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ANVIL - Interview with Lips
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Anvil heavy metal band
It's been 10 years now since the documentary movie "Anvil! The Story of Anvil." put wind in the sails of the Canadian speed metal forerunners. They must be one of the most persistent metal bands on the planet, giving up has never crossed their minds and there are no signs of them slowing down. Those last 10 years of their career seem to be one of the busiest periods in their collective life as they've been constantly touring and have managed to put our four albums on the back of the aforementioned movie. As Lips says, they've been sure as hell pounding the pavement.
You started working on the new album immediately after "Anvil Is Anvil" was finished. Do you always work this way?
Yeah, pretty much. Because you have to get ahead, or you get behind. I'm really serious. What really happened after the movie is a huge demand to be seen live. 'Cause the movie, what it did, was a hint what we are like live and made everybody wanna come see us. So, I gave up my fuckin' delivery job 10 years ago and it just hasn't stopped. I mean, it's got so intense that we actually finished the recording in Germany and started rehearsing for two gigs even before we left Germany. So, we did the two gigs in Germany, left Germany, went to South America. Then after South America - China and Australia. And now we're here, so it's like non-stop. So, when we have downtime at home, it's like, "Quick, we gotta go in, write some songs! Quick!" 'Cause we're gonna run out of time man, that's the problem.
Did you choose this particular title because that's basically what you've been doing through almost your entire career, trying to survive?
Yeah, we had like a thousand different titles that we had written down and that was one of them. And we were sitting in a Walmart parking lot in the States and I just turn to Rob and go, "We are seriously pounding the pavement down here." I mean, we go fuckin' door to door, set up our equipment, do a fuckin' demonstration, sell our shit, pack it up... So, it's like being a vacuum cleaner salesman, you know? You throw the dirt on the rug, you vacuum it up, you show everybody how good the vacuum works and you sell them the vacuum. Well, we come in, do our performance, show how good the band is, sell a CD, sell a T-Shirt, go to the next place. So, if that isn't pounding the pavement, what is? And thinking about it, we've been doing this for 44 fuckin' years, what a great title! And then we had to incorporate the anvil into that title so, the first thing that came to mind of course is the jackhammer. And then after I thought of the jackhammer, breaking a pavement, I thought, "Let's put an anvil on the tip of the jackhammer and make the jackhammer my Flying V." So, when we got home we set up our anvil in the correct angle to the Flying V and I photographed it and then we incorporated that raw photograph into the cover.
Why is the title track an instrumental song?
Oh, what it was, after we had everything done except we didn't know what we were gonna call the instrumental and Rob just turns to me, "We'll just call it the title track." And I went, "Yeah, why not, what the hell. We'd never done that before, OK, why not?" And it makes sense, right? There's no lyrics, so how to give it a title? It may as well be the album title. That's how that came to be.
I don't think I've ever heard a metal song about a GPS device. What inspired you to write lyrics for "Bitch in the Box"?
I'm driving with my wife on a highway, we're looking for this place and she goes, "I'm not sure where it is, let's just ask the bitch in the box." And I go, "What did you say?" She goes, "The bitch in the box." I go, "What the fuck is that?" She goes, "The fuckin' GPS!" And I go, "Wow! That's a genius name for it! Where did you get that from?" And she goes, "I don't know. It's just stuff that women say." And I go, "OK. I'm good with it." And meanwhile, we put the song out on the album and people go, "Oh, it's sexist!", and I go, "Hey! It was a woman that gave me that idea! Shut up!"
"Rock That Shit" is a rock 'n' roll tune. Looks like your early musical influences shine through in this one?
