Anvil's Steve "Lips" Kudlow

Anvil's Steve "Lips" Kudlow
There are a million snappy comments one could make about the relevance of a band called Anvil shaping the current state of heavy metal. But that's kind of the point behind their name. The true tale of Anvil, however, isn't so amusingly tongue-in-cheek.

Despite being one of the genre's most innovative acts generating worldwide praise in the early '80s for key albums such as Hard 'N' Heavy and Metal On Metal, this Toronto-based outfit currently comprised of guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow, drummer Robb Reiner and bassist Glenn "G5" Five have been holding the short end of the stick for some 30 years. Relegated from performing for 60,000-strong crowds around the globe to one-off gigs in Ontario watering holes, they didn't slide down the slippery slope of stardom so much as barrel along it with the inertia of semi truck.

Still, they never stopped playing. Not for a minute. And now, thanks to the support and caring of old school Anvil fan/director Sacha Gervasi (The Terminal), the band are finally receiving their due. Gervasi's feature-length documentary Anvil! The Story Of Anvil has been grabbing attention internationally. As Kudlow and Reiner's touching tale of dedication to their craft - and one another - unfolds on the screen, it's impossible not to feel like you're rooting for the underdog, hence praise from the likes of Michael Moore, The Osbournes and some of the world's toughest film critics. Anvil! The Story Of Anvil helps push this elemental metal band back towards the top. Kudlow discusses the state of Anvil post-film.

After years of quiet activity, it seems like there's something new with Anvil every day at this point. What's the news today?
Well... I went to media training.

Really? How did that go?
It went well. I laugh because it was comical. They taught you how to take different approaches; to be offensive instead of defensive. The band is open for a lot of piercing.

Really?

Certainly. We get a beating. People like the story but they're going, "If they have 13 albums and they haven't made it, they must be crap." People can have that perception. There's been a couple of indications of those underlying feelings; questions why we didn't quit. In essence, that's the same thing and disregards that we've had an underground following for 30 years which is quite successful in my opinion. Very few bands can say they've done 13 albums, let alone had two original members for 30 years. [At media training] I learned to say: "I didn't quit because I love what I do, I've recorded 13 albums, I have a following around the world, I've toured multiple countries and I get incredible enjoyment out of this." You can't attack that.

Good outlook. It seems obvious that you enjoy performing and you've had dedicated fans for three decades. It's weird to think people ignore that.
It's a very cynical and judgmental world. People judge other people's lives by their own so they find it difficult to understand how someone has that kind of passion. Most people don't have that. At the same time, a lot of people are really inspired by our dedication and re-evaluate themselves after seeing the movie. They see how it's worth it. Generally, in this world everything is disposable: from the material to relationships.

People also love drama.
They sure do. It's amazing and I think the movie has a positive, uplifting message. The vast majority look at the positive but if there are places to poke, it'll be in areas pertaining to expectations of what people believe success is. That can be measured in many different way. A lot of people don't see what I do as being successful but they're extraordinarily wrong. I go to sleep at night knowing I'm enjoying myself and doing the best I can; leaving a mark and making a difference. That's what you strive for more than financial gain. You want to do something special, particularly to other artists. I feel really successful on that level. We've got some of the greatest rock musicians in the world saying lovely things about the music I've created. What's more satisfying and fulfilling than that? Those are the things I strive for.

I'd say that's leaving a mark.
It's an incredible achievement. Someone came along - a fan - and said an injustice has been done. "Why isn't this band recognized more than they are?" We've stayed true to our roots. We've stuck to our guns and never sold out while maintaining a fan base on a worldwide basis. Sure it was in the underground, not the upper-echelon. Someone came along and said we shouldn't be in the underground. We should be higher than that. That's what Sacha did.

What does the movie represent to you?
It stands as a prime example of what an industry - particularly the music industry - can put an artist through. At the same time, I take responsibility for our actions in the past. We were just sustaining who we are. Now someone's come along and brought it to a new level. Now were' getting praise for never selling out and sticking to our guns. It's a vindicating thing. We got our notoriety on our own terms. We've done what we want. Not what someone told us to do.

What are the rewards for that dedication?

Well, I'm appearing everywhere; on an airplane every other day. That's crazy and fun. More importantly though, the outpouring of love - not sympathy - and praise for dedication and perseverance is great. It's admiration. The movie does not depict people feeling sorry for themselves at all. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I've had a great time making the movie, being on different tours and having different experiences. It's been enjoyable to be a musician on every level.

The film shows you at a day job, going so far as to mention that your colleagues probably have no idea you're in a band. With the resurgence in popularity and travelling constantly, how has that affected your work?

I had to move on, even during making the movie. I was an asset to those people having worked there for eight years. I couldn't continue though. I ended up working for my sister but I'm too busy to even do that. I think the band is now able to supplement what I was doing. The finances will be okay and I'll be able to do what I always wished I could do: make a living working for the band and not taking on a part-time job. It's rewarding but it's not like I'm getting money for nothing and the chicks for free.

I assume that the movie will be the catalyst for pushing your music, particularly last album This Is Thirteen and the upcoming Juggernaut Of Justice, which are showcased in the film?

Yeah. That's our music. The movie is one thing but there are souvenirs to it: the music. This is real, not just for a movie. That's what makes it quite different from Spinal Tap. It's not a made-up thing. The people you see in the movie really exist. That's their lives. You're looking into their house. This is about music first and foremost. Without the music, there'd be no movie. It started with the music and will end with the music. Period.

When you watch the movie now, how do you feel seeing your life unfold?

It was somewhat of my hopes and expectations to where it's going but it's quite different living it. I hoped it would go big. Now it's going big and I'm like, "Oh shit!" You can expect it but you wonder what it'll be like. Are you ready for it? It's weird. As an example, when Tom Araya [Slayer] agreed to do the interview for the movie, he insisted on talking to me first. He said it was the greatest thing, he's always loved us and it's wonderful to have someone helping us. It was really fascinating. I said I don't know I'm ready for it. He said, "Lips, you've been doing it for 30 years. Dude... you're ready."