The roots of Anvil began in April 1973 in Toronto, when high school friends Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner began playing music together. They met through friend, guitarist and neighbour Marty Hoffman, but “musical differences” caused his departure after their first show. By 1978, the first full line-up of the band included Kudlow (lead vocals, lead guitar), Reiner (drums), Dave “Squirrely” Allison (rhythm guitar), backing vocals) and Ian “Dix” Dickson (bass). At this point, the band was called Lips.
Success in the 1980s (1981–1989)
In 1981, the band released an independent album called Hard ‘N’ Heavy. Shortly after they were signed by Attic Records, they changed their name to Anvil and the independent album was released by Attic as their debut album. Following its release, Lemmy asked Kudlow to play guitar for Motörhead to replace “Fast” Eddie Clarke, but he declined. By 1983, Aerosmith manager David Krebs and assistant Paul O’Neill signed Anvil and convinced Attic to release the band from their contract so the band could sign with a major label. However, after initial interest, Krebs eventually stopped returning phone calls and did not get the band a major label recording contract, but eventually released the band from the managing contract allowing the band to find their own record deal in mid-1986. In 2012, during an exclusive interview with Metal Shock Finland’s Chief Editor, Mohsen Fayyazi, Kudlow stated the following when he was asked about David Krebs:
“ …David had little or no knowledge of metal music. He managed Aerosmith and thought we were a great opener, but beyond that he couldn’t find us a deal without including our first three albums in a deal. The company Attic refused to license or release those recordings in the USA. This made it impossible for David to go forward with us. He pulled us out of the contract with Attic and left us to die or what ever !! We wrote Strength of Steel [the band’s fourth album, released in 1987] and recorded it on our own and released it through Metal Blade. Unfortunately this was 4 years after Forged in Fire which made the album 3 years too late… ”
Free to pursue a recording contract, they were signed by American label Metal Blade Records in 1987, by William Howell (a fan who is now a DJ with KNAC radio). They released three records with Metal Blade, starting with Strength of Steel, which was the group’s most commercially successful record in the United States, peaking at No. 191 on the Billboard 200.
In the early 1990s, Anvil were picked up by Maximum Records, an independent Canadian label that was formed by Helix’s manager-at-the-time William Seip. From 1996, they were signed by Hypnotic Records in Canada and Massacre Records in Germany. According to Lips, Anvil would have not continued had it not been for the German fans and the German contract. Germany was the only market for reasonable sales in that period, so the country kept the band running and gave them the opportunity to do more records. In 2001, the band recorded Plenty of Power and continued touring.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil documentary, and This Is Thirteen (2006–2009)
In 2006, the band recorded with Chris Tsangarides, who previously produced their acclaimed 1982 album Metal on Metal. After failing to find a major label that was willing to distribute the band’s new material, the album, titled This Is Thirteen, was self-released in 2007, and was available exclusively from the band’s official website.
The band’s history has been documented in the documentary film Anvil! The Story of Anvil released in 2008. The film has received high praise which has put Anvil back into the public consciousness, propelling them to play several festivals including the Download Festival in 2009 at which they headlined the Tuborg stage. Rolling Stone called the movie “the year’s most praised rock doc.” The band played “Cat Scratch Fever” with Slash and Anthrax’s Scott Ian at the Sundance Film Festival, where the movie premiered.
Regarding the movie, Lips states:
“It stands as a prime example of what an industry—particularly the music industry—can put an artist through. At the same time, I take responsibility for our actions in the past. We were just sustaining who we are. Now someone’s come along and brought it to a new level. Now we’re getting praise for never selling out and sticking to our guns. It’s a celebration. We got our notoriety on our own terms. We’ve done what we want. Not what someone told us to do. ”
Following the success of the Anvil documentary, VH1 Classic Records re-released This Is Thirteen on CD and vinyl on September 15, 2009 with a newly recorded song, “Thumb Hang”, although it had been written by the band during the 80s. Guitarist Ivan Hurd left the band at this stage to settle down with his new wife. The double-vinyl LP contains re-recorded versions of Anvil classics “Metal on Metal” and “666”.
Lips from Anvil at the Headbangers Open Air, Germany 2014
In 2009, Bantam Press released the book Anvil: The Story of Anvil authored by Lips and Reiner with a foreword by Slash. On March 28, 2009, Kudlow and Reiner were the featured guests on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show. Anvil played the Rocklahoma festival in Pryor, Oklahoma in 2009, and opened for AC/DC at their first few summer Black Ice World Tour shows (North American leg II). They also supported Saxon on a leg of UK shows in November.
Anvil appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien on October 6, 2009, the first network television appearance of their career, to coincide with the release of Anvil! The Story Of Anvil on DVD in North America, and performed “Metal on Metal”.
On October 8, 2009, Anvil filmed a cameo performance in a rock club for The Green Hornet.
Continued career (2009–present)
From June to July 2010, the band went on a headline tour of Europe selling out venues in the UK, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands as well as festivals in Finland, Sweden, France, Italy and Germany. Lips confirmed on this tour that he had in fact paid back his sister the loan to pay for the production of This is Thirteen.
They released Juggernaut of Justice, their 14th studio album, on May 10, 2011. Lips stated that the band drew from “about 20 songs written”.
Following the release of the album the band completed yet more tours in Europe and North America often playing alongside artists such as Alice Cooper and Saxon. The band released a new greatest hits album Monument of Metal: The Very Best of Anvil. Anvil also started re-releasing their old material starting with Strength of Steel, Pound For Pound and Worth the Weight later that same year.
In January 2012, Glenn Gyorffy quit Anvil citing creative differences. Lips confirmed that another player had been found to fill in on the remainder of the their tour dates. Anvil embarked on their 2012 Winter Tour of the US with Sal Italiano on bass, formerly a bassist for an Iron Maiden tribute band. During Lips’s interview with Metal Shock Finland, he stated:
“ We hired an old friend to do the tour and are currently working with a new, improved bassist. There was no major issue in fixing this at all, and in fact, everything was sorted out within a few hours of Glenn departing. Glenn tried to make it difficult by leaving without proper notice, but we’ve been preparing for this for quite some time. This did end up for the better, as it is a huge improvement with our new guy, both musically as well as personally. ”
May 2013 saw the release of Hope in Hell, a new Anvil studio recording again produced by Bob Marlette, who—according to Lips—contributed a lot to songwriting skills and arrangements. The whole album was written by Lips and Reiner alone. In some songs Lips was inspired by his love of heavy “rock’n’roll”, which made him feel he “found his way home” to the time when they did their first record. In an interview with The Drummer’s Journal, Lips outlined how the record was written “as if it was 1983 again.” The band has been touring to promote that album—in fall 2013 they played Europe, and in summer of 2014 they played some European festival gigs.
In 2014, Anvil parted ways with Sal Italiano and replaced him with Chris Robertson, who was already acting as the band’s rehearsal bassist and a member of their road crew and he’s been rocking with the band ever since and is a perfect fit for Lips and Rob to make the band tighter than ever.