NOTICE: DO NOT read this if you are offended by explicit language.
Steel Panther has created a world of its own.
Over the course of five studio albums since 2009, the band has honed the art of virtuosic throwback heavy metal but also laced it with lewd and lascivious bits of slapstick and ruthless self-deprecation.
While the band built its aesthetic around the lovable clichés of '80s glam rock music videos, Steel Panther can't help but live in the present too. It's a quandary that keeps the band both timely and timeless. And there's an innocence to the four band members' bewilderment at modern life and basic social graces that is oddly relatable.
The band's new album, Heavy Metal Rules, is another helping of meticulously crafted songs about sex, love and the greatest drug of all: heavy metal (and cocaine). But the band explores new ground, too. "Always Gonna Be a Ho" and "I'm Not Your B---h" tackle the challenges of long-term relationships. "F--k Everybody" is an anthem for all of us who are just generally annoyed by our fellow human beings. And then the title track gleefully pronounces that "rock and roll" is dead and that "Heavy Metal Rules."
Steel Panther drummer Stix Zadinia and bassist Lexxi Foxx dropped by Q104.3 New York's QN'A the week before Heavy Metal Rules was released to talk about the new album, their growing music video catalog, naming a band and the conundrum of bringing a lyric-driven show to foreign countries.
Check out the interview below.
It looks like the music video for "F--k Everybody" was fun to make.
Stix: Good! It was really fun to make.
Lexxi: Yeah, it really was.
Stix: The crazy thing about green screen ... The guys that we work with, Charlie Fonville and J.T. Arbogast, they directed it. We came up with the concept together. They edited it and they totally get what we do in Steel Panther, as far as they get the voice and they get our tone.
Lexxi: What was cool is, coming off our first video for this record, "All I Wanna Do Is F--k (Myself Tonight)" ... It's a lot different than this one. [For that] we got to spend three days with Carrot Top, we got to go to a strip joint, we got to close off a part of the [Vegas] Strip, which was pretty badass...
It was really cool to do and ["F--k Everybody"] is taking that bar and going, "Okay, we did everything that a band would want to do, be in the back of a trailer and go down Sunset Strip or Las Vegas Strip" — anything with a Strip after it is badass.
It was cool to take that and then go to one room and make fun of the fact that we're just in one room now.
Stix: The green screen stuff is fun to play with because there's no limits. There's nothing you can't do.
Lexxi: You just use your imagination and go, 'Yes, that's great!' We all had the same feeling for what we want to do.
Stix: If you saw me step in the dog poop in the [F--k Everybody] video. That was a concoction of chocolate and peanut butter...
I reacted very strongly to that scene. As silly as it looked, it triggered me. When they show it going through your toes...
Stix: I'm so happy you did! I will be totally honest with you, seeing them make it, it was kind of gross. In my mind, I'm like, 'Oh, that's the dog poop that I'm supposed to step in.' But I tasted it because it was chocolate and peanut butter. It was good, wasn't great, it was good.
But then when it was on the ground and it's no longer food in my mind... it was gross! Going through it felt like I was stepping in a pile of dog s--t.
Then afterwards, you realize that you're not. But then you see the flies on it in the video, 'cause those weren't there... I couldn't be happier with your reaction.
Lexxi does a striptease in the video for "All I Wanna Do Is F--k (Myself Tonight)." That dance didn’t look totally improvised; what was that like?
Lexxi: It was [uncomfortable]. And at set there were strippers that know what they’re doing there. It was intimidating, to be honest with you. And it was improvised…
Stix: …And he’s not a dancer… But watching him do it, it did look like he’s had training…
Lexxi: I think my whole life I’ve been doing research… After shows, Stixx and I are no strangers to head out to the club.
Are there more episodes of Steel Panther TV coming?
Stix. Oh yes. We’re planning on shooting a couple more videos for this album in either December or early January and at the same time, we’re gonna do more SPTV. And I think one of the new series within SPTV we were talking about the other day, I want to call it ‘Band Name Breakdown,’ which is to take band names and talk about whether they’re cool or not.
Just the band name. Like, to me, the band name The Doors is stupid. It’s stupid! Let’s just subtract what they’ve done in music. Say there never was that band and you and I started a band and I go, ‘Dude, I want to call us The Doors.’ You’d be like, ‘That’s the stupidest name.’
That’s like calling your band The Springs.
Lexxi: The Locks.
Stix: Or The Handles. It doesn’t do anything
Lexxi: But you’d always have that buddy going, ‘Dude, what about The Beatles!’ The music makes the band.
Stix: The band makes the name, but I’m trying to take that away in ‘Bandname Breakdown’ take away what they’ve done and look at just the name. The Beatles is a stupid name, too.
Stix & Lexxi: Amazing band.
[Makes disagreement face]
Lexxi: You don’t think so!?
Stix: You don’t like that one?
Lexxi: I think it’s way cool the way they did it.
Well, yes, I agree it’s better than, “In Excess.”
