Steel Panther Frontman Michael Starr Talks Drive-In Shows + New Music

2020-09-09

Interview: Steel Panther frontman Michael Starr spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink about the upcoming drive-in concerts, how livestream performances have helped the band stay connected with fans during quarantine, the status of new Steel Panther music and if he would ever do a collaboration with the feuding Sebastian Bach and Chris Jericho.

Steel Panther – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by David Jackson

Interview: Michael Starr of Steel Panther joins Anne Erickson to discuss the band’s upcoming drive-in concerts, the status of new Steel Panther music and more

Ever since bands have been forced off the road this year, there’s been talk of drive-in concerts, in which bands can perform a “traditional” show, with fans rocking out in their cars. But not a lot of bands have been actually doing it– until now.

The guys of Steel Panther are prepping for their first round of drive-in concerts, with two Pennsylvania gigs in Pittsburgh and Scranton on Friday, Sept. 11, and Saturday, Sept. 12. With band members spending so much time in quarantine, Steel Panther have also been working on new music.

Steel Panther frontman Michael Starr spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink about the upcoming drive-in concerts, how livestream performances have helped the band stay connected with fans during quarantine, the status of new Steel Panther music and if he would ever collaborate with the feuding Sebastian Bach and Chris Jericho. Read the interview below, and listen to the full chat via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

Anne Erickson: Great to talk with you, Michael. How are you doing this year with all the craziness due to coronavirus?

Michael Starr: Yeah, it’s tough. I was just thinking about that before you brought it up– everything has changed in my life so dramatically that it’s starting to affect me mentally. I need to get out and play some shows!

Steel Panther has two drive-in concerts on the way, you’re one of the first rock bands that I’ve seen do this in the U.S. What made you guys want to do these drive-in shows, and why are you excited for it?

The thing that I think my mind has been looking forward to is to just get out and get on stage and play in front of people. We’re trying to think of any way that we can do our job. I mean, our job is the rocks some balls, so the only way to do it is a drive-in theater. We’ve been trying to put a whole tour together this way. So far, this is going to be the acid test. We’ll see how it works out and see how people like it. Hopefully everyone digs it, and it turns out good, and we can continue to go play shows until we are done being locked down.

So, you guys are planning on doing more? I’m in Michigan, and we would love to have you guys come here.

So would I! What I would give, just to be on a bus. Seriously, man. You know, another thing that’s changed is that I’m not with my guys anymore. I mean, we see each other every now and then, and we Zoom and we talk on the phone, but we’re not together like we have been for the last 20 years. It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart. It sucks because I miss them. That’s why I’m so excited to do the shows. I can’t wait. It’s going to be really fun.

Are you going to film the shows?

Yeah, we’re going to definitely bring somebody to capture all the history. This may be a one-time thing we do. I don’t foresee it being the normal thing from here on out, but you never know.

Steel Panther has also performed a few livestream events, which have been really cool. How has that helped you connect with the fans?

It’s been great. We did our very first one several months ago, and it turned out to be really fun and really something that I think that we can do. We’ve done two so far, and we’re actually trying to put together a weekly stream of live shows and interaction with our fans, because it really does help us to interact with them and keep people engaged in Steel Panther and remind people that we’re still here. We’re not going anywhere. We’re not breaking up. We’re not getting in a fight. We’re not going to stop playing because we haven’t toured. We are not only are we working out to be better– we’re going to come out and kick so much a** when this quarantine is over.

I feel like people are going be wanting, obviously, that in-person live music once this is finally all over.

I think you’re right.

The name of the drive-in shows is “Fast Cars & Loud Guitar,” which I think is really fun. Tell me about how you guys are prepping for that.

