ANVIL “Lips Is Anvil” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

When it comes to Canadian heavy metal, Anvil are the absolute fathers of the nation. I guess if you consider 70’s Rush heavy metal, they might get the nod, but Anvil does songs about Satan, robots, sexy teenage girls and Mothra and that’s all METAL. Plus lead singer Lips wears bondage gear and plays lead with a vibrator, so case closed!

By now, most of us know the story of Anvil, which was made into a successful indy film. We know about their dogged persistence and willpower to overcome all obstacles in their path. Every one of their albums is dedicated to nothing but 100% heavy metal, but the newest, simply entitled “Anvil is Anvil”, is more of a statement than usual. This is the best material they’ve done in years and they sound just as jazzed up in 2016 as they did in 1984.

I thought I would speak to the mad mouth of Anvil, Mr. Lips himself,  and hear straight from him what keeps Anvil on the straight and steady metal path. True to form, he had a lot to say, on all sorts of subjects, including the band’s terrifying journey on an icy Texas highway, Lips’ wild encounters with the late Lemmy Kilmister and his desire to play Israel. Along with a hell of a lot more!

Stand back, strap in and let the Lips start flappin’!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  Would it be fair to say that now is the most productive time in the history of Anvil?

LIPS: That about as exact as you could get! (chuckles) We’ve gained a lot of momentum, it’s fuckin’ awesome!

WC: It’s going like a well oiled machine.

L: That’s right, that’s what it needs to be.

WC:  It’s possible for Anvil to be a band that lasts 40 years. How does that register in your mind? Does it seem even real?

L: How about me being two weeks off of 60 years? How about that?

WC: When you formed the band in the late 70’s, did you think there was any chance you’d be playing in 2016?

L:  Actually, yes. My ultimate plan…and this is the honest to God truth…was to put together a metal band that never compromises and never sells out and lasts for my lifetime. That was really my intention…that I could do this my entire life. Let me put it this way. We all know and we can’t deny the fact that with an electric guitar, you can stay relevant in today’s music industry for a lifetime. Because it’s all connected by the electric guitar. That’s why it hurts so bad to be losing all these rock musicians lately…because they’re still fuckin’ relevant!

WC: Your plan has worked to perfection, you’ve had what it takes to weather just about any storm.

L: Well, that was the idea all along. And I said it on our second album…it’s a heavy metal fight. It’s a fight to survive! It always has been and it always will be.  The whole concept is that this is an underdog genre of music. We’re never gonna get  what country and western has! We’re never gonna get the popularity of that no matter what we do.. Def Leppard was about as close as anybody ever got. Or maybe Bon Jovi. But even Bon Jovi has played country and western to try and get bigger.

WC: Both of those bands put a heavy dose of pop into their sound. You haven’t really done that in your career.

L: No and I never will. That’s not my thing, that’s not what we’re about. Some could say it’s selfish, but I think it’s about identity more than anything else. You’ve got to do something no one else does. You’ve got to create something that nobody else but you can do. And if you can’t do that, you’ve got no business being in the business.  If you’re doing what everybody else is doing, then you’re not really doing much of anything. You’ve got to be unique. That’s the route I came from. You can certainly show influences but it better still have your identity.

WC: Nowadays more than ever, there’s more followers than leaders, but that goes without saying.

L:  That’s always the way it is. There’s a handful of leaders, it’s been that way all along. Think about The Beatles! They were leaders. How many followers did they create? (laughs)

WC: You’ve got  a new bass player on board. What can you tell us about this fellow and his contribution to the band?

L:  Well, this guy’s really great. Our lineup is now the best it’s ever been. The most comfortable, the most musical. Chris is a really, really amazing musician. And it’s amazing what a difference that actually makes when you find the right guy. And what makes the right guy? That’s a real tough question to answer.  It’s certainly has a lot to do with the personalities. The guy fits in great as a human being. His ability is phenomenal.  He comes from a progressive background as far as music is concerned, so his abilities are insane.  It includes fusion and high progressive music. His technique is really interesting because he’s a finger bass player but he actually uses the tips of his fingernails as part of his sound. You wonder  is he using his pick or is he using his fingers? It gives the music a really unique, hard edge that works unbelievably with my drummer Robb. He has just the right sound to work with Robb.  This guy plays innately, so he can keep up with Robb.  When Robb does fills, Chris follows it.  It’s not just keeping the beat…he actually creates notes for tom-tom fills! The bass actually follows the tom-tom, which makes the tom-tom stand out even more. That exemplifies our sound…the whole bottom end of Anvil is completely changed now.

WC: You’ve been searching for such a guy for a long time…

L: That’s right. The change of going from a four piece to a three piece…it’s really important to find the CORRECT third piece.  And even more difficult is finding the person, the human being that’s understanding of what his position is. That’s very complex. He’s sitting in with two guys that have been playing with each other for their whole lives! Somebody has to step in and fuckin’ get in there? How are you going to get in there? How are you gonna make up for 45 years, you know?

