Any true metal fan can immediately spot the real headbangers from the poseurs in a second. The real ones unquestionably have—or at least once had—long hair, generally don’t have tribal tattoos, like hockey, can drink more beer than you and most likely still wear dungaree (yes, dungaree, not “jean”) jackets and Nike high tops. And not ironically. The old-school metal fans don’t give a shit about the radio, MTV or the internet and pine for the days when their boomboxes blared bands like Angel Witch, Pentagram and Death, which they discovered through the late, lamented underground tape-trading scene.
This is the kind of metalhead Anvil’s Steve “Lips” Kudlow is and will always be. True, the acclaimed rags-to-slightly-better-rags (but still not rich) documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil brought a notoriety the Canadian band failed to achieve in 30 years. But chatting with the Dig recently from his Toronto home, Lips made it clear that what you see is what you get.
Isn’t there something ironic in the fact that it took a movie about you guys not making it for you guys to make it?
Success is doing what you love and getting away with it. And I’ve been doing it for 36 years. I’ve recorded 15 albums, the band has been around 30 years. I’d say that’s a success. Have I made it from the movie? I guess that’s yet to be seen. I’m certainly famous. But if people want to measure it by financial success, I’m still not. Because I’m not rich. But I wasn’t before either.
Any regrets about not joining Motörhead back when you were asked, in 1983?
What’s the point in wondering about something you never did? I don’t waste my time thinking about things like that. Do I regret not being in Motörhead? No. I’m in Anvil.
Do you have any resentment toward other ’80s metal bands who made it while you guys struggled?
I never questioned it, never was bitter about it, didn’t care. We never tailored our music to be that way. To me, that kind of success is asking for big kinds of trouble. It ends all your freedom to do what you want because everyone is riding your back to make money off of you. That’s not fun. Watch the Lars [Ulrich] interview [in the documentary] and he’ll tell you all about it. He says I’ve probably had a better time than he has, and he’s probably right. I’ve never had a head of a record label telling me to write a song for the radio. I’ve done what I’ve wanted, when I’ve wanted to and how I’ve wanted.
When did you realize this movie was something big?
I realized it before we even started. It’s not a story about metal. It’s a story about perseverance and dedication, which is a lot wider than the metal thing. It could be a country-and-western band and there would be metalheads who would think they were the coolest country band ever.
How have old-school fans responded to your newfound notoriety?
I’d say they’re overjoyed because they loved it all along, and now they see the rest of the world opening their eyes to it and celebrating right along with us.
Would you do another movie?
I hope not. I think once is enough.