Last week I managed to secure an interview with Lips from Anvil, thanks to the wonderful Caitlin Reeves over at The End Records. By now most of you know the Anvil story. And if you haven’t seen Anvil! The Story of Anvil, then shame on you. It is one of the best stories you will ever see. And hopefully, after seeing it, and reading this interview, you guys will truly have an appreciation for one of the good guys in metal. And I also hope this inspires some of you to check out the new CD Hope In Hell (it totally rocks!), and some previous works. They’re all worth it, I assure you. So, without further ado, here it is:
Amps: How is Sal (Italiano, bass) taking to life in Anvil? Did it help that he was a friend of the band first?
Lips: We’ve known Sal for many years, since the 80’s, and his band opened for us at L’Amour in Brooklyn. When Glen Five quit, the first person we thought of was Sal. It was pretty seamless. The only change was, all of a sudden the sun came out. We had been having some dreary days, and now, not so much. The guy playing bass became very unhappy, and he quit. That’s it. I guess he had expectations that didn’t get fulfilled.
Amps: Juggernaut of Justice was really one hell of a record, and then for this album, Hope In Hell, you did it AGAIN. These last two albums seem more raw and loud than This Is Thirteen. Tell me about the differences in working with Chris Tsangarides and Bob Marlette.
Lips: Working with Bob is a lot better for us. You really can’t compare the two. One guy is from the world of selling millions of records, and one is from where they sell thousands. One guy is really metal, and the other does just about anything.
Bob Marlette was a consultant for Pro Tools. I mean, he was one of the guys who helped design the thing! Whereas, Chris doesn’t even own Pro Tools. And it’s not to say that C.T. isn’t a great producer, but he does things in the old traditional way, and sometimes it’s a lot harder on the musicians. With Bob, I can go in and be finished with a song in two hours, and do ten times better a job than with C.T. I do one chorus, with harmonies and all, and then Bob places them all, so that they are perfect, and I don’t have to stand there all day trying to get it there. When you get to the last chorus of a song with C.T., you might as well be doing it the next day, cause you’re burned out from doing it (laughs). It just really helps when you work with someone who knows a lot about digital equipment.
Amps: “Badass Rock & Roll”, and “Flying”…these are such great songs, I have to tell you. And it sounds like you guys are really having some fun on them, just rippin’ shit up. Fair to say?
Lips: Yeah, that’s it. The writing was just Robb and I. We’d get into rehearsal and just start playing, and writing songs quickly. Because that’s when the truest magic is, when you’re not overthinking things, and you just let them naturally flow. That’s what we did with our earliest albums, because we didn’t know any better (laughing)! It was just complete innocence. You weren’t questioning every little decision and trying to add the kitchen sink in. And that’s what happens as you get better as a musician. You start wrestling with your own ego, in the sense that, “Oh I’ve gotta put as much as I possibly can in, so people will be impressed with what I’m doing”. And that’s not the recipe. The recipe is to just open your heart and play, and have fun. Don’t forget to have fun in the heat of the moment. When we created a song, if we started it we finished it within a couple of hours. And each one has its complete direction, unbroken. We had one train of thought, and worked our way through it from top to bottom. For example, on “Flying”, we were in the heat of it, and I went to work on the solo, and Robb says to me, “Well, hurry up!”, because he didn’t wanna lose that train of thought, and if we had waited, it would have been a very different song. Trying to pick up where we left off later, or the next day just wouldn’t have worked.
Amps: (laughing) I can’t believe he said “Hurry up!”
Lips: I know! And I’m saying, “I’m trying! (laughing) I know what I wanna play, but my fingers aren’t responding fast enough!”
Amps: With regards to touring, what are the plans? I know you’re in Europe till Aug 10th. Are there any plans for a U.S. run?
