ANVIL / Without Germany – NO ANVIL / Interview with Lips

Lips of Anvil on

After all these years, the huge canadian metal heroes of ANVIL made a big return to the scene. Though they weren’t away and constantly touring and making records, the rockumentary movie “The Story Of ANVIL” – a film about true and live long friendship, and the SPINAL TAP type struggle to keep the band running – brought them back to success. Their 2011 comeback album “Juggernaut Of Justice” obviously was a big step in their unique carreer, bringing back the heavy metal ANVIL we used to know in the 80ies.

Now “Hope in Hell” – their brandnew 2013 album – is about to shoot them again into the top rankings metal recordings. With an even more aggressive sound and heavier riffing and with a lot of remarkable ANVIL-type melodies Lips, Robb and their new bass player Sal are going to conquer the continents of metal. While fans waiting desperately to hear “Hope in Hell”, had the honour to talk to Mr. Lips – guitarplayer, singer, songwriter, heart and soul of ANVIL – who sat at the phone far away in Canada. He turned out to be the nice and goodhearted, euphoric music maniac guy we know from earlier interviews, from stage and from the movie – always with his heart on his tongue.

Interview by Martin Hannig / Pic by courtesy of SPV Hi Lips!

Lips: Hi Martin! How are you? Did you hear our record? Yes, of course. It’s fantastic! Extremely well produced, aggressive, pure metal. I thought after “Juggernaut” it couldn’t get much better. What do you think about recording “Hope in Hell”?

Lips: We worried about that. We asked how we gonna do that? Whenever you do a new album, you’re always left with that kind of feelings. Same kind of feeling we had after “Metal on Metal”. What are we gonna do now? I mean we created “Forged in Fire”… Unfortunately at that particular time, instead of getting better, the production got worse. It had nothing to do with the songs, it was simply the sound. “Forged in Fire” was nowhere nearer to what “Metal on Metal” was. And “Metal on Metal” was a much dryer, contained sound.  I remember looking back on 81 / 82, I bought the “Hard n Heavy” album, just because of the title 😉 and it was very low produced, quite bad sound. And then came “Metal on Metal” with a massive improvement in songwriting and production and I always wondered about that improvement!

Lips: And in this particular case it kind of went the other way around! The new album is more like “Metal on Metal”, a bit dry and in your face. “Juggernaut” was a huge improvement of what we have ever done before. But that doesn’t came from the actual production, it came from working with Bob (the producer Bob Marlette). Bob gave me a lot of influence. He told me what make great songs. The way I constructed my music. He told me to really focusing on certain area of my songs to make them stronger. He told me to give the people a piece of music that they can understand. Not be overcomplicated and put more than it needs to be in my music. The arrangements were smooth and understandable to follow. When I wrote the music, it went up to the heart of the song, and that is the chorus. You know it’s the chorus even when you listen to it without the singing. So by constructing it that way every song will be memorable in your work. It’s important to get the heart of the song. In this way it’s like the first album! I remember that album very well!

Lips: You know what’s really fascinating?  We rehearsed to play them songs live yesterday. I was playing “Bad ass” and all of a sudden – holy shit – I havn’t had that feeling when I play since the first album!

I found my way

back home It’s like a closing circle I guess….

Lips: Ya, it’s like I found my way back home!  It’s a very straightforward song, “Bad ass Rock’n’Roll”. Kind of fun to hear, it’s fun to bang and fun to dance around.

Lips: That’s right. It’s part of what we were when we began. I didn’t force myself to do, but I did it. And when I did it, I didn’t realized that I actually touched some of my early influences. To me that song lyricwise and also musically could be a Lemmy song, he use to write that kind of dirty Motörhead songs. Mean rock’n’roll style!

Lips: That Rock’n’Roll is very much part of what Anvil was. My favourite music is like that. … for example?

Lips: Ted Nugent. Hey it’s obvious! Like “Tease Me Please Me” on “Metal on Metal”! What was that? Pure Rock’n’Roll! We did that for years! Yes, and it’s clear to hear on “Hope in Hell”, but simultaneously I notice it’s aggressive and mean, and your voice also sounding excellent. Did you work a lot to be that powerful with your vocals?

Lips: It’s singing properly. When you sing 100% within your range, you’re powerful, you’ve got energy. When you sing out of your range it makes you sound weak. These are influences of the producer. So Bob did contribute a lot to your new … eeeh…. no, to your old Anvil feeling.

Lips:  Yeah, maybe because he’s aware of what is good for Anvil. That’s what a producers job is. He helps the musicians, so the musicians can get the best out of themselves. That’s what this guy did! I guess he did it with “Juggernaut”, but the new album is one step further – and the first reviews are quite good.

Lips: It’s a really beautiful thing for Rob and I. This CD was completely written only by Rob and I. What makes that a bit different is, with more people involved you get lost into explanation, instead of  “what are we doing next, what’s the next part”…  And that is what throws it down. It’s not that the other isn’t helping. For the writer, for me, it’s way better,  to just get through all my thoughts, without any interruption. And it’s incredible, I get something going! I ask Robbo “what kind of riff are we looking for? What kind of beat you wanna play?” And he demonstrate a beat and I go “ok” and I come up with the riff. and that’s the song!

