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Anvil

Een interview met Anvil, toch een beetje levende legende geworden sinds hun documentaire 'Anvil! The Story Of Anvil' zoveel prijzen heeft binnengeharkt en het universele verhaal van 'blijf geloven in je dromen' bij een groot publiek overkomt. Het is merkbaar, want ik ben niet de enige die Anvil wil interviewen. Temidden van een hoofdstad die totaal Oranjegek is vanwege de huldiging van het Nederlands elftal zitten de mannen van Anvil nogal vertwijfeld in de tuin van De Melkweg. Hoewel de tuin het idee geeft alsof je aan de Canal Grande in Venetië zit, laat het luide getoeter van Vuvuzela's en het dronken gebulder van de voetbalsupporters niets aan de verbeelding over: daarbuiten wordt feest gevierd. En aan de stemming van Steve 'Lips' Kudlow en Robb Reiner te merken hebben ze er weinig vertrouwen in dat het optreden van die avond een succes zal worden. Totdat mijn oog valt op de joints en de cannabislollies die de heren aan het wegwerken zijn. Ik ben geen tegenstander van groenten, maar het vooruitzicht met een band te moeten praten die zo stoned als een garnaal is, maakt van het interview dat ik voor ogen had een grotere opgave dan verwacht. En Lips blijkt iemand te zijn die een interview zo van zijn koers af kan brengen dat de vragen die je had willen stellen, onbeantwoord blijven. Een gesprek met twee rockers op leeftijd die eerder op vakantie lijken te zijn dan op tournee.

Door: Wilmar | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

I would like to tell you a story of Anvil that is not in the movie and you have not heard before. It's 1983 and my buddy lives for the greatest part of the year in Nigeria where his father had an important job and he returns with a stackpile of cassettetapes and on one of those tapes is 'Forged in Fire' by Anvil. Up to that day my view on heavy metal was Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon, Kiss, all those kind of bands, I wasn't aware of an underground and suddenly a whole new world opened up for me. Do you hear these kind of stories a lot?
Robb: I've heard it all. I've heard that, I've heard more. We are one of a kind. Why? Because we are our own thing, I don't know.

Lips: We came from an era you had to be completely original. Nothing wasn't really copied, you know, you had to come with something new.

Robb: Whatever we did we did it instantly on our own because we thought it was cool. We thought it was cool to play a little faster, more progressive, tighter, we didn't realize it was going to change anything. And here we are.

But when you say you had to be entirely original, I do hear some influences in Anvil's material like Black Sabbath and Motörhead. How did you incorporate such influences to create your own style?
Robb: All that stuff is part of my DNA. It is always going to be there. The roots of great rock 'n roll and metal, you know Cream, Hendrix, Sabbath, we just took that and made it into what we are.

You do have an original blend of metal that makes me realize a few seconds into the song if it's Anvil or not…
Robb: And that's a good thing. We got our style, now don't we hah, Lips? [laughs]

'Metal On Metal' is that your breakthrough album or do you look at it otherwise?
Robb: Yeah it was an innovative album. It had a little bit of everything on it. You had speed metal, power metal, hardrock, commercial rock, instrumental rock, rock 'n roll, that album had a little bit of everything. If you have seen the movie, it became like a blueprint for everything else after that album. You know '666' is like Slayer, dark like those guys, 'Mothra' is like eh… [pauses] that other band that came after… Well you know, 'Metal On Metal' was just a lot of fun.

Lips: A big blend man…

It was also the first time you worked with Chris Tsangarides…
Robb: At that time it was a real big deal for us. He was a high profile producer at the time. The stuff he came in with, he was really in touch with metal. He worked pretty good with us. We made magic together.

How great was his influence on Anvil?
Robb: He just kind of polished up our sound a little bit.

Lips: Mixing it properly. He was making things stand out the way they are supposed to. He didn't change anything, he is not that kind of producer. He didn't come in an rewrite our songs. All he did was make them sound as they were meant to be.

Have you worked with producers that tried to change your sound?
Lips: No and I wouldn't. Not interested. You end up sounding like them. That's not good. I write my own songs, I don't want someone write them for me. It wouldn't be right. A producer, in my opinion, his job is to get the best possible performance out of the musicians with their own songs. Not adding, changing or taking away parts. Just make them sound the best they possibly can.

