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Interview conducted February 27 2016
Interview published March 25 2016

When Anvil were special guests to Dirkschneider, Metal Covenant sat down with the former band's frontman Steve 'Lips' Kudlow when the tour reached Sundsvall, Sweden. It was very nice to meet Lips again and the passionate Canadian was fun to talk to and delivered many wise words.

Mozzy: So, how has this tour with Dirkschneider been going?

Lips: It's been great, it's been lots of fun, man.

Mozzy: This must be a good tour for you, with Dirkschneider playing all the Accept classics which draw lots of people. The gigs have been sold-out quite often, I think.

Lips: Yeah. Well, I'd like to think we're part of the reason (laughs).

Mozzy: Of course. I've heard lots of people who were looking forward to this gig saying they were looking forward to Anvil too.

Lips: Yeah, that's the thing. We're not playing ten minutes, we're playing an hour (laughs).

Mozzy: Also, we don't get that many good gigs up here in Northern Sweden. You have not been up here before, have you?

Lips: Oh no. The furthest North we've been is Motala.

Mozzy: Oh, I remember that. That's way down South though (Anvil have actually been further North, in Stockholm and in Gävle - it is not that easy with geography in a foreign country). You share the same management with Dirkschneider, I guess that's where the tour came from?

Lips: Yes, that's where it came from. We have the same producer too.

Mozzy: Yes, I've listened to the new album a couple of times, and the production is really good. It has a great guitar sound I think.

Lips: Yeah, it's my amp! It makes a real difference when they use my real amp.

Mozzy: This production sounds a bit more metal in a way.

Lips: Well, that's the difference between recording in Los Angeles and Germany (laughs). In Germany you're gonna get a more brutal, heavier tone automatically.

Mozzy: Tonight will be a classic club show. Do you prefer that as opposed to festival gigs?

Lips: It makes no difference to me. The songs are the same, the band is the same, everything is the same.

Mozzy: But maybe the atmosphere indoors is more intimate?

Lips: Yeah, it is, of course. That is probably more preferable. You can feel it more.

Mozzy: For the album, you did a Pledge Music campaign. Did that work out well for you?

Lips: It worked out really well. We actually made money (laughs). Not only did we have money to record, we also had money to support our tour.

Mozzy: It's getting quite common with these campaigns.

Lips: Yeah. It's the only way to really make money. All I can say is that making records the other way is becoming more and more impossible. Because why should a record label give you an advance on sales that you never going to get? Who buys records, who buys CD:s now? You get everything for free.

Mozzy: It's very different. I think it sucks, I always buy the record. But the younger kids don't always do that.

Lips: Well, if you own a computer, why would you buy a hard copy? For a number of reasons; you don't have to keep it on a shelf to take up space in your small apartment that you can barely afford. Rents are so expensive anyway so why block it up with a CD collection? When all you have to do is put your computer on and click on an icon and listen to your favourite tunes anyway. What's the point? It's almost redundant having the copy.

Mozzy: Yeah, but it's still a shame.

Lips: It is a shame, but it doesn't change anything about it. It's a fact. Especially in America; everything there is a short-cut to spending money.

Mozzy: Are your sales a bit better in Europe in America then?

Lips: America is a shithole for metal. Anything it did represent is never long-lasting; it's always trend-oriented. As soon as the flavour of the month changes, you're out of style and too late. Come on, people in America who listen to Anvil go like 'you're still in the 80´s'. 'Yeah, and? You've got a problem with that?' (laughs). 'Everyone else in the world is embracing that fact and you're saying that's a problem?' The problem with these people is that they are led by a few that tell them what to like.

It's a very trend-oriented society - 'In today, out tomorrow', you know. Nothing is long-lasting and there's no cultural aspect to heavy metal in North America. That's a big difference to Europe; in Europe people listen to the same bands they listened to when they were little kids. And they don't stop listening to them and don't give a shit! Whether people in America buy the record or not, the people in Europe are still a fan of the band.

I always cite Twisted Sister as the prime example. They never play in America yet they headline all the festivals in Europe. Why is that? They don't play in their own country. What does that mean? It means everything actually; it means America is not the place to go to play metal or sell your metal. It isn't a metal place, it's a trend place! People only follow trends, it doesn't matter if it's good. It's not about quality, it's about whether you're in style. That's two different things!

