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Interviews Anvil

Interview with guitarist and vocalist Steve "Lips" Kudlow

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: March 22, 2016


Interview and live pictures by Hessu Silpola

Canadian Heavy Metal veterans Anvil are still going strong after 39 years. Things eventually pay off when you believe in your music and never give up, right? Anvil has just done that. They have always believed in themselves and never given up even when the band's career has been in turmoil. Anvil's early albums, such as Metal on Metal and Forged in Fire, have been ranked as the band's finest work but if you are a true fan of the band you can say all of their albums have their own special moments.

Anvil Is Anvil, the band's 16th studio album, was released worldwide at the end of February 2016 and is 100% pure Anvil from start to finish (what else would you expect?) It has been welcomed with open arms by fans. Even before the album had hit the stores a lot of things were happening in the background, mostly good for Anvil. Changing management was perhaps one of the better things during recent times.

When the Anvil caravan arrived in Helsinki, Finland, on March 1st, The Metal Crypt sat down with the always polite and talkative Lips at Tavastia Club to talk about Anvil's support slot on the ongoing European tour with Dirkschneider, the new album, how Lips sees the current state of the world these days and so on.

ON TOUR WITH DIRKSCHNEIDER

Luxi: How has this tour with Dirkschneider been early on? You have played gigs in Norway, Denmark and Sweden so far and many of them have been completely sold out, right?

Lips: It's been fucking incredible! It's the biggest tour we've ever done in all our years of doing this.

Luxi: How did you get this chance to support Dirkschneider?

Lips: What happened, before we even did this album or anything, was we switched our management. We were managed in the United States by the same people that managed Slayer. BUT the problem was that they were too busy working with Slayer, Mastodon, Ghost and whatever. And half of the employees that work for the management office were fired. Bands like Slayer slipped down the ladder so there's not the same money at the company. He just said, "Listen, I'm going to have to let you guys go or you're going to have to find somebody else." I said, "We're not getting the attention we deserve." We sat around for a year after Hope in Hell was finished before we toured. This guy didn't do anything - nothing. I can't do that again. And I won't do it again.

So we contacted ITM (International Touring and Management GmbH & Co KG) and Frank Suepfle, who is Udo's management. We have mutual friends that worked for Frank and a guy by the name of Ingo. He says, "Hey man, you've got to go talk to Frank, you've got to do this. Fuck this American shit! You guys should have proper management in Europe." So we called Frank and he says, "You will never need another manager or agent. Don't worry." And we said, "Okay, sounds good to us." The first thing he said we had to do was get recorded properly. Not in Los Angeles, he says, "You're a fucking Metal band, so you should be recording in Germany. That's the point." OK, we're sold. He set us up with this guy Martin, who did the Decadent album. "Listen to it and tell me what you think." We listened and thought, "Okay, sounds good to us, let's do it."

So we ended up going with that. And of course we stayed with the same record label, SPV. We got rid of the American label because they were just fucking waiting for our records to sell and make money rather than making sure they were in the stores first. "What are you guys doing for us? Instead, we're doing everything for you. We're making a name for your label. You should be making a name for our band." It wasn't working in our best interest. The whole thing coming from America just did not work in the best interest for Anvil.

We ended up going where the love is, [*chuckles*] which is Germany, a country that has supported our career for fucking 35 years. Let's do it full on. This is the first time in our entire history that we had a worldwide release on one label. It's a great thing. The only odd place out was Japan, but that's fine. We already had a deal in place from the last couple records. Everything came out simultaneously for first time in our career.

We did a Pledge campaign, also the first time we ever did anything like that and it worked out absolutely incredibly. Oh man, that worked out well. Financially speaking this is the best situation we've ever, ever had. In a 39 years of doing this. [*chuckles*] It's finally working. [*laughs*]

Luxi: Looks like things have started paying off for you guys.

