The transcendental outfit discuss their new album, Heavy Metal Rules.
Like any overtly comedic music project, you’d think Steel Panther might’ve lost its appeal by now; that even people who found the joke funny would’ve moved onto something new and shinier.
However, it’s been ten years since their first record and the band’s re-enactment of glam rock excess hasn’t run its course.
Steel Panther are back with the new album, Heavy Metal Rules. The title of their fifth LP indicates that, while the LA band’s partiality towards spandex, guitar solos and crass lyrics felt out-dated when they emerged in 2009, the last decade has strengthened their belief in the pre-eminence of these tropes.
“We’ve been heavy metal to the bone since we started and I’m surprised we haven’t titled a record Heavy Metal Rules yet,” says lead guitarist, Satchel. “It’s how we feel and it’s a lifestyle and we’re very, very happy with the songs on the record.”
In the decade since their debut LP, Feel the Steel, Steel Panther have not only made an impact on their peers (such as Stone Sour and Chad Kroeger) but gained respect from artists like Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard – bands who laid out the blueprint for their stylistic identity. It’d have been difficult to foretell the scale of their impact, but the band members’ commitment was never in question.
“By the time we released our first record, we’d already been playing shows for close to 20 years,” says Satchel. “There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to be able to keep doing shows and keep making a buck doing heavy metal shows, regardless of whether of we were doing cover songs or doing original music. Of course, the goal for any band is to write their own music and have fans of the stuff that you like.”
Satchel has always been Steel Panther’s primary songwriter. Dating back to the first record, he suspected the band’s coupling of lyrical vulgarity with on-point glam metal songcraft would appeal to a large audience.
“I felt there was something that we were bringing to the table with the hooks and the comedy and the style of what we did that nobody else was doing nearly as well,” he says. “There’s other heavy metal bands that are funny or would be considered comedic, but I don’t feel like anybody does what we do nearly as well.”
Satchel and his bandmates – singer Michael Starr, bass player Lexxi Foxx and drummer Stix Zadinia – have toured Australia five times in the past seven years. Last year’s trip included a doubleheader at The Forum. But while the fanbase continues to gobble up everything they release, Satchel’s wary of becoming predictable.
“Every time I finish writing a record I always think, ‘Oh man that record is really good. I’m really happy with that record. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write another one’. Because what am I going to write about next time? I can’t write about Asian hookers any more or another song called ‘Fat Girl’, right?”
Although Steel Panther are supposedly plying a joke, it’s easy to feel uncomfortable at one of their gigs. Even if most in attendance recognise the satirical basis of the songs and stage show, some audience members seem to relish the endorsement of decadence and misogyny.
“I can’t determine how people are going to interpret lyrics or whether they think it’s funny or whether they take it seriously,” says Satchel. “Of course everything that I do I try to look at with a sense of humour and satire, but there’s going to be people that take every joke too seriously.
“For the most part, our shows are places where the vast majority of the audience is lighthearted, they see that we’re poking fun at the misogyny of the ’80s and the time period and the drug use and the sexuality and all of the things of the ’80s that were over the top and bombastic.”
Heavy Metal Rules is out now via Steel Panther Inc. Give the record a spin via streaming services.