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ANVIL – SMOKE ’EM IF YOU GOT ’EM!

 




By Jens Hellroute / Photos: Henrik "Mauser" Reerslev

 

Some weeks ago, yours truly was at Copenhell 2011, a 2-day outdoor metal festival with some memorable performances by Morbid Angel, Mayhem, Deicide and some lesser ones by (OMG!) Korn and Opeth. Was sadly too drunk to remember if I saw Priest,( sorry, doc!) but I did see Anvil deliver one of the best and funniest sets during the weekend. After the show I had an hour before talking to frontman Lips of the legendary Canadian trio. I was standing behind the stage  and I witnesssed a smiling Lips helping the Copenhell stage crew with carrying the bands’ amps and gear into the bus. And talking to the crew for 10 mins. John Lennon is a bogus working class hero – Lips is the real deal. And damned if this interview doesn’t  prove to the nines that Lips is exactly as down-to-earth, emotional and cheerfully friendly as he was portrayed in the now famous modern rock docu masterpiece “Anvil : The Story Of Anvil” along with his drummer and oldest friend Robb Reiner. “Face it, I’m an old hippie!”... just one of Lips’ many high spirited one-liners from the stage. Speaking about high…

 

Lips: (lights up a joint I gave him as a gift) Wow. Thanks man!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Hey, the first thing you did on stage was celebrating Christiania ! (Christiania is the infamous "outsider" hippie/punk colony in Copenhagen--All-knowing Mality)

 L: Haha. I haven’t really been to Christiania yet, but I’ll be heading out there within an hour. Robb’s been there and told some wild tales – so now I have to experience it!

WC: It’s also the right time to visit the place before Copenhagen ’s hippietown will be ’normalized’ and conform to the standards of society. 

L: I see marijuana as a very harmless thing. Only the most evolved societies allow it. The myth of marijuana leading to harder drugs is bogus. Would be the same as saying that milk leads to alcohol! They are both drinks. I’m really looking forward to visiting Christiana. Amsterdam has become way too sterile. What’s happening there now is that you can’t smoke cigarettes in coffee shops, only pot! You’re not allowed to mix tobacco in a joint, you have to smoke it in a pipe. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s allowed to smoke the illegal stuff while the legal stuff is prohibited, haha. The commercialization of pot in Amsterdam is also the reason why quantity takes place over quality. The most expensive pot in Amsterdam reminds me of mediocre weed in Canada .

WC: Have you tried Amnesia Haze in Amsterdam ? Roadburn approved shit.  Probably the strongest example of skunk in the world – three tokes and you’re wasted for 7 hours!

L: No, haven’t tried that, man, haha. A guy I knew grew skunk so powerful you couldn’t finish the joint. You forgot you were smoking. You just sat and stared into the room until you discovered the joint wasn’t lit. (Lips takes a huge drag of the joint)

WC: Let’s go back in time. As a teen in the early 80’s I bought all your three first albums when they came out. At that time I was nuts about New Wave Of British Heavy Metal... the bands, the records, the image…the works. I was actually convinced for a few years that Anvil were a British band due to your similar raw sound.

L: Interesting that you mention that. We arrived at a time where most heavy metal bands were from England . The popularity of the genre started there.

WC: (lift my leather jacket) I’m wearing my Angel Witch t-shirt – one of my absolute favorite NWOBHM bands.

L: Also one of mine! ”Angel Of Death” is too cool. I think it has something to do with the production, those records sound so unique. You can never recreate that sound again.

WC: Analog vs. digital production. I think a lot of 90’s records, be it grunge or metal, sound like crap compared to those NWOBHM albums.

L: Hmm…when we’re talking analog vs. digital it’s important for people to understand  there’s no real difference. It’s all about working with medias. You record your music electronically, and instead of putting it on tape you put it in a hard drive It’s only about a place to store your music.

WC: You think it kind of a purist attitude to prefer analog recordings?.

L: Yeah, it’s somewhat bullshit. Nowadays you use both old and new technology, the combination of a computer and analog rails. But analog rails are very expensive... maybe you need 18 and they can cost your 10,000 dollars. We recorded in Dave Grohl’s studio.

WC: Yes, that was actually one of my questions…

L: You don’t have to ask me questions. We’re just having a conversation and smoking a joint, haha. Yeah, Dave’s a huge metal fan, and a huge fan of Anvil. First time I met him he gave me one of his guitars as a gift. And a wish of us recording in this studio, or else he would never talk to us again, haha. So of course we recorded ”Juggernaut Of Justice” there. In fact we combined old and new technology as I mentioned before. What’s most important is who you got to control the situation, and here’s where Bob Marlette comes in. Genius producer.

