A Conversation with Lips Kudlow of Anvil

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Over the years, I’ve loved a lot of music, but as is the case with most people, there are a few bands to which I consistently come back to. Anvil is one of those bands.

Anvil, led by Lips Kudlow and his long-time partner in crime, Robb Reiner, are a true story of perseverance and success. Throughout their forty-three-year career, Anvil has released eighteen fantastic Metal albums, each of which are outstanding and singular in their own way. Lips and Robb, who super bassist Chris Robertson now joins, never give up, and they always do it their way. As a fan, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Today, I’ve got Lips Kudlow with me for a chat, which is my second with him. We dive deep this time and cover Anvil’s long career from start to finish. We take some exciting twists and turns too. So dive in as Lips, and I chat about Anvil’s early years, the perseverance during the 90s, Lips being asking to join Motörhead, why he chose to hang in there with Anvil, the documentary, the government turning us all into cyborgs, and much more.

If you would like to learn more about Anvil, you can head over to their website here, their Facebook here, their Instagram here, or their Twitter here. Don’t forget to hunt down a copy of the band’s newest record, Legal At Last. It’s a true classic. Enjoy this one. Cheers.

Andrew:
Hey Lips, thanks for being here. Thanks for doing this with me. I appreciate it
. So, how are you holding up here in COVID times?

Lips:
I’m tired of it. I don’t like rules to begin with. I don’t like it. It’s confining. It feels like jail time or something.

Andrew:
Yeah, right. It seems the restrictions are a lot worse where you are. I’m in New York. So it’s been pretty shitty here. How’s it been by you?

Lips:
Well, I think they’re opening up a few things. I think it’s a bad idea. I think there’s no way to eradicate this unless we do it properly like they did in Australia, but that’s a whole other story.

Andrew:
It seems like they have no problems in Australia. It looks like they’re back to normal there.

Lips:
Yeah, well, yeah. But they also want militant. Right? So, yeah, they brought the military in, and you’re not leaving your house.

Andrew:
No, I don’t think that would fly here. It definitely would not go over too well.
They don’t tend to like military states here in North America.

Lips:
I don’t think that’s going to work in North America. I couldn’t imagine trying to pull these people up in northern Ontario, but it’s not going to happen.

Andrew:
I think, here in New York, we would have another riot.

Lips:
They were just so angry even before all this kind of stuff happened. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Yup! Anyway, Anvil put out an excellent studio album last year called Legal At Last. I wanted to dig into that record. I know you guys were supposed to go on a huge tour. It was one of your biggest ones you ever booked.

Lips:
It was supposed to be a big year. It started great. We got in…I don’t know, maybe 17 shows or something like that. We were in the U.K...

Andrew:
How was the feedback on the shows that you did do?

Lips:
It was awesome. They were packed every night. The U.K. is crazy.

Andrew:
The U.K. and Europe love their Metal.

Lips:
Yeah, they do. They really do. Well, the thing is, in Britain, and Wales, as a matter of fact, as well as Scotland, it’s an extraordinary place. When we first put our first album out, it’s where we reached first; it’s what actually gave the band legs originally. I mean, we were on target at the right time, doing Heavy Metal at the time of the wave of British Heavy Metal. I mean, 1981 was the first show that we actually did as “Anvil.” After we changed our name from Lips, we opened for Motörhead on their Ace of Spaces tour. So, that’s the way that we first came on. At that time, we were coinciding with what was going on in the U.K. and, therefore, part of what was going on there.

Andrew:
The way I look at it, and this is piggybacking onto what you’re talking about there with Anvil’s early days. It’s interesting because here in North America, around the time that you guys were getting started, and then when your first record came out, you had the first wave of British Heavy Metal, Maiden, Priest, all of that music that’s come out of the U.K.. Still, here in America, it was more Punk Rock and New Wave. When Anvil came out, you guys completely predated Thrash; you predated Power Metal, Speed Metal, all that stuff. And it was heavy. You were so so heavy. There really wasn’t a whole lot of bands in North America, at least in the mainstream, doing what you guys were doing. And I
wonder how the labels missed it.

Lips:
So, they didn’t know what to do with us at the time. They had no idea what was going to come out of this. Of all the managers at that time, only one person could actually comprehend what the fuck was going on, and that was Jonny Z.

I thought at that very moment that they all knew what they were talking about. So, we got involved with David. So, you got, on the one hand, the guy who puts on shows at flea markets in New Jersey and on the other hand, David Krebs, he’s managed Ted Nugent, Scorpion’s, and the list goes on. So, these were the options for us at that particular moment. But having said that, as soon as David went to the record labels in America, they said, “What the fuck is this?” They were not interested unless they were getting the first three records for free because they didn’t know what it was or whether they could even market it.

Andrew:
Meanwhile, you’ve got all these people, the Lars Ulrich’s of the world, and all these guys are listening to your records about to build huge bands off of what you’ve done. It’s incredible.

Lips:
But honestly, the guys who were involved in labels at that particular moment didn’t know what the fuck it is. I don’t blame them for not knowing. And we’ve got no crystal ball. They don’t know what the fuck is going on. There’s just some fucking maniac playing his guitar with a vibrator, running around on the stage, and talking to them and going; what the fuck is going to get the kids going? They probably thought, “What the fuck is this? Well, I don’t know how to fucking analyze it and comprehend it. How are we going to solve this? What is this?”

