Interview with Anvil
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 31, 2014
Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Canadian Heavy Metal veterans Anvil are like a rolling stone; they keep the wheels rolling from one year to the next, passing all the pit stops and remain constantly active, either recording or touring.
Anvil's 15th studio album, Hope in Hell, was released by Germany's Steamhammer/SPV GmbH in 2013 and the Anvil bunch has been on the road since then, crisscrossing the world and playing for thousands of people.
The Hope in Hell tour hit the European continent like a missile in November, 2014, giving Anvil's German, Polish, Italian, etc. fans an equal share. Finland's turn came on December 9th and 10th and when the Anvil caravan hit Helsinki on the 10th, The Metal Crypt was fortunate enough to meet the whole band backstage prior to the show.
Lips, Robb and Chris Robertson, the new gun on bass, all wanted to share their experiences from the current tour and also revealed the (possible) title of Anvil's 16th studio album (!), among other things as well...
Luxi: I guess first I need to say welcome to Finland. It's been three years since you were here last time supporting Saxon.
Lips: Yeah, it's been about three years.
Luxi: What kind of memories do you have from that visit?
Lips: It was sold out!
Robb: And there was lots of love from the audience. That's what I remember. It was a great show. The people of Finland rock, that's what I remember. We played in Tampere last night and it rocked.
Luxi: Was the show in Tampere packed?
Robb: It was a packed house. It wasn't sold out but it was a good turn out for a Tuesday night.
Luxi: You have been on the road for a long time promoting your latest album Hope in Hell.
Lips: The first year after it came out, we didn't do anything so we've really been out after it this year. We changed a bunch of stuff in our business and that is why we are out doing it. The reason we changed our business is because they (former business partners) didn't do things when they were supposed to.
Robb: Our old management company didn't do their job properly. We've made some changes and here we are.
Luxi: You did some shows in Canada then the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Is it hard to be on the road for such a long time?
Lips: No, it's not hard at all. It is harder being at home watching the clock ticking our lives away and not getting anything done. That's hard. Once you're out here the time goes fast. Before you know it, a month has gone by and you say "we need more shows, quick!"
Luxi: You started your European tour on November 21st and you still have many shows left, correct?
Lips: Yes, we won't be finished until next summer touring for this album. We have another 40 shows in the United States starting in February. Then we go across Canada in the spring.
Robb: We have another run in the states then back to Europe for some festivals, maybe a few Anvil shows then we record a new album.
Luxi: What is your secret for doing such long tours?
Lips: We're big kids! We love to do this.
Robb: We're big kids and we love to play. We wait 22 hours to play 2 hours. We have fun; we sleep, we eat, we get stoned, we play, we sleep, we travel.
Lips: Most of the time you're sitting in the tour bus.
Robb: We love to play and our band needs to be seen. Most people have never seen us live. If we don't play, we aren't going to build our audience. We're a good band and when people see us, people talk and more people come. There's no radio no more, no way to sell music so we have to play live.
Luxi: There is a new generation of fans just finding out about Anvil.
Robb: Every show there are new people who've never seen us, not just the die-hards. This is our job so we have to keep playing.
Luxi: I don't know if I should ask but what happened to Sal Italiano?
Lips: He had an unfortunate hairspray accident (laughs).
Luxi: That's the polite way of saying it (laughs).
Robb: An unfortunate hairspray accident, that's about it.
Lips: In other words, he just couldn't handle what we were doing, the touring. It's extremely rigorous. He lives with his parents, who are elderly, and being away from them for months at a time didn't work for him. You have to structure your life in order to do this.
Luxi: How did you find Chris, to replace Sal in the Anvil line-up?
Robb: Christ. We've known him for a while and he's been our rehearsal bassist for over a year. He wasn't touring with us and we wrote the new album with Christ. He was part of the process. Sal melted down and Christ was ready to go. He was always there. It's been really good and he's promised not to have a hairspray accident (laughs).
Luxi: So Chris, how does it feel to be on tour with Anvil?
Chris: It's been amazing. The guys have been great, I'm touring the world, it's been great. I'm having fun and enjoying myself. I've always wanted to do this and now I am. Carpe diem.
Luxi: What has Chris brought into the band, from your point of view?
Lips: A lot of peace and tranquility. We're probably in the best place we've ever been. He is very cohesive with us and gets along with the variables we dump out. It is important to get along with us in different situations. He is a far better player and singer than we've ever had. Going back sixteen years, we took what we could get. That guy stayed sixteen years and that brought a lot of personality problems. Once that guy left, we hired Sal out of necessity because we were in an emergency situation. He wasn't completely the right guy because of his personal situation and living 500 miles away. We found Chris in our hometown. We'd rehearse with Chris then go on tour and leave him behind. It wasn't working the way it should have been. We did a U.S. tour earlier this year and we brought Chris as a tech. I roomed with Chris and we had a great time. While I was on stage I could see Chris watching the band thinking he should be the guy on stage. After the tour and us being away from home for 8-9 weeks, Sal said he couldn't do it anymore with his ailing, elderly parents. We said fine, we have someone. Chris knew everywhere he needed to be and he knew the songs inside out. It was instantaneous. Vocally speaking, we finally have a really great vocal combination, one that sounds good with my voice. I haven't felt that since the early days when Dave Allison sang. On top of that, we've got the best bass player we've ever had.
