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Anvil – Steve “Lips” Kudlow

Anvil perform at Respectable Street .Anvil – Steve “Lips” Kudlow

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

When you start your career as a child being taught by your brother who is creative with amplifying sounds, you’re going to create amazing music that stands the test of time. Lead Vocalist, Guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow made his mark on the metal music scene starting in the early ‘80’s and now, along with Bassist Chris Robertson and Drummer Robb Reiner, Anvil are still going strong. With nineteen studio albums under their belt, they are touring in support of their latest album, and South Florida fans had the opportunity to see these extraordinarily talented musicians put on an amazing show recently.

Catching up with Kudlow while he and his band Anvil were literally on the road, he revealed some details about this latest show, their music, some past experiences and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with this new tour?
Steve “Lips” Kudlow: I’m into past one hundred shows for this album, so each night is a different personality no matter even if it’s the same country and actually, even if we played the same place twice, it’s never quite the same each time. Each audience sort of has its own personality, so to say that one is more outstanding or different than the other, they all are, but how do you discern what is more or less? If you understand what I mean.

SFL Music: Yes. You are referring to your latest album IMPACT IS IMMINENT which was released in 2022?
Kudlow: Yeah, that’s right. It was last May. A year ago, like the middle of May. I think it came out. May 15th.

SFL Music: What would you say inspired that album?
Kudlow: Well, there’s a lot of different elements throughout the record. It deals with I think the surroundings of its time and era. Having been written through the pandemic, I think it has a certain reflection on that. Some of it is, I don’t know what words to say for it is really, but sort of my take on what people have become and the things that have happened. Songs like “(The) Rabbit Hole”. People believing, like there’s no truth. The death of truth in a certain sense because you can find as much information on a lie on the internet as you can for truth. So, how do you know which is which? So therefore, you can only assume that it’s all lies and then try to figure out which ones are the truth.

SFL Music: Kind of scary, right?
Kudlow: Yeah, I know, but what I’m saying is true. I mean, some of the stuff that was going on during the pandemic in the sense that you know, the vaccine is gonna have nanobots in it that the government is gonna have control over humanity. Like you’re going, nanobots? Isn’t that Borg technology from Star Trek? You know what I mean? What are people talking about?

SFL Music: So, the album sort of had a theme?
Kudlow: Yeah, but It’s those kinds of things, thoughts and stuff I think went onto those lyrics, and that’s just because of environment because that’s really the essence of what writing is. It’s taking a snapshot of a certain point in your life and whatever is in and around it. Whether you want to do it deliberately or whether you’re doing it subconsciously. One way or another it comes out. At least that’s what I’ve discovered about myself. It’s not whether I’m actually steering stuff, it becomes something that just becomes apparent. You have something to relate to at the time. Like coming up with something, “going down the rabbit hole” I mean, that’s only something that you would come up with during that period of time, if you understand what I mean?

SFL Music: Yes. Would you say your songs are influenced by your life experiences?
Kudlow: Absolutely, and usually more about at the time and place. So, even when I go back and I look at my older albums, to me they’re like snapshots of that period of time, and it’s not that it’s a better or worse snapshot, it’s that’s what it is. To me, on a mentally level like you’re hearing something that marks the past. Music is one of the only things in life that actually, other than photography and I suppose art in itself, that captures moments that people take with for the rest of their lives. You know, when you’re fifteen years old and you hear Black Sabbath, you’re gonna be listening to them probably for the rest of your life.

SFL Music: You do have a history with Lemmy (founder, lead singer, bassist, main songwriter of Motörhead)?
Kudlow: Yeah, but there’s a tremendous, amazing human being, really. Huge insight. Understated and not really a lot of people I don’t think really can understand or know. You’d have to actually really sit down and talk to him. Quite a remarkable, really remarkable human being if you ask me. Very aware of a lot of different things. Again, ten years older than me, so it’s more like an older brother. Somebody who’s doing recognizance for me (he laughed). It’s just the nature of the business itself that the older guys, you always revere as the Godfathers if you understand what I mean. You respect your elders, stature and what they obtained is almost as really well beside the point in that regard. A lot of people look at what somebody obtains financially from something whether that’s successful or not, but there’s many things and contingencies to understanding what popularity means and those two, they’re very different things. At the end of the day, sometimes the guys who didn’t really make millions and millions have the biggest and most revered memory in a sense that let’s face it, Lemmy was not as big as Taylor Swift. You know what I’m saying? Let’s face it, it’s not that level, but and I say but very, very loudly, what he represents in the sense for the genre that he came from and the people, anything connected to that, he’s revered as a God today much, much larger than the record sales ever could imagine to be that it doesn’t actually match up with the finance of it all, the legend that the man actually possessed. So, that’s what I’m saying that there’s lots of ways to measure things, and what you’re measuring and how you’re measuring it (he laughed). So, when we talk about Lemmy, it’s like of that nature. So, if people are going well, you know he’s not as big as Paul McCartney was. It’s not relevant criticism (he laughed).