Well, I stopped wearing earplugs about five years ago on stage and started using those in ear monitor things. They’re kind of cool and really nice, but I’ll tell you, they kind of take away the live feel of the audience. So, we’re going to take those out, and I’m getting prepared that way, because it’s a different way to perform, so you have to get used to it. I have this huge ghetto blaster that’s a Bluetooth. It is so loud. You could blow your ears out. So, I turn that thing all the way up. I have a wireless mic that connects to it, and I sing along to our own karaoke trucks and I have at the house. That’s how I’m getting prepared. And, also by working out, because I’m so used to being on stage all the time that I really never had to go run or do cardio, because I’m already doing it every night on stage. Not every night, but you know what I’m saying, right? I don’t have that energy or that adrenaline rush. So, I have to try and recreate it at home.

It’s a total workout what you guys do onstage, because you’re not just a band that stands up there and plays your instruments. You guys are all over the place.

Yeah, we don’t stand there, and that’s a great statement, and you’re right. That’s one of the things that when this first happened, I was like, all right, I can give my body a break. It’s like an NBA basketball player– you get a break and can let your body heal up and then come back and kick more a**. But then, after four weeks, I’m like, this is a cool vacation, but I’m ready to go rock. Now. I want to get out there and run around any stage possible.

Metallica just did a drive-in movie for fans last weekend. What did you think of Metallica’s drive-in movie thing that they just did?

Yeah, I didn’t get to see it. I just heard the advertisement, and, unfortunately, I didn’t see it. I have to research that– I haven’t had a chance to go check it out after the fact.

As for the in-person drive-in shows, I’ve seen some footage from bands in Europe who are doing this sort of thing, and it actually looks really cool.

Yeah, that was the first one I saw. I saw that and I texted it to our drummer, Stix, and said, check this out. This is pretty interesting. It took a while to get this stuff going initially out here, because people didn’t really know how to facilitate it. Same thing with the live stream. No one was really doing live streams. So, to figure out how to do that, it took a little bit to get that going. But, I think we’ve got a really good system for that. So, I think with the drive-in shows and some live streams, we can supplement the appetite for some heavy metal during this quarantine.

I think that’s what we all need. I’m glad you guys are doing it.

Yeah, me, too. I’m glad we’re doing it, too. It gives us a chance to get out and do some shows! I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in a long time.

Based on what you’re hearing in the industry, do you have any idea when traditional shows might be back?

Well, we still have all our shows that we booked on our calendar in October, November and December. So, they’re still there. Nobody knows, and that’s the truth behind it. They’re not canceled yet. Every time we get six weeks out from a show, they seem to kind of peel off, but we’ll see what happens. You never know.

So the fourth quarter might have some actual shows?

Well, we book our shows probably six months ahead. So, we’re already booked in February of 2021, and March. So, it’s hard to say. We just don’t want to go, okay, let’s just take them off the calendar. We just leave them there and see if they don’t cancel them. So, there’s definitely a possibility shows can happen, but I don’t have any predictions on whether that will happen or not happen. So, that was the most vague answer I could ever give you! (Laughs)

(Laughs) It’s hard to tell. I know some other countries are having concerts, but it’s what, 25% capacity or something? That would just be weird.

That’s like playing a show that didn’t sell well.

That’s what the vibe would probably feel like that.

And, we’re good at those. We can do that all day long, because we’re used to opening up for– when we first started, we opened up for whoever would let us open up. Being the kind of band we are, people were like, “What?! Wwhat are you going to do?” It was really hard to win people over. So, we’re down to do that.

We recently lost a very positive voice in heavy metal music. Frankie from Quiet Riot. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on losing Frankie.

Yeah, it was so sad to hear that news. It sucks when somebody– I don’t know, he’s one of the founders of heavy metal. Quiet Riot are the ones that coined heavy metal back in the day. I don’t know if you know that, but at least in America, in my experience, that’s how it went down. And, I knew Frankie. We weren’t super close friends, but we were professional– professional friends, and I also toured with them. I played in a band for a while called L.A. Guns, and we toured with Quiet Riot. We did two legs with them, so we did a total of 12 weeks together. I got to know him and Kevin really well. Kevin was very helpful to me, because I was just learning how to tour, and Frankie was really cool. And, also Slaughter was on that tour, as well. It was great to get to know him, and then to hear of his passing was just like– I don’t know. I don’t know how to put it in words. It just sucks. Such a bummer.