Not like in the Metallica documentaries where you see Bob Rock telling them what to play, how to play it, do it this or that way…
Lips: What are we listening to then? Metallica or Bob Rock?

I am wondering that myself…
Lips: And I'm sure at some points they are wondering it. You got to keep your identity. And one of the only ways to keep your identity is to be stubborn.

Like Anvil?
Lips: [hesitates] Yeah… We really haven't given in to that kind of thinking. That's how record companies and producers make your albums. What happened to the band? I know bands that go in and record and they don't. The name of the band is going in and records, but some of the artists that are enlisted in the band aren't in the band. It goes back a long way, there is a history of this shit. Record companies who say “let's get a better guitarist to play that solo for him”. What good is that? I can give you prime examples of that but I don't want to put the spotlight on those bands that people have to realize that the band they listen to, the guys aren't really playing. I mean, it is so big, it sold so much. And everybody thinks “It's this set of musicians” but it never has been that set of musicians at any point. And it has gotten to a point where people are written out of their musical rights so that they never get paid for their performances on records. All kinds of shit goes on. You know, bought songs…
On the record it says 'this person and this person and this person wrote the song' but they just bought it from a songwriter. So you pay a couple of million dollars, you get this pop singer kind of thing but they are not really writers. They go in, get a hired writer, put it together, get musicians in who play it, and then they say it's so and so. And because the record company has paid for all the rights, they can put any name up there. The song is bought and paid for, it doesn't matter, you are done. I can be hired as a songwriter for another metalband and they pay me for it but my name is not going on the credits. They paid me to not to do that. That shit goes on all the time.

The music industry is a darker place than a lot of people think…
Lips: I think it is as dark a place as everybody knows it is. Not many people are willing to let the truth come out. If I was in a band that had my songs written for me, the last thing I would do is tell anybody. Would I? If I don't play the guitarsolo's on my own album, I wouldn't tell anybody that.

But if somebody else would play a solo on an Anvil album we should immediately notice. You have a signature style…
Lips: Yeah and that is why I am stubborn, I am not going to let those things happen. Why would I do that?

But on one point in Anvil history you had another lead guitarist next to you, Sebastian Marino for instance…
Lips: A couple of guys…

Robb: We did the double guitar thing. But it was boring. It was fun, but it was boring. We thought of trying the two lead guitar thing for a while, but in the end it wasn't what I wanted. That is why what we have now, the power trio. The best ever. The band today is the best Anvil band ever in the history of the band. There is no point in adding another guitarist to the band. It adds nothing to the band. We got a great bass player and now we are able to become the power trio I always wanted. And we have been like this for almost six years now. It's been amazing.

I have to admit that when you look on YouTube, Anvil is always in your face, you don't really miss the second guitarist…
Lips: All the writing through the years, everything you ever heard has been all my writing…

[Robb tries to get his point across, but Lips apparently wouldn't let him]
Lips: What the fuck. The other guy is playing… shadowing what I am doing. The original line up, the reason why we had a second guitarist is because he sang. We needed a back up vocalist. And someone who possibly could sing a song or two. That is why Dave Allison was originally in the band. Otherwise we would have been a three piece band all along.

Dave Allison was the singer of the more accessible songs…
Robb: Yeah the pussy shit.

Lips: That never defined the identity of the band.

Robb: We had all kind of songs and Dave did the pussy kind of songs.

Lips: And that is not what we got known for… In fact those songs were always talked about negatively. Why are these songs on the album, why do we let this guy sing…

Robb: It wasn't the real direction of Anvil, we tried it and it was fine…

Lips: It was different in the late seventies and early eighties, Later on the two singers in one band became the thing not to do.

There are still a few bands who work that way, Kiss for instance…
Lips: Yeah but they are a band out of the sixties…

Robb: Seventies actually…

Lips: [pondering] seventies…

It works for them. Wasn't it because you were going a heavier direction? 'Strength Of Steel' was, in my opinion, a much heavier album than 'Forged In Fire' was…
Robb: 'Strength Of Steel' was a great album. It was unbelievable, but that hasn't got anything to do with two guitar players.