Lips: Yes, it couldn't have come at a better time. There was a lot of turmoil after the movie in the sense that the bass player we had was not happy. He ended up leaving. We had to hire somebody that was temporary because we had no choice, there was no time. We hired a guy from New York City. Of course that was never going to work out. How are going to rehearse and write songs if the guy lives 500 miles away. It doesn't work like that. We rehearse every day; we need somebody there every day. That put us in a position where we had to find somebody in our hometown, and we did. But I'm not the type of person that goes and fires the other guy. I just let him stay till he wanted to leave. As soon as he realized that we had a bass player in Canada and that we didn't really need him, he said, "Well, why am I bogging you guys down, I'm going to step out. Let your Canadian guy take over and everything should be fine." And it was better than fine. Way better than fine. To be honest with you, we were rehearsing with Chris and it sounded better than when we went out on the road [*laughs*] with the other guy. We were thinking, "What are we doing? We've got to fix this. We should be taking the guy we are leaving at home with us." So that's what it turned into and it's so much better. We added another instrument. And it's not just having a bass player but somebody who can sing. So what did that do? We're doing songs we've never done before because we've got singing. That makes a huge difference. We haven't done "Free As the Wind" ever and we're doing it now. Why? Because somebody has to give me the backup vocals that the song needs. There are 18 tracks of fucking backing vocals on that song. How are you going to reproduce that live? I never had the vocalists so I never did the song live. We finally got another guy that can sing all the harmonies in the right place and I go, "Holy shit!! Let's try, 'Free as the Wind' then." Honestly, it's a breakthrough for the band.

We're in a lot better place in that regard. The new album came out absolutely incredible and I couldn't be happier about that. It's funny because the situation during the Juggernaut writing was stressful after the movie. The bass player was unhappy and we were still writing during that period. That's how that album came out, then Hope in Hell, we didn't even have a bass player. [*laughs*] We're writing songs by ourselves.

So with this album we finally have a full situation, all of us are comfortable and there's no stress. It's gaining momentum. It's finding aim and focus and really going for it now.

Luxi: This tour must be a special tour for you guys because this is Udo Dirkschneider's farewell tour for Accept, as he has said he will not play Accept songs anymore. How do you feel about this?

Lips: This is something that I think Udo decided to do. I don't know if I agree with it. It would be like me saying, "I'm not going to play 'Free As the Wind' because it had the old guys in my band." I don't think I would ever want to say, "I'm never going to play them ever again so come and see us while I do." I don't know. I have a lot of questions to ask. I'm not saying if it's right or wrong. What's right for him is right for him. I'm not questioning. How do I feel about it? I think it's a great package, it's all music from the 80s. In that context it couldn't be better. It's really the same thing as us going out with Motörhead or Saxon or any of the bands from our era. It's the right combination. It is certainly better than going out with Mastodon, you know what I mean? With a new band of today, it's not the same. The young people that want to come see us, they're coming to see us because we're an old name and they want to be entertained by the old name. So it's the right combination. The guy is doing Accept material from the right era, so it's a good combination.

Luxi: How have you gotten along with Mr. Dirkschneider so far and how has he appeared to you as a person?

Lips: Absolutely great. I mean, really great! He predominantly speaks German so he's not particularly comfortable hanging out and talking because he doesn't want to make a fool of himself. Understandable, right? If I don't speak German, I'm not going to try to sit down to have conversations with the guys if they don't understand me, so he has a bit of... I would say separation by language but only by language not by music. We will sit and watch each other do sound checks, we listen to each other's music and there is obviously a connection there. There are no issues. We have tons of mutual respect. I love Udo. He's fucking amazing. A total top notch pro. That's the way I see him. One of the last of the dodo birds from my era, you know what I mean? It's somebody from my era still doing it and doing it really fucking well. Age means nothing; it's still fucking delivering the goods, that's really important.

