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Steve “Lips” Kudlow: “I live with no regrets”

Long-lost metal god Steve "Lips" Kudlow of Anvil talks about the documentary that reignited his music career - and why he doesn't need the sex and drugs in rock 'n' roll.

Image for Steve “Lips” Kudlow:
Photo by stusev (Flickr CC)

A bridge between the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and emergent speed metal, Canada’s Anvil, led by the singer/guitarist/songwriter Steve “Lips” Kudlow, was – for a brief bit of the early 1980s – a hot commodity.

But a long absence, spurred on by legal troubles, left the band in commercial limbo: they spent years slogging along the minor-league metal circuit.

Since former Anvil roadie, early Bush drummer and Ginger-Spice-impregnator Sacha Gervasi, released his love letter of a documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008), the band is finally getting its due, as evidenced by a gig at C-Club on July 2 (with Girlschool opening!) and a DJ set at White Trash Fast Food on July 1.

What caused the legal conflict that hampered your career?

Pointless to answer this: shoulda woulda coulda. I live with no regrets. Everything ended up the way it was meant to. Unfortunately, we stopped recording between the years of 1983 to 1987 – brutal reality. We had no management, no possibilities of proper touring. We never had the opportunity to either benefit or fail. It was too late to keep a momentum. It spiraled down and then we had member changes. It’s all very typical.

Perhaps the reason Anvil didn’t break through was that your musical peers were serious acts such as Metallica and Megadeth, while the humor of your lyrics was closer to the pop metal of Mötley Crüe and David Lee Roth.

To start looking for musical problems… I would have to say it was least of the problem. The facts speak louder than words: the so-called worst Anvil recording [1987’s] Strength of Steel has ended up being one of our most sought after CDs – our only CD to make into the Billboard charts. The “Mad Dog” video is still run on Canadian TV. But with no tour support, it was destined to run its course and fade. We still haven’t re-manufactured it yet.

There’s one puzzling aspect missing from the Anvil documentary and that’s the sex and drugs to go with the rock ‘n’ roll. You were an 1980s metal band, after all.

That’s your opinion… Why the question? Sex had no valid reason to be part of the story at this point in time, which is what the movie detailed: not 30 years ago. It would have been a totally destructive thing to portray me as a family man who sleeps with groupies. I don’t, so how and why would we want to assassinate my character? Just for the jollies of entertainment? We wanted to be real and honest. We didn’t manufacture or script what happened. It just did.

The film must have truly altered your lives.

Anvil is a huge commodity at the moment, and I imagine that if we get our new CD out soon it will do better than we’ve ever done in the past. When people ask if it’s going to last… it’s been 37 years already and, quite honestly, we are extraordinarily famous, which doesn’t go away that quickly, particularly with the cultural phenomenon that Anvil: The Story of Anvil has created.

Your optimism in the band weathered a lot of hard times.

I’m doing what I love and, most thankfully, we had a German record label behind us through the most difficult years in heavy metal history. Massacre put out half of our catalog over the years, and were as dedicated to us as we were to them, and as we both were to our fans. We’ve always done well enough to continue and, with those contingencies covered, there was never any reason to stop or quit. Remaining optimistic was just a matter of fact.