Yeah, I was really hoping he would pull through, but I also know that form of cancer is so deadly. It’s just terrible.

Yeah, pancreatic pancreatic cancer, right?

Yeah. He played right up to the end too, which kind of surprised me. He really just stayed super active.

I always wondered why people do that, and now I think I get it. It’s kind of like, as you get older, if you get a disease or something, and I’m only imagining, but there’s been times when I’m so sick, like I have the flu or something, but I have to go on stage. And just a moments on stage while performing make me the happiest, and then when I’m done, I feel like crap. So, maybe that’s why,

Steel Panther released “Heavy Metal Rules” just last year, but is there any talk of a new album yet with the whole quarantine period?

Yeah! Our guitar player, Satchel, has been writing some really killer tunes. We’re not writing about the quarantine. We’re writing about s*** we like to write about, which is partying and having a good time. Because I don’t want to put out a record about how much of a bummer it was to be in quarantine and COVID-19. Our music is meant to have you go to a place– a fun place of escape, where you don’t think about the realities and just escape and have a good time and party. We’re hoping to start recording it as soon as we can. So, we should have something out– I don’t want to give a timetable of when it will be out. But, as soon as we can start getting into the studio and recording – which you would think would be easy, but it’s not – we’re going to get it out. Probably quicker than we normally would, actually.

So, at least new music, maybe, next year?

Yeah. I mean, unless stuff opens right away, and then we’re booked for the next nine months, yeah. If it stays closed, then we’ll definitely have something out for next year.

I’m so happy it won’t be about COVID-19 and quarantine, because there’s going to be so much music out there about all that stuff, and it will be great to have something just really fun.

That’s what we do. We sell happy. We don’t sell depression.

So, if there’s one collaboration I want to see, it’s you with Chris Jericho and Sebastian Bach. Would that ever happen?

That’s really funny. (Laughs) I don’t know! I almost posted something about that, and I thought, God, you know, they’re both my friends, right? And I haven’t talked to Sebastian about Chris and, but I’ve talked to Chris about Sebastian, because I talk to Chris more than I talk to Sebastian. And, the last time…. and these are professional friendships. They’re not like, we hang out friendships. This is festival touring or being on tour together or running into each other. But, Sebastian, I was at his birthday party, I think it was last year or the year before. And, I don’t know if he would– I think he probably disown me if I brought anything up about that! (Laughs) He’d be like, f*** that! And I don’t want to lose that dude as a buddy. So, I think it might just leave that s*** alone.

But, you have to give me credit. That would be pretty cool!

I’m just telling you I’m too much of a pussy to put it together– I am! (You know, I did say though, you know what would be really cool? Chris and Sebastian set up a boxing ring in my backyard, and if we filmed it on Instagram live to see who could actually kick– who would win the fight. That would be pretty rad.

That would get a lot of views. So, I think you’ve got something there.

And if we were to record a song, what song do you think you should do?

Gosh, I think an original.

Yeah. I guess we’d have to find someone to write it, though. Because we’re all just guys who don’t write.

I’m sure you guys could drum up something. Here’s a tough one: Who do you think is the greatest metal vocalist of all time?

Heavy metal vocalist of all time, for me, I would put David Lee Roth first. Now, overall, live and recording, and influencing, I would probably say Klaus Meine (of the Scorpions).

Great pick. Is there anything else you want to add? This has been great.

Yeah, go to my Instagram. It’s @MichaelStarr. Follow me, and check out what’s coming up. I usually post interesting things, like what I’m doing, and what I ate for breakfast. I’m just kidding! Come follow me, it’s cool.


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