Anvil is the perfect moniker not just for a heavy metal band, but also as an adjective to describe their steadfastness. The Canadian band have been around since 1978, predating and influencing much of the metal that would define the golden age of heavy metal, the 1980s, which includes the Big 4 of thrash metal. Nearly 40 years have passed since their debut album, Hard ‘n’ Heavy, and Anvil doesn’t seem to be at a loss for ideas. With every new decade comes several Anvil records. Their latest release is Legal at Last.
Legal At Last refers to the band’s home country making cannabis legal. Outspoken frontman and guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow spoke to Heavy Music Headquarters about the theme of this album. While the title track refers to the legalization of cannabis, Lips elaborates on how the album has a common theme; how detrimental the criminalization of cannabis has been on society, and how greed fueled prohibition and ensuing laws. He also comments on other aspects of the album such as inspiration for writing riffs.
Darren Cowan: Legal at Last will be released February 14. How do you feel about the album now that’s it done and waiting to be released?
Steve “Lips” Kudlow: I can’t wait until it gets out there, already. It’s been a few months since it’s been finished. A lot of waiting. That’s how it always goes. I don’t know what to think about the album, yet. I never know what to think about an album until about a year later. It takes a while until you get a perspective on what you did. It’s another record. That’s for sure. How do I feel in comparison to everything else? I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll see how it does, how people think, and how I’ll think in a year from now. I like it. I think it came out great, but I feel that way after every record. So far, I like it more than the last record. That I can say.
The title track and album title pertain to your home country, Canada legalizing marijuana. Is that what you’re referring to?
That’s what the lyrics are definitely about.
Did you get the idea right after this momentous ruling?
I was having dinner with my wife and she suggested calling the album Legal At Last. Then I went crazy thinking that’s amazing because then I’ll make an Anvil bong. It’s always important to have a visual thing. Then, you can make an album cover out of it, and something that pertains to the anvil itself. There are a bunch of contingencies for it to work. It’s like, wow, great! Lyrically speaking, the song is talking about being responsible for the use of drugs.
Governments want to play mommy and daddy and don’t feel we can be responsible.
Government doesn’t give a shit about that. Government cares about money. That’s all they care about. That’s all that they’ve ever cared about! That’s why marijuana wasn’t legal to begin with. It threatened the cotton industry, the fuel industry, the construction industry, pulp and paper. Basically, the fundamentals of our economy.
Does that tie into the other tracks?
Absolutely. It ties in with everything, actually. It was not on purpose. It’s just the way it is. Had marijuana been legal all along, we wouldn’t have had the major catastrophes we’ve had with our climate. We wouldn’t all be getting cancer. There is a whole list of things that the illegalization of marijuana has caused. By depleting the ecosystem of it, we’ve depleted ourselves from the chemicals that come from that plant. It’s actually an anti-toxin. That’s why they’ve found that using marijuana oils cures cancer. That chemical has been depleted in everyone’s bodies, all of our food, all of our plant life, everything. So, that made us all more susceptible. Now, when people make those oils they found it’s curing this, it’s curing that, it does that. That’s because it’s been depleted in our bodies. That’s one of the aspects.
The cotton industry; the manufacturing of cotton dumps tons of toxins into our water that nobody cared about, but they still continue to make cotton and grow it. Most of our fabrics are made out of it. Cotton doesn’t last as long, it’s not as durable, and it’s not as environmentally friendly of a substance to use. Pulp and paper is a second aspect. Hemp could have been used to make paper, so we didn’t need to be cutting down all of our trees, which of course has a huge impact on the level of oxygen in our atmosphere. Now, we have problems with too much carbon dioxide in our air. They are trying to carbon tax us and all the other shit that’s going on. Maybe we wouldn’t be there if marijuana had been legalized to begin with. Also, biofuel. Instead of gasoline, they could have been making diesel fuel from hemp. That’s another aspect.
