Steel Panther är högaktuella med sitt nya album “Lower the bar” och Rocksverige fick nyligen möjligheten att sitta ansikte mot ansikte med gitarristen Satchel. Givetvis avhandlades det nya albumet, men vi pratade även om att vara politiskt inkorrekt, censur och hur Eddie Murphys gamla mästerverk “Delirious” påverkade bandet i begynnelsen:
“We gotta be the musical version of Eddie Murphy´s Delirious record.” I remember being a kid and hearing that and everybody knew it and everybody knew that Eddie Murphy shit word for word and I was like “That´s what we gotta do. Every 13 year old boy in every fucking junior high school in the world, will be playing Steel Panther and memorize the lyrics and be playing that shit in their bedroom while their parents are telling them to turn that shit down.” Eddie Murphy was the perfect example.
Tell me about the new album ”Lower the bar”? How low can you go?
Well, people know how low we can go. (laughs) It´s a philophosy of life, to lower the bar. There are plenty of meanings, but I like to look at it like… you know, everybody can have high expectations at times and I think that sometimes it´s a good thing when you lower the bar, because you can end up being a lot happier. Our singer had a girlfriend years ago and I remember he broke up with her and he was screwing as many girls as he could. He wasn´t getting laid nearly as much as I thought he was going to, because he´s the lead singer of a bitchin´ band. Part of the reason why he wasn´t getting laid very much, was because he was trying to get the most beautiful girls he could find. I told him “You need to lower the bar! If you lower the bar, you´re gonna find that some of the best sex you´re ever gonna have is with girls that aren´t the hottest girls. Why would you wanna go for a 10 every time, when you can have killer sex with a 6? You gotta lower the bar.” and I think he learned a valuable lesson from that. It´s funny, you know… you can walk by a homeless person on the street and sometimes they seem like the happiest people in the world. They´re living in the street and they´re homeless, they´re freezing their asses off and they´re probably starving and somehow they don´t need any more than that. Most people are trying to keep up with the Joneses every day of their life and then you walk by this homeless person and they´re totally in the moment, not worried about their future, they don´t regret their past. I think that maybe if we all lower our expectations a little bit… you know, when we´re teenagers we all want to be rich and famous and the older you get and the longer you live, you lower the bar naturally. You become happier with lower expectations and I think it´s a good thing for people to do.
What does a guy like Jay Ruston (producer) bring to Steel Panther?
Jay Ruston gets killer sounds and he knows what we do and he knows how to help when he needs to help. He´s a great producer and he helps get the best performances that he can get out of the band. He certainly mixes the record better than anybody I could imagine. I wouldn´t trust anybody else to mix our records. You know what they say, if it ain´t broke, don´t fix it. Everything sounds great. It sounds heavy and I like to be able to turn shit up loud and I don´t want it to be harsh on my ears and those are the mixes he gets. That´s not easy to do with a heavy metal record, so he does it really well and I trust Jay´s opinion. Granted, our band, we all do what we do and I write most of the songs, but we all collaborate to finish and bring the songs together. We all bring our own stuff to the table, but I trust Jay´s opinion in the final product. That´s really important, because you get so involved in records and even though we´re Steel Panther and we´re always having fun and we like to laugh, unlike a lot of bands, but at the end of the day we want our shit to sound good. We´re just like any other band, we want it to sound as good as it can sound and when you´re so involved in it, it´s hard to hear something over and over and still know if it sounds good.
After several albums, is working in the studio still fun?
It´s fun for me to write and I love to write and I try not to force it. I know some people that have records and go “Oh, we need to do another record!” and they go into writing mode and they write for a month. I can´t do that. I just like to write all the time and for me personally… when I have enough songs that I like and enough ideas that I like, then I develop them and if I end up having enough songs to do a record, then I start to do a record. But I certainly don´t wanna ever do a record where I feel I have to put a record out, because nobody wants to hear that anyway. I want our fans to enjoy the record that I enjoyed making and If you´re not enjoying writing it, then something´s wrong. In our band, we really enjoy playing together and making records has always been fun. It´s fun in the studio and sometimes it´s too much fun because you end up fucking around. It´s kind of a good thing that studio time doesn´t really cost any money now, because we would probably spend more than we need to on our records. Now we can pretty much do our records in a bedroom and have fun and try out different dirty words.
