A Few Minutes With Steel Panther’s Michael Starr

For no other reason than because we can, we called up Steel Panther frontman Michael Starr while the band was in the U.K.

The heavy metal act, which also includes drummer Stix Zadinia, bassist Lexxi Foxx, and guitarist Satchel, has been a staple of Los Angeles and Las Vegas since the turn of the century, playing residencies at places like the Key Club and the Hard Rock. Once known as Metal Skool, the incredibly talented musicians drew sold-out crowds weekly because of their over-the-top performances filled with well-known hard rock tunes, ridiculously raunchy banter and celebrity appearances.

But things are changing, as Starr explains. By the way, this interview might be subdued compared with other Steel Panther interviews – because our readership is composed of highly sensitive, church-going industry executives – but there are a few dirty words, too, for the Satan-worshiping younger generation.

The band’s third album, All You Can Eat, drops April 1. Interview below …

Photo: David Jackson

Pollstar has a lot of Steel Panther fans. But because we’re in Fresno, and Steel Panther is from Los Angeles – and a lot of us have gone to your shows – we took it for granted and we should have done this interview earlier.

Well, I think you’ve waited for the perfect time. Now we are officially no longer a cover band at all. This past September we quit doing the residency thing and just put all our eggs into the touring basket and we’ll see what’s going to happen.

Well, what is happening? How’s it going?

So far, everything’s sold out so I think we made the right choice. Plus there’s way more variety of chicks around the world than Vegas and L.A. We pretty much get stuck in a rut jamming in Vegas and L.A. – which are killer markets to play and every band would die to do what we did – but now we’re going around the world. Man, we went to Russia this year and, f**kin’, the girls are so hot!

According to the Internet access I have at my desk, I’d have to agree.

I’m not f**kin’ around. It’s mind-blowing. Even the chicks in the hotel that greeted us were hot.

It’s great that you’re doing originals exclusively, but isn’t some of your appeal doing things like riffing on three chords and showing the audience how many songs use them?

We haven’t lost anything that we did in the residencies. We’re just doing original music instead of playing Bon Jovi in between our banter. I think the appeal, all around the world, is that people f**king want to have fun, they want to have a laugh. But they also want what we offer, which is we’re all craftsmen on our instruments. We’re not just actors up there cracking jokes and can’t play. The songs on the record are killer, I can sing almost as good as Steve Perry – when I’m lip-syncing – and people like that.

You seem to do a lot of dates in the U.K.

The U.K. is the first country outside the U.S. that really grabbed onto us in a big way. In 2009 we went there to support Feel the Steel right out of the gate and we were able to sell out all these venues. They were moderately sized – 300 to 500 to 1,200 seaters. And it went well right out of the gate and we just started expanding as we went around Europe. It’s taken off really great. It’s also taken off in Australia – faster than the U.K., actually.

That appears to be the case from the numbers reported to us, while some secondary markets in the U.S. still need some work …

We obviously have a stronghold in L.A. and Vegas. New York does pretty well for us, and also Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit.  Detroit loves anything that’s cheap to go to, so that’s cool. In this May run in the U.S., we’re expanding and trying to infiltrate the United States the best we can.  Philly, also, is taking on to us pretty well.

And don’t forget Vancouver! And Montreal! And Quebec!

Photo: Owen Sweeney / OwenSweeneyPhoto.com
M3 Rock Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Md.

Does this mean you’re going to be touring, like, forever?

You know what? You’re talking to me from the old model, and I get where you’re coming from. And it was really hard for us to break what we were doing because we built a career out of doing these residencies and we all bought houses, and we all have lives and we have expenses. It was really hard for us to cut the umbilical cord and go for it. So basically what we are doing is we’re cutting the cord, and we’re swinging for a grand slam. We’re putting everything into it and so far it’s been paying off.

But you had such a “scene” in L.A. You have some House of Blues shows coming up in L.A. – are there any plans to keep the home fires burning?

Los Angeles is our home and Vegas is our secondary home. Yes, we will keep playing there, but we’re not going to oversaturate ourselves. We’ll keep it to a minimum, not a weekly show.

So your agents are Ken Fermaglich and Neil Warnock at The Agency Group – one of the agency’s top agents and the founder, respectively. You don’t mess around, do ya?