Andrew:
So, basically what you did is you rewrote the musical language of what Heavy Metal was because before then, you had Black Sabbath, you had Deep Purple…

Lips:
No, it’s an interpretation. Everybody interprets and repeats themselves to what’s comfortable for them. And in essence, it’s just that I was listening to a lot of the same music that the bands were listening to in the UK. So, I was being inspired by the same music, from the same places, including from the American market, because without any question, I have American influences in my playing, in my stylization and writing, and so forth. It’s obvious. I’m in North America. I have Rock ‘N’ Roll in my music. What is more comfortable? Well, it comes from my upbringing, my environment, everything. So, where am I living? I’m living in Canada. I actually was living in an area of Canada that combined sort of a British thing and the Americans. And I’m like, my environment was really to a great degree following electric guitar, that’s what I did, and that’s what I followed. So, where did I find the most interesting electric guitar? Most of the time, it was coming from Britain in particular. At that time, it was really coming from Britain. I was like, “Oh, wow. These guys are speaking my language.” It’s like, “Wow, there’s the sound of distorted guitar, wow, this is my language.” It was the riff Rock; you know what I mean? Then stuff that branched out of Black Sabbath and I grabbed from other major influences at a particular moment in time, which happened relatively in succession.

Andrew:
So, you put out those first three records, which everybody always focuses on. And I mean, they’re great records, but there is a whole lot more. But we’ll get to that. So, you put out those three records, and then obviously you guys got totally screwed over by the label, and that whole thing happened...

Lips:
I’m just saying, in ’83, you’ve got all this excitement happening around the band. You’ve got Johnny Z going, “Come on, let’s go make a go of it.” You’ve got David saying, “Well, I’m going to put you on tour with Aerosmith,” and then we’re going, “Wow, what am I going to do now?” And that’s what happened. And in doing so, of course, we lost that first record deal, so we went without a record deal for four years, and that’s the golden era. People ask, “Why would you go so long?” Well, you go that long because you’re tied up. We were still tied up in a contract with David. I’m calling them up for several years, actually writing letters and trying to get through because he does not take my calls. But he’s got to release me from my contract because I’ve got all kinds of recordings that I’m going to get involved in, and I want to sell it to a label. And I don’t want to give this guy a percentage because he hasn’t had anything to do with any of it. So, that’s what was going on.

Andrew:
It sounds
like guys behind desks, pushing the wrong buttons at the wrong time.

Lips:
Yeah, really slow to the draw. Just not bothering because they didn’t get it.

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Andrew:
But to me, it’s crazy
because in those years, you put out those three records, and they’re as good as anything that came out then or thereafter. Then you have this whole wave of bands, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, all these bands putting out these records…it’s always incredible to me how they were so slow to the draw and not be like, “We’ve got another one right here, these guys. Oh! And they predated the whole thing.”

Lips:
Because they couldn’t recognize it. Initially, of course, step back for a year, all of a sudden, the whole fucking scene starts rising, and you sign everything, and that’s what happened.

Andrew:
So in the late 80s, you end up with Metal Blade. And those are great records too. But I think it’s sort of like you said, at that point, everybody’s getting signed, everything’s out there. So, now you’re coming into a nearly oversaturated period. Anyway, who signed you to Metal Blade?

Lips:
You know, it’s interesting how it all started with a guitar player from Chicago. We had given him a demo tape, and then he sent it to Metal Blade and ended up on the part of the desk with the piles of other demos, and the guy liked it. But what can I say?

Andrew:
Those records are
really great. And I always wonder, when you look back at that time…I mean, you could look back on it two ways; you made a whole bunch of great records during the decade. In the beginning, you were so early in, and people didn’t know what to do with it and then got caught up in contract hell. And then, in the end, you get signed to Metal Blade, only now you were in with the whole big barrage of all kinds of different Metal just being pumped out everywhere. You can look back and say, “Man, you know, we could have been as big as this guy.” Or you could look at it the way I would look at it as a fan of Anvil; I look at it and say, “Wow, you know, these guys are a great band. They put all these great records during the decade.” For you, the guy that created it, how do you look back on it?

Lips:
Well, it’s not necessarily what label you’re on; it’s what tour you get on. Basically, that will decide if you do or do not stay small. That’s what it is, really. If you can get a good slot, it will start selling out. That’s it.

Andrew:
And I guess you guys just weren’t able to hook on the right tour, at the right time; that’s the big thing.

Lips:
The right tour, at the right time. But a lot of it has to do with being able to get on that tour, and who your record company knows, and how they get you in there.

How did we get to play the UK tour in 1983 with Motörhead? Well, the record company knew Doug Smith, Motörhead’s manager. It’s really plain and simple. It’s sort of what are the connections, how do they work, how do they work for you, and how do they work against you? Talking about the regrets? You know, it might be nice that there’s an opening for Aerosmith, but it’s not there…

Andrew:
Aerosmith…that wouldn’t have made a whole lot of sense for a band like Anvil. It doesn’t feel like a good fit..
.

Lips:
He tried to get record deals with a band ahead of the curve, and he recognized it as the quality. And there was no question about that. It was all contractual problems with our first three records. The label in Canada would not license the future they wanted. In other words, they were not going to give a label in America the licensing rights and then have it distributed and wait five years to get paid. You’re not just going to do it, not after all their investment. They want you; you’ve got to give us something. And that’s what it turned into. Those records are not domestically available in the US to this day.