Oh yea, I mean being born in 1956 gives me complete licence in a certain sense, because my first early influences are Elvis and Chuck Berry and Little Richard and all that stuff that happened. I had older brothers and sisters and this was the music that was in the house. I loved rock 'n' roll and from there of course The Beatles and The Rolling Stones happened and it was all about the electric guitar by the time I was 10. I got an electric guitar and I began learning and going back, "Wow, this is how rock 'n' roll is played, wow cool!" And then I saw how it attached to rock music and then how rock music attached to hard rock music and then hard rock music turned into heavy metal. So, my life runs in sync with the electric guitar, the whole evolution of it. So, Anvil is anything that was heavy, ultimately, and that's what we've been, and that's what we are and that's what we do. And that's not about, "OK, we're just doing speed metal." Speed metal was just one of the aspects and a lot of people didn't understand when we got those influences from. It wasn't even from rock 'n' roll and it wasn't from heavy metal, it was from fuckin' swing and jazz. It's the same thing. You double up the guitars, you double up the bass drums, hey, it's speed metal! OK, whatever, ha-ha!
Is "Ego" about a well-known weird-haired US politician?
I will not admit any of that... If the shoe fits, wear it... That's how I feel about it. But ultimately, it could be about any lead singer in any big band, it could be about any politician, it could be about Justin Trudeau, my friends and I, we call him the boy king, because he's got this womaniser kind of fuckin' style, he's got this fuckin' ego, that's just one example. But anybody in a leading role, including Trump, I mean Trump is probably an almighty example of what that is, but he's certainly not the only one. So, you can't just really say it's about Donald Trump, it's about anybody who has inflated ego, that's all it is.
Based on lyrics for "World of Tomorrow" you don't hold religions in high regard...
I mean there's an underlying theme in a certain sense and that's the same thing with the song "Don't Tell Me". Don't tell me fake news, no truth abuse. The first use of fake news in my personal opinion is religion, and that's what I was trying to say. And ultimately that is the truth, it's like, "Moses comes down from the mountain, talks to a burning bush", does that sound real to you? Come on, let's get realistic just for a second. When you think about bible stories and if you would have thought of them as headline news, you'd go, "That's just a bunch of crooked shit!" But here we are, we all believe that Moses talked to a burning bush. I mean, come on! I'm not a religious person and I don't have anything against people who need it and want it and want to carry on that way, that's your business. I'm not sold. I haven't bought into it. I believe in humanity, I don't believe in god. I believe humanity created god, not god created humanity. That's just the way I look at it.
Anvil metal from Canada
"Pounding the Pavement" is a typical Anvil album, it could have as well been released in the '80s. Was that your intention? Were you not tempted to make it sound more modern?
It's not so much an intention, as it is natural. We're just not looking to add today's thing into it. It's just like, be completely utterly authentic to ourselves and not care about what's going on in the world around us at all. And that's our philosophy. It's like, we have our own thing and it belongs to us and what we do no one else does so, we'll just keep doing that.
"Pounding the Pavement" is the 2nd album with your bass player Chris on board. Was he involved in the song writing in any way?
No... No-one has ever really written songs for Anvil other than Rob and I. Anybody who gets their name on our music is only because of financial and ego purposes. You satisfy the guys you're working with 'cause they gotta feel like they're part of it. Whether they're really part of it or not, only I know. These guys walk around going, "I wrote Anvil songs." Well, you guys have been gone for 30 fuckin' years and if you were writing songs, why is it that the songs are still getting written? You're not here. Guess what? You never really wrote shit. I'm the lead guitarist, lead vocalist, I write everything. That's the end of it. But I'm a nice guy, I'm fair and I like to give people credit for being there. Not for actually doing anything but just for being there. And of course, if you ask those guys individually, oh, they did everything. I mean, I can tell you, during the "Forged in Fire" album I'm out recording and doing all the fuckin' parts, 'cause these guys, not only they could not write, I'm actually having to play their parts in the studio. Everybody's thinking it's Ian Dixon playing bass. No, it's Lips. Everybody thought, "Dave Alison is playing rhythm guitar." No, he's not! Not in "Motormount", not in "Winged Assassins", not in "Butter-Bust Jerky", not in anything that was fast, couldn't play it. It's all me playing, never mind writing it. But when you look at the credits, it says that they're there. You gotta be a nice guy, otherwise how are you gonna keep people interested in staying in your band, right?
