Since you've likely not yet seen Sacha Gervasi's new documentary, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, you're just gonna have to take our word for it that both the band and the movie (see our review) rule. The missing link between Slade and Mötley Crüe, Anvil will be hitting the Crofoot in Pontiac for a live show on April 21, just days before the film opens at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak. We caught up with singer-guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow, 53, by phone from Los Angeles, as he dodged bitchy press agents and jaw-gnashing NPR reporters to bring Metro Times the good news.
METRO TIMES: It's clear from the early footage that Anvil didn't look or sound like other bands of the era — what do you attribute that to?
STEVE "LIPS" KUDLOW: Probably being Canadian (laughs). We're neither English-sounding nor American-sounding. That's broad-stroking it though, because the real truth is that metal music is a universal type of thing. What we do comes extremely naturally — there's no pretense or deep thought to it. But, in the era we came up in, you had to have something very unique.
MT: Who did you and drummer Robb Reiner look up to?
LIPS: Bands like Judas Priest — I can remember listening to them years before they broke big and wondering why don't more people know about these guys? In fact, I can remember buying Deep Purple's Machine Head before "Smoke on the Water" was on the radio.
MT: Your look, back in the day, was so outrageous — this kind of weird bondage-type thing. How did you come up with that?
LIPS: I was influenced by guys like Alice Cooper. I was looking for something that was unusual and somewhat shocking. At that time, image was an extremely important aspect to the rock 'n' roll thing. It started with zebra-print pants with no shirt and just a dog collar with a leash on it. Originally, the band was called "Lips," so we were doing the whole sexual thing — but we wanted to do it more tongue-in-cheek. We started dressing up the stage with bras, feather boas and panties on the mic stands and amplifiers. I would magic marker a big pair of lips on my ass and get up on the drum riser and do somewhat of a striptease and pull down my pants. This was back in, like, 1979 — it just kind of evolved from there.
MT: When did the vibrator show up?
LIPS: I've been playing guitar my whole life and, as a child, I remember having this little toy called the "Motorific." It was a car that you snapped together with a motor in it. I remember putting it near my guitar and realizing that it made noise when you got it close to the pickups. There was a company called Consumer's Distributing up in Canada, which was the type of store where you go in and write down the order number out of the catalog, you walk up to the desk, and the guy brings you the product. In the catalog was a woman's vibrator, and they were only $1.97. I was like, "I've got a great idea!" I bought five of them and I just remember the look on the guy's face (laughs). I started using it on my guitar at our early shows. I would go out into the crowd and stir drinks with the vibrator and wipe it on girls' dresses and stuff like that. It was just completely outrageous.
MT: After 35 years, you and Robb still have the enthusiasm of a pair of 16-year-olds. How have you managed to maintain that?
LIPS: Men only grow old; they don't grow up. That's the heart of it, man — we're big kids.
MT: It's clear that, as much as you guys care about each other, your relationship can be volatile at times.
LIPS: Let's face it, any relationship can be volatile. You're not gonna have an all-out fight unless you know the person really well. What could be more exemplary in showing how a relationship works than to show a breakdown or two? It really ended up being the heart of the movie and some of the most beautiful sentiments came out of it.
MT: A lot of times, the motivating force in a band is also painted as the control freak. How would Robb describe you?
LIPS: [Boldly] Probably as his best and dearest friend. I feel more love from him than I do from anybody else in the world.
MT: What is your philosophy of life?
LIPS: If it can happen, it will happen. The most important thing is never to quit or give up. I always felt, in my heart, that there was something very special about what Robb and I were doing. I knew it was important.
MT: Has Anvil played Detroit before?
LIPS: Oh, yeah — not a lot of times, but a few.
MT: Do you have any memories of it?
LIPS: Yeah, empty clubs. [laughs uproariously]
MT: I think it's gonna be better this time.
LIPS: [laughs] OK.
The Anvil Experience — the Anvil movie premieres and the band performs live — is Tuesday, April 21, at the Crofoot, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333.Wendy Case is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]