Andrew:
No, they’re not. It’s crazy.

Lips:
It’s still crazy. That’s because Unidisc Canada still owns them. And they might…they probably sell them as imports into the US, which is quite expensive, actually. That would make them fairly expensive. And you could just download the shit off the Internet. People do it.

Andrew:
It’s funny, I have a lot of them on vinyl, but I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a new copy here. It’s always used copies.

Lips:
All 18 of our albums have been available on vinyl, but not in the US.

Andrew:
I’ve got a lot of them, too.

Lips:
Yeah, I don’t know if they’ve all been repressed? I know they will be, even Plugged In Permanent and Worth The Weight.

Andrew:
Actually, I literally just saw that yesterday at my local shop. But it was an import, and it’s a shop that carries imports. So it makes sense.

Lips:
Yeah. Or, you know, the whole European press thing. But still, it’s more about the artwork to me. That’s what it is. You know, I’ve got Back To Basics sitting right here, which is…Back to Basics on vinyl? What the fuck for? [Laughs]. Because they can and people like the visual idea, the artwork, they want to look at it. So, it’s more about that than sound. If you want to listen to it, you’ll put it on your computer or click on your phone. Right?

Andrew:
That’s it. So, you guys move into the 90s, Grunge happened,
and Anvil made a transition to German labels. I know you’ve always had a solid following in Europe and Germany, so I was curious…I mean, you’ve got the bigger acts and the old school kind of legacy, Hard Rock acts, but Metal, especially newer bands, doesn’t really hit the way it used to here for whatever reason. That said, over in Europe and Germany and the U.K. and all these places, Metal is like a lifestyle there. In a way, it’s huge. So, what do you think it is about the European scene that has not only taken so much to your music but has also kept Metal so vibrant and alive?

Lips:
Because it’s not a trend, it was never a trend. And it’s been being passed on through generations. I think it’s more of a musical culture, to begin with. Now, let’s face it, the classic music of Europe, particularly Germany, Austria, I think it’s a musical culture, to begin with, and very much ingrained.

Andrew:
So, I want to talk a little bit about some of the 90s albums, Worth The Weight, Plugged In Permanent, Speed Of Sound, all those good records. So, before the documentary [Anvil! The Story of Anvil], which is a great documentary, but, some people are kind of less informed, maybe not real fans of the band…there’s this narrative kind of floating around sometimes where it’s like, “Oh, well, they didn’t make it, or they didn’t do anything since the first three records.” Now, whenever I hear that, it’s always aggravating for me because I’m like, “Have you not paid attention to what they’ve done since 1990 and beyond?”

Lips:
No, that’s actually the real truth. And the projects like it radiates that fact. You don’t know the music you’re stating opinions on. I ask these people, “Name me a song of any of the albums, you never listened to them, and if you did, you listen once.” They didn’t even give it an opportunity. Now, those are the things I would say for the most part. They have never heard it. How could they? How could anyone in America really know?

Andrew:
You have to really make an effort
to plugin. That’s what it comes down to.

Lips:
No, I mean, throughout the 90s, I don’t even know that we were distributed at all.

Andrew:
Probably not. I don’t remember seeing it.

Lips:
I don’t think so. I remember presenting work to management down in Florida. That must have been in ’93. She said, “Once again, all lovely music. I don’t know what this is or what to do with it.” These are the kind of ongoing things. I didn’t pay much attention to the USA for a long time. Especially in the 90s. It was, “Why am I bothering to watch Kurt Cobain right now?” They’re not coming out, and they’ll forget about me.” And that’s pretty much the truth. So, our focus point was really on Europe. And at that particular time, we were with a company called Massacre Records, and they were very dedicated to us. Torsten Hartmann is a beautiful, great guy, and when you talk about the dollar amounts, I mean, they had more invested in Anvil than any other label.

The longest period of time that we were signed to anybody was with Massacre, and we went right through with them, but it was impossible to continue with them at the level that it was. And really, it wasn’t so much a reflection of how well we did, as much as it was a reflection of how record companies can finance things, right? Because at the time we finished with them, of course, is the computer age and downloading began and the sales went right off a cliff. That was it. It was devastating to many these labels what was going on at that particular time. And they didn’t have the money…thousands and thousands of dollars to record. It was just all of a sudden that money had dried up. What are you preparing for? How you’re being turned into a different model? A completely different business model by the time we got to the Back To Basics record.

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Andrew:
You know, it’s funny when I look at your 90s records; I think you made four in the 90s if my memory serves. It’s like you said, North America…I mean, even if it was a hard time for
Metal in general here…

Lips:
As far as if the record came out in America, I don’t think it actually did; it was an import if it did. And I remember it being sold…we did a festival on the Jersey Shore, all kinds of Metal bands. It was insane. I mean, this is going back, and I’m just saying that it was being sold at merch tables.

Andrew:
I could tell you this. And again, it’s like a couple of
record shops or CD shops at that time that I guess that would have carried it, but it would have been imports of that only because they specialize in Heavy Metal. But I mean, if you’re walking into Tower Records or something like that, then you would be hard-pressed to find it.

