And the band is one of the few rock groups of modern times to offer up humorous videos (as evidenced by the clip "Pussywhipped," to the right). Steel Panther guitarist Satchel agreed to a phone interview just prior to the Priest tour, in which he chatted about songwriting, the stories behind several tunes, and glory holes.
Satchel: All You Can Eat, I think every time you write a record or a body of work or a bunch of songs, it's always going to be different than the bunch of songs that you wrote before. This is definitely our catchiest record so far. A ton of hooks. And to me, as a songwriter, that's what I want. As a listener, I always am bummed out when I buy a record and there's only one or two songs that I like and that I want to listen to. To me, that all comes down to the hooks. Is it something that I find myself wanting to sing over and over or hear over and over? And this record I feel has more hooks that most of our previous records. Although I think those records are great, too.
Once I was 5 or 6 songs into All You Can Eat, I started going, "I need some other songs to balance out what I've written." So if you've already written a few mid-tempo songs, then you maybe want to add some uptempo stuff or whatever. Just make it complete as a record so it doesn't get too boring in any one direction.
Songfacts: How do you find that you come up with your best hooks when writing a song?
Satchel: It's funny, the writing process is obviously different for everybody. For me, I don't want to listen to a song unless the subject matter interests me and I usually don't write a song unless I fee like the subject matter fits Steel Panther and is totally bitchen and it's maybe a different take on a subject. Let's face it, most songs are about either love or sex, or some variation of that. And it's no different with Steel Panther, it's just that we're really direct with our approach most of the time.
I'll usually come up with the song subject or the title first, and then I'll go from there once I have an idea of what I want to write about. Usually that'll come to me in the shower, for some reason - washing my balls, maybe taking a piss all over myself. Out comes this song, and then I'll have to remember it. And if it's good enough I'll remember it until I run into a guitar, then I'll starting working out the hook. Like, What's the main hook of the song going to be? If the chorus is good, your verses can be shitty, and it won't even matter. [Laughing] You can write an okay verse and as long as the chorus is badass, you're good to go.
But we'll start with the choruses, and if you can come up with a good chorus, the rest of the song usually writes itself. But verses are just like, "Oh, okay, I know exactly what I'm writing about now." So it's just a matter of putting the hooks together and making it fun to listen to - try not to bore the listener.
I usually get right in and go into the vocal. Like, our new record, take a song like "Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World." It starts right out of the gate with a vocal. Because in this day and age where we've got cell phones where you can listen to anything and watch anything at any minute of the day, people don't have the extra 15 seconds to waste on an intro. They just want to hear the song. So a lot of times we'll try to get right into it and catch people's ear and keep them hooked. That's what I try to do.
Songfacts: It seemed like there was a point in the '90s where '80s metal was considered goofy by a lot of people. But in the past 10 years, people have gone back and realized that there was some legitimate good music there. So what exactly do you think of '80s hair metal looking back: Was it goofy or was it legitimate good music?
Satchel: If you think about it, virtually everything that's out there can be considered cool or goofy. It's so subjective. I mean, think about the stuff that people were listening to during the '90s when they considered hair metal goofy. There was so much shitty stuff on the radio during the '90s. It was virtually all shitty. And a lot of it didn't have any hooks, which was amazing. There were a lot of bands in the '90s getting signed just on their look, just because grunge was in, just because they didn't look "heavy metal."
Granted, there's a lot of heavy metal that was sucky, as well. But there was also a lot of really, really hooky stuff. Take Twisted Sister, for instance. Twisted Sister at some point probably got laughed at because they looked the way they looked and when heavy metal went away, people probably went, "Oh, Twisted Sister, that's so basic and it's so 'cave rock'."
There were people that definitely laughed at what they did. but think about it: Twisted Sister never stopped doing what they do. And their songs, the songs that made them famous, are still totally hooky. "We're Not Gonna Take It," that's such a hook. It doesn't matter whether you think it's dumb or silly, or you think that Dee Snider looks clownish with his makeup on - they wrote a timeless song. It's awesome. It's a testament to their hooky-ness.
Songfacts: I've noticed you're endorsed by Kramer Guitars. I remember it seemed like back in the '80s almost every single metal guitarist was playing a Kramer guitar. I guess what kicked it off was one of the best guitarists of all time, Eddie Van Halen, played a Kramer throughout the '80s.
Satchel: Yeah. He had Kramers back then. I mean, that's definitely one of the reasons why I went with Kramer. Because when you look at Kramer you just go, "Oh, that's '80s." That's Eddie Van Halen in 1983. And for me, you can't get more rock & roll than that. That's awesome.
The '80s, there was a lot of cool guitars back then, Charvel and Jackson. Ibanez had a lot of cool stuff. There was a lot of heavy metal guitars, but Kramer definitely was one of them.
Satchel: I think that people shouldn't analyze our lyrics too closely. [Laughs] I mean, there's definitely going to be people that are offended by us. But I think that those people need to lighten up a little bit. We live in an age, in 2014, where you can't say everything you want to say because of political correctness. And as a matter of fact, I just read an interview with Norman Lear, who produced All In The Family and The Jeffersons and a lot of great TV shows from the '70s. I don't know if you ever watched any of that stuff, but you could pretty much say anything you wanted on TV back then. There was a lot of humor that was racially based and sexually based, and it was funny as shit. And he was saying he could never get that stuff on TV nowadays.