Lips: To be honest, I really don’t know. I couldn’t even tell you if we’re selling any records, or getting any airplay, or anything. I have NO IDEA what the fuck is going on. We’re looking to put some kind of a package together. For me, the best thing would be to go on tour with Motörhead, that would be amazing. We did Club Nokia in Los Angeles a few weeks ago with them, and it was incredible! What a combination! Because it’s exactly the same audience, and it was seamless. For the fans it was amazing to be out there and get pummeled for three hours! It’s something we’d hope for, but the thing is, we don’t know what kind of shape Motörhead is in, what with Lemmy just going in the hospital.
Another thing is I’d like to put our own package together and take out another couple of bands. I would love to go out with Raven, and maybe The Rods. That would be similar to what we just did in New Jersey for Sandy Relief, and that pulled in $40,000. It would be an interesting bill. Don’t know how well we would be received, but I imagine that it would be pretty good. Seeing some original metal bands from before the Big Four, you know? One way or the other we’re gonna come down and tour, it’s just a question of who with. That’s the unknown, right now.
Amps: What are some of your favorite places to play?
Lips: The places that stand out are always the places you’ve never been. Your first time there will always have some spectacular moments, especially in other countries. Going to Tai Pei last Canada day was incredible. Believe it or not, there is a huge Canadian contingency there, and they host the largest Canada Day celebration outside of the country. It was really bizarre being in such a foreign place and seeing Canadian flags everywhere.
Other special places for Anvil are Holland, Belgium, Germany, and we have a really really big stronghold in Sweden. After the movie was shown in Sweden all the radio stations went crazy and people downloaded “Metal On Metal” and made it #2 on iTunes at Christmastime. Nothing says the holidays like that song, right? (We both laugh) The people there were so sick of Christmas music that there was this big push to get the song to #1 on Christmas Day!
Amps: What’s in your CD player besides Anvil?
Lips: Some of my favorites are Deep Purple’s In Rock, Rainbow Rising, Black Sabbath Masters of Reality is one of my all-time favorites, Motörhead’s Sacrifice and Bastards, and I like a lot of their newer stuff. Believe it or not, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s first album. I like obscure shit like Budgie, too. I get a good charge out of that. I still live in the 70’s!
Amps: What do you do to unwind, away from playing music?
Lips: Kayaking. I really like that. And bicycling. I love spending time with my wife. We like to travel, particularly to New York and L.A. We’ve bicycled all over New York City, and it was incredible. Probably the most detailed I’ve ever seen the city. Generally when you do it by subway, or cab, you don’t see a lot. By bicycle you see everything, and it’s quite remarkable, especially up and down the Hudson River.
Amps: Anvil’s been around for a little over 35 years now. Why?
Lips: Part of it is because Robb and I started as kids. So in the most formative years we made the decision that we were gonna do it as a lifelong thing. It made it that much easier. Maybe it’s fate, maybe it’s meant to be, but a good portion, and a good reason why it’s lasted is friendship, and having the same goals and musical tastes. In 1973, I went to a jam and Robb had showed up, and we started jamming, and the guitarist that invited me stopped playing. And it was just Robb and I playing, for two hours. Finally he says, “What the fuck are you guys playing? What is that??” And we said, “We’re making it up as we go!” But Robb is the kind of drummer that listens to me, and plays to me, and it all fell into place. First jam, we were writing songs. So we left the jam, a couple of teenagers, and I said to him, “We should put something together”, and that was it. It’s never really changed since! Hell, I play guitar, I can carry a tune, so why not? I feel comfortable talking to crowds of people, and there’s no acting with us. We’re genuinely excited to be up there playing. It’s singing, playing, and entertaining, and that’s what Anvil does.
Amps: Well thank you so much for doing this, Lips. Love the new record, and I hope you get down here to Texas on tour.
Lips: Hey no problem. We’ve had a good time talking, right? (I emphatically say YES!) When we get down to Dallas, get in touch with me for sure. Take care, Damian!
How cool was that?? I spent almost an hour on the phone with one of the kindest, realest, and genuine people, not just in metal, but in all of music period! This was a great day for sure. Hope you all liked this one.