Dean Cameron is an accomplished actor, but he is also an accomplished musician. He was the bassist for the incredibly awesome band, The Thornbirds, and he takes part in a very special live karaoke band. On top of that, he has a rich history with Steel Panther and spoke with me about those experiences. (As well as his role on the Fast Times at Ridgemont High television series as Spicoli!)
Alex Obert: You have a remarkable history with Steel Panther and actually directed a presentation pilot for them. How was that set up and proposed?
Dean Cameron: I’ve known the guys for a long time and have always believed they should be on television. After some foot-dragging, everything lined up and we made something really wonderful. A big shot studio have made an offer. Unfortunately, these things move glacially. The initial demo was shot three years ago, we did another version last year. These things take a long time. Having been down the “big shot studio making an offer” road several times before, I’m not really holding my breath, but hope remains.
Alex Obert: How’s the support going for getting the band a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?
Dean Cameron: Well if we actually get a show on the air, I would like that to be at least the first season; trying to get that star. I think we can get ’em one, they should have one.
Alex Obert: I understand there were rumors a couple years ago of Comedy Central picking the series up.
Dean Cameron: They shot a pilot with Comedy Central four or five years ago and it was directed by Brian Posehn. Youtube search is your friend if you want to see it. And for whatever reason, Comedy Central didn’t pick it up.
Alex Obert: Which songs have you co-wrote with Steel Panther?
Dean Cameron: I co-wrote Girl from Oklahoma and Supersonic Sex Machine. And I wrote the intro lyrics to Supersonic Sex Machine, the intro that Dane Cook did. It’s a cool thing to hear those live, something I’ve written, and people enjoying it. I saw a video of them in Sweden or something at a festival and the whole crowd was singing along to Girl From Oklahoma. It was so cool.
Alex Obert: What are your thoughts on the intro and Supersonic Sex Machine?
Dean Cameron: I love it. Obviously, I think it’s a great song. And some guy did artwork out of the Supersonic Sex Machine, it’s hilarious. An enormous alien sporting an enormous alien Transformers cock, it’s great.
Alex Obert: Who’s idea was it to base the intro off of In The Beginning off of Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil album?
Dean Cameron: That was Satchel. He’s really the music guy. Girl From Oklahoma, I was messing around with that Extreme song, More Than Words. It’s that progression sort of sideways. I was singing the “come on pretty baby suck my balls all night…” part and Satchel took the music from there and we did the rest of the lyrics. Generally anything that’s really genius musically is Satchel. It’s his deal.
Alex Obert: Have you listened to the new album yet?
Dean Cameron: Yeah.
Alex Obert: What would you say is your favorite track off of it?
Dean Cameron: I like Gangbang at the Old Folk’s Home and Gloryhole.
Alex Obert: Which Steel Panther song do you wish had an official music video?
Dean Cameron: I wouldn’t mind directing Gangbang at the Old Folk’s Home. I don’t know if they’re doing that or if someone else is gonna direct that, but I sure would like a shot at that. I think it’s a great song.
Alex Obert: I saw a YouTube video of drawings depicting the lyrics for If I Was The King. It was really cool, Michael even retweeted it.
Dean Cameron: Really, I haven’t seen that.
Alex Obert: It was really cool, Michael even retweeted it. So when have you seen them live?
Dean Cameron: I first started seeing ’em back in ’99 when they were doing Mondays at The Viper Room. I’ve seen them hundreds of times. I’ve actually seen them so much, I don’t wanna see ’em anymore! (laughs) I’d like to see them at big, gigantic festivals, a show like that. But I’m an old guy and I have the kids so I don’t stay out very late. I don’t go see them at clubs around town or anything anymore.
Alex Obert: What are your favorite parts about a Steel Panther live show?
