Los Angeles wildcats Steel Panther are the MTV generation’s answer to Spinal Tap. Taking heavy metal comedy to dangerous new highs (or lows), their overblown, vagina-fixated mock ‘n roll has won over hordes of young fans who were born years after glam metal’s Eighties heyday. Like the aforementioned ‘Tap, the boundaries that denote where the joke ends and the band begins are hopelessly blurred as the members preen and star-jump their way through seemingly forgotten classics like ‘Death To All But Metal’ and ‘Party All Day (Fuck All Night)’ to a horde of bandanna and spandex clad devotees. The ultimate glam rock parody band, they’re like a self-aware Mötley Crüe, or an American version of Bad News. Thankfully, their superlative tunes back up their preposterous image – tongue in (butt)cheek anthems played with the consummate metal musicianship that can only be attained through a misspent lifetime on the Sunset Strip. Indeed, members of the band have cut their teeth playing in ‘serious’ metal bands with the likes of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, L.A. Guns, and Dokken. They’ve also been helped on their way by a host of celebrity buddies, having collaborated with musicians such as Slipknot’s Corey Taylor as well as counting Pink, Vince Vaughn, Avril Lavigne and Tom Morello as fans.
With debut album ‘Feel the Steel’ hitting triple platinum status in the US, the band seem to be surfing a tsunami of popularity, as testified by the Eighties-nostalgic public swarming into a packed-out show in Newcastle. The band have organised this brief UK tour as a warm-up to summer festival season (rumour has it they’ll be performing at Download), and tonight the streets around the O2 Academy are overrun with girls in tight tops, guys in tighter jeans, studs, leather and comedy wigs. I’m ushered into the band’s dressing room by affable guitarist Satchel (who looks like Ben Stiller if he was in Van Halen), and, accompanied by golden-locked bassist Lexxi Foxxx, am offered a rare glimpse into the band’s Eighties time-warp. As their preposterous torrent of comedic filth is unleashed, I feel like Jonathan Ross chatting to Borat – interviewing a band ‘in character’ is a bit of a headfuck. By the end of it, though, I have a strange yearning for lycra and mesh shirts:
NOUSE: People say that grunge killed hair metal, but you guys have come out alive. How did you escape the glam rock Armageddon?
Satchel (Guitar): Well, we didn’t escape it; it was kind of like being a T-Rex when the giant meteor hit the earth – it made all the dinosaurs extinct, right? But it didn’t though, because now we know that birds are dinosaurs. Everyone thought we were extinct too, when Nirvana, who were like the giant meteor, hit the planet. Everybody thought hair metal was dead. But no. Because…
Lexxi (Bass): Because we were hiding underneath a rock.
Satchel: Underneath a rock. For a while.
Lexxi: A heavy metal rock is what it was.
Satchel: It was. It was a heavy, heavy, metal rock. But we’ve always been around. There was a scourging, yes. There were a good solid seven or eight years, I think, where Lexxi didn’t get laid. And that’s amazing.
Lexxi: Um, yeah… well…
Satchel: Well he did, but they were really ugly girls so they don’t count.
NOUSE: Why do you think that it’s only now that people have come back to hair metal?
Satchel: I think it’s because of us.
Lexxi: Everyone else tries to be cool and look bitchin’ in magazines, like “Ooh I’m gonna dress in black” and all this stuff, but we don’t do that, we just dress like how we started. We’ve always looked bitchin’.
Satchel: We do look bitchin’. I think we’ve continued to forge down the road of heavy metal, and now in retrospect people realize they looked pretty stupid back then. Ten years ago people were laughing at us, and thought we looked stupid, but we kept wearing our spandex and mesh shirts and eventually people realized, “Wait a minute, those guys aren’t stupid looking, they’re really cool looking”. Guys would point at us and laugh, and we’d be screwing their girlfriends. And after a while they figured it out – like “these guys are screwing our girlfriends and they’re wearing spandex, so we’ll start wearing spandex”. So guys started wearing more spandex, and now it’s all come back around.
Lexxi: Yeah, we found out today that we’ve brought so much bitchin’ stuff back into fashion that here in Newcastle all the stores ran out of all the spandex because we were in town and everyone wants to look bitchin’ like us. In fact, all the spandex has gone from this town.
Satchel: Well, there’s only one spandex store.
Lexxi: Yeah? Well it’s all gone.
Satchel: There were only three pairs of spandex.
Lexxi: Yeah, and they’ve gone.
Satchel: Plus I went in there yesterday and bought two of the pairs.
Lexxi: Somebody bought the rest of the spandex.
Satchel: Basically someone bought the other pair, that’s what happened.
Lexxi: It sounded more bitchin’ the way I said it.