SFL Music: What would you say is the secret to Anvil’s success?
Kudlow: I think there are so many aspects that are known and unknown about my history and what I’ve had to live through, but let’s just say that I got to the other side. I finally got to the other side. How I got there, everything is accumulative. You can’t have one thing without the other. Everyone said, “well you know the movie did it for you guys.” No, actually staying together for forty years before it did it (he laughed).

SFL Music: Are you talking about the documentary?
Kudlow: Yeah, absolutely. It’s an interesting conundrum in a certain sense, but for people to say, “hey the movie is what made it for you.” No. I mean, there’s so many different layers to that alone. Meeting a fifteen-year-old kid in 1982 that grows up to be a Steven Spielberg screenwriter. Then he makes a documentary about his favorite band that took him on the road when he was sixteen.

SFL Music: Is that how it came about?
Kudlow: And that’s how it all basically came about and he made a documentary about his favorite band, and we were there to be exploited for that because we had a huge enormous history that was underexposed. Grossly underexposed due to the business failing the band. Not the band failing the business. The business failing the band which is a completely different set of rules. I can’t even go into the explanation, but its long and involved and many different aspects, but if you narrow it down, it comes down to a couple of wrong decisions just at the wrong time and that’s it. That’s all that has to happen and you’re now on the wrong rail and you’re going into obscurity rather than going on to success.

SFL Music: Is that how you came up with the book?
Kudlow: Yes, of course the book is very much detailed in all that regard. Yeah, that’s out there. You got to just look for it.

SFL Music: What would you say originally influenced you to become a musician? What inspired you?
Kudlow: It’s hard to really exactly pinpoint the time, but it was in around the time of The Beatles. So, I would say by 1964 I had a really, really keen interest in music and what I was listening to. So, it’s before I was ten years old. About eight years old. So, by the time I was ten, my dad brought home an electric guitar and I knew as soon as I put the thing on and put it on my body, I went, I’m gonna do this. This is what I’m gonna do with my life. It was something I just knew. I don’t know how to explain that.

SFL Music: Did you teach yourself how to play or did you take lessons?
Kudlow: Initially, I had an older brother which is a real benefit because of course, he’s teaching a kid as he’s learning, and I was surpassing him really quickly (he laughed). It’s funny, but it’s great. It helped because of course, he was the older brother that turned our stereo, our HI-FI system into a guitar amp. He’s the one that brought home the reel-to-reel tape recorder that we could experiment with echo and all kinds of crazy effects on guitar at very young ages. We’re talking about through the sixties. So actually, as sort of rock music came to be, I was learning, and cutting edge was The Beatles, The Animals, The Rolling Stones. That’s what the cutting edge was. That’s where you were learning from because that’s what there was. It’s not like, oh man, there’s ten thousand metal bands and you can go listen to them. It’s like no, there’s like four or five bands and you can go listen to them (he laughed).

SFL Music: What would you recommend to an up-and-coming musician or band?
Kudlow: Well, I think the most ultimate and most important aspect is individuality, uniqueness, and that can even be in how bad you are. I know that sounds bizarre, but some of it is quite true. It’s really about being unique and identifiable. You can do that in many different ways, but the more ways that you do that, the more successful you’ll find yourself to be because you’re doing something that no one else in the world can do, and then people are interested in that. That’s where there’s the open door. There’s something that no one else is doing. That’s how simple it is, but not so far that it’s out of taste. Especially today, you probably got to be a little bit more careful about what your subject matter is. These are the things. It’s your message, right? But have a message or even saying a repeated message that many artists do, but have a really unique sounding voice or really interesting melody line that no one else really used. Or a tone in your voice that no one else has or any which way that you can to separate yourself from the pack without being completely out of style.

SFL Music: That’s great advice. Would you say that maybe being from Canada had an influence on your sound?
Kudlow: Yeah, well that’s environment, isn’t it? It certainly had everything to do with our album LEGAL AT LAST (released 2020), (he laughed). Yeah, being Canadian, there are aspects of our sound that might be considered Canadian, but I think it’s still more unique. We’re not a typical Canadian sounding band I wouldn’t say so, but I wouldn’t say that we don’t sound American or English. We just sound like Anvil really.