Dean Cameron: I love them talking. I don’t know if they do this anymore, but they used to dare each other to see how few songs they could play in a set. I’ve seen them do an hour and a half set and play four songs. They just talked the rest of the time. I’ve been an actor for thirty plus years and these guys, they are the funniest guys I’ve ever seen. They’re the best improv group ever! I can just watch them riff off of each other all day. If the television series goes, I would get to watch them riff off each other all day, and that would be great.
Alex Obert: You have history with Satchel and Stix, but how did you meet Michael and Lexxi?
Dean Cameron: I met them because they were doing Steel Panther with Satchel and Stix. The Thornbirds was during this time. Lexxi was in the first version of The Thornbirds with Satchel and Stix when they were called The Ducks. I fell in love with the songs and the band. Years later, after several bassists, I managed to worm my way in there and we got this little deal and the label didn’t really like the name, The Ducks. And so it was changed to The Thornbirds.
Alex Obert: What are your thoughts on Satchel as a vocalist?
Dean Cameron: He’s great. He’s an actual musical genius. I met him back in ’92 or ’93 when he was a teenager teaching at Musicians Institute. He’s an astonishing musician, just astonishing. And I’m glad he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves.
Alex Obert: Have you ever been on stage with them?
Dean Cameron: I played a Def Leppard tune with them once back when they were doing The Roxy.
Alex Obert: How do they keep the shows fresh when they’re doing them every week on the West Coast?
Dean Cameron: That’s the million dollar question and that’s why they’re so good. Every time you go to their show, you feel like they’re playing just for you. That’s a skill that just comes from stage time. They’ve been playing at least once a week for about fifteen years. That’s a really important skill for any performer, just getting up on stage and performing. They’ve got it down and they make it fresh every time. It’s wonderful.
Alex Obert: What are your thoughts on them inviting an eleven year old guitarist on stage?
Dean Cameron: It’s exactly what you’d expect from Steel Panther. Once, at The Viper Room years ago, they had a female banjo player come up with them. They love having people come up who are great. It can be a really well known rock star or an eleven year old prodigy. It’s really cool. They’re so approachable and so part of their fan base of heavy metal music. They began as a heavy metal cover band. So, being fans of the genre, they understand the connection the fan has with the music. Going up on stage is part of the gig.
Alex Obert: I’d love to go over some Thornbirds songs to get your thoughts on them.
Dean Cameron: Okay. I didn’t write any of them.
Alex Obert: All The Same.
Dean Cameron: I imagine that was written out of frustration of being in the music business for so long and being so talented. It was a silly, angry, post-grunge song.
Alex Obert: Internet X-Plorer.
Dean Cameron: It was written right as the internet was coming towards the masses. It’s about jerking off in front of your computer. Pretty self-explanatory! It’s a great song. It sounds great too.
Alex Obert: How was the instrumental intro developed?
Dean Cameron: That was developed in the demo, just messing around with effects and playing.
Alex Obert: Teenage Tramp.
Dean Cameron: One of my favorite songs! A nice ditty about a loser messing around with teenage girls. The idea is better than the actual reality.
Alex Obert: What would you say are the band influences for The Thornbirds?
Dean Cameron: King’s X, The Beatles, and Lit.
Alex Obert: What were the live Thornbirds shows like?
Dean Cameron: They were fine, they certainly weren’t as exciting or as fun as Steel Panther, but it was a good time. We were playing music at places in Hollywood, where getting people to come out to hear live music is nearly impossible. So, we never had audiences the size of Steel Panther.
Alex Obert: And you are also known for being in a Coreys band?
Dean Cameron: (laughs) Coreyoke! It’s a karaoke band where people get up and they sing the song with the band. Live band karaoke. Lyrics on a video monitor… The whole thing. The initial conceit was that we were the Coreys from the eighties trying to revive our careers by forming a band. We wore 80s mullet wigs and Memebers Only jackets. There are other live karaoke bands, but we wanted to be different from them. And since we started out playing eighties songs exclusively, it made sense to be Coreyoke. Stix actually came up with the name Coreyoke. The setlist ranges from the sixties all the way up to Bruno Mars and everything in between. If you care, it’s at Coreyoke.com
Alex Obert: Speaking of the eighties, how did you get the role for the television series based off of Fast Times at Ridgemont High?
