STEVE 'LIPS' KUDLOW Explains Why The Fun Is Gone From Making New ANVIL Albums

June 11, 2024

By David E. Gehlke

Canadian metal pioneers ANVIL probably don't need to release new studio albums. Counting their latest "One And Only", there are now 20 ANVIL LPs, but talk to co-founding member, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Steve "Lips" Kudlow, there is plenty more where that came from, albeit begrudgingly. Whereas a good chunk of legacy/heritage bands either resist the temptation to record new music or do it sparingly, ANVIL continues to crank 'em out at regular frequency. This apparently has caused friction between Kudlow and co-founding drummer Robb Reiner, who is constantly harping on the frontman to write new music.

Since the surprising success of the 2008 "Anvil! The Story Of Anvil" documentary, ANVIL has been a full-time band with a dedicated touring and recording schedule. In order to keep the lights on and not return to civilian life, Kudlow is putting himself through the paces of writing and recording new music. Whether it has resulted in better output remains up for debate, but in Kudlow's conversation with BLABBERMOUTH.NET, it was evident the man they call "Lips" was in no mood to change course no matter how unenjoyable the process has become.

Blabbermouth: What's the motivation for releasing a new ANVIL album?

Steve: "I don't even know, other than my drummer kicking my ass constantly. He's already on to the next album. He's already going, 'What have you written for the next one?' I'm like, 'Can we let this one come out and see what happens? We haven't even gotten a deal for the next album. One thing at a time.' But he's going, 'We're running out of time!' I said, 'We're not due to put out an album for another year and a half. What do you mean?' [Laughs]"

Blabbermouth: It's not like you're out of ideas. The stuff still sounds like ANVIL.

Steve: "That's not a problem. There's always something to write about. There's always a riff to play. I never run out of that. I see these guys going, 'I've got writer's block.' No, you're fucking lazy. That's what that is. If you sit down and start working on stuff, you've got stuff. If you don't, then you're done. It's real simple."

Blabbermouth: Have you ever had writer's block?

Steve: "No. I don't even know what that means. [Laughs] I just don't want to do it right now. It doesn't mean I can't; it means I don't want to."

Blabbermouth: If you could have it your way, would ANVIL space out its releases more?

Steve: "Yeah, slightly. I think it's taken very much for granted. You see bands that haven't put out an album for ten years, put out an album and everybody is really excited about it. But if you put out an album every couple of years, no one is excited. It lasts about a week. [Laughs] I've had managers tell me, 'Why are you worried about putting an album out? You've got dozens of albums out there. Why worry about the next one? It's not going to make much difference.' But that's not completely true. If you're not a pop band and you have to stay relevant, there's only one way, which is putting out new music."

Blabbermouth: Is releasing an album a means to an end? Do you release them just to tour?

Steve: "It's the same as what Lemmy [Kilmister, MOTÖRHEAD] used to do. One of the last times we saw him, he had just had his pacemaker put in. He was looking really ill. Robb goes and it was just after they recorded an album, 'I guess this means you're not going to go on tour.' Lemmy went ballistic: 'What do you mean we're not going to tour? What would be the point in recording an album if you're not going to tour?' I agree. What's the point? Now, you can't get enough done fast enough. The audience is so spoiled and so fucking…almost jaded, really. All the major bands put out an album almost every year and the hype lasts for about a week and it's over."

Blabbermouth: Do you think this is what will happen to the new ANVIL record?

Steve: "This is what has been happening for the last seven albums, to tell you the truth. It's not just for me, but it's the whole scene. It's how the whole thing works these days. The interest is very short because there's always something new."

Blabbermouth: Is it a case where ANVIL has such a back catalog that people want to hear that versus what you put out in 2024?

Steve: "If I have to depend on my old fans, I'm finished. Only about five to ten percent of the old fans ever show up to the shows anyway. It's mostly new people and mostly new people who are into what the band has been doing for the last ten years, not the last 40. It's a great thing. We have a whole new life as a result of the movie. There's no question about that. It's like I said: If I have to depend on my old fans, I'd be finished."

Blabbermouth: There is still no doubt that the movie gave you a second career.

Steve: "Actually, a third career. We didn't have one previously. Everyone goes, 'Your heyday.' My heyday? What fucking heyday? We did a MOTÖRHEAD tour and that was my heyday? In 1983, that was my heyday. I did one tour with MOTÖRHEAD. Okay, so, meanwhile, how many tours have I done since the movie? I haven't been off the fucking road. I kept going and putting out record after record and tour after tour. It's been nonstop for 15 years since the movie."

