Maintaining the charade with Lexxi Foxxx

The bounds of reality are blurred when interviewing Steel Panther's bassist

When I found out I would be interviewing Lexxi Foxxx, bassist with parody band Steel Panther, I was intrigued; would I be able to separate Travis Haley from his alter ego and conduct a penetrating interview into the man behind the character? Sadly not...but it was a good laugh anyways...

I’m put through to Lexxi by a Universal Republic staffer; I’ve only got 15 minutes so I’d better make it count. Lexxi comes onto the line with a big American “Hey! How are ya? We can’t wait to get to Australia – we’ve been talking about it for a while and we’re all stoked to be getting over there.”

Lexxi is currently in Los Angeles, getting some clothes made for the next tour.  So Steel Panther get their clothes hand made? “Yeah, Michael (Starr - vocalist) and I will get ours done by the same person and Satchel (guitars) has someone who does his clothes and Stix (drums) has someone who does his...” That’s very rock and roll. Or pantomime, depending on how you look at it.

The problem with doing the research for this interview was the difficulty in discerning what part of Steel Panther’s history is real and what part is made up so I start with trying to figure out the evolution of the band - how did Steel Panther evolve out of Danger Kitty, Metal Shop and Metal Skool (previous incarnations of the band)? “Basically we went through some different management companies and things like that.  Those names were all cool but everybody wanted a piece of what we did, with the other band names there were a lot more people involved and once we signed a deal with Universal we wanted it to be just us.  We wanted to change the name because first of all if you’re bringing heavy metal back (which is essentially what Steel Panther are all about) you look at the eighties, which is what we’re trying to bring back because that’s when heavy metal was bitching.  Bands like White Lion, Whitesnake, Def Leppard – they’re all bitching animals.  And then we thought ‘what’s the best freaking metal?’ and it was fucking steel.  So then we decided to take the best bitching animal; the panther, and put it together with steel because that’s the hardest substance known to man.  We were just about to put out a record, we’d just signed to Universal, what we’re gonna do is be called Steel Panther and we think that’s a bitching name.  We basically eliminated as many people as we could to increase any chance of success we might have, and we tried to just go on our own with Universal, and so far with Feel The Steel (the album) we’re really stoked with what we have – even though we’ve not had that much radio play.” Given the lyrics of most of the songs, I’m not really surprised.  I suspect Lexxi is referring to the large number hangers-on; groupies and the like that surrounded the band previously?

There were some pretty harsh lyrics in Death To All But Metal, did the band cop any grief from some of the celebrities mentioned in that track? “I have to tell you a couple of them weren’t too happy....what’s his name? That rapper? 50 Cent wasn’t too stoked but I know Blink 182 really dug it, they’ve said in interviews that it’s one of their favourite songs.  The Googoo Dolls have it on their home page or something like that...I guess they were flattered by it so that’s cool – if they dig it, it’s cool ‘cos we’re bringing heavy metal back and bands like that can suck it...but I’m glad they like our band.”

So who writes the majority of the lyrics?  “Satchel is the main songwriter in the band and Michael writes also.  What happens is they come in with bitching, bitching, bitching lyrics and bitching, bitching hooks and then we go into a studio and all sit down and say ‘what’s even more heavy metal and even more bitching?’ and we’ll all collaborate like that.  We all add our two cents in but Satchel and Michael bring most of the material to the table and then Stix and I just decorate it like a Christmas tree.”

I suspect I’m going to get quite weary of transcribing the word ‘bitching’ when writing this article up...

I ask about influences such as Whitesnake, Poison and Motley Crue, and Lexxi really gets into the question – he sound like he really does love that era and those bands.  This is the weird thing about the interview; it’s almost as if Lexxi Foxx really is a real person. Confusing and amusing...“Well, I’m gonna tell you right now between those three...for me; I believe what’s on the outside is more important than what’s on the inside...out of those three bands it’s Whitesnake because Rudy Sarzo is my favourite bass player.  He looks bitching, he moves cool, he plays with the best guitar players in the world and they all look bitching. Whitesnake’s Still of the Night video; when I saw that video I was like ‘That’s fucking awesome’ and I fucking love that video..I just like the looks.  Shit!  I can barely fucking play! I got into music for one reason and one reason only; to pick up chicks.  Satchel has helped me learn a couple of notes but half the time I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing...I’m like in  Quantum Leap, I don’t know what I’m doing there... but as long as I spin around and flick my hair, chicks dig that shit...and as long as I put bitching make up on; chicks dig that shit too.”

