Anvil (pt 1): Back after being ‘ripped off and left for dead’by Talk Rock To Me on Apr 29, 2011 • 9:29 AM No Comments
Back in the 80’s, Toronto band Anvil was a leader on the metal scene, influencing the likes of Metallica, Motorhead and Slayer. Their 1982 album Metal on Metal became an instant classic yet, somehow, the band failed to reach the level of fame they seemed destined for. In 2008, having fallen into obscurity, an award-winning documentary, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, revealed that the band, led by Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow and Robb Reiner, were still, decades later, doggedly fighting for recognition. Kudlow talks about the fortuitous timing of the film, and how it helped lift Anvil to new heights, bestowing the band with revitalized respect and giving them a fresh start.
Why didn’t Anvil achieve the success so many felt it deserved?
It’s all about representation – and the person representing us didn’t do anything. You’re not going to get gigs unless you have a manager who has clout to manage your affairs. When the guy looking after us didn’t care anymore, everything went away.
Was Anvil “ripped off and left for dead” as Slash (of Guns N’ Roses) claimed in the film?
That’s exactly what happened. [The industry] threw us off the ship into a little lifeboat and left it to us to try and get back to land. Finally, it was a fan that came along and saved us – not somebody from the music business – but a fan.
And that’s how the movie came about.
That’s right. [Sacha Gervasi] was a fan we’d met in 1982 when he was 15 years old. We took him on the road with us and became really good friends. He grew up to be a screenwriter for Steven Spielberg and got back in touch in 2005.
Did you have reservations at first?
As soon as he told me what he wanted to do, I realized that my 30 years in that little lifeboat was over. It completely validated all of it and made it worth going through.
The film validated Anvil?
Probably. Yeah. All I know is that everyone from Paul McCartney to the band down at the local pub respects me having seen this movie. That’s something you can’t buy.
The film is so intimate. Is it difficult to watch?
It’s the most intense home video I’ve ever seen! I see myself from a completely different perspective now. It’s an out of body experience to watch it… it’s bizarre.
Did you learn anything about yourself?
You can’t change. You are who you are. Even if I try, I still end up being who I am.
But things changed for the band.
Well, we don’t have our day jobs anymore and that’s living the dream, isn’t it? For many years, I paid into Anvil in many ways; you can’t begin to start calculating. Even if I got paid two dollars an hour all those years, I’d be well beyond a millionaire right now.
This is the first time you’ve lived solely off Anvil?
Yes. Even in the early days, my ex-wife picked up a lot of the slack. I was on the road 40 weeks out of the year and didn’t make a lot. I made enough to look after myself while I was out there, and when I’d return I might be able to cough up a couple hundred bucks.
So you never experienced the rock and roll fantasy lifestyle?
No. I think that happens for very few, really. Look at Dee Snider (lead singer of Twisted Sister), for example. He made it and can do anything he wants and he chooses to be a radio DJ in New York. I’m saying to him, “My whole career, I wanted to do what you’re able to do and you prefer to be a DJ?” and he’s like, “Why should I drag my ass all over the world to make less than I’m making as a DJ? I have a family to raise and children that need me around.”
Fame doesn’t necessarily mean you’re set then.
Even the guys at the bigger levels have things to balance. You’ve still got a life to lead. You’re a human being with responsibilities and s— that you need to take care of. I think the movie exemplified that.
Tell me about how you supported yourself before the film happened.
I took a regular job at a catering company. People say, “Oh my god, that’s so terrible!” But what’s terrible? Making a living like everybody else? It didn’t pay the greatest and I worked half a day, but I was paying my bills and surviving. I could’ve maybe taken a better, full-time job, but then I wouldn’t have time for the band. I figured out a very comfortable balance.
You were doing what you had to do.
It seemed like a small price to pay for the enjoyment I get out of playing music. Some people say I’m crazy, but at least I can tell you that I’m fulfilled in my life and I’ve done what I wanted to do.
Next week, Kudlow discusses Anvil’s new studio album, Juggernaut of Justice, due out May 10.