Satchel: It sounded more bitchin’ the way you put it, yeah. The spandex did sell out.
NOUSE: A lot of people have described you as a parody band, how does that make you feel?
Lexxi: We are a party band. I drink more…
NOUSE: No, a parody, like, a joke band… Do you guys know what irony is?
Lexxi: I don’t…
Satchel: Have they heard us?! Heard how good we sound? Does it sound like a joke? Dude, the guitar solos alone… I have to be a trained, professional guitar player. A lot of guys would have hurt their fingers tryin’ to play the shit that’s on our record. It took me I don’t know how many weeks to learn how to play that shit. If I added up every hour I practiced, and if every hour was a foot long, it would stretch to the moon and back. No, it would stretch all the way to the end of the observable universe.
Lexxi: Well, you know what, you could buy our record for two reasons. You could buy it for all the guitar solos. Or, you could turn the booklet page to whatever page Lexxi – me – the bass player’s on and you tell me that’s a joke. You come and find me and tell me that’s a joke. Because that is a foxy, foxy person, and that stretches to where Satchel’s footlong is.
Satchel: To the end of the observable universe.
NOUSE: You offended a few gangsta rappers on ‘Death To All But Metal’, have you been shot at since?
Satchel: No, nobody’s tried to shoot us, dude. That’s because they don’t have the balls.
Lexxi: One time someone threw gum at me though.
Satchel: That’s almost worse. Did gum get in your hair?
Lexxi: Yeah, I was running away from this guy and he threw gum in my hair.
NOUSE: What would you rather have, someone throw gum in your hair or be shot?
Lexxi: Being shot, that would be best. Unless they shot my face. I wouldn’t want a mess. I wouldn’t want to get shot in my face or my hair.
Satchel: No-ones tried to shoot us because they know we’re speaking the truth, dude. We’re not saying anything people don’t already know, but when you hear the lyrics to ‘Death To All But Metal’ – “Fuck the Goo Goo Dolls, they can suck my balls” – you know that there are kids at the mall who like the Goo Goo Dolls, and they are dorks. We’re just saying stuff that they know deep down. They might be bummed out that we’re calling them names but they’re not gonna get angry ‘cos they’ll turn the song off and be like, “You know what, they’re right”.
Lexxi: And they’ll think how bitchin’ the guitar solos are, and how sexy the pictures look.
NOUSE: Do you ever get criticised for the amount of hairspray you use? People here in England are pretty angry about global warming.
Satchel: We’re on to that dude. I mean, obviously you’ve heard it’s a hoax, that the IPCC withhold a lot of information from people, purely to stop people from using hairspray. This is all part of a global conspiracy, you believe there’s global warming so you won’t use hairspray, and so stupid bands become bigger. But when people realize global warming is a hoax, they’re gonna start using hairspray, and more people are gonna join heavy metal bands. Heavy metal is already in a resurgence, this is all part of the governments of the world – the One World Republic – and the record companies trying to keep heavy metal back. But right now people are figuring it out. There’s no global warming, it’s ok to join a heavy metal band and spray your hair up.
Lexxi: And I’ll say this too, I don’t want anyone yelling at us for using hairspray: we sweep up all the hairspray that doesn’t get on my hair anyway, so it doesn’t hurt anybody.
NOUSE: Underage sex is also a hot topic in England, with many teenage girls getting pregnant. How do people react here when you play songs like ‘Girl From Oklahoma’ [sample lyric: “Spit out that retainer and do me right”]?
Satchel: Listen, we’re not advocating sex with young girls any younger than the legal age. I mean, what’s the legal age here, it’s like 13 right? Trust me, over in the United States the age is like 18, they’re almost too old at that point, you know what I mean? The thing is, we like to have sex with hot chicks, and a lot of girls, by the time they’re 25, 26 years old let themselves to the point where you don’t really wanna look at them. What we’re saying to girls is go out, take a jog around the block, stop sitting around in front of TV and eating hamburgers all day.
Lexxi: One time I had sex with a 25 year old cougar [US slang for MILF/yummy mummy] and her vagina lips were like two mudflaps dangling from somebody’s legs. And it was disgusting, and that’s why we like to date – well not even date, just put our penises in – younger chicks.
Satchel: Sometimes the age of a girl is not going to determine the length and width of her vagina. Maybe that girl just had a big vagina.
Lexxi: I fit one of my basses in her vagina and I’ve got four basses.
NOUSE: You guys seem pretty obsessed with hair and clothes. Have you got any Steel Panther official products coming out? Maybe in the vein of KISS’s merchandise, like Steel Panther condoms maybe…
Satchel: Well, we’re never gonna have Steel Panther condoms.
