On Saturday Feb 6, 2010 , I interviewed Anvil at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. They’ve been touring pretty much non-stop since the documentary “The Story of Anvil” came out. I brought along Eddie Daroza, who ran the camera for me.
Thanks to super producer Shane Chisholm and Julie Ark for lining up the interview for me.
If you were to look up the word “perseverance” in the almighty handbook of heavy metal, there may very well be a photo of Canadian metalists, Anvil. Since their 1981 debut, Hard N’ Heavy, the group – which was co-founded by singer/guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner – has been listed by many as one of the creators of the thrash/speed metal genre (especially on such Chris Tsangarides-produced classics as 1982’s Metal on Metal and 1983’s Forged in Fire). But due to subsequent bad record deals, bad management, and just plain bad luck, Anvil appeared to take a back seat to a new wave of metal bands – most of which listed the group as a prime influence. However, Anvil has never stopped rocking, and with the arrival of the critically-acclaimed/surprise hit film, “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (directed by Sacha Gervasi), the group is back where they belong – at the forefront of heavy metal.
“It’s quite amazing, really,” admits Lips. “It’s the prime example of what it means to be a rock n’ roller, go out there, and try to make it. And believe me, most of the scene is guys like me. It’s very seldom and rare that anybody makes it – to what people mean by ‘making it’.” Reiner seconds the sentiment – “The movie has gone beyond my expectations. It’s been mind-blowing – to see what’s come from the movie and how much it actually has helped the band.” When asked what their favorite scene was, both agree on the unveiling of a certain painting of Reiner’s (that resides down a stairway in his home – you’ll have to see the movie for more info!). As far as a scene from the film that is hard to watch, Reiner says, “There’s nothing hard looking back at it,” while Lips feels differently: “My least favorite part is when they show me naked!”
And although there are certainly some zany Spinal Tap-like parallels between Anvil and David St. Hubbins and company, Anvil has always been taken seriously by metalheads, including some very well known ones, who praise the band in the film. “Anvil was one of those bands that just put on this really amazing live performance,” said Velvet Revolver/ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, while Motorhead singer/bassist Lemmy added, “They were a great band – I always liked Anvil,” and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich gushed, “These guys were going to turn the music world upside down.”
Having issued a total of seventeen releases between 1981 and 2004, the group, that also includes bassist Glenn Five, reconnected with Tsangarides (Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest) for their thirteenth studio album, eighteenth release overall, This is Thirteen. The turbulent-yet-triumphant sessions were well-documented in the “Anvil!” film. “It differs in one vast sense – the production,” explains Reiner. “‘This is Thirteen’ was produced by Chris Tsangarides, who produced ‘Metal on Metal’ and ‘Forged in Fire’ – probably the most famous, classic Anvil albums. With Chris, we created that classic Anvil magic sound – that previous records were lacking. The last four or five albums, material-wise, were all similar. We had been trying to find the direction back to the classic Anvil style and sound – it’s just the production hadn’t been up to scratch. Chris was a big missing part on our past albums.”
As evidenced by such vintage Anvil-sounding ragers as “Feed the Greed,” “American Refugee,” and the title track, This is Thirteen is certainly the strongest Anvil release in a long time. Originally put out by the band themselves and sold through their website, the album is now seeing proper national distribution via CD (with “Thumb Hang” added as a bonus track) as well as a double gate-fold vinyl version (including two additional bonus tracks) through VH1 Classic Records. Additionally, due to the film’s success, Anvil received an invite from AC/DC to open mammoth football stadium shows for the legendary Aussie rockers on their “Black Ice” tour, while a book about the group’s career (which shares the same name as the movie) appeared as well. Add to it a DVD release of the movie in Fall 2009, and a new studio album that is already written and just needs to be recorded (titled Juggernaut of Justice), and it certainly appears as though Anvil is making the most out of their “second life.” And as Lips adds, the group’s rapid-fire workpace will not slow down, despite all the newfound success. “Working. More recording. More gigs. More – more than ever!