Interview with Steve “Lips” Kudlow: The Miracle Of Anvil

After 30 years of hard work, Anvil have catapulted from Canada’s underground to household names almost overnight through Sacha Gervasi’s documentary Anvil: The Story Of Anvil. Capturing the band’s undying journey as struggling artists who, despite setbacks, never lost sight of their goals, the film’s instant critical acclaim led to piqued curiosities in both film and music circles about just who Anvil are. Various screenings worldwide have shown how Anvil’s main duo—frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner—along with bassist Glenn Five, have not only touched the hearts of people everywhere, but have made tremendous strides as a band ever since. In touring with AC/DC this past summer, signing a distribution deal with VH1 for both the film and their latest album, This Is Thirteen (which will culminate in what is being dubbed “The Anvil Experience,” a tour of sorts where the film will be presented and a performance will follow), Anvil are finally living the dream. As they gear up for their TV debut on VH1 and their late night show debut on Conan O’Brien, The Aquarian checks in with eternal optimist Lips to find out more about how Anvil are handling the spotlight.

Describe your experience touring with AC/DC.

Totally awesome; really amazing experience. I mean, before we were living for the dream, and [now] we got to live the dream. In Canada, there was somewhere around 75,000 people there, but what was really amazing is that they were cheering for Anvil! To be a support band is not the easiest thing because most people come to see the headliner, and in this particular show that may not necessarily have been the case—a great thing for Anvil.

When you were a band struggling and trying to make it, is this what you envisioned ‘making it’ would be?

I don’t think I could ever envision it. It’s always a little different than what you expect. It’s not what everybody figures it is: In a certain sense, people think that money starts flowing in through the window like no tomorrow, that’s not true. Is it glamorous? I don’t know—it’s kind of interesting, the contrast is pretty bizarre. We’re pulling up in a white pick-up van in-between eight tractor trailers, so it’s like the elephant and the mouse! (laughs) There’s that aspect of it, which is quite incredible—you don’t realize how little and insignificant you are until you get into that world and you go, ‘Oh my god—look at this! This is a billion dollar show. I’m moving all my backline in a little van and these guys are taking eight tractor trailers to move their show. Look at how far it can grow.’ At the same time as it was amazing to do, it was also a very quick education and realization at how far things would have to go before you actually are an AC/DC. But to be part of a show like that was nothing short of amazing.

What’s next on the touring front?

There’s a number of things going on. We’re going to be going to the UK, we’re going to Japan, we’re going to Australia to play on the Soundwave Festival all over Australia, and a 40-city tour of the United States. It’s going to be the ‘Anvil Experience’ where the movie is shown and the band comes out and plays.

And what about your late night TV debut with Conan O’Brien?

Oh yes, and the most important thing I forgot! (laughs) It’s that I don’t want to think about it, that’s what it really is! I don’t like to think about the moment, I’ll deal with it when I get there. There’s a lot of stuff going on: The CD has come out—This Is Thirteen— which is wonderful. The movie will be debuting on VH1 and VH1 Classic, and then on Oct. 6 the DVD gets released and that’s the day we are on Conan. Very busy. It’s good, man!

Why re-release This Is Thirteen when your 14th album is on-deck?

Well we never had a [real] release. We sold two or three thousand CDs on our website at $20 a piece, we made our expenses back for what our initial layout was, but two or three thousand CDs is not very many CDs as far as a release is concerned. When you self-release something, it’s not done with any promotion or any availability other than buying it on PayPal, which closes the door on a lot of people who haven’t gotten credit cards—which is most of the teenage world. So I would say it’s more of a release now than it’s been. And some bonus tracks were added to the CD which is cool. We re-recorded a couple of old songs, sort of like an introduction to the United States [with our] biggest songs from the early days. The original label wouldn’t license them, so we re-recorded them.

Will there be a proper soundtrack to the film of old, re-recorded tracks as well?

I imagine so. But we’re ready to record our next CD which is all written, it’s just a matter of getting in and recording it. We’re always kind of ahead of the game and staying on it, so really on that level nothing has changed.