WC: That’s a lot of pressure, but when you listen to the new record, none of that is apparent.  It sounds very natural!

L: That’s what I’m saying! I have a person who’s fit in so well he’s become a little brother to Robb and I! That’s great, man!

WC: On your new album “Anvil Is Anvil”, you cover an amazing amount of lyrical subjects. How important is it to you to keep things diverse and keep the lyrics from all different angles?

L: You know, man, it is what it is.  When I create an album, each song is an individual. I never like to overlap or repeat. Each song is so different from each other…(chuckles) I mean, “Zombie Apocalypse”…there’s not another song that’s remotely like that on the rest of the record. Each song is treated as an individual and that includes the lyrics. It’s given lyrics that suit it’s identity. It’s not like you have a choice. All I do is create based on my environment. What’s going on in my environment , what’s going in the world right now, what’s going on in the news, what’s going on in my life…just what’s going on! And that’s what I write about.

WC: One lyric that is on a tricky subject is “Gun Control”.  Being Canadian, you might have a unique look at the subject…

L: It’s actually just a look. That’s exactly how it’s written. It’s written from a Canadian perspective. Do we need it? I don’t know! You tell me! I don’t know and I don’t see any end to the debate. It’s more of an observation…”Gun Control” is nothing but observation. Nothing more, nothing less. It comes down to the saying…it’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people. I state that because what I’m really talking about is emotion. Fear, anger, jealousy…the things that drive people to kill people. That’s emotion…it’s not the gun!

WC: In the US, people seem to be comfortable with things being a bloodbath…more than almost any civilized country.

L: But having said that, there’s a historical aspect to it. IT’s not just now. It’s the foundation of that country…the right to bear arms. You’re right to do that, it’s part of the law of the land. It’s a philosophy!

WC: Another song that’s also observational and comes from a historical context is “Die For A Lie”. What triggered this song?

L: That’s based on environment as well. That’s what’s going on with the Islamic religion right now.  Look at the murder they’re perpetrating in the name of Allah! If Allah was alive, he’d say, are you guys out of your fuckin’ minds?! What are you doing? That’s not the philosophy or purpose of religion. Religion is supposed to teach you understanding and love. It’s not about murder. And my stance is it’s all theory anyway. You can get me the most religious person on Earth…give me the Pope. I’ll have a discussion with him and I’ll ask him to produce the evidence that any of this is true or exists. Show me scientific evidence that there is an invisible God in the sky…show me the evidence! There isn’t a person who could ever do that! It’s all theoretical…it’s not factual.

WC: The one indisputable fact is that people kill because of it.

L: That’s right! That’s why it’s called “Die For A Lie”! Archaeologists have found out that the human race is a lot older than they knew. Well, God says it isn’t.  Whose God? There’s this God, that God, my God’s better than yours. There’s a lot of unknown shit! It’s all just theory. We may find out our origins have nothing to do with that. 

WC: There’s a lot of unknown history. People have had the mental capacity that they do know for at least a million years.  Recorded history only goes back eight to nine thousand years. It’s kind of hard to believe that for the other 980,000 years there was nothing going on.

L: Right! They’re just now finding out that the Sphinx is way fuckin’ older than the Egyptian culture.

WC: The Sphinx is very old. There’s an underwater pyramid structure off the coast of Japan that is very old. They try to describe it as something natural, but when you see how it’s constructed, there’s no way that’s correct. Hidden history is something I’m very interested in.

L: It’s in all of us to have that interest because we want to know where we come from and why we’re here. Everybody wants to know that. So the simple answer is: God! That’s why God exists, to give us a simple answer. We are still in our infancy. We still don’t know exactly where we came from.

WC: Here’s a lyric that’s a bit different from the others on the album. It’s my favorite song on the album, “Fire On The Highway”. That has to be something you really experienced, right?

L: Yes. It happened in Texas.  Where they don’t have ice storms. (laughs) I never seen anything like that. I mean, everywhere you looked, there were cars off the road. They just don’t know how to drive in it!

WC: I’m from Northern Illinois and today it’s about 10 degrees out. My sister went down to school in Dallas and she used to laugh her head off when they got an inch of snow.  It was like an apocalypse down there.

L: Oh yeah, it’s unbelievable, man! If you don’t know how to drive in it, you’re probably gonna lose control. You don’t know what you’re doing. Anybody who drives on ice, you know you don’t touch the brake! If you touch the brake, it’s over. It’s over! You gotta know that! If you’re going at a high speed, you’re gone! That’s what you’re watching!

WC: Would you say that Texas incident was the craziest thing you saw on the road? Or were there even more outrageous things that you could put in a song?

