The recently released documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” shows the two founding band members and their struggles to keep the dream alive and pay bills. Vocalist Steve “Lips” Kudlow was delivering food for a catering service and drummer Robb Reiner was working construction when the filming began.
Now, thanks to the film’s popularity, the two are back to their role as globetrotting rock stars.
“It’s been a rocketship ride straight up. It’s quite amazing really,” said Kudlow in an interview with the Tribune. “(It’s) been an incredible amount of traveling and seeing the world, playing some great shows, having the time of my life and living the dream.”
Dating back to the debut of “Hard N’ Heavy” in 1981, Anvil has released 13 albums, never really taking a break in between. For various reasons, they remained under the radar.
In the documentary, members of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Motorhead, Slayer and Anthrax reveal their admiration for Anvil, some even discussing the band’s influence on the evolution on metal in general. According to Kudlow, viewers of the documentary might have been surprised to see such big names talking about the band, but it wasn’t news to him.
“All of these people have made themselves quite visible to us through the years and it’s part of the equation as to why we would not quit,” he said. “When you know you’ve made a difference to people that really matter, it doesn’t matter if some magazine someplace says you suck.”
Plenty of rockers have bellyached about things not going as planned, but Kudlow isn’t that type of guy. Despite the struggles, the ever positive guitarist-singer looks at everything as being a form of destiny playing out.
“You tend to gravitate towards the positive aspects … I have and it’s part of our history,” he explained. “I don’t bog myself down with ‘What ifs?’ It wasn’t. End of story. There’s no sense in rehashing what could’ve been. What’s the point? It’s what could be is what to live for.
“I never really felt bitter. I could honestly say I felt cheated, but not bitter,” Kudlow continued. “In hindsight, that bad luck was the best thing that could’ve happened to us. Anything different and there couldn’t be the story that there is today.”
The bad luck for Anvil consisted of signing to the wrong label in Canada before their careers took off and essentially having their music held ransom. Instead of thriving in the states like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer, the men of Anvil were being stifled.
“We got put on the back burner between the years of 1983 and 1987, probably the most important years of metal. We didn’t put music out during that period of time and it derailed our career,” recalled Kudlow. “Is that saying we suck? No, it’s saying that we’ve got a lot of bad luck.”
Kudlow is the anchor of the film, fighting against all odds to keep his dream alive. Delivering food during the day and playing in front of a handful of people in a local bar at night, it’s not exactly a rosy outlook for a band hoping to resurrect a reputation around the world.
The documentary, a strong candidate to be nominated for an Oscar, follows the group to Europe and a nightmarish tour through bars and small venues. Through all of the hardships, the success of the documentary has catapulted the band back into the minds of metal fans.
“It’s pretty far-fetched, man. I don’t know what else I could say. Pretty amazing turnaround,” said Kudlow of the band’s renaissance. “It’s remarkable. (Led Zeppelin’s) Jimmy Page walks up to me, shakes my hand and says ‘Keep it going, Lips, you give us all hope.’ That’s pretty out there, man. (The Pretenders’) Chrissie Hynde flipping out and hugging me.”
The group is headed to the studio to record its 14th record with a whole new outlook on the business and their careers. Even though they’re in their 50s, the sky’s the limit.
“We’re already reloaded in a certain sense,” said Kudlow. “Written 20 new songs so we’re ready to go. They got us on a very, very incredible, whirlwind craziness here. In the middle of it, we’re gonna have to record the new album.”
“No more delivering food,” he continued with a laugh.