Blabbermouth: Do you mind going back to the comment Robb made that ANVIL is "running out of time"? Is he thinking about the end of ANVIL?

Steve: "He's thinking about the end of our lives! It's all he worries about: 'We're running out of time!' He's been on this for the last 20 years. It's like, 'Relax, man. You're calling on death. Why do you want to call on death?'"

Blabbermouth: On that note, how are you feeling?

Steve: "I feel fine. It wasn't really a surgery; it was a procedure when they put two wires into my main arteries into my heart, then zap a couple of fucking nerve-endings in the heart so it stops doing fibrillation. But it was an hour-and-a-half procedure that I was awake for. I've had more fun doing other things. [Laughs]"

Blabbermouth: To Robb's point, the end is closer than the beginning.

Steve: "Yeah, but if you keep thinking that way, the end is going to come. You're focusing on your end. Why? You don't even know what tomorrow will bring. Why do you think making a call that, 'I'm going to die' is okay? It's bad. Go back 15 years; he was still doing that."

Blabbermouth: Does the disparity between you and Robb help make ANVIL tick?

Steve: "Like I said, I have his foot firmly shoved right up my ass: 'Well, what do you got? We're running out of fucking time.' [Laughs]"

Blabbermouth: Do you want to elaborate on your comment that you wrote "One And Only" front to back and didn't involve the other guys as much?

Steve: "I have been doing that all along. It's not just recently. I've been doing it all along. The only different thing is this time, I'm just not letting them have any say. That's what is different. I'm not doing it with an audience, which is the rest of the band telling me, 'Oh, no. Do that. Do this. Do that.' Fuck that, man. It takes twice as long to do it like that. Then the result is that I've never been satisfied. I never get satisfaction. There's little things wrong all over the place. It's one of those things, like, 'Those are the places that I let you in. And you didn't really capture what I'm thinking at all.' Anyway, there's no sense in talking about the past because it's done. You can't fix it."

Blabbermouth: How did Robb and Chris [Robertson, bass] react to this?

Steve: "They think it's great. Robb is the one who started it. I come in with bits and pieces and we put stuff together. One day, he gets up and he goes, 'Don't fucking waste my time.' I go, 'You're looking at it like it's a waste of time writing songs? Okay. Then don't worry about doing it all. I'll do it. You'll need to play catch up.' It's easier for me than having to suffer from him complaining. Why the hell am I doing that? It's stupid."

Blabbermouth: Are you then telling Robb what parts to play?

Steve: "It's accompaniment. It's all about accompaniment. It's all it ever was, anyway. But what happens is you get, 'Let's go into a part that does this or that.' Now you've departed the song. That's a problem. You're going off in a direction that maybe it shouldn't have gone. Okay, so we do it anyway and it ends up the way it ends up and that's the way it ends up. But did it end up the way it should? That's hard to say because you're never going to know. So, what I do before I go into rehearsal is put together the whole piece. Like, 'This is my part. Now figure out what part of yours works with my part.' My part is the whole song; the whole construction of the whole basic fundamental song is there. That's the way to go in. In ten minutes, you're cranking out the fucking song, not in three hours and with arguments and discussions and wasting time. You might as well do it yourself, get done with it and in ten minutes, we have a song. That's the way to do it. I find that even in the inception when you first come up with the stuff, it is way quicker. I'm sitting there by myself: 'Oh, wow. That part. That part.' In ten minutes, I've got the whole basic fundamental song. I put it into my computer and I'm done. There's no one to argue with. There is no one to discuss it with. It's done. The thing is, being the singer and the guitar player, who am I consulting with? Who do I need to consult with other than myself? I've got to write the music so I can sing. That's how it works. That's how a song is. You don't build a song from a drum or bass track. I guess you can get it from a bass track. It's easier than from the drums. The bass has notes. Coming up with a beat is fine, but it's hard to have a beat without music to play to."

Blabbermouth: Are you happy with how "One And Only" came out?

