For over forty years, Canadian underdogs Anvil have been grinding out no bullshit, rock and roll grist with stubborn resolve regardless of trends and critics. They are cited as having influenced Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Slash from Guns and Roses. Anvil has never achieved a fraction of the success as those previously mentioned, but caught a break with the Sundance Film Festival hit, Anvil: The Story of Anvil.
A decade later, they’re still grinding. Having just released their eighteenth album, titled Legal at Last (AFM), a happy Steve “Lips” Kudlow (guitars/vocals) checks in with Sentinel Daily.
What album number are we on now? “Number eighteen! [laughs]”
Nice! Finally legal in more ways than one. “Yep! The coming of age – yes it is.”
You haven’t changed up the style too much over the years – was there any new approach to this one? Or has it been pretty much the same formula as from previous albums? “It’s not even a formula – it’s whatever comes natural, you know? It’s what it is.”
Are you guys getting ready to tour? “Oh absolutely! We’re actually at rehearsal right now and getting in shape to go out on the 26th – we’ve got a fifty date tour of Europe and then we’re going to end up back in Canada for a number of shows. Finally, in or around September or October, we’ll be coming down to the United States.”
Very good, who will you be touring with then? “That’s a good question. I don’t know who we’re coming to the states with yet – I can’t answer that. We’re looking at different possibilities but I can’t really say until we get commitment, so there’s no point bringing up hopes that might not ever come true – and I don’t want to spread a bad vibe, you know what I mean? I don’t want to say anything yet. [laughs]”
I’m listening to the album and weed appears to be a central theme… “It’s intermingled and connected to everything that’s talked about on the album. In a sense that marijuana – well – marijuana wasn’t made illegal to begin with because it’s bad for you, it was made illegal because it was a huge threat to industry; the industry of cotton, the paper industry, the lumber industry, oil industry, pharmaceuticals – just about every industry you can imagine is threatened by the use of marijuana in one way or another.”
Legalisation is something Lips is obviously passionate about. He spoke at length on everything from cancer treatments, ecological benefits, and humanity in general’s need of the sacred five-leafed plant. Was it recently just legalised in Canada? (Being an ignorant American, I assumed it was already). “It changed about a year and half ago. We’re one of the first countries in the world to have it legalised at a federal level, which is incredible. I think it’s a step in the right direction. I’m proud to say that as a Canadian and as an advocate for it to be legal.”
Every time I try marijuana I get scared and anxious – am I doing it wrong? “You have to be in the right state of mind and in the right environment; you have to use it for the right purposes – especially if you’re not a constant user. If you’re just an occasional you’re going to be overwhelmed.”
That’s been pretty much been my experience. “It’s the same way if I don’t drink coffee for a long time, then drink coffee, it’s like doing speed. I get so wound up, I perspire, my head itches – it’s like, wow! Am I on amphetamines? What the hell? [laughs]”
How do you feel about other psychedelics? Like mushrooms, DMT, etc.? Some are being studied for psychological treatment. “I think they were initially – isn’t that what LSD was originally? Timothy Leary, all that stuff in the sixties – wasn’t that all just psychologists and psychiatrists who were experimenting with it? I think that’s why they were used to begin with. So if they’re finally being used for what they’re supposed to be, then I guess it’s probably not a bad thing. So how do I feel about it? I don’t eat it [laughs]. I don’t think, psychologically, I need acid to straighten myself out. [laughs]”
Back to the music. What’s driving you these days to keep going? Especially when most bands burn out by album their tenth album. “Well – it’s probably from doing acid! [laughs] I don’t know, man. I love music, I always have – it’s not something I’m forcing myself to do, it’s something I love to do so I’m not going to burn out. You either have it in you or you don’t. What drives the Rolling Stones to keep going? Come on man.”
Good point. “And money has got nothing to do with it – at all. And it’s certainly not to become a rock star. Because once you’ve attained all that, and even if you haven’t, you’re still doing it because you love music. And that should be at the heart of why you do it, because you love music. Simple as that.”
A few years ago you had the acclaimed documentary, Anvil: the Story of Anvil, what kind of impact has that had? “Well, it changed the course of everything. When we were doing that movie, it was our thirteenth album, it’s not like we needed the movie to get record deals and to make records – we were already doing that. It was a matter of – maybe getting justice? That maybe we should have been better known, and that’s what that movie was ultimately saying. And boy did we get better known! To the point that, here we are twelve, thirteen years later, and it still has traction. It’s still helping to propel us and give us lots of work. I retired from doing deliveries and being a day job guy to being one hundred percent in the music industry – I’m out working on a constant basis. It’s awesome! I’m really living my dreams, man. I’m making a living from doing my music and having the time of my fucking life!”
Are there any talks of doing a sequel? “The movie came out in 2008 or 2009 so it’s been over a decade now. Is there talk about doing another one? “A good portion of another one has been filmed, but there’s just – no. It’s not going to happen anytime soon. We’ve kind of lived the sequel rather than filmed it – and quite frankly that’s good enough for me! [laughs]”
Anvil’s latest album, Legal at Last, is out now on AFM Records.