We begin today’s chat with Steel Panther guitarist Satchel with a run-through our learnings from bandmate Lexxi Foxxx some 24 hours ago. Rather hilariously, the shred virtuoso extends his deepest sympathies…
“It’s very hard to get advice from our bass player,” says Satchel, his sides bursting at the very notion.
“He’s the kinda guy that likes to get advice rather than give it. He’d probably read this article, but I don’t even know if he can read yet, to be honest with you. He’s still working on all that stuff.
“The key to Lexxi’s success has been learning from me. Plus, he has amazing hair, so it really doesn’t matter what notes you play with a look like that.”
This year’s fourth major-label full-length, Lower The Bar, sees the glam metal lifers on rude form - with no shortage of rib-tickling skulduggery in their odes to rock ’n’ roll excess.
As ever, it wouldn’t be nearly as funny if the musicianship wasn’t there to back it up…
“Well, I feel like I played kickass on every song,” reveals Satchel, wasting no time to offer his thoughts.
“It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I like That’s When You Came In because it uses a different tuning. I guess all you guitar players would call it DADGAD. It’s a very cool tuning because it makes it really hard to hit bad notes - you can just do a barre chord anywhere and it sounds killer!
“There’s a song called Wasted Too Much Time, which has a really melodic solo and lots of harmonies. It might not be total shred, but that’s one of my favourites.
“Believe it or not, the hardest part to play well is Wrong Side Of The Tracks (Out In Beverley Hills), because the rhythm part is not easy to play in time. There’s alternate picking on the D, G and B strings throughout the whole verse… which gets tiring!
“Expect to hear these songs at Download Festival in June, hopefully on a day where the sun actually comes out for a change. Either way, we’ll be with Aerosmith backstage, so the sun will be shining there, for sure. And when I say sun, I mean cocaine…”
Here, the fret-burning axeman shares his five tips to guitar godliness…
Lower The Bar is out now.
1. Practise standing up
“I reckon if you’re reading this, you’re pretty good, with a decent level of playing ability, right?! But I bet a lot of you aren’t even in bands - so here’s one of the best bits of advice you’ll ever hear: practise in your room, standing up.
“Most people sit down on a chair or a couch. When you’re in a band, you’re never going to be sitting down on stage…
“Make sure you know how to do it all confidently standing up with the guitar around your neck and your hands a bit lower than they’d be when sat down. It’s a bit like masturbation in that regard: the angles totally change. I have incredibly long arms, so it’s all different standing up... I’m talking about masturbating here, not playing.
“Why not try doing both standing up? And then switch hands - that’s good for technique. You could even shave one leg, rub it against the other one in bed and pretend you’re with a woman… wait, what was the question again?!”
2. Avoid getting a job or a girlfriend
“Back when I lived with Paul Gilbert, we were both heavily into music and playing guitar. Needless to say, we didn’t get a whole lotta pussy back then. We’d go out and eat once a day, like Thai food or Indian food, then just carry on playing music.
“It was a killer time in my life, because it was music from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. There weren’t many distractions back then, which was great for developing. If you don’t have a job, embrace that shit: spend as much time getting as good as you can on your instrument.
“Try not to get distracted by pussy... because pussy can be so distracting! We all love pussy, right? But if you don’t have a girlfriend or job, which is most of you, embrace that shit for as long as you can. Practise and write songs. Find your style... it will only come with time and dedication.
“You need to have faith all those hours of practice will pay off. Later in life, you start having to make money, and if you get into a relationship - which I really don’t recommend - she’ll ask you to take out the trash and make you get a job. You won’t have any time left. Stay at home and practise riffs all day long.”
3. Play in time
“I was talking to Paul Gilbert not long ago, actually, and he mentioned the ability to simply play in time. I don’t think it’s a strong thing with a lot of the younger guitar players I see.
“Don’t get a metronome, because they’re pretty boring and you’ll naturally get disinterested using them. A drum machine is a good substitute - look on GarageBand or Logic; you can get all that shit for free nowadays.
“Try to focus on being in time, whether you play rhythm or lead. It needs to be solid half-notes, quarter-notes, eighth notes. I see a lot of kids rushing and dragging when they play live.
“We had a guy get up with us the other day - we do it all the time because it’s fun, and this guy was so confident. But he screwed up our song Eyes Of A Panther, which was not very kickass at all. He definitely should have played along to a drum machine, haha!”
4. Rehash the same licks!
“You can do clever tricks, like shift your pentatonic runs - say, if you’re in E minor, you can move your licks from the 12th fret to B minor on the 7th fret. It might change the vibe of the lick or the feel or how you might resolve it, so it will sound different and make you look cooler.
“The more you do this, the more it will totally open your brain. And say if you have five licks in E, then start using them in B minor, that will double them up - which makes, like, eight or whatever. If that doesn’t work, then do a big bump and smoke some pot.”
5. Admit you’ll never be Yngwie Malmsteen
“There’s a lot of pressure here - it’s my final tip - so it needs to be a good one. There was a point where I realised I was never going to alternate-pick like Paul Gilbert or Yngwie Malmsteen. That’s when I decided to focus on the things that I am strong at and improve how they sound.
“We all get obsessed with certain techniques from tapping to fingerpicking, and each of us has our weaknesses. It’s important to focus on the good stuff and develop that... But, seriously, avoid the things you’re not strong on - because you’ll find your style using what comes naturally.
“At the end of the day, most people don’t care about how fast you can pick. They just don’t give a shit. What matters is how you sound, or playing in time, or being creative with your ideas. Be less concerned with speed and scales - think about how to use the techniques rather than relying on them.”