After forty years, Canadian trio Anvil remain as one of metal’s most dedicated groups to the genre and the world. With sixteen records of debauched and turbulent tunes of furiously heavy music under their belt, they are still taking the world by storm with nonstop touring and composing. And now, they’ll be making their exciting return to Australia next month. I got in touch with the man’s long-running frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow, who had a lot to talk about in his experience with the current tour cycle, the comparison of shows between each country around the world, the differences with music between now and back in the eighties and many more. With the Australian tour on the horizon, Lips brings up the time Anvil visited the Soundwave Festival in 2010 and their 2014 return.
“Miracles actually happen and dreams comes true” he says, enthusiastically. “The Soundwave stuff was amazing, but it went by in a blink and of course, you’re doing one quick forty-five minute set, and you’re gone. So, it’s not the same as doing your own show, and the time of the day that you’re on and which part of the venue. Sometimes, it was in tents and not outside, and all the different variations of what Soundwave was. My recollection was, that it was great, but it wasn’t long enough and there was no sustainment. It was four or five years later that we finally show up. So, it took quite some time to come back. But it’s okay, because at least we do!”
Even after the Australian leg, Anvil are only gonna get even busier with what they’re gonna be doing at this moment. With the amount of shows they’ve done, there’s only going to be far more with the upcoming record “Pounding the Pavement” hitting the shelves in a matter of months, for a 2018 release. From there, Lips and the dudes are going to stay on their legs and keep working their asses off to get more gigs locked in.
“Once we’ve finished in Australia, we’re pretty much gonna wait until after Christmas. But, we’re coming up to a record release which is probably gonna happen in January. So, there’s a lot to happen and a lot of work to get sorted – revamping of our setlists to accommodate for new songs, all kinds of things. We’ve got our Pledge campaign which is going on right now, which is a great thing. There’s lot of stuff going, so we’re gonna be very busy. Then, the new record comes out in January or February, then we’re booked out for the next summer. We’re talking about going back to South America next fall. That’s the best we can do, so that shows how busy we’re going to be. We have a European tour starting in February that doesn’t finish until mid-April, then we begin the United States in June. July and August may very well be Canadian stuff, and then that brings us back to September and October, next year. So, we can probably finish the South American tour at that point. It’s quite complex, really. There’s only one band and it’s needed to play in a lot of markets. So, there’s only so many calendar days in the year” he laughs.
Lips continues with how he feels very enthused by everything that he has done and continues to do, to this day. He remains passionate and committed to the game and is proud to call this a job of his.
“This is my job – I’m booked and I’m working until we can see an open spot for next year, and I have to write another album. Every minute, it just does not let up! I’m not complaining, either. I’m making a living off of this and I’m proud to say that! But at the same time, it’s not sitting around doing nothing, it really isn’t. There’s work visas to get sorted out, there’s consulates to get in touch with, there’s appointments to make, it just goes on, and on, and on.”
Talking to Lips about his perspective on all of the shows he’s done over the years, he’s not fussed about where Anvil perform, no matter the venue, city or country they happen to set foot in. Therefore, he’s grateful about every concert they’re able to get their hands on. Lips also brings up how people nowadays see concerts in their own point of view and how there are still many that have yet to witness an Anvil performance, and being able to hold onto the memories of a show that someone will attend for a long time.
“It’s really interesting” he begins. Everybody wants to have some kind of barometer, but there is no barometer. Every audience and every night is a different personality. Let’s face it – there’s different people there. Sometimes, it’s a different combination, a different feeling in the room every night. You’re gonna feel more differences from one night to the next than you will with one country to the next. You could play any club in Canada, and they’re more insane than any place you’ve been in, all of your life. But then, it just happened to be that night, because usually, it’s never like that. Its personalities, who happened to show up, what kind of instigators are present in the room on that particular night, and it’s quite interesting. A good 80% of what we do is spontaneous, and it really depends on the personality that’s present in the room. I think there’s a difference in many ways, but fundamentally, there’s no difference.
