Most of the lyrics by the hard rock/glam metal band Steel Panther are too vulgar for radio. And Michael Starr, the parody act's frontman, says MTV handed Steel Panther the longest edit sheet in the network's history in response to the group's first attempt at a music video.
But those roadblocks haven't kept the Los Angeles quartet from its ongoing mission: to bring heavy metal back to the masses. Through long-running West Coast residencies, grassroots marketing and unexpected radio exposure, Steel Panther has secured an opening slot on ZZ Top's upcoming overseas tour and is filming a pilot for Comedy Central.
Its debut album, Feel the Steel (Universal Republic), was released stateside October 6.
Produced by Jay Ruston (the Donnas), Feel the Steel is No. 98 on the Billboard 200 for the week ended October 11, with sales of 6,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
According to the band members' tongue-in-cheek back story, Steel Panther was huge in the '80s, disappeared before the release of its debut and returned to the scene decades later. The four tattooed musicians are usually clad in Spandex, go only by their stage names (Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxxx and Stix Zadinia) and won't discuss their outside lives.
Created in 2000, the potty-mouthed quartet -- whose songs almost exclusively talk about women, one-night stands and heavy metal -- has been playing frequently sold-out residencies for about a decade. These include stints in Las Vegas at Green Valley Ranch and the Aliante, as well as the Key Club in Los Angeles, during which the band has been joined onstage by the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Pink.
We're an organic, word-of-mouth kind of band because we're not really getting the radio airplay, says Starr. But that's the way this band has always been. We're kind of like herpes: We spread slowly but we're steady.
The band was known as Danger Kitty, Metal Shop and Metal Skool before adopting its current moniker. A few tracks from the group's self-released first album, Hole Patrol, were rerecorded for Feel the Steel, including Stripper Girl and Fat Girl (Thar She Blows).
After the album's international release in June, the band has become popular in the United Kingdom and Japan. Comedy Central caught wind of the group after comedian Sarah Silverman made an appearance in the Death to All but Metal video. A pilot for a weekly scripted comedy show -- about bringing heavy metal back, naturally -- is in the works for early 2010.
Most people have never heard of these guys, Frank Arigo, senior director of marketing at Universal Republic, says with a laugh. The initial reaction is, 'Aw, they're totally ripping off Metallica.' Well, yeah, that's what Steel Panther does. But even though they write lyrics that are really funny, they're amazing musicians who couldn't be more serious about bringing metal back.