ANVIL “Apoca-Lips Now”
By Dr. Abner Mality
For ANVIL, the “March of the Crabs” never stops and the next metal impact is always imminent. The crusading Canucks have been fighting the metal fight since the mid-70’s in an eternal cycle of recording and touring without let up. This was not my first go-round with the voice of ANVIL, Steve “Lips” Kudlow, but it was the first time I got to speak to him in person. I caught him during the band’s stop in Madison, WI at the Crucible Club.
Maybe it was because they were near the end of a long tour, but the tone of this interview was quite different than my last talk with Lips. There was some weariness in the air and Lips didn’t mince words when answering questions. Well, if any guy has earned the right to talk bluntly and to the point, it’s this living legend of Canadian metal. You can check out my review of the show HERE and I also want to thank Dustin Hardman and “No Fun Shogun” Randy Kastner for helping to set this up…
As Mills Lane would say, let’s GET IT ON!
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us! How’s the current tour going?
LIPS: Well, the tour is just about over. We’ve only got two more shows after tonight.
WC: Has it met your expectations?
L: Yeah, it’s gone well.
WC: Would you say touring is your natural state of existence?
L: I guess so. It seems like it. We’ve been living this way for a really long time.
WC: I remember the last time we spoke and we talked about the song “Fire On The Highway”, an incident in Texas where almost every car was off the road and wrecked. Is that still the craziest thing you’ve seen while traveling?
L: I don’t know about that. We’ve seen a lot of crazy shit over the years and I’m sure some of it was just as bad as that. Tons of major accidents…the worst is when you have mechanical problems with your vehicle and you wonder if you’re ever gonna move again.
WC: There’s a lot of stuff that you can look back on years later and laugh at, but at the time, it didn’t seem too funny.
L: Man, we’ve had bad shit happen that I could laugh at a week after it happened! It doesn’t have to be years later!
WC: Is it fair to say that you were the first Canadian band to completely embrace the metal tag?
L: There was no such thing as metal when we started.
WC: But there were quite a few Canadian hard rock bands, like APRIL WINE and I also think of CONEY HATCH…
L: But nobody like us. You couldn’t really compare those bands to what we were doing in the 70’s.
WC: You were balls out heavy metal…
L: True, but I always considered us a hard rock band as well. That’s where my roots lie.
WC: Maybe you could explain a bit more about the difference…
L: Well, over the years, the metal scene has become degraded with a lot of white noise unmelodic bullshit from bands that really don’t know how to write a catchy song. That’s why the metal scene has gone downhill, because none of it can appeal to a mass audience anymore. In the last 15 years, it’s gotten particularly bad. Bands come up that all sound the same, just white noise garbage and it will never go beyond that. What do you think is going to happen when people can’t understand a word you’re saying and nobody can read the band logo? (laughs) I mean, what the fuck? How can you have a logo nobody can read and expect to go beyond a small audience that’s never going to get bigger?
WC: And yet there is a market for it. I mean, Maryland Deathfest is the biggest event of its kind and the fans take over all of downtown Baltimore…
L: Well, good for them. But that’s all the further it’s going to go. But to be honest, there’s no real music business to work with anymore. Real record labels don’t really exist, people don’t buy CD’s anymore. Vinyl is still around, but it’s not anything like it was. There’s no actual record stores where people can buy music and online is a joke.
WC: Now the bands opening for you tonight can’t really be described as white noise…
L: No, you’re right about that. There’s a reason for that. We want it that way.
WC: You’ve found a way to succeed in this environment.
L: Yeah, for 45 years now I’ve found a way to make it go. It takes a ton of blood and sweat and talent and giving people what they want. We have a brand that’s recognized and there are really no days off with it.
WC: There’s also no real filter with the music business. You’ve got a band, boom, you’re signed. You get a record out…
L: Yeah, but nobody fucking buys it! Nobody! You’re right, there’s no filter with the music business, such as it is. There’s no more A & R guys who work to figure out what band should get signed. That’s a big difference. Another is that the traditional recording studio system just isn’t important anymore. And why should it be? You got these home recording studios where you can sit in your underwear and work on the music. You don’t get charged ridiculous amounts per hour with a big producer to get your product out.
WC: Working as a music journalist, I get sent a ridiculous amount of digital promos, like at least 150 a week. It’s impossible to get through it all. When they sent out physical media, it was easier to work with.
L: Quality control is non-existent. Anything can be released. It’s hard to swim against that tide.
WC: Are you still learning things today or have you pretty much mastered your craft?
L: I think we’ve got things down pretty good. The fact that we’ve lasted this long, that we continue to put out good records, speaks volumes for us. Especially in a bad environment like we’ve got today.
WC: Your new record is called “Impact Is Imminent”. Now EXODUS had a record out by that name years ago…
L: On this tour, you’re only the third guy who has brought this up. Who really cares? I mean, how many albums called “Heaven and Hell” have their been over the years? So we got a record that has the same name as one that came out 35 years ago. Who cares? The title comes from a song I wrote about the effects of the pandemic. The “impact” refers to the impact of the pandemic on modern life. It’s had an impact on the touring business for sure. Even now, the crowds aren’t really back all the way. People are afraid of getting sick when they see a show. I keep waiting for things to really recover.
WC: I think you’re going to wait a long time. This thing is here to stay and it’s constantly changing.
L: I’m afraid you may be right.
WC: Concerning the movie “The Story of Anvil”, it’s obviously a big part of your history. Has your thoughts about it and where it stands in your legacy changed over the years?
L: Not 100% sure what you mean…
WC: Do you think that maybe it overshadows some of what you do on your current records?
L: The movie is accurate for the time it portrays. By that time, we’d already been doing this band more than 30 years! Things really haven’t changed a ton for us since it came out. I mean, it was like 14 years ago and we are still touring everywhere, playing wherever we can. That’s the only way you can make it...touring and selling T-shirts. We ain’t gonna get much bigger than we are now in America. But America is not the whole world. They may think that it is, but it isn’t. There’s a lot more to the world than America.
WC: On the new album, is there one song that stands out to you, that is a special favorite?
L: I don’t know. We really work hard to make sure there’s no filler, that every song has got a reason for being there. It’s kind of hard picking a favorite kid. The title track has got some important things to say.
WC: Along the same lines, is there any album from your catalog that you think gets overlooked, that maybe deserves more respect?
L: No, I’d say the same thing applies. In a way, they are all overlooked...if they weren’t, I’d be headlining a big arena tonight and we’d be talking in a giant tour bus. (laughs). But no, the same thing applies. Those are all like our kids and it’s tough picking a favorite kid. Our whole philosophy has been to avoid filler.
WC: How about tonight’s set? Any surprises or old gems in it? With such a big catalog of quality albums, it has to be tough picking songs.
L: Well, we’re not going to do a set with 200 songs on it! (laugh) We will play the favorites that people expect, but also slip in some of the newer songs in there. You’ve always got to push your latest album.
WC: Any final words or thoughts to get out there?
L: Just that you’re going to get quality entertainment when you come to see us, you’re gonna see heavy metal played with heart and talent!