You’re in the majority if you’ve never heard of Anvil, the Canadian metal band that influenced the likes of Metallica and Slayer in the early eighties; they’ve been toiling in obscurity for nearly 30 years. But it is their toil that makes them legendary: The band is the focus of the brand-new rock doc Anvil! The Story of Anvil, by director Sacha Gervasi, a metalhead who was obsessed with the band as a kid. Vulture spoke to front man Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Gervasi about never giving up.
Sacha, can you talk about what Anvil meant to you as a kid?
Gervasi: One word: everything. Everything! I was a huge metalhead, I had every album, I knew every member of every band. And they were my favorite band. They had incredible showmanship — you know, Lips running around with a dildo. It was quite a mind-warping experience.
Lips, where does the drive to play faster than everybody else come from?
Kudlow: It wasn’t a question of playing faster than everybody else. You have to understand that a riff is a riff. But what is the drummer doing? Robb is a very special drummer. When I write riffs, I write with drums in mind. One of the earliest songs where we got a great sound, it was called “Pussy Poison” …
Gervasi: Thirty years later and I’m still laughing. What the fuck, seriously?! “Pussy Poison”?! What band has a fucking song called “Pussy Poison”?! And another one called “Hair Pie”! And another one called “Show Me Your Tits”! Sorry, I interrupted.
Kudlow: The thing you gotta understand is that the majority of our audience is all male. So a good laugh with the sexually oriented stuff goes hand in hand. But the idea of playing fast like that — you know, we heard Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, the early version of metal, but no one was using a double bass drum.
In the early eighties you were playing shows with popular bands. When did everything slow down for Anvil?
Kudlow: When we played shows with Bon Jovi and Scorpions and all that stuff, those were only once-in-a-while things. It’s not like we were playing concert halls everywhere. Generally speaking, we’ve been playing clubs and small concerts for 30 years. So it really has never gone away.
When Sacha first approached you about doing the documentary, were you hesitant at all?
Kudlow: Oh, I was ecstatic. I broke out crying. I was like, fuck, I just won the fucking lottery! You’d have to be pretty gone mentally to not realize — an incredible screenwriter from Hollywood wants to make a movie about you, what would anybody say? Oh my God!
Sacha, were you concerned that the documentary would be depressing?
Gervasi: No, the whole point was to show it all. There’s a huge amount of humor, there’s a huge amount of sadness, a huge amount of desperation, a huge amount of inspiration. I just wanted to make a fan letter in a very honest way. You know, the world is really unfair. It’s Rocky, with Marshall Amplifiers. But there’s a happy ending, which is what’s happening after the film.
What was the process of getting the testimonials from the likes of Slash and Lars Ulrich?
Gervasi: I called one person, and they all called me. They couldn’t believe that someone was making an Anvil movie. They were all so excited, especially Lars Ulrich — he came into the studio, it was supposed to be a five-minute quickie, he was in there for a half an hour talking about the influence they had on Metallica and in general.
What does the future hold for Anvil?
Gervasi: Anvil the Show, Anvil Off Broadway Live. We’re going for it. We’re not fucking around. Anvil on Ice, I wanna try it right now. I’ve got an idea. With Anvil, anything is possible. Anvil on Ice: Hair Pie.