Anvil's Steve "Lips" Kudlow
The stalwart metal man on surviving the '80s (and succeeding decades later)
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Although the buzz around the new documentary Anvil!: The Story Of Anvil suggests that the obscure Canadian metal band is a “real-life Spinal Tap,” that’s a bit misleading. Yes, the band has hung in there since the late ’70s with amps that go to 11. But singer-guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner have soldiered on with their then-groundbreaking speed/thrash metal against impossible odds like legal problems, woefully inept managers, and eventually being eclipsed by bands that they influenced, like Slayer and Metallica. Those years of marginalization may have finally paid off, though, making Lips and Co. the ultimate underdogs in Anvil, which follows the band from 2005 to 2007 as it attempted to tour Europe and also record its 13th album, This Is Thirteen. As Anvil is being released in theaters around the country this month, Anvil is also making a handful of appearances where it’ll perform following a screening of the movie: The group hits New York on April 6 at the Blender Theatre, with a screening of the film and live performance to follow. Fresh from quitting his day job and poised to make a comeback, Lips spoke to Decider about being the mom-and-pop store of metal bands and why you should never give up on your dreams.
Decider: What’s happened to Anvil since the end of the movie?
Lips: We’ve been very busy. Obviously, everything’s picked up 1,000 percent, man. I’m not playing gigs for 1,000, 500 bucks anymore. [Laughs.] Whatever. A lot of those things have changed and I don’t think they’ll ever be the same. We’ll never be on the lower echelon that we’ve traveled through for the last 30 years.
D: The movie doesn’t really go much into Anvil’s chronology.
L: No, they don’t, and it gives you the idea that we’ve done nothing. It’s actually quite ludicrous. I’ve been using the analogy of Home Depot and the independent hardware store. We’re the independent hardware store. Just because we don’t make millions of dollars doesn’t mean we’re not successful. We’ve got basically all the close-by neighborhood people buying from us. Yes, the majority of people buy at Home Depot, but what about when you need something really quick and you don’t want to drive all the way out to Home Depot?
D: So you’re the mom-and-pop store of metal bands?
L: [Laughs.] Yeah! Only about .1 percent of metal bands make it. I mean, come on, man. When you think about how many thousands of metal bands there have been, and there’s only four really big ones. That speaks real loud and clear to me. The average person doesn’t realize that, and there’s a lot of judgment that goes with that. Very few ever get much further than recording a couple of records, never mind recording 13 records.
D: Do you think Anvil would have been equipped to handle the fame and attention you were seeking in the ’80s if you got it at the time?
L: That’s a good question. And I would probably say no.
D: Why not?
L: Because we were only in our 20s. You’re usually pretty self-destructive at that point. You have an attitude that everything’s gonna last forever. And when I think about the past, that’s why it didn’t really faze us at the time, that things were fucked-up and we’d have to do it all again. I mean it’s like “So what?” It’s gonna last forever anyway.
D: People are pretty eager to compare the movie to Spinal Tap. Do you think that’s a fair comparison?
L: Spinal Tap is our Trojan horse. There’d be no way in a million years that you could make a documentary about a metal band without it immediately being compared. We embraced it. People [come] in expect[ing] to have a big laugh at Anvil and end up crying at our trials and tribulations, and falling in love with the characters and only wanting success for them.
We’re not pitiful characters. I don’t know if you can say that someone who is tenacious and dedicated is a loser. This is the first time that someone’s actually had enough balls to let the world see what it really is. This is what it means to go on the road. This is what it means to go after your dreams, even when you’re the only one who believes. Lots of people own their own businesses, man, and give up, and maybe had they waited an extra month things could have turned around. This is the beauty of the whole thing and it’s quite remarkable.