When we signed with Universal we moved from the first agency we had and went with The Agency Group – because they’re great! And they believed in the band. You put us in front of a big crowd, like at festivals, or supporting somebody and we win the crowd over. And what we did in L.A. and Vegas translates to a big crowd. Ken and Neil saw this growth, and saw that it had potential, so we were able to get them in our backcourt. They’re going for it, too. You know how agencies are: if it’s working, they’re going to keep going. If it’s not working, you’re done.

It’s the same thing with our residencies. If people don’t go to our shows, we lose the residencies. But, as you can see, we pretty much have the longest residency in Hollywood of any band.

People we talk to say Ken works extra hard and really gives a damn.

He does, man. And you know what’s cool about him?  He’ll send dates over even if we have a show on that day. That guy wants us to f**kin’ work. It’s great.

Any questions you were anticipating me asking?

This is a different interview because Pollstar is an “insider” magazine. Usually the questions we get asked are for fans. I would just want to say this: Steel Panther is going to be the biggest band in the world in two years, so buy the show while you can because we’re going to be unbuyable soon.

Can you elaborate?

We’re not going to stop doing what we’re doing. We’re going to bring heavy metal back.

Any favorite markets?

That’s a pretty standard question. I’m not saying this as a standard answer – I’m in Lincoln, U.K., right now. Our show has been sold out for months. Right now, this is my favorite place to play because we’re about to kick some ass. Everywhere we go, people are really excited.

And everyplace we go, the demographic is widespread. It’s like 18 to 55. You get the older people in the back and all the younger people in the front. You get your pick of whoever you want to hang out with after the show. Want to go old? Wanna go cougar?  You can go cougar. Wanna go young, you can go young.

The demographic thing is important to us. The older people can respect what we’re doing; they understand where we’re coming from. The younger generation is, like, “Holy shit! That’s Steel Panther! This is just what they do.” They have no way to compare it unless they look on YouTube for videos from the ’80s. So this is the real deal to them.

One of my best buddies is a close friend of Satchel’s brothers. That’s how tight we are with the Steel Panther clan.

Really! You know, this industry is so incestuous. I run into people who know each other from a long time ago. We’ve been around for a long time. That’s why you gotta be cool with people on the way up because you’ll see them again on the way down.

Photo: Owen Sweeney / OwenSweeneyPhoto.com
M3 Rock Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Md.

Upcoming dates for Steel Panther:

March 18 – Newcastle, United Kingdom, O2 Academy Newcastle     
March 19 – Glasgow, United Kingdom, Barrowland     
March 20 – Sheffield, United Kingdom, O2 Academy Sheffield     
March 22 – Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge Corn Exchange     
March 23 – Bristol, United Kingdom, O2 Academy Bristol     
March 24 – Nottingham, United Kingdom, Rock City     
March 26 – London, United Kingdom, O2 Academy Brixton     
April 7 – West Hollywood, Calif., House Of Blues     
April 14 – West Hollywood, Calif., House Of Blues     
April 21 – West Hollywood, Calif., House Of Blues     
May 3 – Seattle, Wash., Showbox SoDo     
May 4 – Portland, Ore., McMenamins Crystal Ballroom     
May 7 – Denver, Colo., Ogden Theatre     
May 8 – Wichita, Kan., The Cotillion     
May 10 – Oklahoma City, Okla., Diamond Ballroom     
May 11 – Houston, Texas, House Of Blues     
May 13 – Lake Buena Vista, Fla., House Of Blues     
May 15 – North Myrtle Beach, S.C., House Of Blues     
May 16 – Silver Spring, Md., The Fillmore Silver Spring     
May 17 – Philadelphia, Pa., Theatre Of The Living Arts     
May 18 – Sayreville, N.J., Starland Ballroom     
May 20 – Montreal, Quebec, Metropolis     
May 21 – Boston, Mass., House Of Blues Boston     
May 23 – Hampton Beach, N.H., Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom     
May 24 – Portland, Maine, Asylum     
May 26 – Toronto, Ontario, Sound Academy     
May 27 – New York, N.Y., Irving Plaza Powered By Klipsch     
May 28 – Pittsburgh, Pa., Stage AE     
May 29 – Cleveland, Ohio, House Of Blues     
May 31 – Kansas City, Mo., Liberty Memorial Park (Rockfest)    
June 1 – Dallas, Texas, Gexa Energy Pavilion     
June 15 – Derby, United Kingdom, Donington Park (Download Festival)

For more information visit SteelPantherRocks.com.