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Iconic metal pioneers Anvil release their incredible 20th album One And Only - Summer 2024

One And Only

One And Only is the absolutely stunning new album from iconic metal pioneers Anvil. What’s even more incredible is that the band continue to produce music of the standard for what is now their 20th album. This is an incredible milestone and its testament to their longevity, creativity, enduring fanbase and above all the fact that it’s simply a part of their DNA. As you will read in this feature, One And Only contains some quite profound moments from a songwriting perspective that truly show the closeness and brotherhood that exists within this band, just one of the things that has made Anvil one of the most loved bands of the last generation. We catch up singer and guitarist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow at his home in Toronto. As you might expect we are given the warmest of welcomes from this pioneer of metal who has been almost busy packing in readiness for the band’s performance at Germany’s Ironfest. It’s a long way to go for a single show but as Lips confesses, it means he only needs to pack a couple of pairs of underwear. With jus an hour before he needs to head to the airport, we make ourselves comfortable and our conversation begins…

Firstly, it’s a massively exciting time with the new album One And Only due out in only a months time. What sort of thoughts are going through your mind at album release time?

Mostly dreading reading the negativity! It’s all wonderful to get to read good reviews, that’s all well and fine, but when they go south… you can’t sit there and believe everything that you read about yourself that’s positive without realising there’s a whole bunch of people that hate you too! I dread it because a lot of times it’s not fuelled by reality. There are specific places on the internet where trolls flourish like crazy! (Laughs!)

One and Only is absolutely incredible album and I think something that has to be absolutely celebrated is that this is now your 20th album which is a phenomenal milestone. How does it feel when you’re here that number?

Completed! (Laughs!) I figured that would be the last. But we’ll see!

Surely you don’t believe that!?

It’s not a question of whether I believe it or not, it’s whether the destiny surpasses that. Anything can happen and it’s not like I’m 20 years old. I could drop dead tomorrow. I’m into my 60s and every day is a blessing to be alive. That’s why I’m saying you should cherish every moment and hold on to it. I’m not going to be here for another 20 years. I ain’t living to 88 years old! I just don’t see it.

Let’s talk about some of the tracks and I’d like to start with Feed Your Fantasy which was the first single released on the 5th of April. I absolutely love the harmonised guitar lines in the intro, and the song itself is just a massively inspiring track with lines such as ‘take control, take the lead, live the dream’. I felt immediately uplifted when I heard that song and it is just so empowering. It’s a wonderful example of the power of music. How important is it to you that your music inspires people?

I hope them to be! My messages are usually positive and about going after things in your life and making the best of it and I guess that Feed Your Fantasy is part of that kind of philosophy of making the best of everything because we’re not here forever. So feed your desires because when you’re dead you can’t do that anymore. Every moment counts and that’s all I’m saying in there. When I discovered the way the chorus was going to work I got very excited about it because it’s very unusual that you write a song that has a chorus within a chorus. That’s very unusual and it’s certainly the first time I’ve ever done it, you know where it has one version in between the verses where you go (sings) ‘feed your fantasy’ and then when the chorus comes (sings faster) ‘Feed your fantasy , what it’s got to be…’. So it has like two choruses that can actually run together if you want them to and at one point in the song they are. So it’s actually pretty remarkable almost like ‘row row row your boat’, two parts at once we can sing in harmonies and stuff, so that made itself apparent to me. It was pretty magical writing, really. No one else is really gonna notice those things and it’s on the writer, so of course that becomes apparent to me but generally speaking people don’t really completely comprehend everything you’re doing. You can only hope!

I think what’s really interesting about this track is that recent comments I’d heard was that people felt Feed Your Fantasy was a track you could actually dance to which is perhaps unusual for a metal song. But they were absolutely spot-on – this track has a really interesting and special groove to it. So even though people may not be picking up on the fine detail of the songwriting, it’s a track that’s clearly translating and impacting strongly.

Of course, it was the first video and just for your own curiosity and just for your own observation go and look at YouTube and look at the comments. It’s pretty much I’d say 60% negativity. I was like ‘Wow! Look at that!’. As soon as you do something accessible that is actually relatable to most people the metal audience goes ‘Fuck you!’. That’s what I noticed. They completely missed the point of what was going on there. It’s not selling out, it’s not about me being a commercial and I’m never going to be heard on the radio. So what is this issue? Who fucking knows, right? But nonetheless that’s what you see there. Some guy wrote ‘what a great piece of work, they wrote three words’! They’re missing the point. That’s metal heads wanting to hear hundred mile an hour riffage with no melody, you know? They’re going ‘this has got too much melody and I can understand too much of what’s going on so it’s no good’, right?