SFL Music: That’s true.
Kudlow: Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to and actually the most important thing. In other words, there’s an identity. Where I live shouldn’t really matter. It’s really hard to view your own origin as affecting your sound, but it does. There are certain things that are probably Canadian sounding about Anvil, and certainly I would say probably some of the vocals especially of today more than of the earlier years. The vocals and harmonies, things like that which is unusual for metal music in a sense, but coming from Canada, I’m not very keen on playing bland vocals. I believe that layers and harmonies are really important, that it becomes part of the music. I guess I’m still a Beatle fan (he laughed).

SFL Music: You were influential on many bands, one of which was Metallica. There’s a story about when you met Metallica?
Kudlow: Yeah, we had a common friend of course named Jonny Z. What initially happened, the first show that Anvil ever did in America was for Jonny Z and it was the first show that Johnny Z ever sponsored or ever tried to do. So, he brought us down from Toronto in around the METAL ON METAL album (released 1982) and it was as a result of him selling our albums at his flea market record store. Then he got this idea, “why don’t I put a show on right here at the flea market” because they had a big huge empty room with a stage in it. So, that’s precisely what he did. He brought in a bunch of course, lights and PA and we came down for our first time to America and to this day, the people that we met from that trip are friends. All the Old Bridge Metal Militia people. This was previous to Metallica because we’re talking about ’82. So, it was the year before Metallica came up to New Jersey and ended up at this thing at our friend’s place. That’s actually what ended up happening. It’s kind of difficult to remember the complete perfect circumstance, but we were asked to do five shows with Aerosmith during the Forged in Fire (released in 1983) sessions and I think that’s when we met up with the guys at Metal Joe’s house, and what’s really cool is that, you flash forward thirty years or more and we’re hanging out in Singapore. That was really, really surreal ‘cause it’s the same guys that met when they were all kids. You know what I mean?

SFL Music: It’s like a brotherhood type of thing?
Kudlow: Yeah. It’s like really, really bizarre. We’re both from completely different places, but yet struggling in many of the same ways in the sense that you got to keep an audience. You got to keep an audience. Big, small it doesn’t make any difference. You got to keep an audience man. And you got to kick ass when you’re out there, man. There’s no fooling around. The remarkable discussions about work ethics and stuff like that and how difficult it is. You don’t really come to think of this, but James is doing three-hour shows. Well, how many you gonna do those in a row and be able to sing without getting enough rest? Right? At the same time, he’s explaining to me that, “listen man. I’ve got a whole warehouse, a factory and a construction company. Everybody’s depending on me to work every day.” I think for the first time, I came to understand what that actually means. What it really means to be there and what he’s actually faced with. Unless you talk to somebody like that, you’re never gonna know that. I have a lot of respect for that. I understand. I’m doing an hour and three-quarters and I don’t have a problem. I can do that every day of the week. I don’t have a problem with that, but that’s me. That’s my way of getting my job done. I don’t know. Everybody has different levels of body stress doing what they do. It’s like running. How far can you run? How far can your friend run? You’re two different people.

SFL Music: You have to keep that voice in shape, right?
Kudlow: That’s right, and the voice is everything man. It’s the loudest thing in the mix. Right? It’s the loudest thing in the mix and if that sounds bad, your band is bad. What they’ve done these days to combat that is you’re singing back up to yourself. They use the recorded voice as your voice. You sing along with it.

SFL Music: Is there anything else new?
Kudlow: No, we’re all but ready to go in to record our twentieth album. We’re gonna do that in August. I’m greatly looking forward to that. The album was written previous to the release of the last album. We got a lot of work done during the pandemic period. Wrote three albums in that period of time. So, didn’t stop on the creativity and I would have to say the momentum of it is actually outstanding. Its seems that as I’ve gone along because of doing one in succession of another and they’re separated by a few months, that they’re vastly different from each other, but like really honed at what it should be. I think that the accumulation of all my years of writing has finally come to fruition or to that point where it’s not a struggle. You know precisely what you’re doing, and I can honestly say, I know precisely what I’m doing. It only took me fifty-seven years to actually know precisely what I’m doing (he laughed).

SFL Music: At least you got there, right?
Kudlow: Yeah, at least I got there (he laughed).

SFL Music: That’s something awesome for people to look forward to. Was there anything else you wanted to add?
Kudlow: I’ve been having the time of my life because every minute counts, and I hope that people come and join me wherever I happen to be playing. Let’s have a good time.

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