With their European tour hoving into view later this month, you’d fully expect California glam rockers Steel Panther to be holed up in a rehearsal studio together to hone their set. “Are you fucking kidding me?” says guitarist Russ ‘Satchel’ Parrish, bemused by the very suggestion. “We don’t ever rehearse. I’m in Vegas right now! I’m kickin’ so much ass.”
And his band sure has been kickin’ ass these past few years. They headlined Wembley in 2015 (“We spent more on the confetti for that than on all our records combined”); their three major-label albums sold nicely across the globe and their success continues with new live LP Live From Lexxi’s Mom’s Garage, and the tour.
Behind the bluster and beneath the hair metal hairpiece, Parrish, 46, is a guitar player with serious skills and impeccable credentials. In the 90s he taught at the Guitar Institute Of Technology in Hollywood, that nerdy nirvana for widdlers worldwide. And while there are plenty of face-melting players on the ten albums that changed his world, it’s clear that for him the song’s still king. “I could’ve chosen a thousand albums,” he says, “but these are the ones that I love, the ones I go back and listen to.”
And besides, anyone who can flip from an Ayn Rand to a dick joke in the same sentence is alright by us…
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
I know it’ll sound trite, but I can still listen to this record and go, ‘Oh fuck, all I do is sing about dicks!’ The Beatles were inventive even for 1967, which was a pretty inventive time. Sgt. Pepper blew everybody’s dick up over their head. And it’s 50 years old – that’s fucked up! God I feel old. I heard it when I was young, but didn’t really get into it until my late teens. Sometimes you can listen to an album and it doesn’t do it for you, then you come back to it when you’re in a different place in your life and it’ll really affect you, and that’s what happened.
First I thought they were pussies who didn’t have enough distortion on the guitars – ‘I want to be listening to George Lynch, man!’ Then I started doing more psychedelic drugs and then I heard The Beatles. Within You Without You and Lovely Rita on the same record? That’s crazy shit! They did everything on there and did it well. It wasn’t just a rock record, like, say, Nickelback, where every song’s similar. They went from one end of the planet to the other and didn’t fuck it up.
T Rex – Electric Warrior (1971)
This is a great fucking record, not really a guitar record – it’s all about the tunes. I got turned on to this one in the early 80s. Back then, when guitar heroes were in their prime and Yngwie Malmsteen was getting his dick sucked at every gig, I’d get into my 1982 Isuzu hatchback and I wouldn’t put on Yngwie’s Marching Out, I’d put on Van Halen, AC/DC, or T Rex. I love tunes. Strippers love this record. If you pick up a stripper and put a T Rex record on they will fuck you all night long. Marc Bolan was a really cute guy, and that does matter.
David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971)
I love Bowie, and I fucking love Hunky Dory. I’ve listened to this one so many times over the years. Life On Mars is one of my favourite songs ever, and one of many great tunes on here. Bowie’s voice is amazing, and Mick Ronson is another underrated guitar player. He’s a great performer, and tasty as fuck. He didn’t play fast much, but just always played the right thing in the right place. Guitarists don’t have to be technically great – just have taste and you’ll be great at your instrument. Guys like Mick Ronson taught me that. You can hit one note and give girls goosebumps, and they will suck your dick afterwards.
Deep Purple - Machine Head (1972)
I gotta put some Ritchie Blackmore in here. Machine Head is my favourite Deep Purple record, and I love Deep Purple, man. That’s the kind of shit that heavy metal spawned from in the 80s – Sabbath, Purple, Zeppelin. Listen to Smoke On The Water – that’s the most heavy metal riff there is!
I learned everything on that record when I was younger. If you’re a guitar player and you write songs – and you should write songs if you want to improve – then this is what you want to learn, the shit you like. This was a influential for me as far as guitar riffs and songs go. And so many good songs – Highway Star, Pictures Of Home…
ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973)
La Grange is on here, Jesus Just Left Chicago. Their early shit was fucking great. I got into ZZ Top and Van Halen at the same time. Eddie listened to ZZ Top for sure, and Billy influenced him, like in the way he does his pick harmonies. Billy’s got totally his own feel on guitar. He can play two notes and you’ll know it’s Billy Gibbons. But he sang great too, and I like the fact it’s a three piece, because then you don’t have the difficulty of dealing with a lead singer.