Dean Cameron: I auditioned for it. Obviously, the movie was wildly successful and they wanted to make a TV series of it. I had done one series that had been cancelled. Nobody, including me, wanted the part of Spicoli because those were enormous shoes to fill. I was terrified of it! But I kept reading for it because I needed to work as an actor and ended up getting the gig. It made me visible in the entertainment industry and pretty much led to everything else in my career. It’s directly responsible for me getting the part in Summer School and I’m still reaping the benefits from that. It only lasted seven episode,s but being in Fast Times turned out to be a good thing.
Alex Obert: How did you study for the role? Did you keep watching the movie?
Dean Cameron: Well I knew Sean Penn from acting class. And this may sounds like bull, but I was trained as a method actor, and so a lot of what I’m doing in that part is as if I’m taking a warm shower. That’s basically all that’s going on when I’m playing Spicoli. I feel like there’s a warm shower on me at all times cause that’s when I’m most comfortable and relaxed. Like being stoned, I imagine.
Alex Obert: What was it like working with Ray Walston who played Mr. Hand?
Dean Cameron: That was literally awesome. It was just a dream come true. I got to go to New York with him to do press for the show. I sat with him on the airplane and he was talking about performing in stuff like Damn Yankees and Oklahoma! Classic Broadway musicals. It was really cool to sit and talk to him. And his big thing was wanting to get people to stop talking about the fucking antennae, that was his goal. “If I can get people to stop talking about this fucking antennae, I’ll be a happy man!” And I believe ultimately he did because he ended up getting some cool parts in movies later on. A really great guy.
Alex Obert: What else are you up to these days?
Dean Cameron: I’ve written a couple of things, that’s basically it. I dropped out of show biz for a long time and worked as a web programmer. And then a couple years ago, I realized that I hated web programming and liked being in show biz better. I was pursued by a sort of hotshot agency and management, so I’m back to chasing the carrot and basically starting from scratch. Fortunately, people still remember me even though I hadn’t worked in a while. I had a shout out on Robot Chicken, their Christmas episode. They say “December 25: the birth of Jesus Christ but more importantly the birth of Dean Cameron, “Chainsaw” in Summer School.” Or something. But I’ve landed some cool, though small parts on stuff. I’m working steadily and it’s nice. Recently, NCIS and Shameless and stuff like that. Psych was great. They wrote a part for me. It was the last episode they shot, but it was the second to last episode to air. So that’s what’s going on. I’m hoping the Steel Panther show gets going, that would be great.
Alex Obert: Aside from Steel Panther, what bands are you listening to?
Dean Cameron: It’s funny, this happened with movies and TV as well; they sort of broke my heart. So I stopped being able to watch movies and TV. And other than class jazz, I stopped listening to music too. I’m just now able to listen to current music again and even that is not so current. I’ve been listening to Death Cab for Cutie, I like them a lot. Switchfoot is a sort of a guilty pleasure. I also love The Winery Dogs. I’ve never stopped listening to my first love, Led Zeppelin.
Alex Obert: In closing, what do you have to say to those who have never heard of Steel Panther?
Dean Cameron: They are the best non-eighties, eighties metal band ever. And they’re wildly funny. You can’t figure out where the parody ends and the reality begins. That’s one of the joys of their show.
Alex Obert: What are your websites at the moment for readers to check out?
Dean Cameron: DeanCameron.com, coreyoke.com and SecurityEdition.com
Alex Obert: Thank you very much for your time!
Dean Cameron: Yeah, man! Anytime!
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Dave parker says
I talked to him once at a steel panther show. He is super smart and is really cool. He should be a bigger star.