Anvil – Remaining TrueTuesday, 17th May 2022
When it comes to old school pure heavy metal and rock and roll, there’s no one quite like Anvil. Already infamous for spearheading a lot of the early thrash/speed metal movement for their first three studio albums, they’ve received a healthy career renaissance for The Story of Anvil documentary movie. Now up to their nineteenth studio record for Impact Is Imminent, the trio deliver another platter chock full of groove, swing, and hard tracks – unmistakable and non-compromising to the ideals that make Anvil, well… Anvil!
This scribe had more questions planned, but guitarist/vocalist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow had plenty to say with what I initially put forth, so when he takes off with his thoughts… you just go. So here is what we talked about in this stream of consciousness-like talk.
Dead Rhetoric: The latest Anvil album is Impact Is Imminent. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go for this set of material – do you feel comfortable and confident this deep in your career with what qualifies as standout songs for the band?
Lips: (laughs). I don’t know where to even begin with that answer. You got an hour! (laughs). The writing process. The writing process came immediately upon the heels of the last release Legal at Last. Sadly, we only got 17 shows into that tour. We went in, wrote that material, recorded it – and went out for 17 shows, and following that, we went back in writing mode. There’s no space between the albums. Away we go – we write what this album is, we got this recorded as soon as we possibly could. We started writing, and we were on the phone to the studio telling them we were coming in on this day, right? If we didn’t do that – it would have been a year later instead of two years later. You have to make reservations and the people involved, because they have a million other things going on. They are also busy, especially during a pandemic they can’t keep their head on their shoulders.
We went in, got the record recorded, and then we came back in the middle of October, Robb goes, we have November, December, January, February, March, April… what are we doing for six months guys before the album comes out? So, we wrote another album! We have three albums in a row. What is happening is our schedule is getting jam packed. Starting in a very short time, we won’t be stopping touring other than to come home for Christmas and dinner. And just after New Year’s we will be gone to Australia and Japan. At that point, there will be over one hundred shows. It’s quite remarkable. We will be in the states from June until August. At least 40 shows, maybe more. After that, we will go into Canada to do 20 shows, then we will be off to Europe for 60 shows, three or four months. Does it sound like we have time to be writing an album? (laughs) Right? And that’s what you are up against when you start playing, you haven’t got time to write. If you do, how good is it going to be? Is it really going to get the focus and the energy that ultimately (is) what we need? Especially with what you have been able to have such focus on previously, it will take that much more to outdo it, or be as good.
That’s why we are ready for the next one. Truth be told, the clock is ticking away, man. I’m watching musicians die in their forties and fifties. I’m already well past that. I better wake up tomorrow.
Dead Rhetoric: Along with the standard metal anthems you’ve come to know and love on this record, there are a few songs like “Teabag” and “Gomez” that continue to explore the band’s respect for jazz and old school 50’s/60’s rock ‘n’ roll. What specific musicians and artists of those eras really helped shape your outlook at that style, enough to incorporate some of those influences to make it a part of Anvil’s repertoire?
Lips: It’s really interesting. Robb and I absolutely love Buddy Rich. We were lucky enough in 1987, Robb and I went to a gig here in Toronto, and he was playing a little club here called the BamBoo Club. We went down, went to the back of the club. Of course, they have a big tour bus in the back of the BamBoo. We were going to bang on the door, we didn’t do it yet. As it turns out the tour manager comes out, sees us, asks where we are from. We tell him who we are, who our management was at the time, and the guy goes, ‘oh yeah, I know that skinny ass vampire!’ (laughs). And he asks if we want to meet Buddy – so we got to meet him. It was spectacular. We got to meet our hero, a huge love for that.
For me I love Benny Goodman. Particularly certain songs – Glenn Miller too. In my later years, as a kid I thought this music was dreadful to me. It’s in my environment, whether I liked it or not. My dad was playing all these Glenn Miller albums. As I grew older, I realized that it was really good. No wonder he liked it! And no wonder he looked at my music as noise. Some of those rudiments, in songs like “Sing Sing Sing”, that’s Benny Goodman with Gene Krupa on the drums – what is being played, it’s phenomenal. The tempos are off the charts. I can’t count like that when I am playing, it’s too hard. It’s very difficult music – swing is real hard to play. We always incorporated this into our music. You can go all the way back to “Motormouth”, it’s swing! You don’t even realize you are listening to fucking swing! It’s not the same framework, you are putting feel from other places. We adjust it to use it in our way. We are creating something new – people thought it was speed metal. It’s playing fast, yes – call it whatever you want. Going back to 1983 – it’s part of the material that’s in Robb and me that we are attracted to. It’s not brain surgery it is what it is.
What happened is we had a song I’d written on the Juggernaut of Justice album called “Swing Thing”. It was purposely written to incorporate horns. We were very fortunate when we recorded it, we didn’t know how to approach the horn sections. The producer’s wife could play, so she played the horns. We got lucky. In this particular case for the new album, the producer is a drummer for a military orchestra. He has all his friends that can play the blow horn music. They put their parts on a song. I wanted to use the basic fundamentals to show a link where I’m coming from with it all. We were going to record this as a three-piece. When we finished “Teabag” – the producer asked me to get his friends to play on this. He came back with a guarantee – if I didn’t like it, we don’t have to use it or pay for it. I had nothing to lose, no reason to say no. When they brought it back, it didn’t even sound like the same song.
Wait a minute- we will use both. We named them… we decided on “Teabag”, and the other option was “Gomez”. They are both Sascha Gervasi’s nicknames – one originally as a kid, and the other eccentric moviemaker, was the other. It just works. We had Gomez Adams as the director of the Anvil movie. As it turns out, with two different versions of the same song, we used both of his names.
Dead Rhetoric: Anvil has played thousands of shows over the decades – from smaller club venues to the biggest rock/metal festivals and stadiums across the globe. What shapes your on-stage outlook and persona – do you have to shift your perspective when you are playing for hundreds versus tens of thousands?
Lips: No, it’s actually being 100% consistent that it doesn’t make any difference. You need to make everybody feel like the show is directly aimed at them. That’s really your job – to make everybody feel like you saw them, and they saw you. Making eye contact, personal contact is what the mission is, no matter what the circumstances. The bigger the circumstances, the more difficult the job in a certain sense. You want everybody to feel like they met you. Make people feel utterly, completely comfortable where you are. In other words, when you are up there in front of 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 people, make it look like you are in front of 100. Make it look like you are playing in your living room in front of ten of your best friends.
If you do that, then you’ve done your job. You can’t beat that shit.
Dead Rhetoric: In looking at the five decades plus history of heavy metal that Anvil has been a part of for most of that time, how do you consider the state of the movement at this point on a scale within your home country of Canada versus the global appeal? What impresses you most these days, and what changes would you like to see made (if any)?
Lips: It became super fragmented that it will never be the same. Most things that were any good or one of a kind, and when they are gone, they are gone. There has never been another Artie Shaw, there will never be another Jimi Hendrix, there will never be another Mozart, Buddy Rich. There is never going to be another Lemmy. You can’t replace it, it goes, and it’s gone. The only thing to remain is the music, that is the way that it is and will always be. It’s quite as simple as that. Each era has its heroes and its special guys, it’s here until they are not. Somebody new comes along and it keeps going and going.
Pretty straightforward. What does it mean? Every era has its flavor, it’s style – and you don’t want to lose it, change it. I’m not going to write like the kids of today – I’m not going to do it. And not tomorrow either. Because that’s not who I am, that’s not where I come from. I haven’t got the same influences – and believe me, my fans are going great, glad to hear that. You mean you aren’t going to sing like a barking dog? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Everybody wants to cut on other bands for being themselves and for being unique and independent. All the Motorhead stuff sounds the same. All of AC/DC stuff sounds the same. And no matter what we are talking about, even famous bands – of course it all sounds the same, it’s the same band!