ANVIL IS ANVIL

Luxi: Yes I totally agree. Anvil's 16th studio album, Anvil Is Anvil, was released at the end of February this year. I noticed that you have played "Zombie Apocalypse" and "Die for a Lie" off this new Anvil album on this tour...

Lips: Few times. Yes.

Luxi: Do you think you're going to add some new songs from this new record to your set list as the tour is progressing?

Lips: Oh, absolutely. When we come back to do our own, there will be at least four new songs in the set. When you're doing an hour set, two is a lot.

Luxi: Yes, it is, especially for any support act due to the restricted playing time.

Lips: Exactly. And I see the look on peoples' faces we're going to do a new song because they don't know it, that's the reason they [*making boring sound*] when we play a new song. But the thing is because of the kind of music it is, it fits in perfectly with the old material. You put "Zombie Apocalypse" right beside "Free as the Wind" and then you're thinking, "Wow, that's fucking really cool." [*laughs*] It's not so complicated. So by the time you're doing the second course of the song, everybody's going, "Zombie, Zombie..." They get it.

And we've been kind of doing "Die for a Lie" or "Daggers and Rum" but I found that doing "Daggers and Rum", although it's really, really catchy and everything, the tempo is more down. When you place it after hearing the drum solo, you're kind of slowed down...

So I switched it and did "Die for a Lie" which will bring you to "Metal on Metal" and end the set. That's the way we've been doing it but "Die for a Lie" had a lot of views on the YouTube. It's been out. I think there's over 10,000-12,000 hits on it already. It's also really, really catchy. And because it's in the "Jackhammer" vein, you can hear every fucking thing I say. There's no question what the fucking lyrics are, it's not like it's buried in the guitar. It's all out in the open. There are just vocals, basically Rock 'n Roll, like "Blue Suede Shoes (by Elvis)", "You can knock me down, step on my face." You know those words, you hear it; it's in your face. That works very well.

I have been very, very selective and careful about what I'm doing. If I'm adding new tunes, I don't add more complicated music to the set, especially new stuff. All that being said, there's nothing on the new album that isn't really catchy because we wrote the songs in the traditional Anvil fashion, where everything circles around the hook. That's the old Anvil, that's how old Anvil worked.

Luxi: That's why the new album is called Anvil Is Anvil, right?

Lips: Yes.

Luxi: Everybody who listens to this new Anvil album recognizes right away that it has your trademark sound and naming the album Anvil Is Anvil is a strong statement in itself.

Lips: Well, that's just it. We haven't changed. What would you expect from a band that's been around for 39 years? All the albums are related to each other, it's the same writers. It's not going to change. It's not going to change because this guy [*points to himself*], I haven't changed. I still play my guitar with a vibrator, I'm still a fucking nutbar when I'm on stage. I still have the same smile. I still got the same front teeth. What the fuck? [*chuckles*] I'm not changing man. I haven't got my teeth transplanted I haven't got my brain transplanted. I'm the same fucking guy [*chuckles*].

RELIGION MAKES WARS AND KILLS PEOPLE

Luxi: Speaking about strong statements, you have a lyric video for "Die for a Lie", which is about killing and murdering people in the name of religion. The lyrics of this song describe current times very well. We have the war in Syria going on, terrorist organizations like Isis and Al-Qaeda spreading terror in the name of their own Gods and shit. In other words, we are living in dangerous times. How worried are you about the current state of the world? Do you feel we humans are on our way to final Armageddon if we don't change our ways? I mean, we all have our lifestyles, but at the end of the day we are still all humans and should respect each other more.

