Home Features SPILL FEATURE: ANVIL IS STILL ANVIL – A CONVERSATION WITH STEVE “LIPS” KUDLOW

SPILL FEATURE: ANVIL IS STILL ANVIL – A CONVERSATION WITH STEVE “LIPS” KUDLOW

by Jamie Lawlis

ANVIL IS STILL ANVIL

A CONVERSATION WITH STEVE “LIPS” KUDLOW

Canadian Heavy Metal heroes Anvil like to keep busy. It’s been a year since the release of Pounding the Pavement, and they have just released the video for opening track “Bitch in the Box”. Embarking on a North American tour, lead guitarist and vocalist Steve “Lips” Kudlow took some time to reflect on past achievements, the peaks, the perks, and the disappointments of being in a band and on the road.

They’ve come a long way since their highly praised 2008 Anvil documentary, The Story of Anvil!, which was interpreted by many to be satirical. Lips is often forced to set the record straight. “It’s not constructed like a documentary and it’s not like a past retrospective. It’s at the moment, living in the moment with the band as if it’s like a living story. It’s not the same as a regular documentary. It’s not giving facts about the past. Everything that you’re watching is spontaneous. It’s people getting captured in the moment and letting the world see it.”

Video production is making a resurgence. Let’s face it, these days it’s your usual lyric and music videos found on YouTube. However, Anvil’s new video, “Bitch in the box”, brings back the art of playing the part. Sure it’s lip syncing, but let’s think of as breaking into song. The storyline has the boys in the band driving down the road with the GPS’ “Bitch in the box” giving directions. Is the story true and does it happen on tour? “Of course,” responds Lips, “It’s endless. When you use a GPS they always fuck up. Anytime there’s construction, you’re fucked. Now you can’t figure out how the fuck to get where you’re going. Every few hundred miles all of a sudden you’re going to have to go off the beaten track and take a detour and of course the thing’s recalculating. It’s worse in the States because of course they’re busier. They fucked more cities than we have. They’re way, way bigger cities so when something gets closed there, they’re really sending you on a fucking hunt and that’s a real problem.”

As a rule, Lips does not take notice of the political climate and tries to ignore it in every way he possibly can, and that includes what is going on here in Canada. “Basically and fundamentally I actually believe our democracy is fucking disintegrating. They’re not reading between the lines. They’re not reading enough information on the same subject or the same story from a number of different angles. They read one fucking thing and that’s what they believe and before you know it they walk around spreading the most hateful shit and believe in the worst.  I’ll make statements like I did with the song “Gun Control”, but I wasn’t saying I was for it or against it I was just talking about it. “Ego”, if you don’t know who it’s about, take a look around and I’m not going to say who it’s about or what it’s about it. It seems pretty fucking obvious to me.”

At this point, Lips turns his attention toward Ted Nugent. “Uncle Ted is fucking really way too right winged and he’s got blinders on. He just does not see outside those blinders. He doesn’t see that there are a lot of different things to consider. I’m not right winged but if you look at it through his eyes and from his environment, he’s right. How do you walk around in Detroit and don’t consider being armed? And if you’ve been there, you’d know what he’s talking about and why.” It is now inevitable to take note on what takes place between Toronto and our border to the south. “All of the guns are being traded for pot coming up from the States. We got some of the best weed in the fucking world and guys down there know that. These are professional fucking people sending shit through the border and it’s getting up here and you’re not going to fucking stop it. This fucking ‘wall’ shit, they’re not going to stop fucking squat. When criminals want to get the job done, they get it done one way or the other. You could put up walls. You could fucking have police operate their own highways. Criminals will find a way. They just do. It’s humanity. It’s human nature. Necessity is the mother of invention and that’s the basic fundamental asset of humanity. If you need something, you make it happen.”

Lips shifts gears back to music with a trip down memory lane to one of Canada’s best metal compilations on record and cassette, Metal For Breakfast. Offering insight into the album’s conceptual roots and an unexpected update on the album’s iconic cover, “I’m walking down the street a few weeks ago and some guy pulls over and he goes “Lips, Lips, what’s going on man!.” I look at this guy–some bald guy, kind of aging–and he says to me; “I was the guy on the cover of Metal For Breakfast.” I thought that was pretty comical because the guy had big bushy hair and here he was completely bald. I think his name was Craig if I’m not mistaken. He worked at CHUM-FM or Q107 here in Toronto, that cover was my idea. This other guy goes “we’re going to call this thing Metal For Breakfast” and I go “OK, have a guy with this bowl of cereal filled with ball bearings or nails and put ‘em on the cover. They called Dean Motter, the guy who did the Anvil covers and they went and made the cover. The guy won a Juno for it and it wasn’t even his idea. The Metal On Metal cover was the band’s idea and the guy who put the thing together got the Juno award. The person who devises the piece of artwork, who comes up with the idea, is the guy who deserves the award not the guy who put it together. You got fucking shysters all around you stealing everything you fucking do.”

