Anvil striking iron4/30/2014
Despite being known as a kind of “metal band’s metal band,” Anvil’s pre-2008 existence is a comedy of errors. Plagued by poor decision-making, questionable management and bad advice, Anvil toiled in almost complete obscurity, bolstered mostly by modest European record sales.
But then came the documentary film “Anvil! The Story of Anvil.”
“The documentary was made in such a way that it made people question whether we were real,” recalled Anvil front man Steve “Lips” Kudlow. “But it was done like that purposely.”
Indeed, upon the film’s release, many people assumed the band was fake. Others thought the band was created to serve and promote the film. But no matter people’s opinions, the end result was the same.
“(It) was beneficial at the end of the day, because people wanted to see the band,” Lips said. “Ever since the documentary came out, we haven’t had to work day jobs.”
What a difference 25 years can make.
In 1983, Anvil was an up-and-coming band with three solid albums and a couple of big tours under its belt. David Krebs, who was managing Aerosmith at the time, felt he could get the band to the next level. Krebs convinced Anvil’s Canadian label, Attic, to release the band from its contract, so Krebs could bring Anvil to a larger American label. Attic, however, retained control of the band’s first three albums.
“That completely derailed us,” Lips said. “Wrong manager, wrong time. He had no idea what we were. The label that we were signed to in Canada wouldn’t turn the records over to an American label. The first three records never got released in America.”
Eventually Krebs stopped returning phone calls. Anvil gained its release from that contract and set out on its own, eventually, releasing a fourth album, “Strength of Steel” in 1987. Though Anvil would go on to release nine more albums between then and 2008, commercial success — any kind of success — remained elusive.
Since the film’s release, Anvil hasn’t slowed down, releasing “Juggernaut of Justice” in 2011 and “Hope in Hell” in 2013, both under the guidance of producer Bob Marlette (David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper).
“(Marlette’s) really super proud of us,” Lips chuckled. “He says it’s not very common that bands come in and learn something from him.”
Marlette helped get the band back to the basics, primarily by being the guiding hand it never had in the past.
“What Bob made me come to realize is about song structures. One of the things he instilled in me is the idea that, when you create a bed track, if you can’t tell where the chorus is going to be then you haven’t structured your song properly. (Proper structuring) makes your music accessible to a wider range of people.”
But for all the lost time and missed opportunities, Anvil remains grateful for its fans, and happy with the path it’s taken, primarily because the group got there on its own terms.
“I’m not resentful,” Lips said. “Krebs came to one of the screenings of the movie, and I went and shook his hand and thanked him for fucking us up. His stupid moves at that time paved the road for what transpired now.”
Now Anvil is more free than ever to be itself. And the band is striking while the iron is hot.
“The band existed for 30 years before the movie, and it’s going to exist for a long time after,” Lips said. “But now there’s this great backlog of people who are catching up.” CV
Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines.