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‘Van Halen was the band that everyone had to live up to,’ says Steel Panther’s Michael Starr

(Image credit: David Jackson)

As tributes to the late, great Eddie Van Halen continue to pour in, Steel Panther frontman Michael Starr has spoken to podcast host Matt Stocks about his own relationship with the legendary Californian band.

Speaking on the Life In The Stocks podcast, Starr, who formerly fronted Van Halen tribute band, Atomic Punks, reveals how hearing Eddie Van Halen for the first time set him on his career path.

“I actually remember exactly where I was, how old I was, and what I was doing [when I first heard Van Halen],” says Starr. “My brother was in a band, right, and he… – this is going to sound really crazy, because I think I was, like, about 12 – … he used to live upstairs in the top floor of the house and he invited me up there and he showed up this white stuff, which was called cocaine, and he said, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta try this, it’s killer, you’re going to love it.’ He was like, six years older than me, so I tried it, and I‘m like, ‘This is killer!’ Then he goes, ‘Dude, you gotta check out this record, I just got it, the guitar player is amazing.’ And he put the [Van Halen] record on and he played Eruption for me and I was like, that was it, man.”

“I know that Steel Panther is about joking around and having a good time, but this is my reality: I did cocaine and listened to Van Halen at 12 and I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life… I just wanted to be in Van Halen. It was a killer experience.”

“Van Halen was the band that everyone had to live up to,” Starr continues. “Van Halen changed the course of every guitar player’s destination… With the combination of the songwriting and all those awesome talents [Eddie] had, Van Halen created a bar that’s pretty hard to get past, for me.”

“I grew up in Chicago and I moved to Southern California in 1979, when Van Halen II had just come out, and I had that 8 track with me at all times,” Starr adds. “My mom and dad broke up, right, so I was alone with my mom, in a new place, in a new community out in the middle of nowhere, and all I had was Van Halen and Cheap Trick and Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. I’m going to the beach, I’m listening to Van Halen II, there are hot chicks there, and it was like, This is my band!”

You can hear the full interview with Starr on the Life In The Stocks podcast. Recent episodes have featured interviews with The Darkness’ Dan Hawkins, Tommy Lee, Bad Religion (and former Minor Threat) guitarist Brian Baker and former Nine Inch Nails man Ilan Rubin. Host Matt Stocks has a book based on his podcast interviews, Life In The Stocks, Volume 1: Veracious Conversations with Musicians & Creatives, due for publication on December 1 via Rare Bird.