You can say that about Vincent van Gogh’s paintings too. They look the same, all crazy with loud, crazy colors. Why is he going to change? Then he wouldn’t be Vincent Van Gogh! It’s the guy who’s making it, that’s why it is that way. That is what you try to do as a musician – become unique and have your own style, play within it, and don’t move or try to change it too much. You are who you are, you create how you create. From what you have listened to your whole life – this is your take on the world, this is my take on the world. It’s not going to change. I don’t tell you to go change your hairstyle or change your glasses, I can’t even tell you to change your underwear. But people say to bands, ‘why are you staying the same?’. If you pay attention closely, it is not staying the same. In fact, in the case of Anvil, the song variations on our albums are extremely wide. There is anything but two songs sounding the same – never mind the type of song, even the key. You can listen to certain bands; they never change the key. All the same tempos, and it sounds the same. We are using different tempos, different keys, even the music itself is not the same.
People end up listening with their eyes. All of our recordings are as a three-piece. Everything we have ever done has been recorded as a three-piece. If you get into the stupidity and ignorance, people still shoot their mouths off. People make assumptions, people draw conclusions, they don’t know what is going on.
Another thing about rock and roll I find astounding is vocals which are the identifying sound of any band – any good band. If you have a voice that sounds unique, you are blessed. End of story. That’s what rock and roll is. 99% of identity is the sound that you are making, not your abilities. Some of the best-known singers in the world, like Frank Sinatra. Does he sing as well as Tony Bennett? He doesn’t, never did. But Frank has that name, doesn’t he? Not that Tony did bad, don’t misunderstand me. I’m specifically talking about vocal quality. It depends on how you critique it. That’s the difference between someone who is spot on, hitting the note, or sliding to it. It’s hard to explain. Character and tonal qualities of Frank Sinatra were far more commercial, and more preferred, or more famous. It is the flaws that give it the identity. All the character comes from the flaws. Why did the world love David Lee Roth so much? The character! And you realize years later after the vocal shit going on in today’s mixes, 90% of it is fake. David goes out and sings live, hey – he can’t sing! Really? Never noticed that, eh? It’s when, where, timing – everything. What makes something good – what makes something bad? And who you ask, is this subjective?
Dead Rhetoric: What’s left on your personal bucket list to accomplish with Anvil or any other music endeavors you wish to pursue?
Lips: It’s just about continuation. I want to keep going until I can’t go anymore. What is there left to do? Another battle to win, another gig to play. Another song to write. There’s always something to look forward to. Why not? Another country to play that I’ve never been to. I made it to China. Let me see if I can get to Russia.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries or concerns do you have regarding the world that we live in today?
Lips: Trying to find truth. Learning to read to comprehend, and not just be lazy and just listen to what people say. Look shit up, that would be nice. If people did that for a bit. I wish we could do a bit better with finding our direction to find our truths. Ultimately that will be the saving of our society and of our democracy. If we haven’t got truth, we’ve got nothing. Then what you have is communism. That means a government that tells you what’s going on. We have to watch it and keep things in check as a society. Who are we giving our support to? The media outlets, what radio stations are we listening to. And what are their points of view. And which point of view is the right point of view, and how are you going to get a handle on that?
Especially when the world does nothing but try to separate and divide people. That’s the nature of humans, it’s what we do. We all look for the differences, we never look for the commonalities. Point out the differences, separate people – the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The black, the white, the Jewish, the Muslim, the Chinese, the Japanese, let’s categorize everything into every little detail you can. It’s the blue-eyed people, the green-eyed people. How far are we going? All of our blood is red! And all the arguments over it – we can’t get past this. Why? Ask questions, you aren’t going to get the right answers until you ask the right questions. That’s the thing. People are so misguided, mislead, misinformed.
A lot of things are awry and crazy. The song on the new album “The Rabbit Hole” is about all these crazy concepts.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or so for Anvil in terms of touring – as I know you’ve announced a late spring/early summer North American tour with White Wizzard and Midnite Hellion for instance?
Lips: The tour starts in late May and won’t end until December 21st. And that is only a break. Sometime in January we will go to Australia. After that, there will be a second leg in the springtime for the American tour. Which will end up being about 80 shows for the touring cycle just in America alone. We will be in England in October, then hit mainland Europe. Endless touring.