So, there is a whole bunch of stuff. Of course, if we had been doing that all along, we wouldn’t have global warming. They wouldn’t be using aluminum, loading it onto airplanes and dumping chemical trails into our air. There are a number of things that are derivatives under the facts of marijuana. The things we’ve done to ourselves as a world society have been so detrimental. It never should have made illegal. Not to mention the use of concrete. Concrete can be made with hemp. Had concrete been made with hemp, it would last longer. That would mean a lot of the infrastructure today wouldn’t need repairs as they have. It’s unspeakable the amount of things it has an effect on that we’ve overlooked. They’re all tied in together in some way or another. It’s legal at last in Canada. It should be all over the world.
The United States made hemp legal, so we can start using those alternative products.
Yep, that’s a good thing. It will be very slow because there is going to be a change in the way business is done. Anything hooked up with money and business takes ages to change.
You talk about decriminalization on “Nabbed in Nebraska.” You look at is as this money making machine.
It is. Nebraska was the first state to decriminalize marijuana, but it’s illegal. You’re not allowed to have it. What does decriminalization mean? It’s means they get charged a fine. Not a criminal record. People crossing in from Colorado get hit with a fine if you got it on you, and it just keeps making money. It’s in their best interest to keep it the way it is. They’re not going to make it legal to have on you. It’s going to be illegal like parking in a no parking zone or in front of a fire hydrant.
Illinois passed recreational marijuana and the taxes are very high, around 30 percent.
Oh yeah. They’re going to make a lot of money. Governments are going to make a lot of money. Colorado has made a bloody fortune. It’s only a matter of time before it trickles down and gets into the president’s pocket. He’s going to see that it’s a big money maker. Seeing that Donald Trump is mister deal, it won’t be long. If he gets the next four years, it may be legal on a federal level all across the United States.
In terms of not being arrested, it’s a good thing, but like you said it’s this big money machine.
It is. It was all money that kept it from being legal to begin with, but there is money from making it legal, so we’ll see how that balances out.
Anvil traditionally titles albums with three, alliterated words. Do you recall how this started?
The first album was called Hard ‘n’ Heavy. That’s how that started. Simple as that. After Hard ‘n’ Heavy, we did Metal on Metal. It started from the first album. We’ve been doing that ever since. It became a tradition and what we do. It’s easier to read it, than it is to come up with it.
It sounds good on the tongue.
That’s the whole idea about what alliteration is, as well as being good for marketing, which is how you sell shit. That’s how newspapers sell newspapers. That’s how products are sold. That’s how the whole world works. It made sense. It still does.
Martin “Mattes’ Pfeiffer (U.D.O.) produced the album. You used him on the previous two albums Anvil is Anvil and Pounding the Pavement. What led you to use him for a third time?
He’s a great producer. He’s a great guy. What other reasons would I have? If he sucked, I wouldn’t go back. He does a good job. Nothing like German production. Really, really, really top notch. Total professional, heavy metal production! It doesn’t get better than that, in my opinion.
“Said and Done” has a doomy, Black Sabbath sort of swagger. It’s different from the rest of the album. What inspired this song?
I love Black Sabbath. I was looking into that world, and I came up with that riff and away we go! That’s it. It’s as simple as that. You need the riffage. That’s the real magic. In one of my stoned stupors I came up with it. The only time I smoke pot is when I’m going to create stuff. I sit outside, smoke a joint, come inside, plug in my guitar and start playing and recording it. That’s my operation. Other than that, I don’t smoke dope. There is no point in doing it because it’s not serving any purpose. Writing songs is my only purpose for smoking pot. It opens up that world of imagination, and away you go! The riff came first like usual, and I wrote the lyrics afterwards.
What do you have in store to promote the album? Are you going back on the road?
We start a tour in a few weeks in Europe. We’ve got 53 dates in about two and a half months. Once we get back from Europe, we will have maybe another 20 shows here in Canada. After we finish those shows, probably in September, we’ll be coming down to the U.S.A. That will be about 40 shows. It’s the beginning of the cycle and away we go! We’ll do probably over a hundred shows this year. Once that’s all done, we’ll finish writing for the next album and then start it all over again.
(interview published February 13, 2020)