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Steven -Lips- Kudlow (Anvil)

Interview with Steven -Lips- Kudlow from Anvil
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 24 April 2004, 10:21 PM

On the first day, God created Heavy Metal. On the second day God created Heavy Metal bands and one of those was Anvil! (and on the third day He created Heavy Metal fans…- well after that came the birds, the bees and the trees).
For 23 years Anvil have been around, providing us always with the same good old Heavy Metal. We spoke with the man behind everything, Steven Lips Kudlow. Here is what this pioneer, this defender of Heavy Metal had to say…(and he had pretty much to say!)

Steve, how does it feel to be playing and recording music for the last 23 years?

Actually pretty good, really, you know. It’s been pretty cool because we never made it big, so it’s real natural music, it’s not contrived, it’s been a truly enjoyable thing. There’s never been the stress of you guys gotta cover that shit now!. So it’s really been cool in that way and I’ve been able to do a lot of different things. I guess I would have known originally, you know what I’m saying? Cause when Rob and I started playing  together back in 1973, we were just kids and we always felt Canadian bands always seem to come and go, that they never last. We thought, well you know, that’s ridiculous, they always go lame or too commercial, to sell out and all that shit. We made a vow like way-way back, we went listen man, we’re gonna play heavy music forever. We don’t care if we loose our record deals cause we’re gonna play heavy music and that’s all that matters!.

Yeah, your first album was called Hard ‘n Heavy. I guess that raps up the whole idea you had back then!

Exactly!

My second question is: Back To Basics, your forthcoming release, is your 14th album release?

I think so.

Yeah I’ve lost track myself!

Well, honestly some of the stuff we’ve released, I don’t actually consider them to be releases. Like Backwaxed for example. But I guess that if you do consider it, well then yeah…fourteen or fifteen releases! \[Laughs]

For the record, Backwaxed was a compilation released back in 1985, right?

Yeah.

So, how did you come up with the title, Back To Basics? Is there a hidden meaning behind that?

To us in the band, we don’t feel it’s hidden at all. We think it’s quite apparent in the music we put on the CD, why it’s called Back To Basics.

To a great degree we did things like studies on old pieces of music we all loved. As an example, I’d written a riff 25 years ago, just after Metal On Metal (1982), just before the Forged In Fire (1983) album and I was looking for something that would be somewhat similar so what I thought was oh I’ll reverse all the chords in Metal On Metal and I’ll see what that does. So that gave me the riff that opens up the Chainsaw. But as I said, I’ve written that riff 25 years ago on Metal On Metal.

That’s a hell of a long time ago!

\[Laughs] Yeah! I never used it though but I’d remember it because it’s the opposite of Metal On Metal. I’d remember it forever! So, I was playing the riff and Rob Reiner (drums) went you know what, I’ve got a really good idea. Why don’t we use an arrangement like Judas Priest’s Rapid Fire. We were looking to capture things from the 80’s, that’s what our motive was. Really zero in on the 80’s. Let’s write an album as if there was no such thing as Metallica, no such thing as Pantera, no such thing as Slayer, no such a thing as anything after 1983. Just write this album as if we were writing it in 1983. So that set me looking for old ideas and old riffs just because I was looking for that kind of thing. As I said we used a sort of Judas Priest arrangement in that particular song, to give it an 80’s vibe because if we did other things to it, it would start sounding modern and stuff.

You seem to be a sworn admirer of the 80’s.

Yeah! I mean, we’ve just got to the point where we’re really sick of all these bands of shit with the shit-vocals.

Are you referring to Nu Metal?

Yeah! Well I don’t know whether you call it Nu Metal or whatever. I’m referring to anything without melody. I guess it must have been sometime

in the mid-80’s when speed Metal was really taking off and this Death Metal started happening, all that stuff that doesn’t have any melody any more!

You mean, just noise.

Virtually white noise but I’m not the one who said that! \[Laughs]

I have a certain criteria. If it doesn’t have a rhythm and a melody then it isn’t a song. That’s what it is to me. If it’s going too fast and it’s constantly changing then it’s no longer music! It’s not unified, it’s noisy!

Then let’s stick to the basics. Back to Basics, that’s the whole idea, isn’t it?

Yeah, that was the whole thing. What we did, we looked for melody, certain simplicity. Not outright simplicity, that isn’t necessarily what we meant by Basics. We mean down to the bear bones as far as inspiration. What made the 80’s happen. The 60’s and 70’s made the 80’s happen. So what we did is we looked at music that was strictly from those years. Using influences like Ted Nudgent, with Can’t Catch Me.

Back To Basics is like a re-examination of the era previous to the one we’re living at. I really wanted to capture certain essences like with

Can’t catch me, I was really trying to capture the essence of Ted Nudgent. Not steal it but capture it! So it gives you that feeling. Everything from the opening of Fuel for the Fire which gives you the feeling oh that’s almost like a Sabbath-Ozzy thing!. Want memorable things. I want all these things to remind us of where it all came from. To make you feel as if you were listening to it for the first time!