Lips: You know what's really fascinating is we obviously know what prompted that. Come on man, what world are we fucking living in, right? People are still killing each other in the name of fucking God. Come on man, where are we living? Is this ancient fucking Rome? What the fuck are they are doing? Okay, Christianity had its growth and its evolution to where we are now. Islam has not. They're still fucking fighting for their position. They don't even agree amongst themselves how it should work. That was the same thing that Christianity went through. Look, the Irish they're still kind of not sorted out between the fucking two kinds of Christians, Protestant and Catholic. They're still having problems with it. And it's all belief in the same fucking God. You just think, "what the fuck is religion man?" It's all a theory. There's no proof of shit. I'm going to kill you over whether my theory is better than yours; both might be wrong and there is no fucking God. That's a pretty big leap. If you're going to do something in the name of possibility, you better be damn sure you have a good reason. Religion is not that. So that's where that's coming from.

When we went to make the lyric video, I wanted to show beheadings, I wanted to show what's going on right fucking now! But no, they're going, "no, no", and I said, "Yeah, you should show shots from the concentration camps, show the things that that religion has caused in this fucking world and show it in that video." They're going, "we can't, let's just keep it kind of... clean and nice." Obviously, I have a bone to pick with all religion. It's not just Christianity. It's all religion. You certainly don't take somebody's life in the name of something that you don't know whether it's there for sure. You just don't do that. And there isn't one religion that teaches you to do that. That's the stupidest part. All religion is teaching you tolerance and love of your neighbor and doing to others and you would have others do unto you. It's all about love of your fellow human being, that's what religion is supposed to be about. And yet we twist it and manipulate it to serve our greed. "I want more than you, I should own more than you, I want to take what's yours and have it for mine." I'm sorry, those are fucking not positive things. So that's where the lyrics came from.

It's not that I'm necessarily an atheist because in a certain sense, I believe in the connection of humanity. I believe we are God. And if I believe that we are God then by killing you, I'm killing a piece of myself. So my belief is in mankind. That's what I'm about. So am I an atheist? No, I believe in mankind. We're God. We're the top of the fucking mountain, we're the guys. We have knowledge, we know better, we have the power of reason, we're God.

Luxi: Killing in the name of religion/God is always stupid. Religions make wars - not humans...

Lips: That's right. Any God is bad.

Luxi: What do you actually think current times with so much going on in Syria and with Isis and Al-Qaeda and all this bad stuff?

Lips: Well, it's completely fucking bad; the immaturity of the Islam or religion, of those people not having their shit together yet. It's all been misinterpreted. You've got extremists who are making a really bad name for a bunch for really good people. It's more of humanity being fucking manipulated by religion and greed. And that's a big problem. Can we solve it? I don't know if it's a matter of solving it but I think it's about being aware of what it is and being vigilant against it. That's the best we can do because I don't know that you can defeat an idea. It's not a country.

ABOUT THE CHILDHOOD'S INFLUENCES AND HEROES

Luxi: You also have a song called "Never Going to Stop" on this new album which basically tells about Anvil, the importance of Rock 'n Roll music and the overall meaning of music to you. I guess it isn't too much to say that Anvil is more than a band for you guys; it's also a big part of your life...

Lips: It's really the same essence that Motörhead had. I was lucky enough and it's funny because I was talking with the bass player from Udo's band. We were born in 1956. Because I was born in 1956, I saw the birth of Rock 'n Roll. I was there from the very, very onset. I am still carrying the torch from that era. I was directly inspired by in its day, it's not like the first band I got into is Megadeth and I'm going to go back and learn about Chuck Berry. It just doesn't work like that; you know what I mean. I heard Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley and that was the first stuff I ever heard. The first song that made me aware of music was "All Shook Up" by Elvis Presley. I saw all these performers on the Ed Sullivan Show and I was blown away, I want to get a guitar. And then The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and its like, wow, I got to do this.

By the time I was ten years old, I had my first guitar. That's in 1966 and what's around in 1966? The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. I was learning to play "Satisfaction", which is the first Heavy Metal riff of all time with that distorted guitar. That's the shit. Wow, listen to that. [*making guitar sound*] I got to learn how to play that, you know?