Wasn't it more that you took it into your own hands…
Lips: No as we moved along and came to 'Strength Of Steel' there was such a backlash on Dave Allisons songs, by the time we got there the only thing we let him sing was 'Straight Between The Eyes' which was only in answering lines to the main singing. We kind of edited that out and after that on 'Pound For Pound' he didn't sing anything.

Robb: But we are spending too much time on the past, it has been done and in my life it is like that never happened.

You don't look really positively on your own backcatalogue?
Robb: Well 'Metal On Metal', 'Forged In Fire', 'Strength Of Steel', in fact every album we have done has amazing material on it. I don't care about ex members and I have forgotten half of it. What did happen… Those were growing years. That's where we are now.

Is that also the reason why Dave and Ian weren't in the movie?
Robb: They were asked. They are in the special features actually. [Robb sees my puzzled face since the copy I have has no special features] Oh you got the Dutch copy, but when you look for the English copy Dave and Ian are in the special features. They were interviewed but irrelevant to the story.

Lips: The story began from the moment on, not from the entire beginning…

Robb: I don't know if you know about the book. There is an Anvil book. All this information is in the book. Everything you want to know about the past, all that is in the book. In the movie there was no point for it.

Lips: And if you watch these sections it's no wonder why these guys are not in the band, and it is a good thing they are not. The guy is sat down for an interview and goes like 'you have to change horses', the guy is a bum. He never in his heart wanted to be a rockstar. No wonder he quit.

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On to the present then. Currently you are touring Europe, I guess it is almost over…
Robb: Yeah two more dates. Extremely successful.

If you look at the tour now, what are the highlights?
Robb: Playing for thousands or tens of thousands of people.

You played Bospop a few days ago…
Robb: Yeah there were about ten thousand people watching us, it's amazing. And all the festivals we were playing we stood for thousands of people.

Lips: People were anticipating, really waiting to see us. And a lot of situations like in the movie where the promotors have put us on early…

Robb: People were coming. It was a great European tour, in fact it was the best European tour we've been on so far.

Nothing disastrous like the tour that was featured in the movie?
Robb: Far from it. [pauses] You know we don't have dayjobs no more. We all are living from the band. We have a real manager, a real agent, real record companies. Everything has changed. We paid back his sister.

That finally happened?
Lips: Of course… The movie seems new to you because you are living in The Netherlands but this thing has been going on for years now. [Actually I was aware of the fact that the movie handled a situation in the past, it said so on the tourdates… Ed. Wilmar]

Last time I interviewed you for Lords Of Metal (issue 95) you said that the profit zone was getting near, so now that your sister is fully repaid, that must be great…
Lips: Oh yeah man.

Robb: A lot of things have changed. We are being discovered and rediscovered really bigtime.

Lips: it is having a profound effect on all famous people. It really has been incredible. Famous people want to have their pictures taken with us.

Robb: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull demanded a picture with us…

That reminds me of a fragment I saw on YouTube on which Lips was addressing the audience about attending some Festival, I guess Sundance, and you said something like “The fucked up thing was, Paul McCartney was there and he recognized me”, and you said it with such heartfelt emotion…
Lips: [smiles] yeah, yeah…
Robb: It's mindblowing, it's Paul McCartney…

Lips: What the fuck, I'm in a metal band and what does Paul McCartney know… He saw the movie, walked up to us and said [Lips imitates the Cockney accent of Paul McCartney] “It's the Anvil boys, are we rockin' tonight?” And I went like 'what the fuck, he knows who we are…' That is great. “Rock on boys”…

From now on you are working on several projects, and one of them was the re-recording of several Anvil classics…
Robb: We already did that. We are going to put out a 'best of', some kind of best of…

Lips: We were going to do a soundtrack to the movie, but when they were going to the old record companies to get the material they wanted so much money that it was more feasible to go in and re-record…

Robb: it was really much money…

Lips: …new versions…

Robb: Which in some ways are actually a lot better. Better band, better performance.