Lips:
You know, it’s kind of tragic in the fact that these records later did become available and were released by pretty good labels. So, really good for them. I mean, I really don’t know. When you look back, I don’t know if we hit the target because the sales numbers are really vague. Usually, things like that are reported to management, and if it’s not good news, they generally don’t tell you.

Andrew:
You could always look at it as no news is good news. [Laughs].

Lips:
Probably not good because I don’t remember. [Laughs].

Andrew:
When you look back on those four records, it’s Worth The Weight, Plugged In Permanent. Speed Of Sound and Absolutely No Alternative. Those four records. Now, they’re perfect
for me as a fan of the band and as a fan of Metal and especially compared to what was supposedly popular or “good” at the time. Those records are better, I think. Even if you put it up against what Metallica was doing in the 90s, like Load and Reload, all those albums that get all this attention, I think they’re better. So, when you look back at those four records in particular, what are your thoughts on them as the person who created them?

Lips:
Oh, it’s lost. To a certain degree, we lost momentum during that period of time, but that doesn’t mean that the quality or the abilities were any less. In fact, there’s something brilliant on every one of those records, at least one thing, I’ll say that.

Andrew:
I think it’s more than one. [Laughs].

Lips:
I know! I’m just saying, and it’s no different from any other band…I mean, you start going through all the Motörhead material, and you go, “I like this song and this song from that album. Oh, I like four from that album.” You may like it now but have a different preference later. But having said that, it doesn’t mean that’s really a fact. To other people, they may have longevity with it forever. It’s just that I have a preference that may change later.

Andrew:
That’s so true. So, you’re saying that when you guys put out your greatest hits, you’ll include some tracks from those records. [Laughs].

Lips:
I think we have put out a greatest hits, and I don’t think it made any difference. [Laughs].

Andrew:
So, you guys rolled into the 2000s, which was heavily covered via the documentary [Anvil! The Story of Anvil] that came out. I think everybody who’s into Metal knows about that documentary. On the surface, it feels as if it would be easy to say, and I’ve heard people say that the documentary “made the band” blah, blah, blah. But what does that mean? It feels myopic in a way.

Lips:
Because people are generally really ignorant, they don’t think for a second as to why there is even a documentary. The fact that there is a documentary and the way that it was approached is why it was successful. We initially impressed a kid who was 15 years old, who grew up to be a screenwriter for Steven Spielberg. We made such a huge impression on him that he came back some 27 years later and made that documentary about a band that continued on. Not a band that quit. Not a band that was unsuccessful. About a band that had done 12 albums [at the time].

Andrew:
12 great albums, continuously releasing music…

Lips:
Yup. Even though America basically knew nothing about us, which in his perspective was criminal.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil | Music documentaries, We movie, Documentaries

Andrew:
It’s not right. It just doesn’t make sense. You’re the guys that basically started all this! It’s a great documentary, and it’s an interesting thing, the narrative that people who just don’t get it or they don’t know, as they haven’t taken the time to learn. I don’t want to say that everybody’s malignant in their intention, but really, what’s their idea of success? Especially in terms of Metal, because what does success mean to people when people say, “Oh, they made a few albums, and they didn’t blow up the way that other bands did.” I always think about it like this; Anvil is a band that’s been around at that point [2008] for more than 20 years, has put out a dozen quality albums, has maintained consistent quality in songwriting the whole way throughout. Is that not a success? Do you know what I mean?

Lips:
Yeah, exactly. And I think unsuccessful is putting out two albums and never putting out another record. Yeah. Isn’t that failure? You’re not doing it 12 times in a row.

Andrew:
I mean, look at some of your contemporaries,
and I use the word contemporary loosely because we’re talking about different sectors of Metal. But let’s say Cinderella, they put out two albums, flamed out, did nothing for a decade, and came back and made a Blues album. And then you’ve got tons of other bands in that vein who were around for a moment, broke it big for one album, and then they totally disappeared. And they come back as a legacy act, and they only play that one album forever live. Whereas you guys just put out another record [Legal At Last], and it’s just as good as the record you put out in 1981. It’s an Anvil record. I put the record on, heard the opening riff, and I’m like, “Yup, that’s an Anvil record, and it’s a good one.” That’s what’s great about Legal At Last; that’s what’s great about Pounding The Pavement and Hope In Hell, these are Anvil records, and they’re awesome. You can slide any of those songs right into your setlist next to Metal On Metal and it sounds great.

Lips:
And we have done. That’s what we do because we haven’t changed. Not really. It was only actually during the 90s; there was a period there that we did change a bit. Certainly, Plugged In Permanent was extraordinary; the arrangements were extraordinary, almost progressive in a way.

Andrew:
Yeah, but it’s still an Anvil record. It still has that special sound.

Lips:
You know, there were still remnants of what we were, but we were trying to be as unpolished as humanly possible. A little bit of anger, as raw as you can get, and not be doing it for the sake of…I guess showing off to a certain degree.

Andrew:
Hey, it goes to show you how much range you really have as a band.

Lips:
I mean, there were certain segments like “No Evil” on the Speed Of Sound record; it’s just insane. It’s like Speed Metal.

Andrew:
Speed Of Sound was definitely your Speed Metal record. You kind of invented that genre in a way, Speed Metal.

