INTERVIEW: Stix Zadinia – Steel Panther

STEEL PANTHER have recently released their fifth studio album, Lower The Bar (read our review here), as the American comedy group look to continue their popularity in the music world. Having already sold out arena shows in the US and abroad, as well as headlining stages at major festivals such as Download for example, the group have grown and expanded their reputation. We caught up with the band’s drummer Stix Zadinia to discuss their latest record, how the band came into the limelight and touring.

How do you feel STEEL PANTHER have progressed since All You Can Eat?

Stix: I think on this record we went a couple of different places musically that we hadn’t gone before, and I feel like in the past we’ve given the fans and the listeners a lot of heavy metal, and on this record we’ve given them heavy metal and then some! We went to places musically that we haven’t gone before, and I think it’s a refreshing take on what we do.

What were the writing and recording processes like for this album?

Stix: Well mostly Satchel comes in with an idea, or we’ll be on the road as we tour a lot so something will come up which sparks an idea, and Satchel will come in with an idea, whether it’s the verse, the first chorus, or an entire song. We throw that through the STEEL PANTHER machine and if it works for all four of us we’ll start hammering it out and say ‘hey, let’s try this’, ‘let’s try that’, ‘what about going in a different part here?’, and at the end of the day it’s a collaboration of all four of us.

Has there been anything in particular which has helped influence the album?

Stix: Well straight up, pussy and partying! There’s definitely no mystery about what we sing about and where our inspirations come from. We love heavy metal, and it’s funny because I have heard people say “oh man these guys are singing about the same stuff”, but really what are people singing about? If you look back at artists like TAYLOR SWIFT and ADELE, what are they singing about? They sing about love and breaking up, we just happen to sing about pussy, drugs, heavy metal and partying – that’s the lane that we like to stay in.

What are your aspirations for the album as a band?

Stix: Well I’d love for it to be our biggest album to date. Its number 1 on iTunes in a lot of countries and a lot of territories right now which is really exciting for us. When you’re in a band and you’re releasing your fifth album, to have it being your highest ever charting record, which I think this one is going to be because the pre-sales on this were higher than All You Can Eat and the chart positions we had for All You Can Eat are the highest we’ve ever had. For it to be our biggest record to date and keep going up in our trajectory that’s the aspiration, and one day to headline Download Festival and playing all over the world, which we do but I wanna be able to do it in stadiums – why not? Somebody’s gotta fucking do it!

Lower The Bar is your fifth studio album – how much of a milestone is that for you?

Stix: It’s a huge milestone; I was on iTunes and when you type in related albums to Lower The Bar and I see all the album covers of the albums that we’ve done, I was very, very proud of the body of work that we’d created because a lot of bands will do one record, maybe they’ll get lucky enough to do two and to do three records as a band is a very rare feat nowadays, even for a solo artist, so to have five…I think we’re in pretty rare company.

Looking at the band’s history, when STEEL PANTHER first broke through as a comedy band, how hard has it been to maintain that perception as you’ve become more established?

Stix: You know some people have asked in interviews before “do you get mad when people call you a comedy band?” or “what sort of band are you or want to be called” and the honest answer is I don’t give a fuck what you call us as long as you’re paying attention. It doesn’t matter what chart we’re on, whether we’re on the rock chart, a heavy metal chart, or a comedy chart. To me the fact that people are listening and getting their balls rocked off, and if they’re laughing then that’s fantastic. If they’re banging their head and not laughing, that’s fantastic. I just want people to enjoy it, that’s why we do what we do; we’re musicians, and we love to play and write and record, and the best thing that can happen is that you put songs together in an album form and you hope that people dig it. At the end of the day I don’t give a fuck what anybody calls us, just as long as they’re listening.

The quality of the music in the songs is sublime, so how seriously do you guys take it when writing a new album?

Stix: Well I’m glad that you notice that, because that is incredibly important to us. For as much as we talk about pussy and partying, at the end of the day if you don’t put a quality record together with killer songs that sound great, to me that’s almost paramount. People are going to talk about release week, they’re going to talk about this and that, but when they actually get down to being in their car or being at work and putting the album on, the experience that you wanna have for your fans and somebody listening to it is “this is good”. You want them to feel and to experience greatness and that’s what we’ve always strived for on a record, sonically and song writing-wise, that’s the most important stuff. You could be someone like Joe Satriani – he’s an insane guitar player, but I can’t hum you a Joe Satriani song. I’m not taking anything away from him, but his focus is on being a shredding player. Our focus, though we try to be as great players as we can and I don’t think we’re any slouches, but our focus is to put together the best records as possible. You can shred all day long but no chicks are going to go to a shredder show!

When you started out whose idea was it to take on the ‘glam rock’ parody?

Stix: To be honest it wasn’t a specific thing. We’re all heavy metal fans, we all grew up listening to heavy metal and you can’t do what we do if you weren’t really there, or really a part of it. The research that we did was when we started listening to heavy metal when we were kids, and it was all very organic. It’s funny because I’ve heard people say “oh STEEL PANTHER, that’s the band that talks about dicks”, but then we write our own songs and we record our own record, and we’re one of the most real band you’ll ever see!

What bands do you look up to and who has inspired you the most?

Stix: Growing up for me it was DEF LEPPARD, DIO, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, MOTLEY CRUE… all those bands I love. I loved loud guitars and I just loved heavy metal, that was what I listened to regularly, and that’s really where I got my inspirations from.

When you first started out did you think you’d become the band that you are today in terms of popularity?

Stix: You never really prepare yourself for, well first of all streaming iTunes. It was a whole different world even when we started, it was just a different landscape so I couldn’t have predicted what it is today but I always felt that we had something really special to offer. I knew that we were good, but the only thing that really proved that is our results. There’s so many bands out there who go “we’re going to be the biggest band in the world”’, and I think you only really become that if you really believe it’s possible. If you don’t really believe it’s possible then it isn’t going to happen, and that’s still my goal.

What was the reception like when you first came onto the scene?

Stix: It was fantastic; we’ve done shows where we’ve had people thinking “what the fuck are we watching?”, but by the end of that show they were fans, because I feel like when we do play live it’s infectious and people may go “what is this?” at first, then by the end of the show they’re like “ah okay I get it, I get what they’re doing – they’re fucking rocking and having fun, and I’m gonna do that too”.

Did you ever see yourselves coming to places like the UK and selling out arenas as well as headlining festivals?

Stix: It’s very incredible, not a lot of people get to do that in the world, and being a musician as a kid, that’s the dream to play festivals and to rock to as many people as you can and to sell out arenas…it really is a dream come true. It’s what you hope for when you’re a kid and to do that and continue to do it, that’s the fucking dream right there; to be a full time musician, rocking to people who are digging what you’re doing, that was my goal.

You’re on the bill for Download Festival again this year. How different is it playing a festival compared to your own tour?

Stix: It’s chaos, because you have to be on at a certain time, off at a certain time, there’s a lot of things on backstage, there’s a lot of press and there’s tens of thousands of people who are going to watch you on a huge platform. It’s fun because backstage you get to run into a lot of people – it’s like summer camp. You get to see a lot of friends, old friends that you’ve made on tours, and there’s this fraternity where you get to see your bros in other bands that dig what you do and meet with a travelling carnival of freaks that you get to hang out and have a good time with. I love it, it’s very very fun.

What other future plans have you got in store as a band?

Stix: That’s a big question! To tour, make more records and I’d love to play stadiums some time. I think ten more records and we can do it… why not? We can fucking do it!

Lower The Bar is out now via Open E Entertainment.

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