Mozzy: Well it's understandable that you come over here, and we're always happy to have you here. Now I have to bring up the movie (the documentary film Anvil! The Story of Anvil was released in 2008). I was at a couple of screenings in London when it was released, which were great nights, meeting you guys as well. Now it has been some seven, eight years; how has the development been since then?

Lips: Well, what we've been doing for the last eight years is trying to live up the movie's aspect in the sense that trying to make it on our music rather than our personality. Well, the real truth is we're never going to be able to that because a movie is a completely different set of rules. It has nothing to do with a trend-oriented audience, and our stature depends on the United States. Like every band. If you don't make it huge in the United States then you're not huge.

No matter if you're selling out concert halls in Europe or not, the way you are perceived on a world-wide basis is that if you haven't sold millions of records in the USA then you are not a big band. You know, it's not what I've ever aspired to do or be. So I think what the movie did was making it possible for me to continue with a lot more presence than what I've had before in the past. And it rectified a lot of wrong, in the sense that we were way ahead of the curve. Because of that aspect, that's why we fell in the cracks. All the American bands caught onto what we were doing, copied it, made it big and buried us.

That's what happened but it never should have; we originated a lot of the stuff so we should have been taken to the top. Instead, because of business and who we were dealing with, at a specific point in time, everything got lost. Is that my fault? Partially, but it's about being at the right place at the right time. It's just like Lemmy said in the movie, 'you've got to be at right place at the right time, and if you're not it will never happen'. That's exactly true.

Mozzy: Yes, and it has happened to a lot of great bands.

Lips: That's right, we're just another one.

Mozzy: But there are still positive effects from the movie then?

Lips: Yeah, it has brought an endless supply of gigs all over the world, and we haven't stopped. And we've gained a momentum as a band and are constantly on the road and are writing songs. It all improves and becomes more focused; it's more of everything.

Mozzy: Yeah one can tell as you've been on a lot of festivals and good tours.

Lips: Yes. They filmed my 50th Birthday in the movie, and I'm going to be 60 in a couple of days. It's no 15 minutes of fame, we're 10 years later now (laughs). And if the band were not any good, it would have ended after a week. You know, if the band is good and you're going out kicking ass people go 'ok, they haven't got hit singles or haven't made it the US but they are a great band with great players and they are entertaining'.

We're sustaining our position and we're not falling. We're not going to go back to obscurity because we're not obscure anymore. People know who we are and cannot forget now. Especially if you keep putting out albums and keep on touring.

Mozzy: Great. Talking of the movie, there was a new one being planned sometime ago wasn't there?

Lips: Yeah, they're still filming every once in a while, so who knows? As far as I'm concerned I really don't give a rat's ass. That's not why I'm doing this, to be a movie star. I'm doing it to play music, that's what I am. Do we really need a second one? It would have been nice, but it's a little late if you ask me (laughs).

Mozzy: No not really, and the first was so great anyway. But it might come out then?

Lips: Yeah, you never know. But I'm not holding my breath. I have no idea. Realistically, the director is up to his eyeballs, doing all kinds of other things.

Mozzy: OK, well it's more important to play music anyway.

Lips: Yeah, we're a band, not movie stars (laughs).

Mozzy: I read an interview online where you said that you will play until you die. And Lemmy, who you mentioned, must be an inspiration. You seem to have the same attitude.

Lips: That's right. And that's why I was friends with him since 1981 and why he respected me. We have exactly the same attitude! You're not doing this because you're trying to get rich; you're doing it because that's who you are and what you are! It's being authentic to yourself and to your fans. He wouldn't settle for less, and neither do I.

Mozzy: Yes, you are similar in that aspect, and one can tell, that you are in it for real, for the passion.

Lips: That's right. That was a decision I made when I was fucking eight years old. 'I'm doing this for my life'. As crazy as it seemed to everyone in my family, I was really dead-serious when I made the decision and I knew that it was a life-long decision. Everything that I've ever done is set me up so I could. It's not a matter of 'I'm gonna try' - it was 'I'm gonna do it'!

The decision was not going to university and be like my brothers; one became a doctor and one became an accountant. It was not about that. I was going to be Lips from the band Anvil; I'm gonna create my own identity and write my own music. It's like, how did I learn to play guitar? I listened to the Rolling Stones and The Beatles and thought that was really interesting. I started fiddling around with my instrument and instead of trying to play what they were playing, I tried writing my own songs.

So that was how I learned to play, by writing and not copying. And I've been doing it my whole life so that's who I am! I am an individual and I authentically love what I do and I do it because of that reason. I don't give a shit about money, I don't.