It’s interesting that you pick up on the video for the song which I absolutely love. It has this incredibly intimate ‘Fight Club’ style setting where I just thought I was a part of the very depths and guts of metal. It’s actually ingenious, the cool way the band walks in, you pick up the guitar, Robb grabs his sticks, the fan setting – just amazing. You must’ve really enjoyed making that video.

Yeah, it was a lot of fun! We put ads out on Facebook to invite fans because we did it in Germany. So we invited our fans from Germany and they drove from all different parts of the country to be in the video. A lot of the people I already knew. There longtime devoted fans so you’re hanging out with all your friends.I think the people there really enjoyed the song which made me relax because as soon as you put something out, your question ‘is it heavy enough? Is it going to satisfy the hardcore fans? But more importantly is it going to satisfy our standing fans?’, not the new fans but the ones that have been there all along. Because that’s really important. That’s what you’re really doing – you’re giving music to the people that support you. You’re not making music for people that hate you. No matter how much you want them to, you’re never going to get their love no matter what you play, and that’s what I’ve come to realise. If somebody hates your band they’re going to hate it until the cows come home. It’s not going to change. It was a positive vibe in creating the video and from the people there so I felt it was okay. I had an apprehension of picking a particular song. The album has 12 very, very completely different songs from each other. You could’ve picked any one of them because they’re all very different from each other. So if you want to try to draw a conclusion out of having one song and saying that this is what the album is like, you’d be gravely mistaken.

Picking up on the latest single, the album’s opener and the title track One And Only, I love the line ‘I’m unique, no one competes’, and for me this really represents your passion for music and metal. I don’t think there is anyone who has ever been so steadfast and driven for success and you’ve never wavered from that in over 40 years. There have of course been twists and turns within the band’s career and it’s interesting to hear you talk about the negativity you have received. How have you managed to stay consistently passionate and driven for all these years?

Well, you know, it’s interesting. The idea of the song One And Only is derived from my life motto. Everything I do has got to be different and it’s got to stand out because if it doesn’t, I’m going nowhere. In this world, you’re not going to get anywhere playing somebody else’s songs. You’re not going to get anywhere copying anybody. There is no success in repetition. Where you are going to find success is through breakthrough stuff when no one else has done that. That’s when you get remembered and that has been my way since I was a kid. All the kids on the street learned how to play their guitars and their instruments by going to lessons and by copying everybody. That’s not how I learnt. I learned by experimentation and writing because my idea was ‘you’re never going to get anywhere doing somebody else’s song’ – it’s already been done! So what are you going to do that’s going to make a difference? You’ve got to make something up of your own and then there can be no criticism of whether you did it well or not. It is what it is what it is. Like my older brother, he couldn’t criticise me because he doesn’t know what I’m playing! He’s never heard this song before so he can’t say you’re doing that right or wrong! I’m doing it my way, that’s how I learnt. In doing so, there were a number of things that came into play because it wasn’t just about the guitar but it was about what I can do in a physical sense so that people remember me other than necessarily just by the way I look. I thought about what I was doing and what kind of things I should do so that I never get forgotten. One of the first things I discovered was the sound of an electric motor through my guitar pick ups. So if you think it about it for a moment – electric motor… vibrator! Who’s ever played the guitar with a vibrator!? No one! And then of course, what went through my mind is not only does the sound of the motor come through the pick ups but a vibrator is hard plastic and can be used to bottleneck. So it can be used in a number of different ways. So I discovered that and that became part of my trademark that makes me ‘me’. You can’t copy it because everyone would go ‘Lips did that!’ and that’s what you want. ‘Hey, the vibrator works in the pick ups, what happens if I yell in them?’. I’m playing a show in Belgium a number of years ago and we’re in the middle of this long song and the PA went out. You can still hear the band but not the vocals and I couldn’t sing. I’m coming up to the last verse and I’m going ‘What the hell am I gonna do now?’. So suddenly ‘ding, ding, ding, ding’, I take the guitar and I sing the last verse through the pick up. I spontaneously thought of that and it’s become part of the show. I use that to talk to the audience at the beginning and a couple of times during the show and then of course at the end when I say good night.It’s actually more than being musically unique, it’s about being unique as a human being. Then you’re going to create a legacy and you’re gonna be remembered. That’s what my goal was and it’s what One And Only is about: finding your identity and going with it. That’s what it’s really about.