Somehow fresh and familiar. We almost called the album Fresh And Familiar.

Almost?

Almost. We thought that might be an interesting name to call it but as well as Back To Basics, which is the same thing in a certain sense. So, that was the direction that we took and not only on that level but also on the type of guitars that I used. Like for Can’t Catch Me I used an EF3-35 which is a big semi-hollow Gibson. I mean, my flying V’s are semi-hollow but it’s not the real authentic thing. I was looking for Ted Nudgent tones and stuff like that and you can only get it out of one thing, a semi-hollow Gibson. I used it for Can’t Catch Me and You Get What You Pay For and Cruel World for all the lead-guitar overdubs. To me it’s a real magical guitar because I probably wrote every song on the first album with that guitar. To me it was more than just the music. Even the instruments I was using to create the music was…back to basics! That fundamentally is what I meant by all of this. Not that everybody picks up, not that everybody understands. I can’t expect the most out of people cause you’ll always get left down! \[Laughs]

I guess it’s something for the elders to remember and for the newcomers to discover! \[Laughs]

Of course. That’s just it! I don’t know though how that is alternately going work. I just do what I feel like doing at the end of the day and that’s all that is. I just wanted to kind of put back in what I took out, in a certain sense. All those influences that I’ve carried in myself, put them on a CD and see what happens! Some people don’t like it, some people do. I don’t ever expect to please everybody. I never wanna do that. I mean I don’t think I could ever impress my parents! \[Laughs]

Parents are hardly impressed with anything we do!

I mean actually, I’ve been spending 30 years of my life trying to impress my parents! \[Laughs]

So, did you make any money this week? \[General Laughter]

They have a typical attitude towards it.

Like all parents do.

Any parents would!

I guess all kids that are into music are sort of considered to be losers by their parents! \[note: we’re joking]

That’s just it! Steven! Why did you become a musician? Look at your brothers! You’ve got an accountant, you’ve got a doctor. You’re a musician!? \[Laughter]

You know it has an amazing psychological effect on me at the end of the day because like I say, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to impress them.

But hey, I guess in the in the end they’ll be somehow impressed. I mean, it’s been more than 23 years!

To impress my parents would be here’s my car, here’s my money for the car insurance. I do everything inexpensively as possible and my parents have helped me out a lot of times through the years cause you know this is a very-very difficult business. I’ve really never have been making money out of it and I carry on a part-time job and I do what I can to make a bit of money. Of course with trade-off you’ve got to give your time into this otherwise nothing gets done.

May I ask what you do for a part-time job?

I do deliveries for a catering company. So, what would be really nice is if my dad goes like well your insurance is $1600 this year and I pulled my money out of my wallet and handed it to him. But no, I gotta pay him 100 bucks a week! I can’t afford it! See what I’m saying? So what would impress him is dad I made money! The album got me my insurance money!. I know he’d be the first one to say congratulations but unfortunately I’ve never been able to do that. But in a sense I have a certain pride in that because if I would be able to do that then I’d probably have a whole set of other problems. Once you have money and success then it’s hard to justify it for yourself.

You lose control?

And then you lose control. It happens to the greatest musicians. It’s been an endless story of that, really. That’s why a lot of them end up dead!

Overdosed from drugs or multiple marriages…Everything else that can go wrong, will go wrong when that goes right! Like I look at Ozzy. I saw him on Larry King – Live this week and for some reason I look at myself in the same way…like Ozzy is me that became successful and that’s the way I see it.

You mean that he’s the version of you that actually made it?

That made it, yeah. But then I see him sit there and he goes bloody hell you know, it’s all a fucking trade off. I’ve got all this success and my kids are in fucking rehab!. He’s right! I see it from his point of view because I could sit right where you’re sitting pal and I know exactly what you’re talking about. When things are that positive then you’ve got a whole bunch of other stuff that’s going to be negative, it’s just the inevitable. Everybody gets a bowl of cherries for their life and how you happen to eat it or how quickly…at the end of the day we’ve all dealt the same crap. It balances itself out. I don’t know why I really feel that way but that’s sort of how I feel! When I see somebody successful like Ozzy and he has problems in his life, I think it’s the law of averages. He’ll go out for a cruise on his little toy 4x4 and almost break his neck! He wouldn’t have broken his neck on something like that if he was poor cause he wouldn’t be able to afford the thing. Or you look at somebody like John. F. Kennedy’s son who died on an airplane. If he hadn’t been the president’s son and didn’t come from such success he wouldn’t have been in an airplane!

He wouldn’t be flying!

He wouldn’t be flying! This is how I look at life. Everything’s a trade off. I’m extremely contempt with my situation and I mean, that’s the way it is. It’s fine for me! I’ve created lots of music and been able to live a regular life.

You also got a lot of fans all around the world.

Yeah and I can still go away and there’s probably at least a few hundred people in every country in the world that know who I am. That’s success for me and that’s fine! I can deal with it. Even if I cannot pay my insurance on time, oh well! \[Laughs]

Sometimes isn’t morale satisfaction greater than money?