Lips: And that’s the beginnings of the songs! That’s how quick the songs happened. And you don’t want interruption! You don’t want somebody’s opinion! The drummer’s there ready to go, he’s tellin’ you “do this”, he’s kind of guiding you and givin’ you inspiration. And it’s like an explosion of ideas, you gotta collect it and put it together. Every time we write a song for this record, we start that way and within half an hour we have a completed song. Well that’s unbelievable after all these years of recording albums, in this long career…

There’s no end of

what can be done

Lips: ….no it’s not unbelievable. Like Rob yesterday said: It’s because of the style in which I play. There’s no end of what can be done. We play everything from rock things to Heavy Metal. We have an endless myriad of possibilities. Even if a riff is similar to one that’s been used before, it’s only similar and it’s new because you’re doing it. So there’s virtually no end to what can be done. You’re only limited by your imagination. And I don’t feel limited in that regard (laughs). It’s just my way. I’ve never been someone who copies. Hey, you were one of the bands who invented that whole genre!

Lips: You know, as a kid I didn’t sit down and figured out what the other guy was playing. I just kind of imitated, doing it by ear. I kind of learned the guitar by myself. And now, in creating my own pieces of music, I find it very difficult to copy. There’s an endless supply of possibilities of playing. That’s the way I trained myself, that’s the way I approach it. There’s no end! Look at The Rolling Stones… Look at Lemmy…. Makes new records every two years….

Lips: There’s no end, because you can always do it slightly different than you did it before. Listening to “Hope in Hell” I guess these bunch of songs would do great on stage. Do we have a chance to see Anvil in Europe again this year?

Lips: Yes of course. We will come probably in the fall. It’s: Let’s get the record out, people get excited and we come and play! There’s plans and sorting things out, and we should be comin’ in the fall. That’s all I know at this point. What about playing festival shows?

Lips: Not this summer, but for sure we will play festivals in the next summer, 2014. Is Germany a good place for Anvil to play? How’s the relationship to Germany for you?

Lips:  I gotta tell you an incredible thing. If it wasn’t for Germany, there would be no Anvil. Ah no, you’re kiddin’ ….

Germany is

the strong home

of Heavy Metal 

Lips: No no, I’m really serious! Through the worst years Heavy Metal has ever known, we had a record deal in Germany. That made it possible for us to put out six albums in the 90ies. That’s incredible! And people bought it. They would have dropped us after the first one, if people didn’t buy it. The people liked Anvil! We always knew that. It’s a very very special place. As far as I’m concerned, it is really the strong home of what we know as heavy metal. Really in fact, it’s a home of all music. It has to do with culture. If we start looking at music history,  it’s not much to question it, right? The real essence of music comes from Germany. Do you mean the classics?

Lips:  I just mean music in general.  And the music appreciation. Every aspect of music has always done well in Germany. It’s always been known for that. Even when we came in the nineties for the first time, we didn’t know how enormous and how important Germany really was until we came there in 93. And that was an incredible awakening, and I can’t tell you how deeply I appreciate and how I love Germany. They take the music very seriously. They are not “jump on the bandwagon” people. If they like it they like it forever. You know, what goes big in America, has nothing to do with German taste and German culture. It’s like an oasis…. See, without the club in Hamburg, what’s the name… – there wouldn’t be no Beatles….

entertaim.netThe Star Club!

Lips:  Yes! Like I say, history speaks for itself! Yes, the Beatles came down from Liverpool and became a real band in the Star Club, playing all the cover songs every day. I wonder if you like The Beatles. Or what bands accompanied you all the years? What music do you love?

Lips: Obviously Black Sabbath…. They’re doing a new record right now…

Lips: I’m one of the people who say that’s great! I don’t care what anybody else says. I don’t have huge expectations, I just let the music speak. Quite frankly: Black Sabbath at it’s worst is better than most of the other bands. In my opinion there isn’t anything that do bad. It’s like Motörhead. I don’t go: “That album is better than this album, and this is better than that”. For me – I can’t judge a record from such a long time artist as “good” or “bad”. It’s just a way of artistical expression. If Motörhead makes a new record, it’s Lemmy and you have to love it or leave it – but don’t mock about…

Lips: That’s the way it should be! People should walk out. It’s not that “better” or “worse”… They should be grateful for. On some of your new bands pics, I see you, Lips, with a Canada shirt, with the canadian maple leaf and a skull on it. In Europe we use to observe the USA, and Canada isn’t on our radar screen.  What is your relationship to your home country? Are you proud to be a Canadian?

Lips: Yes I am. Because I’ve become somewhat of a representative of my home country. People come to realize that Anvil is representing Canada all over the world. And sometimes it’s crazy. When we got to Australia, I mean that’s far far away from home… and when I got there, I was feeling exactly like if I was in Canada!  You get out of the airport, and you think you are in Canada. Maybe it’s because of the Commonwealth, the British roots….

I wanna turn my enemies

into my friends and the French…

Lips: (laughs): Yes – I really feel like being at home in those countries. The things we stand for, the outlook on live, tenacity, and all those positive aspects, have been embraced by our land finally. It’s taken my whole career to get to this point. It was always: If my country will not supporting me, as a musician, I’m doing the opposite, I support them. That’s the kind of person I am: I wanna turn my enemies into my friends. Like said in the bible…

Lips: Yes. That’s my soul. Thanks very much Lips for that fantastic interview. We wish you all the best with the new album!

Lips: Thanks Martin. See you!