So when I say Rock 'n Roll, I mean that. I mean everything, even the guitars that I use and the amplification, it's all the stuff that was used by the original guys. I have a semi-hollow Gibson like Chuck Berry's at home. That was one of my first guitars; an S335 and Fender amps. They're the first amps. [*laughs*] You plug them in, they sound fucking amazing together. Nothing beats that. So there's still some of that essence in what I do. As the years went on there were guys like Ted Nugent. It's like, "fuck, somebody thinks just the way I do." [*chuckles*] Well, I mean plays in that way, I wouldn't say I think like him. He's a fucking nutbar. But the semi-acoustic electric guitars through the Fender amps, nothing beats that. It is a very lovable tone, a very warm, lovable tone.

TOURING AROUND WORLD IS A TOUGH BUSINESS...

Luxi: So you've got this tour with Dirkschneider that you're happy with. This tour will finish at the end of April. And then you would take like...

Lips: A week and half off.

Luxi: And then you start touring in the States. So it's a lot of touring for you guys this year.

Lips: Well, there was a lot of touring even for Hope in Hell. Once we started, it went for a year and a half straight. We didn't fucking stop. We went everywhere; Japan, Australia, New Zealand, fucking the States, fucking 80 shows. We did a European run, we played the festivals, we did... fuck! It's crazy.

Luxi: What's next? What will happen after the US tour?

Lips: After the US tour we have a Canadian tour it's already being booked. Its a lot of traveling because we're going from east to west and we're sitting pretty much in the middle in Toronto. We have to go all the way out to the fuckin' East Coast, do Nova Scotia, fucking Prince Edward Island, all that shit. Come back up through Quebec down into Montreal, back through Ontario and then all the way across to Vancouver and then come all the way back.

Luxi: Sounds like a lot of touring for you guys this year and maybe next year, too?

Lips: Oh yes, definitely into next year. We will probably end in September and October in Japan. We still going to have to worry about South America, we haven't done that yet. I mean it's a big world man, there's a lot of fucking playing, man.

Luxi: If you think of countries like Chile, Columbia and all those countries around South American...

Lips: Oh yes, fuck man, we got a lot of work to do.

Luxi: Metalheads in that part of the world are said to be kind of fanatic and even crazy...

Lips: That's right, we have a very, very big following down there so we have to take care of them, too. We're looking at about two year's solid touring for this album. We started even before the fucking thing came out [*chuckles*]. We got a little bit of a head start [*chuckles*].

Luxi: Have you considered of doing a tour in Australia and New Zealand at some point?

Lips: Australia, yes, that's probably going to be somehow hooked up with the tour in Japan. It might be stuff in Singapore and China, I don't know man; there is lot of work to do.

Luxi: I'm kind of curious to know if when you're on these long tours if you write new stuff?

Lips: We will go back into rehearsal but writing on the road is next to impossible. I have never done that on tours. Even in the early days when we wrote Metal on Metal, we would go to work for a month, come home and take a week or two off, write two songs and go back out. That's what we would do. Work the songs into the set and perfect them then come home and take another couple weeks off, write another couple songs, go out for another few weeks. And that's how that stuff is written. There are certain moments when yes, we will put stuff together on the road. "March of the Crabs" was put together on the road. "Mothra" sort of, yes, parts were written in hotel rooms. But that's not typical. Songs like "Motormount" or "Free As the Wind" were completely written on down time and in the rehearsal studio, they weren't written on the road.

Luxi: I'm going to end this interview by saying congrats on your 60th birthday tomorrow, man [*shakes Lips' hand*].

Lips: Thanks. I made it to 60.

Luxi: Are you going to celebrate your b-day in any special way?

Lips: I don't know what I'm going to do. I got a little bit of hash, I should be okay. I don't do a lot of drinking but that could change, you never know. Well, we got a bottle of Irish Cream, which I like.

Luxi: Yes, that's good stuff. That's it. It was nice talking with you.

Lips: No problem, man. It's great to talk to you.

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 Anvil on December 31, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)




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