I expected to find a pile of cocaine and naked, underage women when I arrived at the Steel Panther lair in Canoga Park. But by 10 a.m., the supplies of both had long since vanished. Though they hadn’t slept yet, the band was still awake, a bit bleary-eyed, but their hair still looked fucking amazing. So amazing it was distracting.
Lead singer Michael Starr was eating some warm oatmeal. “I’ve been having problems taking a shit lately,” Starr explained in between bites, “and I like to give Cleveland steamers to a lot of chicks.”
One can only imagine the challenges facing rock stars these days.
The band, formerly known as Metal Skool (previously Metal Shop and once upon a time, Danger Kitty) has been rolling the heavy-metal thunder over the Sunset Strip for decades. “But we’ve always been Steel Panther,” says guitarist Satchel. “It was just spelled differently.”
The history varies, depending on who’s telling it and how much blow they’ve done, but the version I get is that the band met back in 1981. Drummer Stix Zadinia was working as a bouncer at a strip club called Wrinkles “where all these old chicks worked.” Starr’s mom was one of the key earners there. “Oh, she was great on the pole,” says bassist Lexxi Foxxx. “I mean when she worked it, her boobs moved around like old socks.” The boys hit it off, formed a band and rock & rolled all night and partied every day. Days rolled into decades and soon they were drifting in and out of drug-filled oblivion. By the time they woke up, Kurt Cobain had killed metal, then killed himself.
It was about that time that the Panthers realized their mission, according to Starr — “to party the right way, do the right amount of blow and fuck the right amount of bitches — and to bring heavy metal back.”
Their weekly, oft-sold-out show at Key Club, where they play a mix of originals and covers (from Poison to Journey), draws its fair share of celebs and fellow rockers (Vince Vaughn, Tommy Lee, Jessica Simpson, Tom Morello) who come to feel the noise, and get wild, wild, wild with a dose of hairspray and spandex. Not to mention the nudity. These guys are like the pied pipers of pussy, as each week women fight for the honor of publicly degrading themselves on stage.
And now, the long-awaited, highly anticipated debut album — 20 years in the making — Feel the Steel is due out on June 9 on Universal Republic records. Featuring a plethora of guest vocalists and original hot licks like Fat Girl (“Thar She Blows”), the songs are catchier than crabs onstage at a Panther show. The single “Death to All But Metal,” is already a hit on iTunes and Sirius radio, and the video, featuring a hot-and-bothered Sarah Silverman, is all over YouTube. The record isn’t even released yet. Anthrax’s Ian Scott has memorably said of Feel the Steel, “It’s so good you’re gonna shit your dick off.”
There is also a reality show in the works, produced by Dickhouse Productions (of Jackass fame), about the Panthers’ efforts to bring heavy metal back and the people who rock out with them. Bringing metal back hasn’t been easy but Steel Panther is committed. The next big challenge is getting radio airtime.
“It’s the sad state of heavy metal, that you can’t get your record played in Los Angeles, where heavy metal started in ’81,” says Starr. “We sell out one of the biggest clubs every week, and KROQ is afraid to play our shit. We’re alternative now.”