Steve: "Yeah, but the major disappointment in all of it is that I'm not having fun. That's the problem. That's the only issue is that I'm not having fun. Why I did things differently before is because I was trying to have fun. What I mean by that is that it's fun to create with a bunch of guys. There's a certain amount of enjoyment I get and now that's gone. The other thing is doing all the pre-work before you go in — I lose all my excitement. I did all the work before it got there. I do all of the vocals, write all the lyrics and get the song completed before I actually need to. You need to complete it when you're in the studio and not before. When you do it before, by the time you get to the studio, you're fucking sick of the songs. [Laughs] That's what happened. The newest album — I don't think I've even listened to it three times since I recorded it and that's almost a year ago. The reason I feel that way is because I've heard it and played it so much that it's like, 'What am I listening to it for?' That aspect is really the first time in my career that I can honestly say I'm feeling this way. Although I'm with the pre-production and being so fucking prepared, it's taken something else away that can't be replaced."

Blabbermouth: How do you get the fun back in ANVIL?

Steve: "Only by playing live."

Blabbermouth: Is that the only thing you enjoy?

Steve: "Pretty much at this point."

Blabbermouth: Then why do albums anymore? If it's something that is not fun, why do it?

Steve: "Well, there's nothing else to do. At 68 years old, I'm not picking up a new vocation, okay? It ain't going to happen. I'm not a multi-millionaire, so I need to work. This certainly beats the hell out of working at Choice Children's Catering. I'm not having as good a time with my music after the fact. That's all that it means. That's all that I've compromised. I've given up my enjoyment of listening to my records after the fact."

Blabbermouth: To be clear, everything else in ANVIL is fun, including spending time with your bandmates and the fans?

Steve: "Every other aspect is awesome. The only thing that I'm not happy with is the fact that I'm sick of my music by the time that it's done."

Blabbermouth: It's good you clarified that.

Steve: "It's not the songwriting aspect. It's afterward. It's after you've listened to your pieces of music a thousand times—how are you going to enjoy it a thousand and one? I don't care who the hell you are, but that's what happens. You can only listen to something so many times before you've listened to it enough that you don't need to listen to it anymore, or at least not for a year or two."

Blabbermouth: You're going through that now, then.

Steve: "Yes. Maybe in a few months, I'll listen to the album and enjoy it. But right now, why do I want to hear it? I can hear it in my head before I put it on the stereo. It's too ingrained. I need space, time and space. That also includes writing. If you do all your writing, you're not stopping. I think there's less of a difference between the last three albums than all of our albums put together. That's because we were writing one after each other, head to tail. I just pulled the faders down on the other album and I'm already writing the new songs. That's probably not the greatest idea. I'm not particularly happy about it. There are a number of things. Like I said, the fans are being spoiled. We're putting out too much too soon all the time. It gets taken for granted and to a great degree, that's true about MOTÖRHEAD. They put out albums almost once a year for years and years. Most people own one or two MOTÖRHEAD albums."

Blabbermouth: But you always knew what to expect from a MOTÖRHEAD record.

Steve: "Absolutely. And people would say, 'Oh, it sounds like the last one.' Well, what do you expect it to sound like? AC/DC? That's another stupid thing. They want you to sound the same, but they don't want you to sound the same: 'What happened to the old band? Why don't you sound like your old material?' 'But you said you don't want it to sound like that? You said you wanted it to sound like something different?' You're chopping bands for sounding the same. If you do, you're damned and if you don't, you're damned. Then you get TWISTED SISTER syndrome: 'I'm not going to record another album for 30 years because no one is going to appreciate it.' No, no, no. There's a contingency that waits who is always there waiting and absorbs it all. The hardcore fans love every second of it. They're not disappointed and have nothing negative to say. It's the stuff that's out there on the Internet."

Blabbermouth: If you had your druthers, what would you really do with ANVIL? Would you make a concept record? Would you do something progressive?

Steve: "No. I'm not interested in that. I'm not going to change. Why would I? 'I'm sick of having brown hair. I think I'll dye my hair blonde.' Why? Why don't I shave my head? I don't want to. It's as simple as that. I don't want to. I like what it is. It took me years and that's what the whole thing is about: Acquiring your identity. That's what being an artist means: an identity. Without that identity, you mean nothing. That's what the whole concept of 'One And Only' was to begin with. You have to be an individual. You have to be. If you want to get anywhere in the arts, that's what it means. It means individuality and originality. Doing someone else's song, sound and music is not going to work. You have to come up with something of your own. I have been since day one. And that's not just about music; it's about what I'm doing onstage, the things I say and the things I do. It's about an image. It's many, many different facets that you have to have to stand out. If not, then you don't. That's why I use a vibrator. That's why I yell into the pickups into my guitar. No one else does it! It's mine. I own it."

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