Lips:
I think, with doing things that look like that, musically speaking, I kind of thought of it as if I’m in a horror movie or something, just very tense, I can remember that. That’s how I was envisioning that part as experimental, just being as unconventional as possible, because none of it mattered. Certainly, I wasn’t going to hurt the sales. [Laughs]. It’s not going to make any difference to your sales. In fact, it could help because you may never know. You might like that kind of craziness because I wouldn’t put it there if I didn’t like it. So, maybe something was gravitating to me about it.

The whole movement of that song was bizarre; I was going extensive, and for a long time, I lost the abilities, not really the abilities as much as the interest to just get to the point with a piece of music. And that is also lyrically a little bit more focused, maybe one more a centralized thought rather than this kind of narrow small consequential topics. I don’t know how to explain, but having said that, I think lyrically, overall, of course, there’s the comical lyrics, but at the same time, there’s the very serious. And it’s amazing how misconstrued that aspect is. Probably more than anything else, you know, as an example of going back to, let’s say, the Pound For Pound album, as just as a raw example, “Toe Jam.” Yeah, you can listen to it, you can start laughing and everything like that, but try to create it. It’s not easy. It’s the order of things. That’s the aspect people think is easy. Do people think it’s easy to create something funny? Try it. Plays on words, double meaning. That’s easy to do? OK, go ahead, try it.

Andrew:
What I’ve always liked that about Anvil is the sort of spectrum of lyrics, you don’t take yourself too seriously, but you’re also not afraid to go serious. And it’s OK. I think it’s a nice blend that you’ve always
held up.

Lips:
Yeah, but most have misconstrued our lyrics completely. Completely off the charts as far as missing the point. As an example, I thought when that when it happened, I thought I couldn’t believe how ingenious it was. Yet, it doesn’t get the recognition that I ever believed it should at the end of the day. And that’s “Nabbed In Nebraska.”For a number of reasons, the release for that song was done separately from the rest of the record. It was the first introduction for the album on the Internet. And it was put out on YouTube. But not only was it a lyric video, but it was also a cartoon. It didn’t catch on.

Andrew:
Do you think the pandemic had anything to do with it getting hung up?

Lips:
No. The following video, which couldn’t have been more simple. They had us pretending to play the song in the recording studio, and it’s over. That’s almost got half a million hits.

Andrew:
Go figure. You can never figure out these things. I don’t know what it is…people see and interpret what they want to. I guess you can never figure it out.

Lips:
Here is a fucking brilliantly put-together cartoon with lyrics, right? There are usually lyric videos with just flashes of pictures of the band not playing the song, with the lyrics written underneath them. That’s usually what a lyric video is made up of photographs, maybe a few moving pictures, this, that, or the other. It’s generally pictures and lyrics. That’s why they’re called the lyric video. But this particular thing has the story. I think that the texture and the way that that song felt was reminiscent of our early days, possibly a new form of “Metal On Metal” or something like that, because it has that same feel, a very driving rhythm to it.

That riff is actually quite memorable; once again, the lyrics tell how the band got busted entering Nebraska. Like, I’m thinking, “I’ll show you what happened and how it happened.” That’s an experience that I thought was of extreme relevance, especially today, with each of the states slowly becoming legalized for recreational use. I think it’s an extraordinarily timely thing. We called the album Legal At Last because it became legal in Canada. That was part and parcel of the title. Certainly relevant.

The de-legalization of pot has created a lot of pollution that we’re not even aware of. So, the thing that we have to do to manufacture cotton when everything could be made out of hemp. Even growing it, the kind of pesticides that are used on the cotton crops, the detriment of that has to our environment. Then we start looking at the different aspects of hemp. And that plant could be used for biologically degradable plastics, to make fuel that could be used to make pulp and paper. This is a huge, huge, huge threat to our economy and was a massive threat to our economy in the 1930s, and that’s how it became illegal.

Andrew:
Interesting. I didn’t know that.

Lips:
Yeah, of course. That’s what we’re going to tell you. Marijuana is the devil’s drug! [Laughs].

Andrew:
The devil’s lettuce. [Laughs].

Lips:
They’ll say you’re going to hell by smoking pot. Hey, but you’re not going to hell by taking some pills for your pain, or your anxiety and for your cancer, or who the fuck knows. Right? [Laughs].

Andrew:
That’s exactly it. So, the band wraps up the documentary, and you guys do what you guys do; you keep putting out records, and you get six more under your belt. Again, we hear a new narrative. Now it’s, “The documentary made the band.” What was the true effect of the documentary on Anvil leading up to
today?

Lips:
It’s been a projectile. We’re still rising. That said, people have to know, if the band sucked, there wouldn’t have been a documentary. They don’t make documentaries about shitty bands. They absolutely would never have never done that. If we sucked, we never interested that little 15 year old in 1982, to grow up and become Spielberg’s writer and then make a movie about us, Anvil. Are those kind of things just going to happen? And that’s completely because of the music and who the people are. Friending this little kid when he’s 15 and you’re 25 is a big fucking deal. It was such a big deal that it left a mark that lasted. I’m still very close friends with him to this day and will be. I mean, there are those kinds of aspects, but I don’t know. What can I say? There are lots of things that make up what it ends up being. It doesn’t happen by itself. Nothing happens by itself. That happens because one thing causes the other thing, and that causes another thing. You can’t wish stuff to be different or want stuff to be different. And you can’t have regrets, because everything happened for a reason. We ended up with the bass player that we have now, and I couldn’t be happier. We are now, as a trio, I actually think it fulfills the band’s abilities more than it ever has.