Long and winding road

Anvil US Tour 2024

Anvil US Tour 2024

One of my favourite tracks is Truth Is Dying. It’s a song that resonated strongly with me, especially from a political perspective. Yesterday the UK’s Prime Minister called a general election for 4th July and I don’t think the public has ever been so jaded and ever lacked so much faith in the system as what they do today and I think that’s because no political figures appear to have any integrity. Again, what was the inspiration behind this track?

It’s interesting because I was looking to make a statement that everybody could relate to today. Everyone in every country distrusts their government, and there is good reason! There’s damn good reason and it’s infuriating actually. As the public we can’t control it and I can’t fix it. Imagine the United States with all those millions of people and look at what they’ve got to choose from for presidents. Like, what’s wrong with that picture? Why those two guys? Why are there no alternatives And why are the alternative so sad? There aren’t even any contenders. What’s up with that? That’s constant bullshit and it started years ago, this isn’t something new. This is something that’s been going on for years and that’s where all the conspiracy theories come from, the fact that you can’t believe what you are being told. And there’s damn good reason. Watch the footage of President Kennedy getting shot twice. You see it on film and they claim it’s only once and no one has ever explained it away properly and it’s over 50 years ago. Now you take a look at the 9/11 disaster. You watch three buildings totally destroyed by demolition and it’s bloody obvious because there’s no way that the 10 floors of the Trade Centres could take out the 200 floors underneath them because they weren’t on fire, only the top was on fire. How does it happen that the whole thing disintegrates underneath? Because it was a demo job! It wasn’t just two aeroplanes. That’s just to make it look good. To me that’s bloody obvious and so it is to most people, it has to be. So when the government tells you ‘It’s just 2 fucking guys with box cutters’, you’re going ‘Yeah? Really?! And where did they get their pilots license that they could actually pilot aeroplanes faster than they are supposed to go on angles that are next to impossible to pilot, even by professionals? How did they pull that off?’. It’s not just conspiracy theories. People want to know what’s going on and they’re silent. No one wants that and everybody is afraid to talk about it so they don’t talk about it and they just let it go. But the truth is dying. It is! Where do you find the truth? It’s almost impossible. I’m just a rock musician, what the hell do I know about politics? But I can certainly spot that somethings up. How do you discern truth from lies? That’s why I wrote that and put it in a song that musically anybody will be attracted to. It’s got that hook line that you want to sing because truth is dying and it couldn’t be more of a true statement.

Condemned Liberty is a brighter sounding track but there is a striking resemblance to Truth Is Dying. We may have a ride cymbal beat in the intro as opposed to the kick drum but it feels like it’s the non-identical twin brother to Truth Is Dying. How intentional was it to create the similarities?

Musically they are extraordinarily different songs but lyrically one is much a continuation of the other. What I was talking about in Condemned Liberty is, as an example, some guy gets on an aeroplane with a shoe bomb and now everybody has to take their shoes off to get them looked at looked at. We don’t have the liberty of being able to walk on a fucking aeroplane without having to take our shoes off! That’s just one small example of the abuse of our freedoms, and that’s what it is. And enough people are abusing our freedoms meaning all of a sudden we all get them taken away, and we voted it in – that’s even worse! We voted it in! You pick the leader that’s going to bring in these new rules but without even considering it or thinking about it. The more the rules, the closer we get to what we call our enemies: communists. And we are actually creating it ourselves over a period of time by abusing our rights and that’s actually what that song is about.

That makes absolute sense and when I think about the lyrics in those 2 tracks, Truth Is Dying and Condemned Liberty, I think there’s also a connection with World Of Fools, for example, its line ‘forgotten morales of a distant past’. Again, it resonates for me because it makes me think of a crumbling society. We perhaps see more and more people only thinking of themselves and less about what it means to bring a community together. Anvil have always had that amazing quality of being able to create a community as well as great music. Would you agree that this something we appear to be sadly losing generally in society?

Well it’s sort of just because initially metal was a separate society from the rest of the world and I was on the cutting edge of it in 1980. It was all a new thing and it was almost a new creation of a societal world. It didn’t really exist in the same way. Metal is not the same as rock ‘n’ roll and it’s actually become very narrow. Now it’s very diverse so it’s very difficult to actually pinpoint where it lost its ability to hold itself together. It’s really dispersed now. That’s what the difference is. But initially we did help create a society of its own – the metal society – and certainly at the beginning, but as times gone on, it’s expanded so much and been bastardised so many different ways. It’s a melting pot and it’s not what it was in my opinion. There is such a diversity in the fans and what they like and in the bands themselves, everything from death black metal to Bon Jovi. They’re so vastly different from each other but they’re not really in the same genre at all.

