They’re referred to as one of the pioneers of heavy metal, yet many people only discovered the hard-driving music of Anvil through the documentary, “The Story of Anvil”, a few years ago. The Canadian-based band hit the scene in the late-1970’s with names like Dokken and Whitesnake, yet almost as quickly disappeared. Grit, determination, and their pure love of metal music kept them on the road and in the studio throughout the 80’s and 90’s. But the documentary created the cult-like following of fans, old and new, and the band released its 15th album to rave reviews last year.
Now Anvil, made up of lead singer and guitar player Steve “Lips” Kudlow, drummer Robb Reiner, and new bass player Sal Italiano, are on the road in support of their new music, including May shows in Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Chicago. Just before they hit the Midwest, Steve “Lips” Kudlow talked to me by phone, answering questions about the music business, the band’s “never say die” attitude, and why he still thinks the most important thing he can do is connect with fans, one-on-one.
Maximum Ink: You’re in the midst of a pretty aggressive tour; first across Europe, now the U.S. How’s it going?
Steve “Lips” Kudlow with Anvil: Well, this is our biggest tour of the U.S., ever! And it’s taking a lot of strength. I mean, we aren’t 20 years old anymore (laughs), but luckily for us there aren’t any vices, plus we’re all healthy. Still, even after 37 years of Anvil, we are a new band to some who come out to see us. So we consider this an incredible achievement. And there’s something to be said for still living the dream!
MI: So, you don’t have your regular job anymore? I recall seeing you in “The Story of Anvil” documentary trying a few different things, including delivering food for a school to support your family.
Lips: Nope. We are a full-time band. And we are going to work hard to keep it that way. Anvil has a lot of self-belief and confidence and we feel the hoopla is just building all over again, so we need to keep creating opportunities for the band and our music. Plus, we still think we have something special to share with our fans.
MI: The idea of sharing has changed a lot during your time in the music business. What’s your favorite way of connecting with fans?
Lips: Oh yeah, facebook and twitter make it easier to share now, but we still try to connect directly. I’ve worked so hard to get here, so I don’t understand other bands who don’t seem to enjoy personally meeting their fans. We stay after every single show to meet as many people as possible, sign autographs, take pictures. We owe it to our fans, whether they’ve been with us from the beginning or are just learning about Anvil. And I don’t feel complete unless I do it!
MI: How are your fans responding to you still being so authentic, especially since the 2009 documentary? It had to help boost your level of popularity so you can be back out making and playing your music.
Lips: It did, especially when it comes to the sale of merchandise, which is where you can actually still make a little money today. We used to play a lot of really small places in off-markets, but now we are able to get promoted shows in established venues, and we’re getting great feedback because Anvil is known for putting on a show which impresses every night. We also don’t put up any borders with our fans, so now many are expressing their love and appreciation that we are finding success again and sharing it with them. Some also say they are happy we never gave up.
MI: Well, you didn’t give up. You and Robb have been the one constant factor of Anvil since the beginning. What have you learned about the process to help you now?
Lips: It’s still trial and error in this business. Finding the right people to support the band, the shows, and to just do the work with you, as part of the Anvil team.
The industry’s changed so much, and I believe your fans have to be an important part of your team. It’s why we give our heart and soul to them every night.
MI: And with your intent to keep at it, does this mean we can expect a follow up to the Anvil documentary?
Lips: (Laughs), I’m not really at liberty to discuss this, so maybe? It didn’t turn out to be too late for the first one, so part two may be a good idea.
MI: Meaning, the story of Anvil is far from over?
Lips: We really are rarin’ to keep it up. You do know why I’m called “Lips”, don’t you?
MI: Oh boy. No, I don’t believe I do.
Lips: I just keep a-flappin’ and as long as it keeps working, my lips will keep on flappin’ about Anvil.
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