Robb: We are looking forward to making the next album with Chris. We kind of know what it will sound like because we've rehearsed together already.
Luxi: You recorded this album in Los Angeles, CA, right?
Robb: The last one, Hope in Hell.
Luxi: Yes, that is what I mean. How did you end up choosing that studio?
Robb: The producer lives there. We used a big studio for the drums and used his home studio to finish and mix it.
Luxi: I read from somewhere that you wrote the songs for Hope in Hell while you were on the road. Is that true?
Robb: Nope, we wrote them in the rehearsal studio.
Lips: What was vastly different on Hope in Hell was that it was just Robb and I, no intervention. In the past there was always a third person asking why things had to be a certain way. That slowed everything down. Robb and I write rapidly and the third person would slow things down throwing monkey wrenches into the works.
Robb: We wrote Hope in Hell in 3-4 months. We'd get together every day and write songs.
Luxi: How crucial is it to get a live vibe and feeling into your songs?
Robb: We just capture performances, not a technical piece of math. That's boring. That's the magic of real music; the performance. To go any other way would be fucked up.
Lips: We just go out on the floor and play the rehearsal tracks until they are smooth.
Robb: The producer and I decide on the drum track and this time it was always the same one.
Lips: Generally, you hit "record" three times. The first one tells you what could be better, the second may not be perfect and the third time; bang, it's done. Next song.
Luxi: Do you prefer writing songs kind of spontaneously without thinking of the structure?
Robb: We know the arrangements. Sometimes we figure out the lyrics later, but the general arrangements are established.
Lips: The writing is extraordinarily spontaneous. That's how you want to write. We "make it up as we go" and keep building until you have a completed song.
Robb: Lips will start with a riff and I'll join...
Lips: Then he'll suggest a change here or there and I'll find the chords and we're on to the next change.
Robb: And once you have a few parts, which is all you need for any great song, you make the arrangements and we're doing the song.
Lips: The verse goes here, then the sub-verse, chorus, guitar solo, the entrance and exit from it and you just arrange it with the parts. It shouldn't be laborious. If you are laboring, it is going to be hard for the audience to listen to. If you don't put too much into your song it will be easy for people to comprehend. If you cloud it with all kinds of parts, it gets hard to get in to.
Robb: We have 10 songs ready for the new album and we have to write a few more. We spend about a year with no pressure. We would just get together and wrote and it came together tremendously.
Lips: Sometimes we would only get one song a week or two weeks.
Robb: We just had fun jamming and making things cooler.
Luxi: And you want to have a few more songs for this new album?
Lips: We'll have 13 or 14 songs.
Robb: We're shooting for 14.
Luxi: You don't have any song titles for your forthcoming album yet?
Robb: Sure. We have a song called "Daggers and Rum."
Lips: We have one called "Zombie Apocalypse."
Robb: We have some lyrical ideas. We are thinking of calling the album perhaps Anvil is Anvil.
Luxi: Now that is a very fitting album title.
Robb: We really want to make a statement. The new album sounds like Anvil; not that Hope doesn't, but this new one sounds like fucking Anvil. It's like a joke when people say "you guys always sound like Anvil." You know, AC/DC sounds like AC/DC, Motörhead sounds like Motörhead. It's funny to us.
Lips: Meanwhile, all other bands want to create their own sound and once they do people want to know why they did that.
Robb: We sound like us! We hear that a lot and it's pretty stupid. "Here's another Anvil album." Well, yeah, look who recorded it! It's a stupid thing to say.
Lips: "Lips, why are you singing like Lips?"
Robb: "Why don't you try something different?" Why?
Lips: Like we're going to start trying to sound like Motörhead.
Robb: So that title is pretty powerful. We are really making a statement and the music lives up to it. Pure Anvil.
Luxi: What about the album title itself, Hope in Hell? Does it have a specific or deeper meaning? What kind of hell are you talking about?
Lips: It is a positive message that even in hell there is hope. It could be any hell, the one we all make for ourselves. You make your own destiny. If you say life is hell, you made it that way and the song says you can still change it. It is doing the things you love rather than the things you hate. Stop dwelling on the negativity.
Robb: We're actually going to make a video for the song this week.
Luxi: As you have 15 studio albums how hard is it to put a set list together for your shows?
Robb: We can't win, doesn't matter what the fuck we play.