Is it the same session in which you recorded 'Thumb Hang'?
Robb: No, that was another session. 'Thumb Hang' was a great session two, we recorded that together with the two songs for the game 'Rock Band'…

Lips: 'Metal On Metal' and…

'666'
Lips: … '666' yeah… It really started because those original 24-tracks recordings do not exist anymore. And when they made a soundtrack for 'Rock Band' they need the 24-track tapes. They needed the separate tracks, you know, this soundbyte is for the drummer, so that they can turn up the drumset section in the music, you need different mixes, different instrumentation that is going on with 'Rock Band'. You need what they call 'stems' and all the tracks. So that is why we redid it. It wasn't because the originals weren't good enough. But when we were at it we wondered why not do a few more? And since we wanted to make some sort of 'best of' in the future we wanted to have access to the music.

Robb: We redid a couple of songs like 'Winged Asassins', 'Forged In Fire' that will appear on the 'best of' as new versions. And that is all in the making now, I don't know where production is at… 'Juggernaut Of Justice' is our new studio album…

Which was my next question…
Lips: When we finish here…

Robb: September, October… We are going into Dave Grohls studio, he is not producing but I think we will be hanging out with him. It will be out in spring of 2011 and I love it. [Robb is a very soft speaker, the next part is very hard to make something out of it, ed. Wilmar]

A fan on Blabbermouth opted that we have the 'Big Four' now, and now it is time for the Canadian 'Big Three': Anvil, Exciter and Razor. Would you be open for such a tour?
Lips: [after a while] No.

Robb: Who are the 'Big Three'?

I am wondering who Razor are. I know Anvil and Exciter…
Robb: I am not really following other bands, but they were some thrash band, released a few records, they were popular-ish but never that big. I don't know. I cannot comment on that because I really don't know.

You wouldn't consider touring with Exciter?
Robb: Well we already have you know? Everybody wants to tour with us now. If it makes sense I'll do anything. I would like to give people a great party. People are giving me a great party. Angus Young was great to us. He gave us a great party.

Lips: we rather focus to be part of a bigger… bigger… [thinks, until Robb interrupts him]

Robb: A lot of people said that the 'Big Four' should have been the 'Big Five'. It should have been us. That's how I see it with Metallica, Anthrax and all those guys.

But in that case you are not the only ones. Exodus also expressed that they should be on the bill since they were there in the beginning…
Robb: Yeah they were around, but I don't know who started this all…

Lips: It's all kind of self proclaimed.

Robb: Yeah who started it? Where is Motörhead?

Lips: Yeah, where is Iron Maiden? Where is Judas Priest? How do you dare to say you are bigger than those? To me it is not a horse race. It is ridiculous to begin with, it is fuckin' music. Each and everyone has their own favourite. It is not right to say 'this is the biggest or this should be considered the best', I think it is all subjective, who are you asking? [But isn't that what the music industry is all about? Ed. Wilmar]. The way I see it, Iron Maiden has been more persistent and influential than any of the four. They were there before the four and they were big all along, so how are they not included in the 'Big Four'? From my perspective Iron Maiden should be the number one. It is all subjective and stuff like that…[Robb eagerly wants to change the subject]

Lips: Are you going to talk about musicianship? Are we going to say that Lars is a better drummer than Nicko? Are we going there? What are we talking about…

Robb: Let's not talk about it, I don't want to talk about other bands on my time…

'Juggernaut Of Justice', have you written all the material?
Robb: Yeah.

Do you have a clear vision of where the album is going?
Robb: Yeah it is an extension of 'This Is Thirteen', you know that album?

Yups I know it…
Robb: It is like that but much more energized. Back to our form, but also new kicks, there is some new stuff like metal jazz, which is completely new. It is going to blow you away when you hear this. It is just true Anvil. It is written in an absolutely positive place. We were being rediscovered when we wrote that album. So we are all feeling in a good place.

Lips: It will be the best album that we have ever done. The way we feel about that is that there is no point in recording if you don't feel like that. You got to have that confidence that it is going to be the best thing you have ever done. What we are trying to do is outdo ourselves and try to be the best we have ever been.

Robb: 'This Is Thirteen' has been our most successful album to date. Some people couldn't believe the vibe we were having, but this new album is going to cement our career forever.

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