NOUSE: Why, are you Catholic?
Satchel: No, we just don’t like to use condoms because they don’t feel good.
Lexxi: We do have headbands and wristbands, so when you’re working out or putting your penis into a girl you don’t get sweat on your hands or on your face. We have those.
Satchel: You know, there’s probably gonna be a lot of Steel Panther merchandise. I’m getting my own doll made. The Satchel doll.
NOUSE: What accessories is it going to come with?
Satchel: Well, it comes with a mesh shirt, because I always wear a mesh shirt, and a little pair of pants. And a life-size penis.
NOUSE: Would that not be out of sync with the rest of the doll?
Satchel: Well, it doesn’t look that weird on the doll because my penis is actually not that big. It gets bigger though, when you rub it.
NOUSE: Back in the 80s Mothers Against Hard Rock and the Parents Music Resource Centre tried to ban the kind of music you play. How do mothers in the 21st Century react to it?
Lexxi: They love it ‘cos there’s a good chance their vaginas will get penises in them from the band.
Satchel: It’s true. I think they love it too.
NOUSE: Doesn’t that often corrupt the sacred bond of marriage?
Satchel: No, dude! Everyone knows damn well that with that sex-before-marriage thing is bullshit. Everybody’s gonna do it, dude. And I strongly suggest that if you’re a girl, please, before you get married, go out and have sex with as many dudes in Steel Panther as you can. Come to the show, and, once you have sex with a couple of the dudes in this band, especially if it’s me, you’re not gonna want to get married for a while. ‘Cos you’re gonna want to be having sex with me, at least for a couple of days, you know what I mean?
NOUSE: Mötley Crüe’s book ‘The Dirt’ is like the Bible of metal idiocy. What stories would you put in the Steel Panther version?
Satchel: Dude, the Mötley Crüe book is cool, but we’re writing a book right now which is gonna blow the tits off that book. Ok, we have had sex with so many more girls than Mötley Crüe; it’s almost like comparing Led Zeppelin to Culture Club. It’s like comparing Ron Jeremy the porn star to Macaulay Culkin or something. I mean, who’s had more sex?
Lexxi: Ron Jeremy, ‘cos it’s his job.
Satchel: I mean, Macaulay Culkin’s probably had sex with Michael Jackson more.
Lexxi: Yeah exactly. With Macaulay Culkin, people might have had sex with him, because he’s friends with Michael Jackson like you said. Like, he probably has got more penis than he’s given penis because…
Satchel: What are you trying to say?
Lexxi: Because he’s got more animals like Michael Jackson. He’s got a zoo.
Satchel: Culkin’s got a zoo?
Lexxi: Yeah, like, farm animals, in his backyard.
Satchel: In his backyard? You mean his butt?
NOUSE: Being in a hair metal band must be a bit like being a student: no sleep, always drunk, lots of sex with strangers. Any advice for the readers of this blog?
Satchel: Dude, college is fucking great. In terms of getting laid, partying, doing drugs and fucking bitches and shit it’s second only to Steel Panther. I mean, if you can’t be in Steel Panther, which right now you can’t ‘cos there’s no space…
Lexxi: We don’t have a horn section.
Satchel: Right, we don’t have a horn section – all the positions are filled. If you can’t be in Steel Panther, go to college. Because you’re not going to be reading and studying and shit – you’re gonna be partying and fucking bitches and doing drugs.
Lexxi: And if you can’t get into college but you still want to fuck college bitches, just wear black and wait outside the girls’ cars, and as the girls come out you can just tackle them, take their clothes off and put your penis in them, and run away, and do it again when somebody else comes…
Satchel: Um, Lexxi, that’s called rape.
Satchel: It’s called rape, you can’t do that here. You can’t even do that in the United States. You shouldn’t talk like that Lexxi, you sound like a rapist.
Lexxi: I’m not a rapist. I’m in Steel Panther.
On that telling sentiment we end, as the band hurry off with singer Michael Starr to get ready for the stage. The gig is everything you’d hope it to be: a hilarious, fist-pumping feel-good hair metal show all the way, with large dollops of dumbass banter and stand-up comedy-style crowd mocking. At several points I actually think I’ve somehow been teleported into the music video to Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. Sometimes the world does feel like it’s a bit safe and middle of the road – perhaps Steel Panther’s regression to the stoopid rock ‘n roll days of the 80’s is an extreme kind of cure. Thankfully for all concerned they’re taking the piss. Generally, comedy bands are an awful idea, but the Panther’s anthemic tunes and genuine love for their subject matter mean you can’t help but pull on the spandex, spray up your hair and join them – even if they do sometimes end up sounding a bit like Gary Glitter, and not in the musical sense.