I was recently in a studio watching strings being added to a song and it was the same melody over and over again. I guess you need to be a certain kind of person to do that, to listen to something endlessly to get it right, and also knowing when it´s done?
Yeah, you can go on forever. You really can go forever and it´s easy to get into that hole if you´re not careful and for me, that´s a scary place to go. I don´t ever wanna be the guy who spends a year sitting there fucking with the reverb on the snare drum. Ultimately it´s really about the song and the feeling that the song gives you, but there´s always gonna be options but that´s part of the reason we hired Jay Ruston. He gets the snare drum that he thinks sound good and it´s like “It sounds good to me too.” and I don´t have to worry about the fucking snare drum. That´s the last thing that I wanna fucking worry about. (laughs) But I notice when I look back at earlier records that I sat there with our singer going over this one vocal melody for a fucking hour and It would´ve worked in several different ways. Sometimes you just step back and go “Fuck it! We´ll just keep that.” There really is so many fucking options and at the end of the day it´s like “Oh fuck! It´s in tune and I get a good vibe, so let´s keep it and move on!”
About the lyrics then? There´s a huge difference if you for instance compare the US to Sweden. Over here you can say pretty much what you want and nobody really cares and you won´t get bleeped or banned, but it´s a different thing in the US. Have there been instances where that has happened to you, where you won´t get played or things like that?
We don´t expect to be played on any radio station. (laughs) It was like that from the beginning. I think we wrote “Death to all the metal” like 15 years ago and at that point we were like “Fuck record deals and fuck radio! We´ve got our fans and we´ll just make records for our fans and do whatever the fuck we want.” That was the fun of it, like “Let´s do the dirtiest shit we can and make it very anthemic and hooky, because I wanna see girls singing the filthiest shit back to me smiling.” That was the goal from the get go. The United States is way more uptight with like the FCC and getting stuff on the radio. Honestly, even if we could get on the radio at this point, it wouldn´t fucking matter anyway. It´s not gonna sell us more records. We just have fun and we get played where we get played and for us it´s always been about word of mouth anyway. We started as a live band and it was like “Let´s get a gig and if they can keep us there for six weeks, we´ll have that fucking club packed every week and people will tell their friends.” That´s how it is with our music too. We´ll make the shit that we wanna make and of course there´s gonna be people that hate us, but the people that like us are gonna like us a lot and they´re gonna tell their friends. If you´re a new band and you wanna get a following, you just gotta do the shit that you really like and really depend on word of mouth, because people don´t trust anybody except for people that they trust. Nobody´s gonna listen to an advertisement and go “Cool, I´m gonna go get that.” Nobody trusts the media, nobody trusts the advertising, but when your buddy goes “Dude, you need to fucking listen to Steel Panther!” then you´re gonna go “Ok, you´re right! I´ll do it.”
In the 80´s there were a lot of religious groups protesting rock music in the States and they were outside the arenas and so on. Do you ever see anything of that these days?
No, it´s really funny, because when we did our last record “All you can eat” (2013), we had a picture of the last supper and when we went to Europe, many press people asked “How was this thing received in the US?”, because they just figured that there´s the religious element in the US that would be very offended, but there´s not a whole lot of that. I mean, there´s a vocal minority of religious people that can be annoying in the US, but most people don´t give a fuck. It´s funny, we haven´t really toned down anything that we´ve done in the US ever, except for one time when we did a line on the song “17 girls in a row” (Balls out, 2011) and our record company asked us to change it. The original lyrics were “Spread my legs for a salad toss and I shot my load on the holy cross” and our record company thought “We need to change that because the Catholic Church will come after us!” and I was like “Oh no, we can´t change that! That´s my favorite line in the whole song.”, but we changed it for the record company and that´s the one thing I regret. That´s the only time we ever did that and I wish we hadn´t. Most people don´t really give us that much attention. Occasionally there will be an artist like Beyoncé or somebody and they´ll show a nipple or something and everybody will go crazy like “Oh, that´s offensive!” and I´m thinking “How come we can´t get that attention? We offend everyone.”
About the lyrics, there´s gotta be something extremely liberating about writing those kinda lyrics? Other bands probably look for something else in their lyrics and they are deeper and more politically correct.