According to the bio on the Steel Panther website, it was you that turned Michael and Stix onto make up; do you feel you get enough credit for that? “I believe I do.  I do care about my hair very much and what happens before we go on stage to do a show, Michael has a very good eye for hair and he’ll fix our hair before we go on stage, and then I’ll basically make sure everybody’s make up is cool and I make sure everyone shaves because sometimes when you’re doing a bitching hair flick it looks like shit when part of your hair sticks [to the stubble]...We don’t want to be like Winger when that shit started to happen, and then Poison started to grow their growth out and then they started to not look bitching, and they started to look more like dudes than chicks. And that’s when it’s not cool.  I keep everyone intact when they go on stage.  So yeah, I do think I get credit for my make up. Thank you.” He sounds very proud that I noticed. So the secret is to strike that balance between looking like a bloke and a chick? “Yeah but you know, that’s what’s cool about the eighties, that’s what we’re trying to bring back.  I do like to blur that line.  Hey! I’ve got a penis, you know? (fair enough) but sometimes my face looks kind of like a girl but what we’re trying to bring back is the more that you look like a girl, the cooler it is.  Some girls like sensitive looking dudes.”

We start chatting about eighties hair products – there must have been something in the product because everyone had HUGE hair and Lexxi offers these sage words of wisdom; “Here’s a tip – what we Americans do; you don’t have to go out with stage eyeliner, you just put a thin line inside the eyelid and people will be like ‘Wow!  His eyes are foxy!’  I don’t know what it is because it doesn’t look like you have eyeliner on but you do.  Just put a little bit of mascara on – not heavy – but when you go on stage you put more bitching shadow and heavier shit on.  It’s those little tricks that can really fem you up and make your face look like a girl, because you know, dudes look like dudes.”
OK metallers, you heard it here first – start wearing that eyeliner...

Steel Panther are still pushing the first album Feel the Steel but is there any news on the new album? “We don’t have a title for it yet...Nuno Bettencourt’s going to be playing on it and we’re gonna have a couple of other guest appearances on the record that I can’t talk about right now because the contracts have to go through with their label. But we should have a name in the next couple of weeks, and I know when we’re in Australia we’ll be playing a couple of new songs off the new record so we’ll at least give you guys a sample of what it will be like.”

Steel Panther have received mixed reactions, both in Australia and overseas – there are some folk who just don’t enjoy the band's brand of humour; have the band found this to be the case? Lexxi adopts the tone of a petulant child and says “Some people are afraid of metal, and they do take it too seriously; they call us names and all kinds of stuff like that – bad names...and we like to say bad words because that’s how we feel sometimes.  And some people think that’s rude and dumb and very childish but they can just shut up.”

Steel Panther have a reputation for going wild on tour – do you guys really freak out on tour?
“It depends.  At the beginning of the tour we’re set, we’re hanging and partying but then by the end of the tour we’re barely even talking to each other.  We pretty much stay out of each other’s way.  We get wasted and still party but we just kind of do it by ourselves because we won’t do it with each other anymore.  At the beginning of the tour everyone loves each other and everything’s like ‘Yeah! This is gonna be bitching’ and by the end of it everyone hates each other and wants to shoot everybody else in the face”

And what about coming to Australia for the Soundwave Revolution tour? “We’re so stoked. We found out that so many people in Australia dig what we do and that is so bad-ass because we went to the UK and we were really well received, we played Download a couple of years and we sold out gigs there.  I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging – I was just so stoked to find out that people dug us over there and now with Australian fans, so we are super-stoked to go over there. We’ve never been down under so we are super-stoked and everyone I’ve talked to said that you guys are all so friendly and I can’t wait to party with you guys.”

We recently saw Spinal Tap at Glastonbury, where do you see Steel Panther in ten years? Playing Glastonbury?  “I sure hope so.  I know if we keep doing the right amount of drugs... but we have to level that amount – we can’t get too overboard, we can’t get too crazy.  You know, we all need drugs to be around each other because we will rip each other’s hair out and I will pull Michael’s eyelashes out of his face and I will kick Stix in the knees.  I will do all kinds of things if I don’t have drugs in my system...but you can’t overdo it – if we can all maintain our drug levels and stay chilled then we’ll be kicking more ass in the future.  Satchel's even writing more bitching songs today for the next record – the guys are all great and we do get along good but man...ten years?! Man...”

Lexxi also has some advice to upcoming bands: “Grow your hair out, take those little make up tips that I gave and go get some bitching spandex – not stupid spandex – spend some money, find someone who makes some bitching clothes and come up with your own fucking thing.  Grab something that stands I said before; it’s what’s on the outside, it’s not what’s on the inside. That’ll be my quote and that’ll be on my tombstone and I think people will cry as they see that because it’ll be a beautiful tombstone and it’s on the outside not what’s on the inside, which is what’s buried..”

Finally, who would you like to work with on the next album? “I’d love to get Joe Elliot and David Coverdale on the record; maybe Steve Vai  or maybe Rudy Sarzo or Tommy Lee?  Someone like that; someone who was bitching, someone who originally brought heavy metal to the scene and who would then come back to join us and help us keep heavy metal going ...”

The interview is over. I’m a bit confused and kind of amused - Steel Panther; enjoy ‘em or not.  It’s really up to you.