Do you write your guitar solos or do you improvise in studio when recording them?
No, all my soloing is done in the studio. After doing the "Metal on Metal" album, particularly the song "Tag Team", Chris Tsangarides, rest his soul, he goes like, "OK, play me the solo" and I go, "I don't know, I don't have anything planned", he goes, "Great, that's good, that's OK, let's just run the track." He hits record and I fuckin' attack it, one take, best solo on the whole fuckin' album. And I went, "You know what? I got the wrong fuckin' attitude. I'm doing this all wrong." And from that point on I started creating my solos in the studio, because you get to hear it completely and if you go in with a plan that all you're doing is trying to do what you planned, so it never gets further or to another point that you never thought it could get to. All you're doing is trying to get it to where it was not where it could be. And from that I learned, "Wait a minute, if that's what I'm doing for lead guitar, why don't I do it for the vocals?" So now I write my lyrics and I work with the producer to create the melodies, where the lyrics sit on the music and how it's gonna actually be. And in that way you get all the options. You haven't locked yourself into memorising a certain thing and then you lose all the potential. I go in and there's all the potential. So, when the producer goes, "Hey man, why don't you try doing this?" I go, "OK, let me try this. Oh fuck, that's really good! Yeah, you're right, I didn't even notice that before." And that's what it's really good for. It's for the creative process, nothing could be better than that, 'cause all the options are there for you and that's ultimately what you want when you go in and record. The best thing you can get. Not what you planned, 'cause what you planned is half of the time not necessarily the best it can be.
You recorded the album in a small studio in Germany. Why didn't you try to get a well-known producer to work on the album with?
The thing is our record company, our management, our booking agency, everything is in Germany. The real experts in the heavy metal field are all in Germany. Come on, let's face it. There was a time that it was all in England but really for the last 25-30 years the central place for metal is Germany. That's where you're gonna find the best producers, that's where you're gonna find the best studios, the best technicians, let's do it there. Plus the fact, can't beat the price. Can't beat the price or the expertise, do it in Germany. And in my opinion the best sounding albums we've ever done are the last two, both done in Germany.
You guys do pledge campaigns so, aren't the albums financed by your label anymore?
Oh, it's a combination. Because obviously, the pledge campaign only has so much reach and there's only so much money there. But it's a great help. It's not a hindrance to the record company, you're not overbearing the sales so they don't feel they're losing. I think we sold like 500 CDs, but 500 CDs at 30 bucks a piece pays for your album to get recorded. And then you get a royalty advance from the record company, guess what, we haven't put a penny out of our own pocket to record our records. So, for the first time in 40 years I'm ahead when I finish recording rather than I gotta sell thousands of records before I'm ever gonna get a dime. So, it's a way better working model today than it ever has been.
What in your 40-year career are you the most proud of?
I think I'm probably most proud today. This is the most famous and the most successful we've ever been so, I think the newest stuff. There's a lot to be said about being 62 years old and pumping out metal like a 20-year old. I think there's a lot more to be said than being 20 and doing that. And even the fact that people are comparing me at 62 to when I was 22, it's fuckin' phenomenon. OK, they might say they liked it better when I was 22 but holy shit, it's actually competing. That you're competing with yourself at 62 is a phenomenon. Who's doing that?
OK, let's wrap up. You've got tour dates on your website listed up until April. What's next for Anvil after that?
Oh, that's only for Europe, but May 2nd we start in the States. And we've gotta go for 2 months there and that's only the first leg. After that point we've gotta go back to South America, we've gotta go back to Australia, we've gotta go to China again, maybe Japan, we've got a lot of work to do. And there may even be a second European leg before this chapter is closed and like the last chapter, it's gonna be crossover where I'm gonna be recording in Germany and still touring this album, just like it was the last time. That's a good thing.
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel
Photos by Rudy De Doncker

Official Anvil website: Anvil
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Tags: Anvil, heavy metal, speed metal, Pounding the Pavement, Lips
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© 1997-2019 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved. Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations or corporations without the prior written permission.
© 1997-2019 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.