That’s it.

While you were telling me about Ozzy, you gave me a good idea for a question. Do you believe that nowadays there are bands that have existed for like 30 years and they should like…retire? Are they still here for the money? What’s your opinion, really?

Let’s take an example. Let’s talk about an example. Let’s talk about the Rolling Stones. Are they doing it for money? I don’t think so. After a certain point, they couldn’t spend it all even if they tried. It can’t be motivation for money, I think it’s just back to the basics! Why do they play music? Because they enjoy it! I think that’s the same with all the elderly musicians, if you wanna call them elderly. Quite honestly I think that music keeps you young and the audience for which you play for grows older with the band. It’s not an unusual thing. It’s still relatively a new era, in a certain sense. Rock and Roll really existed for only 50-55 years. So when we see these rockers turning 60 years old we’re shocked but we shouldn’t be. As time goes along it’s going to become more acceptable that there’s old rock stars. It’s an easy thing for the average idiot to go oh man, they’re old, it’s easy to say that but you can also say those guys are punk-kinds!, you know what I mean? I shook hands with Buddy Rich six months before he died and I’m going to tell you I have never ever in my life seen anybody play drums like that! At any age! So, no one can tell me that when you get older, you lose it cause you don’t. It’s all a matter of attitude. Attitude of the listener and attitude of the musician.

When the attitude of the musician says I’m tired and I don’t wanna rock then he’s gonna make soft music like Ritchie Blackmore. But then on the other hand when his name is Tonny Iommi, he’s still kicking ass! And they’re relatively the same age. It’s gonna be up to the listeners to decide whether they like either of what those guys are doing. I would never condemn a musician for being older.

My actual point was don’t you believe that there are bands like Metallica which thousands and thousand of people…

Well you know what. That’s actually the American attitude of make it big and get out. That’s the American way, once you’ve made it, it’s done, it’s over. The whole American scene is different in that way. The American scene is very mixed in the way that if you are a musician you’ll do work with this guy, you’ll do work with that guy. The more guys you work with…

The more you shape your music?

Yes. I don’t even know the philosophy behind it but I think basically when it comes down to wherever the money is, that’s where you’ve got to go. I think that’s generally the American format of life, to be on search for the almighty dollar!

Don’t you condemn that?

Everybody has their scene. I don’t condemn anybody. Some of these guys are absolutely phenomenon musicians and maybe it is better that they play their number with different bands. Maybe it’s better that as an example Ozzy’s guitar player (Zakk Wylde) goes out and does his own thing. I’m sure that Ozzy pays him well enough that he doesn’t even need to but he does it anyway because that’s the American way, Get it out there!. I don’t blame him for that attitude but generally speaking I mean even the guitar player that we had in our band for a short period, that ended up in Overkill, he wasn’t gonna last because his attitude was who’s gonna pay me?. And then comes Bobby Blitz from Overkill offering him a weekly wage, he’s gone faster than you he can say Jack Robinson! Faster than he can say Jack Frost! \[Laughs]

Well, some people crave for money more than others I guess.

For me and Rob (Reiner) it’s never been a money issue. Anvil’s never been about money and I think the 30 years in the business and never making any money speaks for itself! I’m still here doing it and I never did it for money and that’s why I’m still here doing it.

For the past 23 years, from the moment you started off with Anvil, only you and Rob Reiner are still in the band.

Rob and I were there from the beginning, so to us Ian and Dave (former members) were only part of our existence…there were guys previous to them so they were just some other guys that we played with but to us…we’ve been Anvil since we were little kids. Maybe the world doesn’t perceive it that way.

You built Anvil together with Rob Reiner and you’re preserving it.

That’s right! Most of the first album was written by Rob and I right from the beginning.

Who’s idea was the cover for the album?

I guess it was between Rob and I. I wrote a description to the artist of what I wanted and honest to God man, the next day I check on my e-mail he had sent me the cover! I mean like that’s fast!

Are you planning on any re-releases, on any re-masters of your older albums?

Actually they have been done. All that stuff’s been done but it’s not available in Europe. The first three albums have all been re-mastered and re-issued but nowhere outside of Canada.

Why not?

It’s not my business. I mean, I don’t own the rights to it and I’ve been on this case for ages and it just isn’t coming together.

Any tour plans ahead?

Not before September man. I mean, first they told me bout May, then September…

Someone wanted me to ask you whatever happened to your homepage on the Internet.

Oh it’s still there! It’s just a different address. It’s www.anvilmetal.tk.

As we’re finishing this Interview (time’s up) I’d like you to send out a message to all the crazy Anvil fans from around the world!

This is the crazy Mad-Dog Lips from the band Anvil and you’re my favorite people because it’s like I live on the moon here in Canada! \[Laughs]

I can play to the craters, to the mountains and to the trees but when I come to Europe I get to play to people and it’s a wonderful thing!

I’d like to thank you for this more than interesting Interview with you Steve!

Ok man, it was great talking to ya too!



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