L: Who knows? That was a really dangerous situation. It was actually quite interesting. We actually have a video clip of it. You see the view just over my shoulder, I’m sitting in the shotgun seat. We’re talking and you can hear me say, I dunno, should we drive past this wreck. Meanwhile, there’s a police officer that pulled up behind this rig. He’s just got his emergency lights going, not the big dome light on the top. We didn’t realize it was a police officer sitting there until we watched the video later. He’s just sitting there and watching the truck burn! He didn’t block the road, he didn’t do anything. We just came upon it and we didn’t know if we should drive past or go back the other way. I mean, this thing was burning fiercely. I said, we’re gonna be stuck here for hours if we wait. Just go. Go, go, go!  We pass and as we drive past, there’s a big flash. It exploded, there’s a big explosion of gas. A huge fireball!

WC: Did anybody get killed in that?

L:  We don’t know. It was a truck fire. I believe the driver was in the police car. I’ve looked at the video a number of times and it looks like there were two people sitting in the police car. They were waiting for the fire engines, which were nowhere to be heard or seen.

WC: Well, you got a heck of a song of it! (laughter) When I listen to that track, I can feel the emotion of it. That was transmitted pretty well.

L: Yeah, when I listened to just the music for that song, I felt, it’s telling a story.I got the feeling that the music was telling a story, but what kind of story is it? It sounds really on the edge. Oh, that’s the moment on the road. FIRE ON THE HIGHWAY! That’s the chorus, it worked perfectly. And away I went.

WC: You guys are the fathers of the Canadian metal scene. Is it as strong today as it’s ever been?

L: The metal scene in Canada really only exists in Quebec., in French speaking Canada. I would say 90% of Canadian metal listeners are in Quebec. There has always been a metal scene there, all along. From the 70’s hard rock to now. It’s a really, really musical culture there,  the most European style culture in North America.

WC: I do have a PR connection that sends me a lot of Canadian bands. They come from all over. Believe it or not, I just heard a band from the Yukon! They’re called Sanktuary and I liked them a lot. They’ve got to be the only band I know of from that part of the world.

L: Believe it or not,  there’s First Nation metal bands! Hey, metal is a universal thing…it’s everywhere. It’s global, that’s the truth. It really has no borders as far as humanity is concerned. It’s one of the real melting pots that the world has.

WC: I have a special interest in metal bands from the Middle East. I’ve got a lot of respect for them, it takes a lot of courage to do what they do there.

L: Oh yeah!  Jeez, man, there’s Iranian and Iraqi bands…you name it! Of course there are!

WC: Do you have any tour plans for the new album here in the States?

L: Actually, we start a U.S,. tour on May 11th which takes us all across the country. We’ve got  20 to 30 dates, something like that.  It will be the first run of probably 2 or 3 we’re gonna do for this album. It’s all good, man!

WC: You’ve been all over the world. Is there any place left where you haven’t played yet?

L:  Well, I haven’t been to the Middle East. I’d love to go play Israel. If for no other reason than to spite Roger Waters! (laughs) Fuck Roger Waters, man! What an asshole! I get angry when guys get political. “Don’t play Israel”….what the fuck?! Comparing Israel to South Africa? It’s not the same, not the same shit at all.

WC: If you could invite any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

L: (laughs) I’d love to sit down and talk to Jimi Hendrix!

WC: You and me both!

L: He would be an interesting person to talk to. His perspective and his meaning…I don’t think he understood it fully himself. It would be great to sit down and explain to him how important he was. I don’t think he realized it.

WC: At one time, Lemmy was his guitar roadie and Lemmy said we won’t see anybody like Hendrix again in music. It’s ironic, because now that Lemmy’s gone, the same could be said of him.

L: That’s right! It’s funny, I got to know Lemmy very well. We ended up at a gig in Birmingham, England and we had a day off. He invites me up to his hotel room and he pulls out a forty-ouncer of vodka and a couple of jugs of orange juice. He gives me a glass that you have to put at least six ounces of vodka into and then the orange juice. (chuckles) 24 hours later, there’s a knock at the door. After doing a generous amount of white powder, it was no trouble staying awake! (laughs) I’m having a discussion with Lemmy. I told Lemmy he was so unique, he had no idea what kind of influence he had on the music business and on me. Everybody in the genre of heavy metal is influenced by you! Fuck, man, what an honor it is to speak to you! He looks at me and says in that growly British voice, “In 10 years, my friend, there will be someone sitting across from you saying exactly the same thing to you!” Wow, OK! Years later, I go to a concert in Fort Lauderdale, Motorhead was opening for Black Sabbath. I get to the gig early, I go to the tour bus and I bang on the fuckin’ door. Lemmy comes to the door…”Ah, Lips, great to see you!” He’s got an attache case and a can of beer. He takes a good swig of the beer as we’re walking to the venue and he asks: “Tell me, has anybody sat across from you and told you how great you were like you did for me?” As a matter of fact, yeah! (laughter)

WC: Any last words of wisdom for all the Anvil-ites out there?

L: I can’t wait to get to the U.S. We always kick a lot of ass down there. We always have an amazing time. One of the best places to play in the world. Check out the new album, there’s all diferent flavors of metal on it. It’s not just one tone. There’s stuff everybody can relate to and it’s authentic as it possibly can be. Don’t expect a sellout because you’re not gonna get one!