Stix: U2. I’m on the fence about it; it’s kind of corny. It’s like calling your band Us.
Lexxi: Danger Danger — it was so good the first time, they had to repeat it.
I saw you guys at Heavy Montréal this past summer and it got me wondering how you’re received in countries where there’s a language barrier?
Stix: There can be a [weird reaction]. It’s very interesting because we’ll go into a country like Austria, for instance, and we’ll be like, ‘We don’t know if they’re gonna get it,’ because we talk a lot.
Right. The band talks onstage between songs.
Stix: In Austria, they’ll laugh at every joke. And then we’ll be in a place like Bilbao, Spain…I remember playing Bilbao and they were not getting it. They loved the rock and while we were playing it was cool, but in between it was super crickets.
Lexxi: People were like, ‘Well, I’m gonna get another beer and come back when the song comes on.’ They did what we do, that’s why they’re there, but at the same time, they can get lost.
Stix: So that will determine whether or not we go back to those places.
Lexxi: Right. Because we’re not gonna stop what we do. We do what we do, and that’s it. That’s what we’ve always held on to, not changing for the crowd.
Stix: Japan is a tough place for a band like us. We’ve been to Japan a few times. I think that there’s a language barrier in Japan, but most European countries, like Germany, France, the Netherlands, they all know English really well, luckily, for us.
Even down in Brazil, South America, they understand it and most people seem to speak it.
I'd think Japan would be an interesting place for you because the music and the look seems like it’s right up their alley, but the language is so radically different and important to the show.
Stix: That’s one of the places that stands out the most. Japan, strictly because of the language barrier. When we played there, there were kids dressed up and it was awesome.
Lexxi: We opened up with “Asian Hooker.”
Stix: Yeah, we played Ozzfest in Toyko. When you’re in Steel Panther and you have a song called “Asian Hooker” and you don’t open it, that’s the day you stop being in Steel Panther. For real, we opened up with it and they loved it!
Lexxi: They were going nuts! [Laughs]
Stix: ‘Cause the first notes are [stereotypical Asian music]. (Laughs) I don’t know how they took it, but it was fun for us.
Well, I guess you have to stick to your guns.
Stix: Absolutely. That’s the thing we’ve done since Day 1. We’re gonna do what we do and if you don’t like it … you can suck my d---.
I remember in Montréal, you mentioned Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt. Did that movie inspire anything on Heavy Metal Rules?
Stix: No, we started record the album, actually, at the end of last year. We had a series of setbacks. [Lexxi] went to sex rehab. Our singer [Michael Starr] had a vocal node that he had removed. I had to move out of my mom’s apartment…
We had a series of things that pushed the album back.
Lexxi: [Guitarist] Satchel’s gonorrhea...
Lexxi: We’re gonna get him a pill that’s gonna fix it for sure.
They’re making great strides in treatment for that.
Lexxi: They are!
Stix: Yeah, but there’s also a strain called super-gonorrhea, which is not cool. But that film wasn’t out until we had at least the basic tracks done.
I understand Satchel does a lot of the arranging of the music, but the topics tend to come more from the band.
Stix: Well, Satchel does a lot of the writing out of the gate and then, actually, the arranging of the songs… He’ll bring the songs to us and we’ll get in a room, do pre-production and we’ll also send demos back and forth online.
I’ll write him back [with an idea], but he’ll have most of the s—t done. By the time a song is recorded and put on a record and release, it’s gone through all four of our filters and it turns out a Steel Panther song. Everyone’s thrown their sauce on it.
The process is always great. It’s fun. But you want to find ways to do a fifth album, versus a first album, you want it to be fresh and you have to ride the line of fresh material, but also make it sound like you’re a band. And it’s a hard thing to do, but I think we nailed it.
Finally, what is the No. 1 heavy metal rule?
Stix: I’ll tell you what it is: There are no rules.
Lexxi: I do have one: it’s to buy the record Heavy Metal Rules. I’m glad I got the second one on that one —
Stix: You can’t really have a second one if the first one is [that] there’s no rules.
Lexxi: But [Andrew] is talking to two different people. I can have a second—
Stix: But if I already said there are no rules, you can’t make a rule.
Lexxi: He asked you the question, and then he asked me the question. I feel like I have a better answer.
Stix: I already put it out there, so you knew you couldn’t—
Lexxi: He asked you, if you were the mayor, if you were going to make a rule…
Stix: I made the rule!
Lexxi: But then he looked at me like I’m still gonna do the interview, too.
Stix: You’re not giving the rules.
Lexxi: The rules are you have to buy … If I’m the king and I said, ‘Here’s the rules: you must go buy the album!’
Stix: This is not a monarchy.
Lexxi: Who f---ing wins? We’re the big winners here! Think about the rules! Think about this.
Okay, I see you have a band meeting coming up. Thank you for coming by and good luck with the album!
Lexxi: You know, with that last question, it might be a long ride for [Stix] and I to our next meeting.