Sometimes, the crowds are visibly excited and some are visibly boring, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not excited. It’s really hard to measure. Fundamentally, what the most important thing is from my perspective, is that every show is 100% or better. I’ve left my mark and they’ll never forget me for the rest of their lives. That’s the most important thing, because, for most people who go to see bands, they usually go once in their life to see any particular band. Once you do, you might go back the next time, but at least you can say that you saw them and hold onto that ticket like I did with my Johnny Winter ticket from 1968.
But having said that, there are millions of people that still haven’t seen Anvil. So that means there’s endless work for me and I’m making a living, and ultimately, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. I’m getting to go to exotic places that I’ve dreamed of going to, and I’ve actually got an audience in these places. That’s a massive accomplishment from my own perspective, and I never would judge whether one audience is more special to me than one other audience. We’re all part of the same family and we’re connected by our music and that’s a great thing to me. These are the riches of life, and it doesn’t get better than this.”
As Lips looks back on the years of how Anvil have evolved and became what they are today, he talks about how bands change themselves due to mainstream recognition and how staying true to what you are and what you make, affects the world’s perspective of you. Whether it be an underground scene or a universal gathering, it’s all about staying in the most honest form of yourself as a musician.
“When Robb (Reiner) and I met when we were kids, the one thing we never wanted to do was be part of a band that started out heavy and went lame. All of our favourites were heavy when they started and then when the radios started playing them, they went down the tubes. One of the greatest examples of that was Grandfunk Railroad – a three-piece power trio and they were kicking ass and all of a sudden, they got commercial success and goodbye!” he laughs. “We never wanted to be anything like that at all. It was really about staying true to what it all meant. It was about being heavy, and being heavy is not conducive with being on the radio and being ivory soap or dove detergent. You can become a brand name, but a brand name that’s known for toughness and that it’s not known for being soft and lame and all the sheep are following.
Rock and metal has an aspect of being obscure, but powerfully influential. That’s the ultimate place to be. You wanna be the band that everyone talks about, but not the band where everyone is able to gets their songs. You want it to be sort of underground and not washed out by the multitudes. There’s an undertow of the influential and the things that really matter to them. There are bands that lasted fifty years like Black Sabbath because they were talking to anybody that was fifteen to thirty-five, and it still talks to that crowd, and always will. That’s what it was for and what its purpose was. As people, music is the only thing that we make that doesn’t break down. Even paintings will wear away and will eventually turn into dust. But music is repeated and passed on for generations.”
Ending the interview, Lips points out how music has changed over the years, how it remains as the strongest universal language and the methods bands have to use to make ends meet. He also touches base on how it’s taken for granted now with illegal downloading and the alternatives that bands have to make in order to make some cash to support themselves for touring, recording and such.
“With recording, CDs and the digital age, music will last forever at the highest fidelity ever known. It’s even better than it’s ever been for archiving what humanity has and keeping it preserved. Music is discounted, but it’s one of the few things that only mean something to us as the human race. It has the power to overcome all of humanity’s differences between different cultures and it’s a stupendous, unbelievable aspect of humanity that is generally taken for granted by the works of our own technology. People don’t pay for music anymore, so it’s completely changed the industry that I’m involved in. You don’t make money from your actual recordings, so you make money from the options and the other revenue streams that get created from the existence of that music. Your music becomes an advertising campaign to get you shows and pound the pavement. Then you gotta go hassle customers to come to your shows, buy a t-shirt, maybe buy a CD as a memoir, but the t-shirt sells better because music is still free. That’s what you end up selling and you don’t get to meet the band unless you pay for it, which is another revenue for the bands, because there is no other way to make money. It costs thousands for bands to come to a distant shore, so what’s going to pay for it? Not the music, that’s for sure.”
Get your tickets for the Anvil’s Australian shows here before you miss out!