Mozzy: Talking about money, is it easier to support yourself on the band now?

Lips: All that money does is enabling you to keep doing what you're doing. It didn't matter that for many years I had to do a regular job, in the mornings. It kept me in top physical shape and it had its place in time and reason. I didn't get bitter about it or refused to do it; I did it because it was a necessity. I set myself up so I could go to rehearsal every fucking day, and that means I couldn't take a full time job; my job finished at 2pm so I could go and do my music every fucking day.

So I worked my butt off from 5 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon because that's what I had to do. Now I don't have to do that anymore. After the movie, I'm making a living. Am I becoming a millionaire? No, that's not what it's about, and it never could happen right now anyway. You don't make millions of dollars in the music business. Like we talked about before, there is no money in recording music, you have to do Pledge campaigns. How do you make money in a band? Sell fucking t-shirts. What do you think Lemmy did? The vast majority of money in the music business is from merchandise.

Mozzy: What do you think about the prospect for younger bands coming up today, and will they have the same determination as you?

Lips: They're doomed… Well they can have the same determination as me, but they don't have the same opportunities and they never will. There is no infrastructure for that possibility to exist. How do you get known if you are not known? How are you going to get a gig if you haven't gigged? How are you going to get a Pledge campaign on music when people don't what you will create?

Mozzy: It's looking difficult indeed.

Lips: Yeah, next to impossible. And my heart goes out to them. I can also do my best by having support bands and giving them an opportunity, but beyond that, I don't really know… I don't know how you can make it in this day and age, and I think those days are over. If you can name me one band anywhere, or one metal musician that is 25 years old that has sold millions and have played major festivals and selling out big arenas… Like Wembley Arena, or even Hammersmith Odeon. You cannot name one!

Mozzy: It's still mostly the old, classic bands that do that.

Lips: It's the old bands, that's it. So that says a lot. Every once in a while, in a real blue moon, you get a band like Ghost. Somehow, a miracle happened, they broke through and people are buying the records. Great, but that's just one.

Mozzy: Going back your attitude, I love the lyric in the chorus to the song Badass Rock'n'Roll from the last album; the line "having fun is our goal". I think that is brilliant, it puts it all down to one line, it's simple but great.

Lips: (laughs). Yeah, you know what's interesting? There were people that actually criticised that, saying 'that's not heavy enough'. 'You're doing it to have fun, that's not heavy'. I think that is pretty heavy, it can't get heavier! It's saying I'm doing it because I love it and it's fun and brings happiness to my life. That should be the main reason for doing anything! Nothing could be a more motivational fucking thing than having fun doing something.

Mozzy: Awesome, I agree. So your gig tonight is getting near. I've noticed that you're playing Free As The Wind again, which is cool to see. You have not played that one for some time, I think.

Lips: Well, it's 35 years later, man. And what I did originally was rip the shit out of my throat, to sing in that octave. And that song had 18 tracks of vocals on it, you're never going to recreate that anyway. Now I'm singing it in a way that feels natural today, and the song and the words are the same. I'm singing it an octave lower, but still with character and emotion, rather than screaming my way through the fucking song. So it works well. It's either not doing the song or doing the song in a way I can do it.

Mozzy: It's great that you're doing it, because many regard that as a favourite Anvil song.

Lips: Yeah. It's not the same now, admittedly, but I'm not doing it to be the same, I'm doing it in a way so I can do it. It has crossed my mind to re-record it the way I do it now, but I don't know. I know there are going to be comments, just like when I've seen Judas Priest or Dio and they have changed vocals lines so they can do it live. I accept it, there is no choice.

Mozzy: I can imagine getting older as a singer must be tough sometimes.

Lips: Oh yeah, I was 24 when I sang that and now I'm almost 60! There's got to be a difference. To be honest, we did not do that song live to begin with, probably because I couldn't recreate it anyway, with all the vocal tracks in the recording.

Mozzy: Well, people will love it tonight I'm sure.

Lips: Yeah, it seems people are accepting it. It's still Free As The Wind, isn't it? And it's still Lips performing it (smiles).

Mozzy: That is what we love. Tonight is going to be great, the atmosphere out there is great already, with people drinking and getting in the mood (laughs)

Lips: (laughs) Great.

Mozzy: Thank you, it was very nice seeing you again!

Lips: OK, man, thank you!

See also: review of the gig the same night
See also: review of the album Anvil Is Anvil

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