WC: What about Chris Tsangarides?

L: I will in no way favor anyone over C.T. He’s an amazing producer!


WC: He produced the ”Metal On Metal” classic. I DJ sometimes and I really believe that album has got a superior sound compared to newer metal records.

L: Again, I won’t take anything away from C.T. I will celebrate that album until the day I die! I love the man dearly. But you gotta understand the perspective regarding the producer. His signature ,if you will. When you hear a C.T. record, you hear Judas Priest, you hear Thin Lizzy. The essence of all of the man’s productions is shining through. We made three albums with Chris, all consistent. But we wanted to  try something else this time. Some people had the opinion that we just weren’t good enough to get a break after 14 albums. Maybe there’s some truth to that. It takes years to get an objective perspective. It boils down to producers, self production isn’t the right way for us. We tried that.

WC: On stage you had like neat ‘effects’ like singing through the guitar... never saw that before! You used a steel vibrator during the guitar solo. And scared one bouncer by turning it on close to his ear. I loved it! Low budget gimmicks…as opposed to giant fire breathing dragons .

L: It’s about being yourself. I have a crazy dream about bands performing in closed arenas – with the light on all the time.

WC: During the whole show?

L: Yeah, the whole show, haha. Like we just did this afternoon in the sun. It’s all about the performer and only the performer, not all sorts of explosions. We have shared stages with Alice Cooper. He’s a legend, second to none and an originator when we’re talking about that kind of shows. He brought theatrics into rock’n’roll. Everybody who came after him was just imitating what he created. I also celebrated the late great Ronnie James Dio on stage, and talked about the times I met him. (Lips told us he met Ronnie in the mid-80’s and a few years ago ran into him again at a hotel, and Ronnie instantly started talking about the conversation they had decades ago!--JH) I never met Alice Cooper before but I felt the same drive, the same spirit that Ronnie had. Their mentality is very alike. Both were 100% present when they talked to people. Truly loving caring people. They were genuinely interested in what you were involved in, just as I were interested in what they were up to.

WC: When we’re talking about your heroes, what about Cactus?

L: Oh yeah, that’s fuckin’ amazing. After the movie where we mentioned we’re huge Cactus fans, we got in contact with Carmine Appice. And not only that but we ended up being very good friends with him! A great guy.


WC: What now? You still got your job bring out food to senior citizens or can you now actually make a living off Anvil?

L: I quit the job, haha. I can actually make a decent living touring with Anvil. But will it last forever? Things like that are important. Due to my working conditions I never had a retirement plan. I only worked halfhearted, so I never earned anything to put aside for later in life. It’s pure gambling... can I at 65 retire? Have I earned enough? That’s the way things work in Canada and probably also in Denmark

WC: Lemmy is 65.

L: No, he’s 10 years older than me! Hey wait,... fuck, you’re right!

WC: There was something about you getting an offer to join Motörhead when Fast Eddie left ’em in 1982?

L: Okay, the story goes like this. Apparently Eddie had a major blowout with Lemmy in Toronto on their tour. And due to the fact Motörhead were stranded in Toronto they called us. Maybe in the beginning of 1983. But I couldn’t do it. I was recording the ”Forged In Fire” album. But I did get to hang out with Lemmy. He’s born in the 1940’s and I in the 1950’s. I know who inspired him, where he comes from, musically. Not far from where I’m coming from. I clearly remember us walking down a street, and he talked about buying acid for Jimi Hendrix. Lemmy always bought ten trips, took one before Jimi like a guinea pig. And then Jimi ate the last 9 acid trips, haha.

(The interview ended here, it went a bit longer than planned, another interviewer was waiting but she was too shy to interfere with us getting baked, haha. After we shook hands and I turned off the tape recorder, Lips told me his absolute favorite album of all time is Black Sabbath’s “Master Of Reality”)

Thanks to Mathias of http://devilution.dk and photographer Henrik…and of course Lips, I have interviewed 100s of punk/hardcore/metal bands over the years but this no-nonsense Canadian survivor is truly one of a kind in an otherwise cynical and trendy music biz. And did I mentioned that Anvil met Gunner Hansen during Copenhell (as I did) and presented Leatherface with a honorary lifetime membership of the Anvil fanclub?