And it's true, even though we live in the freest society, we live in an Internet age now where you have access to information any time of the day, anywhere you want, but there's more rules as a society. You can't say whatever you want without being ostracized by people.
I think that's part of what makes Steel Panther bitchen, is that we just write songs and we don't give a shit. As long as you have a sense of humor, you're going to laugh. I think people need to be able to laugh at the differences between each other. That's why racist jokes are funny and sexist jokes are funny. You can't take it too seriously, because there's always going to be differences between people and you just need to lighten up and roll with it.
Songfacts: I guess you could say the TV show Tosh.O kind of also follows that guideline, as well.
Satchel: Yeah. That guy's hilarious. And he uses the Internet to his advantage, obviously. Because people put so much entertaining stuff online all the time, and some of it they don't even realize how entertaining it is. The guy just makes a show out of it.
Songfacts: Let's discuss a few songs, starting with "The Burden of Being Wonderful," off the new album.
Satchel: That was one of the last songs that I wrote for All You Can Eat. We have people that are trying to help promote us and get our name out there and brand the band, and they were talking about how the vast majority of the songs on our record up to that point were too aggressive. The lyrics were just too gnarly, didn't have anything that we could get played on any radio station.
So it inspired me to write the song "The Burden of Being Wonderful," which I felt embodies the spirit of Steel Panther. It's a funny song and it's cleverly done, but there's not any overt dirty words in there. It's something that anybody can listen to and laugh at. But you don't have to censor any of the words.
It was a challenge to actually write that, but it came out really quickly. I just pictured myself as Michael Starr, and what I would sing about if I was Michael Starr. What would I write about if I was the lead singer of Steel Panther? And when I imagined myself as Michael Starr, that's the song that came out. He thinks he's so fuckin' wonderful all the time. The lyrics just flowed out of me.
Plus, I don't know if you've ever seen Michael Starr dance, but he's not the best dancer in the world. So there is this line in the song: "I've got the grace of a dancer, a golden voice, people seem to hate me, like I had a choice." I just pictured him singing that song live and dancing, the way he dances. When we do it live, he dances this amazing dance that only he can dance. So that's the way that came out.
Satchel: Wow. That was inspired by something that our singer wrote. He didn't really write a song, he had this thing that he was playing with that went, "I really, really, really, really, really want to rock with you." And I thought the "really, really, really, really, really" was an awesome part of the song. So I just took that idea and I came up with the verses first. Because the verses to me were basically the main part of that song.
It was easy to write after I wrote the first verse. It just all came out. One thing I like about that song is it's only, like, two-and-a-half minutes long. I'm a huge Ramones fan, and one thing I loved about the Ramones, they were like the Beatles in that they wrote two, two-and-a-half minute songs. Get in and get out. Leave 'em wanting more, you know. It's one thing I dig about bands like that. A two-minute song, that way you can listen to it, like, 10 times in 20 minutes. That's pretty cool... I think I did my math right.
Songfacts: What about the song "Community Property"?
Satchel: "Community Property," you know what inspired that song? I was at the gym working out like I always do - that's why I look so good. Most gyms play really shitty pop music. They put it on the Top 40 station or whatever. And there was a pop music love song on that had really, really trite lyrics about being in love with somebody. It was really cheesy. I thought, "Gosh, that would be really bitchen to write a song that had all of those super-trite lyrics, but then right at the end of it, you throw that hook in, and that turns it all around." That's when I came up with the idea for "Community Property."
Most of that chorus is just like all the other pop bullshit out there: "Heart belongs to you, my love is pure and true, my heart belongs to you." I swear to you, that's very much like what I was listening to the radio. But then I thought, If I could throw that extra line in there, "But my cock is community property," there you go. That changes it all. Changes the whole meaning.
I wrote it in my head and then I went home. For me, it's all about the idea of the song. The actual hook can come later. It's all about, What do I want to try to get across with the words? And so that idea of that, that really trite, fun, stupid lyric, like, "My heart belongs to you, my love is pure and true. But my cock is community property," that's what brings it all together and makes it bitchen. It turned that trite lyric into something super-meaningful."
Nobody really believes it when you tell them that your heart belongs to them, but they totally believe you when you say you're going to cheat on them.
Songfacts: The last question I have is about the song "Gloryhole." With the lyrics or maybe even the video's story line, was that based on anything that may have actually happened to a band member of Steel Panther?
Satchel: It's based on stuff that happens to us all the time. We're one of those bands that likes to do that kind of stuff together. Hey, we're all in Bangkok tonight, we're on tour, we don't have anywhere to go. Let's actually go to a whorehouse or a glory hole and have sex with random people behind a wall.
That's one cool thing about the glory hole. I know it says this in the song, but when you go to a glory hole, you don't really know who's sucking on your dick, and that's a pretty cool thing to do. You've got to be pretty brave and pretty adventurous to just stick your dick in that hole, because you don't know what's on the other side.
But I've never had a bad experience. It always turns out good.
Satchel: Have you ever tried it?
Songfacts: No. I've been married for about five years.
Satchel: I'm sure your wife will understand. Go give it a shot.
December 2, 2014. For more Steel Panther, visit the band's official site.
Photos by David Jackson.
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