Ralph Saenz is better known by his stage name, Michael Starr, and for good reason – he lives and breathes that persona as the frontman for '80s heavy metal parody group Steel Panther.
They're funny, but their music is no joke, ranking on the Billboard Comedy charts and opening for Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe. While sipping his morning coffee last week, Starr recalled the band's previous night in Boston just days after the tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon before chatting with The Weekender about hair, girls, and playing on the moon before their concert at the Sherman Theater on April 26.
MICHAEL STARR: We had a show in Boston, which was pretty epic, man, because a couple days ago they had that tragedy. We were all pretty nervous about doing a show there so close to that happening, but it turned out to be fantastic, man. It was a great show. We were up pretty late having a good time afterward.
We talked about it just a little bit right in the opening monologue of our show, and then we didn't talk about it after that, but once we got rid of that big elephant in the room, everyone was just able to let loose and have a great time. It was cool.
THE WEEKENDER: What is it about the '80s that sticks with you and Steel Panther?
MS: I was born in '65, so by the time I was conscious of what was going on in rock, everybody had long hair in the '70s, so to me, having long hair was just the way it was. And then in the '80s, everyone actually shaped and cut their hair and made it look really cool, and shaved the beards off, and I was like, “This is way better! You get way more chicks this way.” And man, I just love that genre of music because it just encompasses everything that I think is fun. Partying is fun, being with chicks is killer, and rocking out is even more fun. You put them all together and it's like going to Disneyland every day of the week.
If you're into Disneyland. I'm not really into Disneyland. If Disneyland is your thing, than god dang it, Steel Panther is your band.
W: How does your music still connect with people today?
MS: Well, No. 1, it's really fun, it's catchy, and we actually talk about s—t that people – I wouldn't say that they're afraid to talk about – but when you sit with your parents, you don't want to start telling them all about the Asian hooker you were with the night before, but Steel Panther gives that. We just talk about s—t that really is important to you and what you're thinking anyway, and we just put it out straight on the table… I think people really enjoy that straightforward f——-g rock.
Subjects that we pick to sing about are stuff that most bands wouldn't sing about just because it's something that they've never done, or I don't know why. When you're sitting at Starbucks and you're trying to have a conversation with somebody, you don't start talking about Asian hookers with them. We do.
W: Does that honesty come naturally?
MS: A lot of people just go, “Oh, you're just trying to do it for the shock value,” but the reality is everything that we sing about is s—t that we've done or experienced. Even when we're not on stage, we're having a good time laughing with each other and just f——-g around. What we've been able to do is take that, those personalities, and put them in the music, and I think that's what people are drawn to because when you come to see our show, we're not staring at our shoes. You're not going to come and see a bunch of shoe gazers. We are in your face, we want your response, we want to connect with you, and I think it's just great to party.
W: How competitive is the band in the heavy metal music scene?
MS: We're extremely competitive. I like to relate ourselves to like an NFL team – we all want to get those stats, but we all know, no matter how much money we make individually, we've got to come together as a team and have one goal and be aligned. For us, it's not just to go to the Super Bowl, it's to go win the Super Bowl. For us, we want to be the biggest band in the f——-g world, and we're not going to stop until we do that, and we're going to do it.
I'm not just talking about genre; I'm talking about the whole world, maybe the biggest band ever. Maybe, how about the first band to play on the moon? You ever think about that? I mean, it would have to be in an airtight place with a gravity machine for people to hear what's going on, but it'd be killer.
W: What is the best part about being in a rock band?
MS: The best part about being a lead singer in a rock band, for me, is that I get the most p—-y. It's a default thing. It's like every heavy metal band, if you think about it: the guitar player and the lead singer are the most important guys in the band…. You don't really remember the drummer, so by default. (Guitarist) Satchel usually gets the smart chicks. I'm not down for chicks who can outsmart me – I just want to be with someone that doesn't make me feel dumb, you know what I mean? It's easier that way, especially a wounded one, someone that maybe just broke up with a guy. Because then they're not sure, like, “Should I do this? I don't know.” And then I can talk them into it and I feel like I've conquered.
W: What's the worst part?
MS: P—-y. Some of it is really annoying. Like some girls, man, I don't know what the f—k some of these girls are eating, but man, just a bit of advice if you're reading this – brush your teeth before you come to the show and drink a half gallon of Listerine. That's all I'm asking.
W: Why did you name this the Spreading the Disease (STD) Tour?
MS: We thought it was pretty accurate for what we do. Everybody in the band has herpes, so if we're broken out, we're actually living up the name of the tour. And also I remember we were sitting in a record label or a management company that we were trying to get signed to and they're like, “You guys are like a disease, man – you never go away!” And we're like, “It's true, man. We are spreading the disease. We are never going away.” There's people that love us or hate us – there's nobody in the middles that goes, “Yeah, I kind of like Steel Panther.” Everybody has a strong opinion of us.
That's the best place to be, man. None of this f——-g middle, 3 Doors Down s—t. You want to be f———g hated or loved.