Andrew:
You guys have a great sound. It sounds awesome. The band sounds better now than it ever has, I should say, as a power trio. I know in the early days,
you guys were a foursome. As you had a rhythm guitar player back then, I’ve always wondered for you, is it harder to carry that load?

Lips:
It’s hard to play without having the right bass player. When you have the right bass player, that all changes. When you have that, you don’t miss it [the second guitar]. At least I don’t, and if I don’t, then why should anybody else?

Andrew:
How did you guys end up as a trio?

Lips:
Honestly, it was a redundancy. That cost a lot of money and time. Going into explanations, and the last time going through it was during the recording of This Is Thirteen. After that, I never want to go through it again. It’s just that it couldn’t have been more of a waste of time and energy in an aspect when you’re trying to carry on and do things, and you’ve got something that isn’t working out; nothing could be worse than that. And that was when we found it. And when we became free of it [Ivan Hurd], it was like, “Wow, this is OK.” It feels like all of a sudden; the weight is off. So what was happening is you come to the show, play the gig, but you have this amplifier turned so low, you’re not hearing him anyway. This was going on for years. What was the explanation there? Why didn’t he [Glenn Five] want his bass turned up? He wasn’t playing very well. And he lost interest.

Andrew:
That’ll do it. That’s a shame.

Lips:
What was also happening is we wouldn’t play a lot of the newer songs because the albums weren’t catching on. People didn’t want to fucking hear the new material. So, even though you’re playing it, they don’t want to hear it. And of course, Ivan is not going to capture what Sebastian Morino brought, so we’re not playing anything from Worth The Weight. So, what I mean is a lot of double guitars. There were a lot of places that he actually ended up playing at a loss, and even when he did get it, it was me holding my breath, “Is it going to get through the solo?” I’m going nuts. I don’t know, man, it’s stupid. It’s like, why am I bothering? But what for all the fucking shit that we’re going through? You’re paying for rooms; you’re paying for food; you’re paying the individual.

So, during the recording of This Is Thirteen, I ended up recording most of the solos. I’m sitting there, and Ivan is sitting there doing overdubs with our producer, Chris [Tsangarides], and I say, “You ready to play?” He goes, “What?” Then, he kind of looks on and says, “I don’t know what to play.” I’m just standing there, “What do you mean?” Six hours later here, we’ve got three seconds of a guitar solo. Chris is sitting there, and they figure it out. He [Ivan] the most speed ripping lead guitar fucking player, he went to a university in fucking California to learn how to play and could play all these scales at a million miles an hour. Fucking one of those shredders. I was sitting there; he’s starting to play this solo and the second take, it’s nothing, or he forgets to turn his volume on.

Andrew:
Jesus. Poor producer. Sounds like a nightmare.

Lips:
So, then I started asking myself, “What the fuck am I putting myself through?” I have to explain to this guy how to put a solo together, then wonder why I don’t particularly appreciate doing it myself. What’s the fucking point? And meanwhile, at the end of the day, the guy played only two solo sections for the entire This Is Thirteen album. And it took him 12 hours. I did all the other solos. He didn’t even come to fucking England with us knowing the songs because he wasn’t showing up to rehearsal.

All along, we said, “What should we do?” There’s really no going back. I’m not sending him home. How was I supposed to realize that this is what the fuck was going to happen? After all my work that I had gotten done, all the singing, all my guitar is all done. We did everything. We made a premix, just gave it to him; meanwhile, he [Ivan] is sitting at the pub and drinking with the locals.

It doesn’t mean that all second guitar players will be like that. It’s just ultimately; I’m just saying that was my last taste of all of it. At the end of the day, this person wasn’t a contributor. So it’s not going to make any difference on that level. So what am I losing? I’m losing that second lead guitar that no one even noticed. That’s the other thing that was ultimately the deciding factor; we’d been running a second lead guitar player and never heard about it. None ever said, “Great, great stuff.”

Andrew:
The lineup you’ve got now, yourself, Robb, and Chris, it’s a really tight lineup, I think. I feel Chris really complements Robb as a drummer. You’ve got a good rhythm section now. It’s pretty steady. And I think it’s like you said, you don’t miss the second guitar at all.

Lips:
No, it’s actually just remarkable. This bass player [Chris] is remarkable enough that it’s enough. It really is. It’s like it’s somebody that’s of equal caliber. When you’ve got a drummer like Robb Reiner, you’ve got to have a real bass player. I can’t fucking believe the bass playing that this guy is sometimes doing. I can’t fucking believe what I’m hearing.

Andrew:
How did you guys get hooked up with Chris? He’s been with you for a few albums now.

Lips:
Well, it all started because we had a bass player that, well, first of all, the bass player that we had initially, the guy that was with us for This Is Thirteen, and in the movie [Glenn Five], he got all fucking bent out of shape because he wasn’t getting the recognition in the same regard as Robb and I do.

Andrew:
Well, he didn’t start the band.

Lips:
Yeah, but he thought he was on that page. He would say, “I’ve been here 15 years. I’ve been here longer than the original guys.” And that’s the way he looked at it. He actually recorded more albums than the original guys. So there is a point to his perspective. But on the other side of it, no, there isn’t. [Laughs].

