Steel Panther’s Satchel on What He Learned From Paul Gilbert, Eric Johnson, and Billy Gibbons

During his recent chat with Guitar World, Steel Panther’s axeman Russ Parrish, better known as his glam metla persona Satchel, discussed his playing techniques and who he was inspired by. Among other things, he was asked about his use of alternate picking runs, as well as how much of that he learned from Paul Gilbert, a guitar virtuoso he used to live with back in the day. Satchel responded:

“I used to hang out with Paul a lot. He was very inspiring, but one thing I realized early on was that I’d never be able to play like him. He has really big hands and this ability to cross strings really fast… only he can do it like that. If you get really good at doing Paul Gilbert licks, you’re only going to sound like him.

“So I took things from him that I felt were really important, like the way he attacks the strings. There’s a sound and conviction to that. Another player I learned a lot from is Eric Johnson.

Paul Gilbert / Russ Parrish

“I don’t talk about him a lot but he’s one of the best on the planet. And he’s the opposite of Paul Gilbert in how he picks; Paul is a metal guy and Eric is more on the jazz side and picks more lightly. I’m still learning and figuring out the best way to approach my solos.”

When reminded of his fair share of sweep picking lines, Satchel said:

“Yeah, I incorporate a lot of that stuff. There are a lot of licks that feel easier if you go up, down, up, up, down or whatever. There are certain licks where I’ll definitely do those mini sweeps. It’s more economical; hey, that’s why they call it economy picking!” 

Steel Panther's Satchel Plays His Favorite Riffs + Solos

“The downside of that kind of picking, and Paul Gilbert will be the first to tell you this, is that it can be very difficult to be consistent timing-wise. Say if you’re doing those classic Paul Gilbert triplets – he’s very precise and his timing is very good.

He explained this further:

“If you’re doing three notes per-string triplets with economy picking, it can be very difficult. But do you really want to do that all night? It might sound boring! I think what should drive your technique is how you want to sound on guitar. If you practice other people’s licks or scales all day long, you will get fast and clean, but it might not sound exactly like you.

Discussing the matter, Satchel also reflected on one important thing he also learned from ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons:

“I remember Billy Gibbons saying something, back before I was born, when he was probably 100, and he said something to the effect of, ‘When I practice, I practice sounding the way I want to sound.’ That makes sense to me.

“He’s not practicing how to do something. A lot of people might see Paul Gilbert and feel inspired, hoping to be as clean and accurate. That becomes their goal. But what you should really do is ask yourself how you want to sound on guitar. That’s what we should all be striving for.

Billy Gibbons - La Grange (Live From Daryl's House)

And there was also a mention of Uli Jon Roth:

“I think more along the lines of how I want to sound to other people who also like music. I remember buying an Uli Jon Roth solo record a long time ago and listening to the whole record thinking there were only a couple of spots where he played really fast. I thought, ‘That’s fucking awesome!’

“He didn’t feel the need to play fast for other guitar players. He played fast when only he wanted to, when it was right for the music. Eddie was the same; he always did what fit. That’s what made him so great.”

Uli Jon Roth live | Rockpalast | 2018

Elsewhere in the interview, Satchel was also questioned about Steel Panther song “Friends With Benefits” and its “tasty harmonic minor runs” in there. Asked how he approached writing the lead part, he replied:

“That whole section was based around a rhythm guitar riff that’s actually pretty complicated. It changes keys throughout the solo, it goes up a whole step and then three half steps. It switches every few bars but it stays in Phrygian dominant, from the harmonic minor family.

“Every time I play in that scale, I can’t help but feel like I’m sounding like Yngwie. He really owned that sound. I approach every solo from two mindsets: I think about melody and I also like to improvise.”

Steel Panther - Satchel Solo - 4K - Wembley, London 15/10/2016

When the interiviever said how it’s “interesting what your fingers come up with when you disengage the brain,” Satchel then replied:

“Exactly. You might make mistakes or play something you’d normally think sounds horrible and end up really liking it when you listen back. You hear it as a listener rather than a player, so you can be more objective. So that’s what I do – nail a few takes and then listen.

“How does the phrasing sound? What’s the vibrato like? Is it too busy? If you play too many notes, the average listener won’t be able to latch on. I don’t care about impressing other guitar players because they’re so fuckin’ hard to please anyway, especially with all those six-year-olds shredding on Instagram.”

Photos: Alfred Nitsch (20170614-024-Nova Rock 2017-Steel Panther-Satchel), Lars Horstmann (GS2019 – Paul Gilbert), Antti Salonen (Billy gibbons finland 2010)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.