Victoria Holdsworth spoke to Steve "Lips" Kudlow of Anvil at their June 24th Newcastle O2 Academy show.
If you look in the dictionary under the words, inspiration, determination, hardship and grit, there should by international law be a photograph of this man!
Steve "Lips" Kudlow, lead singer and founder band member of Anvil since 1973 has been one of the hardest working men in metal, both on and off the stage and possibly one of the most unlucky.
Anyone who has seen the Anvil documentary will know the trouble and turmoil of all the band members who struggled to keep their heads above water and to keep on doing what they loved, not just for themselves as artists, but for their league of fans worldwide. Whilst everyone got recognition for their efforts in the business, the original daddies of heavy metal seemed to get left by the wayside, even though today, they are still regarded as the originals to Metallica and other bands such as Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, they just couldn't catch a break.
I sat down with Lead singer Lips to discuss his career to date and to find out just what kept him and the other band members going over all these years to finally get to the stage they are at now, in their rightful place on a throne of steel determination.
Walking into the dressing room, Lips sits casually on a large leather sofa, looking slightly nervous and humbled and somewhat overwhelmed that all these people were waiting outside that wanted to speak to him!
As a bit of an ice breaker Lips asks me if I like Jackass, and I reply "Yes" and he tells me that he was just recently speaking to Steve O and he was asking him if he knew how to spell Canada. Lips tells me he humours him and says "No, how?" and Steve O replies, "CA-NA-D - FUCKING A"
An infectious smile breaks across his face and we get down to some questions.
I heard you came armed with a vibrator to some of your gigs this week. Will it be making an appearance tonight in Newcastle?
It comes out every night [grins]
How does it feel after the past 23 years to be finally receiving the recognition you deserve from the music world and not just your fans and peers?
[Lips takes a deep breath and pauses for a moment]
It feels victorious! How would anybody feel? When you work at something your whole life, and then finally the doors open, you think, what have I been doing wrong? [laughs] Ok, well maybe you don't ask yourself so much what has been going wrong but... [deep sigh] it's just incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. I'm not walking around all big headed, and I haven't lost it. I am still quite blown away by it all! Most of the time I find myself having to pinch myself, cause sometimes I think I'm really not sure ya know? [laughs] It's like a fell asleep, and all my dreams are coming true, and I'm getting to meet all my favourite rock stars, and they all know me and they all wanna meet me, and shake my hand, and I'm here thinking, what has happened?? It is TOTALLY a dream come true! On every level! So how do I feel about it? I can't really put it into words. Appreciation is the best! Let's put it this way. Nothing in life that you didn't work for has no value. If somebody just gives you a CD for free, it will probably just end up on your shelf, and you won't listen to it. If you have to pay for it, or you've had to work to go pay for it, you value it, and that's exactly the same scenario that I'm talking about. I've worked my whole life for these moments, so I don't kick it, I don't take it for granted, and I have a full on appreciation of what's going on, so I'm not gonna squander it. If I'm making money I'm certainly not gonna start blowing it! It took so long to get here, and I know how fleeting the music business and the whole entertainment world works, and I'm gonna hold onto every penny, and be very, very careful and conscientious of what I'm doing, so yeah, that's how I feel.
In the documentary, we saw a massive insight into your continued friendship with the other band members, through all the trouble and strife. What was it about that friendship that made you stick together so vehemently, and what was the hardest part for you to get through over the years?
It was having the same goals. It's just like a relationship. A marriage if you like. Relationships are relationships, basically the only difference is we're not having sex with each other. [laughs] On a mental level there are a lot of things that come together and that's just the way that it has worked. So having the same goals and aspirations and desires you stay in tune with each other and you run parallel and it's all good. The only places where we have fall outs is approach. You might have a different opinion on the way we approach the same problem, and that's where we're gonna have a difference of opinion, but it's still to get to the same goal.
So how was it when ACDC offered you the opening slot on their tour?
Well apparently Angus Young saw the movie and he goes, let's get these guys on tour. Let's show 'em a good time!
And what are your views on today's current metal scene? Do you think it has changed for the better or the worse?
Oh it's definitely come around. And a lot of it has to do with the state of the world's economy. When the world economy tanks, heavy metal becomes the biggest rage, and I think that's part of the reason, but not the entire reason, that aggressive music succeeds, because people who are angry and have to vent their problems it's the best music to listen to. Stuff that you can grit your teeth into! Punch the air!
In respect of that comment, one thing that has been noticed was the prices of the tickets for this tour were incredibly cheap, in today's market. Was that a conscious decision on your parts?