Totally. I`ve written many, many songs in my life and being in Steel Panther is… people go “In Steel Panther, don´t they have to write 80´s sounding stuff?” It´s a natural thing. For me, I love to play guitar so I naturally write riffs that are guitar driven songs, but it is a very liberating thing. A lot of people might think “You´re pigeonholed and how many different ways can you write about fucking?”, but you´d be surprised. It´s amazing how many different ways you can write about a subject and have fun and when there are no rules about being politically correct, it really makes it way more fun. I look back and sometimes our lyrics can be very deep and funny at the same time, like the song “Gloryhole”. Sometimes I listen to it and it actually makes me think “Wow, that´s really cool. Like no one judges you at the gloryhole.” It´s true and people are sick and tired of being judged and that´s a place you can go, where you´re behind a wall, you get your dick sucked and nobody´s gonna judge you on how big or small your dick is. Nobody´s gonna judge you on how you look, they´re just sucking your dick and isn´t that a great thing? Even though it´s a dirty song, it´s still a feeling that can make you laugh and it can still make you feel like “I wanna be that guy. I don´t wanna be judged for once in my fucking life.”, because we live in a day and age where everybody´s judging you constanty. It is a fun thing to write lyrics that can make you laugh and also make you think at the same time. Most people usually don´t have to think when they listen to Steel Panther, but if you listen, occasionally there will be something that will make you think.
Do you have a master plan with Steel Panther or do you just go album by album?
I think any band can only take it album by album and tour by tour. Honestly, anyone of us could be dead in the next five years. We´re all getting fucking old. (laughs) Partying, our liver could fail, anything could happen… drug overdose, heart attack. I think the goal is to keep rocking as long as you can. We´re lucky, luckier than the vast majority of bands. We´ve been together for many years and we still enjoy playing together and we still sound good. Of course, the older you get the harder it is to sound good because it´s a very physical thing, playing in a band, but as long as we can keep playing and people still enjoy the way we sound and enjoy our show, we´re gonna keep going. Keep going until we can´t go anymore. Like I said, if we can´t do records that are good, maybe we won´t keep doing records, but I think we´ll always play live because we´ve always been a live band and I don´t think there´s a better live band. We´re one of the most entertaining bands that´s ever been and that´s why we have fans that can literally go to hundreds of our shows and they never get bored. That´s how we started and that´s how we´ll probably die. We´ll die on stage.
I´ve seen you live a couple of times and one thing I´ve thought about is that you guys are really fast when it comes to the stage banter and talking between songs. You pick up on stuff from the audience and you´re just really fast.
I appreciate that. Like every band there are times when we rely on the shit that we´ve done and when we do that it gets boring. It gets boring for us and if we´re bored on stage, we know the crowd´s gonna be bored. I think every time we go on stage, we try to make it a unique show and make it personal to the audience because that´s way more fun for everybody. We try to make them part of the show and I think it´s more special for everybody and we get more pussy that way. (laughs) And that´s really the main thing.
Watching you guys on stage being politically incorrect and so on, is kinda like watching Eddie Murphy´s old stand up show “Delirious” (1983). There´s a lot of stuff there which he probably couldn´t do today, but I still think it´s funny as hell.
It´s funny that you mention “Delirious”, because before we started doing records we did covers for many years, but our comedy in between songs was very much what we still do. It´s very dirty and there´s no subject that we wouldn´t touch, but being a songwriter I thought “We gotta take this to the next level and write songs about this.” and when I was telling our bass player Lexi about my vison for the music I was like “We gotta be the musical version of Eddie Murphy´s Delirious record.” I remember being a kid and hearing that and everybody knew it and everybody knew that Eddie Murphy shit word for word and I was like “That´s what we gotta do. Every 13 year old boy in every fucking junior high school in the world, will be playing Steel Panther and memorize the lyrics and be playing that shit in their bedroom while their parents are telling them to turn that shit down.” Eddie Murphy was the perfect example. That to me was no rules as to where he went. Of course it´s a different time now, but I think that makes it even more important because people need to go see and be a part of… you know, when people come to a Steel Panther show, I think there´s a feeling with everybody there, that they´re in a place where they´re safe to laugh at shit like that. I like creating that environment where people come in and they go “Oh, we can laugh at everybody, so we´re all the same.” It levels the playing field for everybody and I think that makes everybody be able to laugh at themselves more. We´re helping the world.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Björn Olsson och Michaela Barkensjö