Anvil: “Retired Into Rock N’ Roll”

by Keith Valcourt

Anvil, the clown princes of hard rock and heavy metal are back! The band, comprised of Steve “Lipps” Kudlow on guitar and vocals, Robb “Robbo” Reiner on drums, and new bassist Chris Robertson, drop their eighteenth studio album, Legal at Last, on this February fourteenth. Yes, on Valentine’s Day. Because nothing says love like the Canadian metal trio that inspired both Anthrax and Metallica. Non-hard rock fans discovered the band in 2008 when the documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” hit Netflix and art movie houses across the globe. The band became known as the “Real Life Spinal Tap” due to their goofy misadventure featured in the film. Since then, they have rolled on touring the world and releasing blisteringly powerful hard rock albums.

I caught up with Lipps recently via phone from his home in Canada to somewhere on the road in Europe to talk about the new album, the brotherhood that keeps the band rockin’ and how the documentary changed their life.   

Q: Your new CD, Legal at Last, is coming out on Valentines Day. Was that planned? 

A: I guess. Not by me. But planned by the record company. Yeah. 

Q: Have you ever played your own music in the background while seducing a woman?

A: No. (Laughs) I usually play someone else’s music. Probably the last time was Captain Beyond. 

Q: Any worry about releasing an album full of sexually charged double entendre in these PC “Me Too” times?

A: I don’t worry about. But I don’t have high expectations, either.

Q:  You don’t have high expectations for the new record to succeed?

A: No, I never do. It is avoiding disappointment. When I was younger, I had all kinds of high expectations, and I would always be disappointed. I got tired of thinking about it that way. Now I always think, “It’ll do whatever its going to do.” And who gives a shit?  It changes nothing anyway. 

Q: That said, do you still enjoy being in Anvil and making records?

A: Yes, I enjoy the whole process, but more than anything I really love to play live. That is my motivation for all of it. All of it. Making a record is a means to an end. If I do a new record, I know I can tour soon after. 

Q: How has touring changed for you over the years?

A: Well, now when we tour, ever since the movie, we play to many more people, and we play all the time.

L to R are Chris, Lipps and Robb

Q: How did your lives change after the 2008 documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil?”

A:  I haven’t had to go get a job or do anything else but play music. I’ve been on a permanent vacation. (Laughs) No question the film changed our lives for the better. After that we started living the dream man. 

Q: When the film hit, a lot of people called you the “Real Life Spinal Tap.” What do you think of that title?

A: No. Spinal Tap is the fake Anvil. Spinal Tap was a parody of all metal bands. Not just Anvil. How does Biff Byford (Saxon lead singer) feel after Harry Shearer was on the road with him and used all the notes he took to make the movie?

Q: Do you still play guitar with sex toys during your live shows?

A: Absolutely. People have grown to expect it. It’s part of the show. You can’t go and not do it. I tried to. There was a point in my career where I tried to not do it, and every time I got off stage fans would come up and say, “What happened to the vibrator man?” The vibrator is always in the guitar case along with the pics and the strings. 

Q: What keeps you and Robbo working together all these years, and is it like a brotherhood?

A: I think it’s beyond brotherhood when you’ve been friends for forty-seven years, which is most of your life. I see Robb on a regular basis. I can’t say that about my brother at all. Last time I saw my brother was maybe a year ago. Robb and I are more than brothers. We’re business partners. We are lifelong old friends. We have incredible history, and you kind of become one person. In a certain sense. You’re not complete without the other guy.

Q: How did Chris come to join in 2014?

A: Chris was rehearsing with us for about a year. It became impossible to continue with our bass player who had been with us for fifteen years. And he quit two weeks before a tour. We had an emergency, and we had to hire some guy that was basically from New York. Robb and I live up here in Toronto. We had two rehearsals with that guy, he learned the songs, and we went out on the road. It was okay, but it was a band aid.   Chris was rehearsing with us in Toronto, and he should have been on our Hope in Hell record, but we had already promised the guy in New York he could do it. After rehearsing with Chris, I couldn’t leave him behind. So, when we went out on the “Hope in Hell” tour, we took Chris with us as a roadie which gave him great insight into what we were doing live. He would stand at the side of the stage singing all the backup vocals.  Chris did the soundcheck with us one night, and we knew he was the right guy. His playing. His vocal prowess. In all my years on stage, I have never felt such perfect confidence. 

L to R are Chris, Lipps and Robb

Q: Are the Anvil songs as simple as they seem?

A: No. I like complex simplicity. Song that is easy to listen to but f**king hard to play.

Q: What do you say to critics who complain about your voice?

A:  I say too f**king bad! My voice is extraordinarily unique. I sound like me and that gives Anvil the identity it needs. The same way Lemmy did for Motorhead. The identity factor. 

Have the bands you guys influenced, like Metallica and Anthrax, ever said thank you?

A: They are all friends and acknowledge the influence and what I have done for them. They got up and did their parts in the Anvil movie not because they were paid. They did it because they wanted to do it. You couldn’t pay Lars (Metallica). He truly loves Anvil. 

Q: Do you prefer playing the large outdoor festivals or clubs?

A: The show is the same no matter the venue. But I like small clubs best. Because you’re right there in everybody’s face. It’s personal and up close. I can jump out in the crowd and f**king rock with them. Nothing beats that. 

Q: Will Anvil play in the U.S. in 2020?

A: Absolutely. It just hasn’t been posted yet, but our agency is already madly booking the tour which will start sometime in September and probably go through November.

Q: Do you ever see a time when Anvil will retire?

A:  No. No. No! I’ve had my life work from the opposite way everybody else in the rock business has. Everybody else in the rock business makes it. Then retires. I did a whole lifetime of working regular jobs. I did hard physical labor. Ended up owning real estate and having everything a regular working stiff gets. Attained a family and ended up being here to raise my son. Then I got my big break in rock. Quit my day job. And I’ve retired into rock n’ roll. Now, I’m traveling the world. Partying every f**king night. Riding the wave of success. I never have to go back to work! What a retirement plan!

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Keith Valcourt

Keith Valcourt is a Los Angeles based music and entertainment writer. He has interviewed thousands of celebrities in the worlds of music, film, TV and comedy for dozens of outlets including: L.A. Times, Washington Times, LFP Publishing, ChelseaCommunityNews.com, RetroRoadMap.com LaArtsOnline and more. Much More

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