Andrew:
At the end of the day, he didn’t start the band.
[Laughs].

Lips:
There it is. I don’t believe that it’s my fault that he [Glenn Five] was two years old when I started playing with Robb. Sure, he’s been in the band for a long time, but at the same time, I was playing with Robb; he was only two years old. So, it’s not the same thing. He didn’t have that down. When it comes down to it, sorry, but you can be whoever you want to, but it’s whether I want it or Robb wants it. It wasn’t going to happen. It didn’t happen. As a result of that, he left.

Andrew:
His loss.

Lips:
Absolutely. So, that’s what happened. He basically walked away, saying that I’m a narcissist. It’s like, “OK, whatever.” [Laughs].

Andrew:
You know, from the outside looking in, I think he quit at the wrong time. He picked a terrible time to quit.

Lips:
He said that continuing that was “career suicide.” We had just done Juggernaut Of Justice, and that’s “career suicide?” OK! [Laughts].

Andrew:
Truthfully, I really can’t think of who he’s been with since. So I don’t know.

Lips:
Well, I mean, I don’t know. Sometimes I think some of it is beyond my comprehension, and it’s not even a matter of I’m going to compromise, because now what was a big deal at the moment is we were three weeks out from a tour coming down to the States, and now I’ve got no bass player, and we’ve got to leave in three weeks. What the fuck am I going to do now? You’ve got to have someone step in that’s going to be able to fucking do this in three weeks from now. And I’m not talking about trying to do it. They’ve got to be able to do it. So what had to happen?

One of the last shows that we had done with Glenn was in Brooklyn to promote This Is Thirteen. It might have been the Bowery Ballroom. That was a fucking great gig. And the place was packed. It was fucking awesome. And the guy is on stage grimacing like fucking bitter son of a bitch. In the audience, this bass player guy [Sal Italiano] that we knew from the very early days. So, he started talking to Robb and me about the scene. So a couple of weeks later, once we needed a bass player, we went looking for him to see if he can fill in for the next three weeks. The guy is basically the same age as Robb and me, so we said let’s see if he wants to do it. So we contacted him, and sure enough, he was able to do it, and he did do it.

So, we invited him to stay for an album, but he didn’t learn the songs. He didn’t come up to try to learn the songs or take part in the rehearsal for the album. Then it got into discussions about royalties and everything, and I’m thinking, “Why, why are we discussing this? You weren’t part of the writing for it. You weren’t even here; you didn’t even give me your time.” There was just a constant uncomfortable vibe. So we had this friend of ours coming into rehearsal to play bass, and as it ends up turning out that he is a union worker and he was on time shifts and his time shift changed, she couldn’t make it to rehearsal anymore. So what he did was he brought down his teacher, which we had no idea that he had a teacher, but that’s how this guy was able to play our songs. So now we’re going to meet the teacher. I don’t know, whatever. So, Chris [Robertson] shows up looking like and playing the songs like he’s been here for 20 years. So, we’re like, “Fuck, this is crazy.”

Andrew:
Funny how life works sometimes that way.

Lips:
Yeah. It’s like, what the fuck? Because the guy who figured out our music and then figured out comparable parts where the parts weren’t quite the same. It was what he taught the bass player that we were playing with. It is comparable to better parts because the original guy’s playing with a pick, and now it’s being played with fingers. So you could elaborate and do other things that the old guy didn’t and couldn’t do. So they’re making up shit right now. So it’s like, “Wow, this is awesome.” Once Chris joined…I mean, he couldn’t join right away, because of course, we recorded the album with with with Sal Italiano. Meanwhile, we’ve got a bass player in Toronto that could have easily come with us and probably done a better job. But we had already given our word to the other guy, and it’s like whatever.

So that went well. Then the next time you have to change. Yep, it’s time for changes; we finished a European tour, and it was grueling. And then some of the Canadian dates and stuff, and it was grueling because here you got a guy that’s basically the same age as me but has lived a pampered life his whole life. And we’re staying in not such great places; you know what I mean? It’s like to me, “I’m out of here in the morning; what the fuck do I care right now?” I’m not talking about completely disheveled. I’m just talking about it’s not a five-star resort-type place. Which is fine. I’m not going into the fucking Hyatt Regency, not on my fucking budget.

So, when we went on this tour with the guy [Sal], we brought Chris with us, but we brought him with us as a roadie because after rehearsing with the guy and doing all that, I felt so fucking guilty that I’m going to work with you and I’m leaving you behind. I couldn’t handle it. And basically, as a roadie, he makes the same wages anyways as a musician because they’re both there as somebody you’re paying to be there by the week—same difference. Two and a half hours of work is two and a half hours of work. One is lifting; one is a musician who isn’t lifting. So he’s getting paid really more for less, but he’s getting paid the same. So that’s the way that that adds up in my mind anyway. I don’t like my roadies making more than the musicians. That’s not right. I’m not too fond of that equation. There are bands where in many circumstances that is the case.

Andrew:
Really? That’s crazy. I never would have thought that.

Lips:
Oh absolutely. Sound engineers too, but that’s not crazy. It can take years to learn how to put the really good sound together properly. Otherwise, your band is going to sound like shit.

Andrew:
Very true. I guess you can’t just find one on craigslist or something. [Laughs].