Referring to the track Heartbroken, this has a slow tempo and dark sound but it fits the song lyrically perfectly because it’s a song about loss. I found it enormously powerful on an emotional level. What was the inspiration behind this track?

Well, sadly, it came from Robb’s sister. Robb’s sister lost her 31-year-old daughter from Covid last year. She calls herself heartbroken on Instagram, and I was looking for a title and then it just suddenly came to me: I’m singing Heartbroken  and I go ‘if that’s what it’s called, I’m going to write the song about Robb’s sister’, and that’s exactly what I did. It’s about loss but it’s not just loss in the sense of somebody passing away. It could be the loss due to your marriage breaking up or your relationship breaking up. It could be that too. It’s just loss in general. The song was so slow and pounding it was calling to me to give it something like that, to give it more power. It seemed to me that that’s what it wanted to say and I could hear it before I sang it. So that’s how that came to be.

Can I also take a moment to talk about the production of the album. The overall sound of One And Only is absolutely huge and outstanding. The album was produced by Martin ‘Mattes’ Pfieffer and Jörg Uken and it’s interesting that this is the fifth album you have chosen to work with these guys on. What is it about Mattes and Jörg that makes for such a wonderful partnership and incredible results?

Well the thing is that you luck upon things in this business. It started out pretty innocently and I didn’t really have the expectations to be doing albums, especially with Martin, every time. He’s such a great guy to work with and really has a handle on who and what we are and what we should be doing. And that’s important! Not only does he have a great understanding of the music that we do but he’s also really, really great at being able to guide me through the vocal stuff in the sense that ‘do that again! I think you could get more attitude! We need a little bit more grit in your voice!’. He’ll direct-in those kind of things and what I found is if I try to go against what he’s saying and then I listen to it, I end up having to do it again and do it just like he said… because he was right! (Laughs!) So at this point after so many albums I don’t even question it. If he tells me something is not right, it’s not. The vocal thing is really important and Martin is absolutely amazing at vocal direction.

Let’s talk about Anvil in a live setting. This Saturday you will be off playing Iron Fest in Germany, and you also have a massive US tour throughout July and August where you will be playing 24 dates which is massive! This is looking like a great summer! How much are you looking forward to these shows and playing the new material?

Well, to be completely honest, playing in the United States is really, really difficult. It’s a very, very hard grind. So when you ask me if I’m looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to the fun that I’m gonna be having on stage but certainly not looking forward to the other shit that comes with touring.

Do you mean the travelling?

It’s not so much the travelling as a lot of times the circumstances that get dumped on you. It’s just a difficult grind to say the least. It’s the different set ups and having to adjust everything so that you can get into the place. It’s not simple and easy. You’re not playing big huge halls or anything like that so a lot of the times the load-ins are up and down stairs, and there are super small stages which won’t fit all my equipment. So you’ve got to make do and work with a smaller amount of gear. It’s not like, okay , let’s go on a tour bus and just sit there and it takes you everywhere you need to go. We’re driving it and we’re in a van and trailer and that’s how we do it. Of course, we tour in such a way that we’re trying not to play on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday - and Wednesdays if we can help it - because no one shows up! (Laughs!) No matter who the hell you are! So am I looking forward to the fun I’m going to have? Absolutely! The hardships? No, I’m not looking forward to them. We’ve got to drive three hours after the gig because if we don’t we’ve got eight hours to drive tomorrow. That’s not fun but that’s what comes with all this and that’s how it works. But America is like that. It’s of course one big country and not like Europe where you’re driving from one country to another and the gigs are generally closer together. The furthest that you’re driving is five or six hours.

Do you have any plans to visit the UK?

Of course! They’re booking all the stuff right now and we’re looking at September, October and November. I don’t know exactly what the schedule looks like, I don’t know yet, but we’re going to find out though and I’m really looking forward to it!

Our closing thoughts...

As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on not just what an incredible album One And Only is but also how at album 20, Anvil are still the pioneers of what it means to write and perform the highest quality metal. To find out more head over to http://my.tbaytel/tagllo/anvil and in the meantime check out the video to the lead single Feed Your Fantasy below.

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