No, I had no control over that. I'm hoping that the people who are booking me and that the people in my camp are doing the right things. Right now I think there are right ways and a wrong way to do it, and we'd be stupid overcharging at this point. We gotta build the band, you don't charge people and arm and a leg to come in to see the band. We wanna be reasonable, for the next while. It's probably between the club and our booking agents that they decided that was the best price to charge for what it was, and if you charge too much then the people that could have and would have come to see you play, wont! What good is that gonna do anybody? If we charge too much to get in, then I'm not gonna sell a t-shirt or a CD, they're just not gonna see me! It's no good, you gotta have a balance. Same thing with deciding about the prices of your t-shirts, you go to some of these concerts and they will charge you fifty quid for a t-shirt, and it's not a better quality t-shirt for the one's we're selling for like fifteen! It's got no more colours! It's not a thicker material! It's not spun with gold yarn! I mean, come on!!!!
So you have produced fourteen albums since 1978. Which one would you say is your favourite from that back catalogue?
My favourite?... I think the newest one.
And the new album 'Juggernaut of Justice', which is a fitting title to your plight, is a bit of a smorgasbord of attitudes, rhythms and riffs, with some jazz metal thrown in their for good measure. What was the inspiration behind it?
Well, we were thinking like the 'Metal on Metal' era, and we were looking to create an album that is filled with templates. What I mean by templates is you can take a song like 'March of the Crabs' and say that became Metallica and then you take a song like '666' and that became Slayer, pick a song like 'Stop Me' and that became Bon Jovi, or Rat and they're all templates. You could build a whole bands repertoire around the sound of one song, and we made an effort to create another bunch of songs that did the same thing. This is the best example that we could come up with, for that type of song and each song is a unique little piece that is not really attached to any of the others, it's all unique! You can tell that they're all Anvil, but they're very different from each other.
It's like having a flower bed and you growing some chrysanthemums over here, and some daisies but they're all flowers! They're not all the same colour and they're all different, but together they make a wonderful looking garden! That's what we were looking to do.
The album does kick off at an enormous pace, and keeps right on going, until say the likes of 'Paranormal' seeps in towards the end of the album. But the songs are so anthem-like.....
Yeah but it's like I said originally, a song like 'Paranormal' is a one of a kind on the album, it's unique. That Black Sabbath influence, that's part of my soul and I put it there! So it makes me feel like I am on fire. It's like Deep Purple. I love Deep Purple! It's in my blood, I created a song that has that feeling about it. You can't put your finger on it, and it reminds you of other songs, you kinda like yeah, but it's Anvil, its anvil's interpretation of what metal is.
Lips, you have always been known for your outlandish stage garb. Can you still get in your bondage gear?
[Laughs loudly] It's interesting because after I did the Donington festival and I got mud thrown at me, and tomatoes and every other fucking thing, I stopped wearing the bondage stuff for a long time, and for the entire Motorhead tour I didn't wear it, and pretty much put it all away after that. I don't think now it's that relevant of a thing, it was much more relevant that I played my guitar with the vibrator. It didn't matter what I was wearing, as much as my attitude, and what I was doing and the way that I present myself. That was much more important, to be the person I was and not just the clothing. I could have come out wearing a pink tutu, it wouldn't have made any difference, it was my songs and the sound of the band and attitude, ya know? It was the music that was working, so it didn't matter if I was wearing a bondage suit. There's no point in doing anything like that anymore, so I don't.
You've mentioned Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, but if you could have been the lead singer in any other metal band over the years, which band would it have been?
Motorhead! That's like family! Lemmy even said that to me! I hadn't seen him in a couple of years, and it was after the movie of course, and since the success of it all he is really elated for us he's really happy for us, and it comes from an honest place. It's a bit like an older brother, seeing his younger brother doing well. Right on! I went up to him in Italy at a festival, last summer and he just hugged me, and he goes [in a very convincing Lemmy impression] "Lips! You know family can be a strange thing, but none the less, still family!" and I thought that was the most beautiful thing that he could have said! It couldn't have been warmer, and when you look in each other's eyes it's as if it hasn't even been a minute since I last saw you. I love that! It's an honour and it's honesty. It is beautiful and you can't quantify that, it's just human connection, ya know? I cherish it! I cherish my friendship with the Mototrhead guys. We are all like brothers, and we all stand arm to arm, and shoulder to shoulder against the world of disbelievers, and we stand together. It doesn't matter about who sells more, or who sells less or who's bigger or who's smaller. We all respect each other, it's a hard road but we embrace it and we love it and that's why we do it, and why we continue to do it. Now to stand eye to eye with your fellow musicians it's a beautiful thing, so when you ask me who would I have chosen? Of course... Motorhead! Who else?
I left it there with the line of questioning as there was a knock at the door for a stage call, and thanked Lips for his time, as he gave me the biggest hug I have ever had in my life! While walking upstairs to take a spot in the venue to watch the hardest working band in metal, I can't help but think this would go down as one of the most amazing interviews I have ever done, and Lips, for those about to rock, we definitely salute you!