“You know, you may not be a fan of their music but after watching Anvil’s documentary you’re definitely rooting for them,” my husband mused about 2008’s “Anvil! The Story of Anvil.” The film explores the Canadian heavy-metal band’s rocky journey since its inception in 1977, and how they became one of the genre’s most influential groups. Featuring interviews with famed rockers like Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Slash of Guns N’ Roses and more, audiences meet family, friends and die-hard Anvil fans who have been around since the beginning.
Nevertheless, as the rockumentary also highlights, Anvil never achieved the kind of commercial success as their aforementioned industry fans.
We first meet Steve “Lips” Kudlow (lead vocals, guitar) and drummer Robb Reiner at their day jobs in Canada. Kudlow delivers fish to restaurants and Robb Reiner works construction. However, there’s new promise and hope when Kudlow gets an invite from a fan overseas who offers to set up a European tour for the band—starting at the Sweden Rock festival. Though it does not go smoothly—painfully so at times, with very little going their way—their sheer drive, heart and love of the music is palpable. Indeed, I was rooting for “Team Anvil” to make it. The film helped the band’s resurgence. And a decade after its release, Anvil still tours. In fact, they will land at Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern on March 11.
“This is the most amount of touring we’ve done in four years,” Ludlow tells encore. “We did 111 shows in a year, and we’ve still not quite finished the cycle. We’ve got territories to fit in before we go back into the recording studio in August.”
Kudlow and company are touring back-to-back shows from East to West coasts throughout this spring and summer. They’re promoting their 16th studio album, “Anvil Is Anvil.” The ILM show is part of the second half of their US tour that began last year on the West Coast. They may add dates in Japan or South America before 2017 is complete. Yet, despite seemingly nonstop work, Kudlow says it’s never really enough.
“It’s from not doing it enough when I was younger,” he says. “You gotta think about it: All those horrible years making deliveries, and now I have an opportunity to go out and play and make a living? It’s pretty amazing. . . . I’m on permanent vacation.”
While the film may helped Anvil take a step forward, Ludlow said he never really counted on it. “It was never really about a specific pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” he explains. “It was more about getting to the end of the rainbow. It doesn’t matter if there’s a big pot of gold or not; it’s the life endeavor.”
“Anvil Is Anvil” is the band’s first album to feature Chris Robertson on bass and backup vocals. Robertson was their rehearsal bassist before becoming a full-time member in 2014. Ludlow describes Robertson as not only adding a needed third voice and instrument, but also an overall immediate change after years of rotating band members.
“There was something about [musicians in our band] before that didn’t have a specific magic I suppose,” he explains. “Having said that, everything around us made it seem like it maybe didn’t matter who was there anyway. As far as where we are today, it’s a much more comfortable place. . . . As well as singing harmonies and not just in unison!”
Kudlow describes a feeling of getting back to those early years, which he joined with Reiner, Dave “Squirrely” Allison (vocals, rhythm guitar), and Ian “Dix” Dickson (bass). It was about finding people who not only knew how to play, but play together in such a way to create sound and character unique to the band. Kudlow doesn’t take it for granted.
“For me and my confidence level, I’ve never felt better about my band than I do today,” he asserts. “We have the greatest drummer in metal—in my opinion. And you need a bass player that helps and works with that; and it’s not-run-of-the-mill, it’s not standard, it’s not regimented, which would drive a normal bass player up the wall.”
So far Kudlow has written about a dozen songs for the next project, with a couple more to go before heading back into the studio in the fall. However, they’re keeping all the latest material under wraps and they won’t be road-testing any at Reggie’s this weekend.
“That turns a potentially high point in a set into a low point because [audiences] don’t know the song,” Kudlow says. “Even if a song is a great song, they may not know how to react to it because they’ve never heard it before.”
There also are rumors of a follow-up documentary to “Anvil! The Story of Anvil.” While it’s true there’s been sporadic filming the past couple of years, Ludlow says there are no firm plans as to when a project will be complete for release. “Whether any film sees the light of day—I don’t know,” he adds.
Regardless of what parts of Anvil’s story are recorded or shared with the world, Ludlow couldn’t have asked for a happier ending. “Some people always say, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’” he says. “Well, I wished for this all my life. I was not careful about my wish—I’ve lived a tough, long one—but I’m grateful for every moment. It’s perfect.”
Local metal bands Night Demon, Graveshadow and Salvacion will open for Anvil’s March 11 show at Reggie’s. Salvacion will be releasing their new EP “Ecstasy of Gold,” and as part of a promotion with Yellow Dog Discs, anyone who purchases a ticket to the show this weekend will receive a Salvacion CD for free.
Readers can find more details at the event Facebook page: Anvil at Reggie’s.