ANVIL – "We’re Going To Stay Heavy Till We Can’t Breathe Anymore"
January 24, 2018, a month ago
Everyone’s favorite Canadian heavy metal band is back. Anvil has been churning out the same riveting proto-metal since the early ’70s. On its 17th full-length album, Pounding The Pavement (released Jan. 19th via Steamhammer), Anvil does what its always done best. Loaded with sharp, straight forward riffs with a recognizable groove, signature gang-chanted choruses and fiery guitar solos, its 12 tracks are delivered in true Anvil fashion. Childhood buddies guitarist/vocalist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, joined by new bassist Chris Robertson, has been through plenty of hardships throughout its storied career. With a slew of bad record labels, bad management and a changing musical climate in the ’90s, Anvil wallowed in obscurity. However, when the band’s longtime friend and Anvil fan Sasha Gervasi made a documentary about the band in 2008, Anvil gained a renewed resurgence and broke through to the mainstream audience. In the following interview, BraveWords writer Kelley Simms chatted with Lips about the new album, the documentary, his dedication to Anvil and much more.
BraveWords: Pounding The Pavement is Anvil all the way. What were you trying to achieve with these new tracks?
Lips: “More Anvil! What else would it be? If you can’t be yourself, who are you going to be? When I look at myself in the mirror, I still recognize myself. You don’t change, why would you? It’s not like all of a sudden I have different influences. I’m still influenced by the same things. So, it’s going to reflect that at the end of it, it always does.”
BraveWords: I think your fans expect the typical Anvil sound, much in the same way Motörhead and AC/DC fans do.
Lips: “It’s much simpler than that. Bands that work against that, generally fail. You work an entire career to acquire a uniqueness and a style. On my first albums, I was always looking for it, asking ‘What is it?’ Meanwhile, it was there. Your style is what you put out. You don’t make a style, you just are. It’s ingrained in you. You can’t really change who you are. There’s music that you can make yourself in your living room, but you don’t give it to your fans because it’s completely off the mark. You wouldn’t want to. If I were to do something completely unrelated — and I never have — and that’s the thing, I don’t see the point. Everybody will be disappointed, including yourself.”
BraveWords: Opener “Bitch In The Box” has that classic Anvil tongue-in-cheek vibe. Who’s the bitch and why is she in the box?
Lips: “It’s a GPS! Think of Anvil being on the road, particularly in America, driving around with a GPS. Driving thousands and thousands of miles with a GPS and there’s got to be screw-ups, and there is. Construction zones never work. Because of course a GPS doesn’t know that it’s a construction site and that you’ve taken a detour and it keeps trying to recalculate and send you somewhere else. It’s just a reflection of my environment when I’m creating music. A GPS is part of my environment. Interestingly, with all this sexual assault and one’s stance and respect for women and all that politically correct shit, while it’s interesting that when you call it bitch in the box, it’s referring to a female who’s living in a GPS. It just so happens that it’s a female voice. You can change it, but it has nothing to do with my respect or disrespect for women.”
BraveWords: The follow-up track “Ego” is a real barn burner as well with an equally memorable chorus. What, or should I say who, inspired this track?
Lips: “Sometimes it’s roadies (laughs). It actually can be anybody. It can be yourself. When you take it too seriously; when you let your ego run wild, you become entitled. A lot of people feel that way about certain rock stars. There’s a number of people that song could be about. I think it’s a natural thing to sing for me because I’m actually anti-ego, I get really disgusted by it. So I guess it was kind of cathartic writing it and getting the frustration out of it.”
BraveWords: With “Nanook Of The North,” were you inspired to write it after watching the 1922 silent documentary film?
Lips: “I learned about it in college when I was in my 20s. I took stuff like cinematography. It’s actually the first documentary ever made, and that’s interesting in the aspect that Anvil is a subject of a documentary. It struck home for me on that level. The photographer in the 1920s went up north and lived with the Eskimos for a number of years and filmed it all. There’s no talking in the film, of course in the 1920s there wasn’t. It tells the whole story of a family history, or at least a glimpse of what people lived like in the 1920s up in the North. I was inspired by it. With the idea of it being about Inuit and about the first nation, I looked for a tempo and a type of feel that represented that. I used a very common drum feel to create music to. You zero in on a subject matter and capture it musically as well as lyrically.”
BraveWords: During the songwriting process for Pounding The Pavement, did you find yourself going back and listening to your older material for inspiration or did it just come natural?
Lips: “There was a period in my career in the ’90s where we let the influences of that day into our music, particularly the thrash aspect. And we went really super heavy with ridiculously long arrangements and ten different riffs and ten different feels going on in the song. To me, that was never natural for me. What’s natural to me is what we’ve been doing in the last four or five albums. I like songs for the sake of songs, and a riff for the sake of a riff. You shouldn’t be trying to be anything, you should just be what you are. And that’s what I was saying at the onset when we began talking about all of this, is that everything has to be natural. When it became unnatural, it became further off the mark. It’s not about going commercial. It’s totally the opposite, where you become too complicated for your own fans. It’s not a real conscious thing that we changed. What I did was, whatever I feel like and whatever we put together is what we’re going to go with. Stop steering and just drive. That’s what we’ve been doing. It’s very natural writing by not trying to complicate it. Don’t overdo it.”
BraveWords: With the mainstream success of the 2008 documentary, Anvil became relevant again in the metal world after so many years of slugging it out in relative obscurity.
Lips: “A lot of people misread it. It’s not really about the unsuccessfulness of the band, it’s actually quite the opposite. People get a laugh out of it in the sense that I rattle off 12 albums, it’s not like we were sitting around doing nothing all those years. We were putting out records and doing the best we could under the circumstances. The fact is, I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do, the way I’ve wanted to do, how I’ve wanted to do it and when I’ve wanted to do it my entire career. Along comes a guy from my past (Sasha Gervasi) and makes a movie and brings me into the mainstream, rebooting my career beyond where it was even at the beginning. I’m making a living where I never have in all my 40 years of doing this. My whole idea when I put the band together with Robb in the ’70s, when we first started as kids, we’re going to put a heavy band together and we’re going to stay heavy till we can’t breathe anymore. That was the whole concept of what we were about from the very onset. And I’ve stayed true to that my entire career. We still have our feet firmly planted in our roots, they’re not going to go away. It’s our signature aspect and it’s just part of what we do.”
BraveWords: What’s your upcoming touring plans? I believe you start a European tour in February and it keeps you busy through March. When is a North American tour going to be scheduled?
Lips: “We’re looking at coming down to the States in May and June of next year because we’ll probably going to be finished in Europe at the end of March. In the summer, we’ll probably come through Canada and in the fall we’ll probably go back to China, South America and Australia. We have a lot of work ahead. It’s the beginning of a new cycle. We just finished the Anvil is Anvil cycle a few weeks ago. So it almost gives you two years of touring time and we did over 200 shows for that album. So once again, we have a hell of a lot of work to do. If you want to call it work… I have a great vacation coming up!”
(Photos by: Rudy DeDoncker)