Anvil: Persistence pays big dividends

If you weren’t already aware, 2008 was proclaimed the year of Toronto heavy-metal band Anvil. In the past year and a half, the group has achieved their biggest taste of success since their formation in 1973.

 
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As teens in high school, Anvil drummer Robb Reiner and vocalist/guitarist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow made a pact with one another that they were going to be in this band together forever. And they meant it. After having faced career ups and downs that would have torn most bands apart in a fraction of the time, Reiner and Kudlow stuck to their guns and to their belief in the band, refusing to throw in the towel at any point.

With an impressive 13 albums in their discography (the first having been released in 1981), Anvil had all of the hallmarks for success long before 2008-2009. Best defined as a band with a raucous attitude, thundering drums and buzz saw guitars, there is no reason why the band should not have achieved the success akin to the bands they had toured with including Bon Jovi, The Scorpions and Whitesnake.

Fate works in strange ways though. You can blame bad band management or shoddy record contracts; the fact of the matter is, Anvil hasn’t always had an easy go.

A chance meeting with a dedicated Anvil fan at a show at the Marquee Club in London in 1982 would prove to be crucial to their success in the current decade. At that show, the band met a teenage fan named Sacha Gervasi. Gervasi was enamored with the band, even going so far to become a roadie for the group on one of their Canadian tours while he was supposed to have been visiting his father in New York.

But as the years passed, Gervasi and his friends in Anvil drifted apart. While Anvil continued to make records and toil away in nightclubs, Gervasi attended the graduate screen writing programme at UCLA and ended up writing the Steven Spielberg directed movie, The Terminal.

After many years of non-communication, the two parties would reconnect via the internet. Gervasi invited his old friends down to LA for a weekend where the band members presented him with the complete Anvil catalogue, oblivious to the huge success that Gervasi had achieved.

It was at this point that Gervasi decided that an Anvil documentary was a necessity. Few bands had been through the proverbial ringer like Anvil had; what was even more remarkable was that the band members remained committed throughout the ups and downs they had encountered.

“When Sacha told us he wanted to make a documentary on the band, I felt like we had won the lottery,” admits Anvil guitarist/vocalist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow. “I mean, here’s a guy who has worked with Steven Spielberg, is a known Hollywood writer and he wants to make a movie about my band? It was such a no brainer.”

Kudlow says he felt it important that Gervasi focus on the present-day Anvil rather than making their history the movie’s focus. Included in the documentary is a European tour which, in true Anvil fashion is highlighted by ups and downs.

“That European tour wasn’t as hard as people think it is. That’s what the road is about,” Kudlow reasons.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years man,” he continues. “I’m sure most people saw that part of the movie and thought ‘how could do they do this?’ but it provides a look at what bands lives are like prior to you seeing them going on stage.”

As also seen in the movie, Kudlow notes that their European tour was done via camper bus, more for economic reasons than for dramatics, though.

“We’ve been touring North America in camper buses for the past 20-30 years so the mode of transportation wasn’t new to us. We had never toured Europe in a camper bus though; we thought it would be fascinating and a lot of fun. I think it made for an incredible movie.

“If we had done that European tour on a bus, our movie would have ended up looking like every other ‘band on tour’ movie out there.

“It was a disaster waiting to happen but we were making a movie so our attitude was simply ‘let’s go out and do it!'” Kudlow says.

Indeed, Anvil: The Story of Anvil has helped give the group a second lease on life, a long 25 years after they could have originally hit it big. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008 and went on to win the Audience Awards at the Los Angeles and Sydney film festivals.

Rolling Stone proclaimed the movie to be “the year’s best rock movie” while celebrities including The Osbournes, John Mayer and Keanu Reeves have touted the movie for its heart-wrenchingly honest portrayal of the band.

Among those who have taken in the film are the one and only Angus Young, the legendary schoolboy guitarist from AC/DC. After Young saw the documentary, he extended an invitation to Anvil to open AC/DC shows in Moncton, Boston and East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Frankly, it doesn’t get much bigger than being hand-picked to play shows with AC/DC.

The newfound opportunities coming Anvil’s way aren’t lost on the band, however. They realize that few bands are given one shot at success, let alone a second chance.

With that, the group is busier than ever which means loved ones at home are seeing less and less of the guys in the band. The members of Anvil have gone from working jobs to support recording and touring schedules to making Anvil their full-time job.

“We’ve been very busy and it ends up having an effect on the home situation. I’m not around as much and that can be stressful,” admits Kudlow. “Life comes in balances though and you have to accept the good with the bad.”

For better or for worse, their schedules won’t be clearing anytime soon:

VH1 are releasing the Anvil documentary on DVD this coming October with the band set to tour Australia and Japan in the near future as well. For those overseas shows, Kudlow says that they are bringing audiences the Anvil Experience where the band performs immediately after the movie is screened in theatres.

If there is one huge takeaway from the Anvil story, it is that a strongly-rooted determination does pair with good fortune from time to time. It also shows that good things come to those who wait even if it means 25 years of waiting.

Anvil will be performing alongside AC/DC on Thursday August 6 at the Magnetic Hill Concert Site. Tickets are available online at http://tickets.moncton.ca.

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