the strains that are out there. I don't have to worry about [it]. I've got a song that I'm writing for the next record called "Can't Catch Herpes Twice," and it's true. It really is true.
Now that you've had a No. 1 album and you're on tour with some major names, do you have more authority to throw your weight around and get really cool things on the tour rider?
I interviewed Steve Adler from Guns N' Roses three weeks ago for some magazine, and he was telling us that Guns N' Roses used to put hookers on their rider. Can you believe that shit?
They used to actually put hookers on their rider. He was not bullshitting me. He told me that and I felt like such a pussy. I'm like, "That's what I'm gonna start doing. I'm gonna just start putting, 'I want a hooker that will have sex with me,' and just put it on the rider." That way if all else fails, and you don't get a groupie, you've got a hooker. It's on your rider. How cool is that?
Steven Adler is smarter than he looks, let me tell you.
Steel Panther's new album, Balls Out, will be released November 1 by Universal Republic. Check out Steel Panther on Facebook.