It’s really difficult for me to deal with Michael Starr, and I’m thinking about Steel Panther becoming a three piece for the next record. We supported ZZ Top at Wembley and I got to eat at the same table with them. Billy had half a tuna sandwich stuck in his beard, it was kinda awkward…
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Rush – 2112 (1976)
A lot of people don’t like Rush – they consider them more prog than metal. But 2112 is such a great record, you don’t even know where one song stops and another begins at times. They broke a lot of rules, did what the fuck they wanted to do. Everybody in Rush is so good that they kind of overshadow each other! Alex Lifeson has been one of the biggest guitar influences on me, and he never ever gets the props – he’s so underrated, and I think it’s because of his haircut. If he still had the haircut he had at the time of 2112 he’d be more popular. He really is one of the best ever. He’s not flashy but his parts are totally right for the songs at all times, and they’re inventive and cool.
Neil Peart is a great drummer, but also his lyrics have been an influence on me, not that you’d hear it in Steel Panther! He inspired me to read more Ayn Rand books, and that helps me go to sleep at night. We all read The Fountainhead before fucking bitches on the tourbus.
Van Halen – Van Halen II (1979)
I’m a guitar player, I love guitar, so I’ve got to have a Van Halen album in here. Usually I’d go for their first one, but Van Halen II is just as good, it rocks so fucking hard. It’s got the instrumental Spanish Fly on there which is awesome, the songs are hooky, and they could sound so happy without sounding like pussies.
Dance The Night Away, that’s a pussy title, but it rocks so fucking hard I don’t feel like a pussy liking it. The guitar playing’s killer of course, but the entire band was a machine. That influenced me as a musician – they’re so tight, their timing’s great. It’s what made me so picky about drummers as a kid. When I found Stix [Zadinia, of Steel Panther] I was like, ‘Dude that’s my drummer!’
Hughes/Thrall – Hughes/Thrall (1982)
Jeff Martin [Racer X/Badlands] turned me on to this one. Glenn Hughes is one of my favourite singers of all time, I loved him in Deep Purple, and when I heard this record I thought, Whoa! Pat Thrall is a great guitarist and here his playing is fucking phenomenal, the songs are great and I think they brought the best out of each other. A lot of people don’t know this one, but it’s a great record. They only did one Hughes/Thrall record, they were going to do another one but it kept getting put back until eventually Hughes said, Fuck it, I don’t want to do it anymore.
Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast (1982)
Iron Maiden are fucking legendary, and they’re legendary for a reason. It’s because they’re even bigger than the sum of their parts, and that’s really what a band should strive to be.
They’re such an influence. I love all their shit, but The Number Of The Beast is the quintessential Iron Maiden record. Every song’s amazing, Dickinson’s voice is huge, and Dave Murray and Adrian Smith play so well and so right for the songs, and Steve Harris – what a songwriter.
I’ve been listening to it since it came out. When heavy metal kinda started to die, around the time Nirvana came out, I remember wondering if it was going to become dated sounding. But it never has, it sounds just as awesome as it ever did. It’s one of the greatest albums of all time. I still listen to it and wish I could write songs like that.
The Better Death – The Better Death (2010)
The older I get the more bitter I get the harder it is to find records I really like, so it’s very inspiring when you hear one that totally surprises you. These guys are out of Dallas, and while they’re not that well known they’re so good at their instruments, some of the best players on the planet I think. They’re totally original, totally musical, and the more I listened to this the more I liked it, it’s kinda become my favourite record.
They’re super heavy at times, machine-tight and very melodic and inventive. Some might consider them prog because they have odd time signatures, but, like a lot of other albums on my list, it’s all about the tunes.