Lips: It is easy because we've got the classics. You have to play "Mothra," "Winged Assassins" and "March of the Crabs." You can't take these out of the set. What you are faced with is what new songs will we stick in between it all.
Robb: Songs like "This is Thirteen" and "Thumb Hang" are classics.
Lips: The movie made those songs extraordinarily famous so you can't avoid playing them. We have to figure out what songs from Hope in Hell...
Robb: What songs from Juggernaut. There's albums we don't play anything from anymore because there are two guitar parts or whatever.
Lips: It's more important to push the newest thing and we have three songs from Hope in Hell, which is a lot considering we play 13-14 songs.
Robb: To answer your question, the set we play now we can play for a long time because most of the people we are playing to have never seen us. The diehards would like maybe one or two different songs but there are more new people now. Way more new people so we try to cater to the whole.
Lips: Hey, someone is playing "Mothra" (commenting on the sound check going on outside the room).
Luxi: You have had this German band called Scene X Dream touring with you. How did you decide to pick them for this tour?
Lips: We've known them since 1993 when we did a tour with them. That was our first European tour of all time. When they found out we were coming they decided they wanted to be on the tour and it really worked out. They are really good friends. The contacted the people they needed to and thank goodness because it is working out really well touring with friends.
Luxi: I am curious to know, being a Finn, what you think of Finland's Ranger who play old-school Speed Metal and are about to play tonight, to warm up Anvil?
Luxi: Have you ever heard of those guys?
Luxi: Where you are already experienced musicians what chance do you think they have of making a name for themselves if they stay true to their music?
Robb: There's no way to say.
Lips: There's no guarantee, no formula.
Robb: Today is harder than ever especially for young guys because there's no support system. They should do it because they love it, that's what we did. There was a music business back then and there isn't today.
Luxi: Do you have any tips for them on how to succeed and make a bigger and indelible impact on people?
Lips: Artistically, create an identity. Make your band sound like no one else. Once you have an identity, then you have something to be marketed. Until then you are just a copy.
Robb: Everything sounds the same today.
Luxi: It is really hard today to differ from the pack - especially for newer bands, you know.
Robb: Everything sounds the fucking same. On tour we can hardly tell which band is which. "Oh, that's the fourth band. They sound like the first band."
Luxi: Is there more demand for Anvil shows nowadays than you can handle during one tour?
Lips: Yes! In fact, that's exactly what happened. We got ourselves booked in Australia, New Zealand and Japan and the guy here in Europe is asking us for more dates here. He says he's got lots of offers that we can't fill. No, we aren't going to blow out New Zealand!
Luxi: Everyone knows about the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil that was released in 2009. How much did it boost Anvil's career?
Robb: The documentary changed everything for us. It put the brand name out there and even non-Metal people know about us.
Lips: And those people, who've never been to a Metal show in their life, come to an Anvil show.
Robb: We see all kinds of people; kids, women, families...
Luxi: I assume it was a real turning point in Anvil's career?
Robb: We experienced a miracle. We got lucky enough to experience a real miracle and that doesn't happen to most people. A friend said "you are one miracle up on me."
Lips: He's a multi-platinum selling artist in Canada but he hasn't been able to do what we have worldwide.
Robb: We were lucky the movie got made and that it touched so many people.
Lips: Having said that, it is how we played the game. In 1982, a kid came to the changing room at the Marquee in London and we happened to let him in. He grew up to be a screenwriter for Steven Spielberg. Had we not let that kid into the changing room in 1982 there would have been no movie in 2009.
Robb: That's true. Things came full circle.
Luxi: When was the last time when you watched that documentary and was there any specific reason for doing so?
Robb: I haven't seen the movie since... I can't remember. I've never watched it at my house. Not yet.
Lips: We've seen it hundreds of times at movie theaters, on planes, at other peoples' houses. My wife and I keep saying we should watch it.
Luxi: Next year is the 35th anniversary of Anvil's second album, Metal on Metal. Have you planned anything special regarding that landmark album?
Robb: We haven't really thought about it. I know we are introducing the Metal on Metal t-shirt on our next U.S. tour (laughs). Who knows?
Lips: It is interesting because Metal on Metal was much better received in the U.S. than in Europe. Forged in Fire was the big one here.
Robb: Forged was too heavy for America back then.
Lips: Europe was ready for it because this is Metal's stronghold. It was created here.
Luxi: Well I have been taking up your time and I thank you so much for your time Lips and Robb. All the best in the future with the mighty Anvil...
Lips & Robb: Thank you too.
|Other information about Anvil on this site|
|Review: Plenty of Power|
|Review: Still Going Strong|
|Review: Back To Basics|
|Review: This is Thirteen|
|Review: Anvil: The Story of Anvil|
|Review: The Anvil Experience|
|Review: Forged in Fire|
|Review: Anvil is Anvil|
|Review: Anvil is Anvil|
|Interview with guitarist and vocalist Steve "Lips" Kudlow on March 22, 2016 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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