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Anvil started out as Lips in 1978, but by the time it released its debut album, Hard 'N' Heavy, in 1981, it was going by the name we know today. The first three Anvil albums, including Metal on Metal and Forged in Fire, pioneered a furiously fast and aggressive music that became known as "speed metal" and created the sonic framework for thrash.
Guns N' Roses, Slayer and Anthrax all cite the band as an influence, but somehow, Anvil never broke out in metal's mid- to late-'80s heyday. Nonetheless, the group forged on, putting out albums as an underground endeavor for thirty years.
In 2008, former roadie Sacha Gervasi released an extraordinary documentary film called Anvil! The Story of Anvil that garnered the band the type of notoriety it deserves. We spoke with Steve "Lips" Kudlow during a tour in support of the group's latest effort, This Is Thirteen, about the importance of dreams and Anvil's unprecedented performance on The Tonight Show.
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Westword: One thing I like about your interviews is how you talk about having a dream and aspirations. Can you tell me why having a dream is so important and what the dangers are of not having one?
Steve Kudlow: You have to have a dream, man, you have to have a goal. Basically, Rob and I made the decision at a very young age that this was something we were going to do for the rest of our lives. It wasn't some sort of, "Well let's go make it big." It was really about watching our favorite bands put out albums, go commercial, burn out and break up. We swore that we would never do that. And we've kept to those sort of childish aspirations.
Unfortunately, life really can put you through the wringer. For most people, it burns them out. For us, it was very much the fuel of failure in the sense that, "You're saying we can't? Oh, yeah? We'll show you!" We didn't quit or give up on our dreams. It's really not about the money. It's about doing what you love and getting away with it. That's what it's really all about. I didn't want a one-hit wonder, make it big and be over.
What has been the most gratifying moment for you so far in this renaissance of interest in your band?
Probably playing Conan. Playing on The Tonight Show. I mean, come on, man, think about it. In ten minutes, we were seen by more people and heard by more people than in the thirty years all put together. It was unbelievable. When you're doing it, you're playing live to a studio audience, but in the back of your mind you're thinking, "There's ten million people watching me!" It was a really good thing for us, and more importantly, I think it was a really great day for the metal genre — an underground band playing on The Tonight Show.