When it comes to songwriting and royalties, Lips delegates the duties. “It has to do with how I want to delegate it. How I want to fucking cut it up. In reality the guy who writes the lyrics gets 50% of the royalties automatically. I can give up some of those percentages if I want to and I do. I split my royalties strictly with Rob now. As far as what writing is, I’m doing all the writing. I’m writing the music. I’m writing the lyrics. I have been all along. It’s my fucking band. It’s my fucking music. Unfortunately for me, guys that were in my band 35 – 40 years ago are collecting royalties on the music that I wrote. That’s the unfair part but what’s even more unfair is they’re still walking around telling people they co-wrote the music and they didn’t. They didn’t do shit. They were fucking women in the back of the studio while I was recording and doing my hard work. I put the songs into the writing association SOCAN. I wrote their names in. They get a credit and they get money for it and you can’t take it away once it’s written in. It was my way of making sure they’re not running off, that they had something at stake. That’s the other side of the coin. When you look at it in retrospect, it didn’t keep them there anyway.”

The rock ‘n’ roll world appears to have a crazy reputation of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll but in the history of Anvil, there was no drinking drama. “We don’t drink. Virtually never. I might put some Bailey’s in my coffee but I don’t call that drinking. I never had been a drinker. It does not work well with me. I get sick real easy. To me it’s like hard drugs. I’m not interested. I don’t look at alcohol any differently than I look at cocaine. I just don’t do it. There’s been times I feel like I’m going to catch a buzz and I’ll take three or four shots of Jägermeister, which tastes like cough syrup and then I get a buzz. Then I get wicked stomach cramps and diarrhea. Then I don’t do it again for ten years. That’s how I look at drinking.”

When an artist is too knowledgeable about “the rules of music”, it can close the doors on creativity but Lips works hard at trying to keep it simple. “After working with Bob Marlette, the producer from Los Angeles, I’ve been always stubborn about doing it my way, trying to break fundamental rules of songwriting and I always try to set up songs to have weird arrangements and he told me you’re wrecking the songs. When I rediscovered what I had done on my early albums on a natural progression, in the sense that I just did what came naturally without knowing a lot in my innocence, I was doing it correctly. As I learned more about music and this and that, I started pushing the envelope by trying be stubborn and do it in every way but the right way. I’m not making it cohesive in the sense that here’s the verse, here’s the sub chorus, here’s the chorus, here’s the guitar solo, here’s a chorus, here’s another verse, sub chorus, and a chorus. That’s how 99% of great songs are constructed. Do that. Instead of trying to work against it, try to make your songs do that, and then I discovered that’s not so easy to do either. Each musician sees their song from their perspective which is not really correct. If you’re a drummer and you look at the song, you’re seeing it from a drummer perspective. You’re not hearing it how the vocals are working, how the guitar solo is working, how the song is working. You’re just ‘how my part is working.’ Everybody looks at it from a selfish point of view. You need a producer to take all that selfishness and calm it down and fucking put it together the way it should be. Ever since Juggernaut, I’ve been watching what I’m doing. I got to arrange this properly. Don’t fuck it up. Make it so that if Bob Marlette heard he would go ‘That’s cohesive, that makes sense’. He explained it to me in a real simple way. He goes if you can’t tell what the fuck is happening before vocals are laid down on a song, like where’s your chorus, where’s your verse, and where the guitar solo is, if you can’t tell from listening to just the music, then you haven’t done a good job in arranging the song. After dozens of gold and platinum albums, I think he knows what he’s talking about.”

Anvil is prolific, unapologetic, and unwilling to follow trends. “We make music of our own. That’s only our own. You can see were the influences come from but it generally still sounds like us and only us. That’s the thing. We’re a band from the ‘80s. We’re unique unto ourselves. We’re not sounding like everybody else. Anvil sounds like Anvil and that’s we meant when we put out the album called “Anvil is Anvil.” It’s specifically that. There isn’t anything that’s really like us. Yeah, comparable but not really the same.”

It is another chapter in rock ‘n’ roll. Another chapter for Heavy metal. Perhaps history is repeating itself and it’s the same old deal but this is Anvil and “Anvil is Anvil.” If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing Anvil live, you can catch them in the Toronto area on March 8 and 9 at The Rockpile, or on one of their other North American Pounding The Pavement tour dates, which runs from February to March 2019. Lips assures us that it will be a good time. “A fucking really good time and seeing a band at its prime. I honestly believe that Anvil’s the best it’s ever been. I think anybody seeing it now is something that was never as good. You might have seen us through the years but not what we are now.”



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