Lips:
Well, you can, but they’re probably going to be some kid in their basement. He’s not going to have a clue what the fuck he’s doing. I mean, anybody can lift a bunch of gear and move it into place, but there’s only a couple of guys that know how to fucking actually know where it goes. [Laughs].

Andrew:
And make it sound good. [Laughs].

Lips:
Yup. So that’s how that is how the lineup came together. It’s definitely a really tight lineup, and it shows on the new record a lot. On tour, Chris is standing side stage watching, doing all the backup vocals. I can hear him on my side of the stage. And I thought, “Fuck, he should have a microphone.” He was singing along with me; I can hear that he is completely in tune with me. That’s great. And that sounds better than what I’m hearing on stage. The bottom line is, this was really frustrating because I knew what we should be doing, but we weren’t doing it right. I’m a man of my word and what actually ended up happening was the very, very simple answer. The guy [Sal] wasn’t happy, and it was the conditions. You know, it’s hard fucking work, and it’s hard work for a 40-year-old, never mind a 60-year-old. I’m fucking going to say what it really is. We’re talking about driving 18 hours. You’re in a van for 18 hours, then you go to sleep, get up for four or five hours and try driving again, get another six, seven hours, get to a gig, set up, play, tear down and start driving again. And you’re on a roll of doing this for weeks on end. Grueling. Some of us can do it, and some of us can’t.

Andrew:
I guess Chris can do it.

Lips:
Oh, yeah, it’s that there are no more complainers. We haven’t got complainers on board. It’s just become easier. I mean, one of the funniest moments of the entire tour when Sal was with us was Robb had been driving probably 18 hours between cities. Sal starts off complaining a bit to Robb about it and goes, “You don’t know what it’s like to sit back there.” I’m sitting there, Like, I don’t believe what I’m hearing. Let me clear my ears; what did I hear? What did I just hear? What is this guy saying? [Laughs].

Andrew:
As if you guys hadn’t done it a thousand times before. [Laughs].

Lips:
I don’t know. I looked at him…that’s all I’ve got. What is he talking about? That’s insane.

Andrew:
So, I wanted to touch on a couple of interesting rumors that I’ve always heard. Some say they’re true. Some say they’re not. In the early days, I’ve always heard that you were offered to join Motörhead. Is it true?

Lips:
That’s true. But I didn’t do it.

Andrew:
Can you tell us a little bit about it? I know you guys were on a Motörhead tour early on in your career…

Lips:
We’d gotten to know Lemmy obviously from the first album and tour. Motörhead had a double show on that tour, two shows in one night, one to one at seven, at one at nine.

Andrew:
Wow, this is insane.

Lips:
Yeah. It started at seven. We did a half-hour, then Motörhead, then there’s a bit of a break, and then we’re on for half an hour again and then Motörhead again. Double show. Crazy.

Andrew:
Right. And so you were asked to join the band after that?

Lips:
It was around the Hard ‘N’ Heavy album, but it was after that point. We were recording Metal On Metal. They had come to play here in Toronto at a big, huge venue called The Coliseum. Lemmy had some kind of spasm in his arm, and it couldn’t play. So, they stopped the show, lost half an hour of the show.

Andrew:
And so that’s when they ask you to join?

Lips:
“Fast” Eddie Clarke has just left the band. That’s when they asked me to come down on the tour bus and come with then. I was like, “No. I’m under contract. I’m not bailing on my own band. How can I do that?”

Andrew:
I always think about what the history of Metal would have been like if you had joined Motörhead, what that would have looked like?

Lips:
Well, there wouldn’t have been Another Perfect Day, and there would be no Forged In Fire.

Andrew:
Very true. It’s interesting to think about.

Lips:
There might be a combination of those two things in one album, but it’s one album. But it would probably have been a one-off like it ended up being anyway because Lemmy wasn’t too particular who he was getting on with for that length of time. At that moment, it was an emergency. He just needed a guitar player. He would worry about a good one later. He basically said, “Right now, we’re doing the Iron Fist tour in the US, and I need a guitar player right now.” [Laughs].

Andrew:
The other thing I always heard, and I have no idea if this is true or not, was that at one point,
Robb might have been asked to join Ozzy Osbourne on tour. Is there any truth to that?

Lips:
I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it is true. I don’t know. If so, why wouldn’t he do it?

Andrew:
Because he wanted to stay in Anvil?

Lips:
That would make no sense. [Laughs]. Well, because if it happened after the first three albums, why would he do it? Maybe, it did happen, and I don’t know about it, you know what I’m saying? Could be, I don’t know, and that’s all I can say. I can’t verify it. I’ve never discussed it with Robb, and no one ever said anything to me about it. Maybe it’s because there is truly nothing to discuss?

With the Motörhead thing basically, fundamentally, I think the bigger deal, I think, was the fact that Lemmy was really pissed off for a little while, really until he got Brian Robertson in, and everything was sort of settled for awhile.

Robb Reiner | Drummer, Music instruments, Anvil

Andrew:
I guess you probably put Lemmy in a spot by turning him down.

Lips:
Well, yeah, because he’s going, “Fuck, you know, we’ll be out of this show AND this show, because I have to wait for somebody else to do it.” I mean, it wasn’t until we had recorded Forged In Fire and he had recorded Another Perfect Day that we saw each other and actually had a discussion about it. Anyway, he sees me tell me that he’s going to have an open promoter and have the whole European/British tour when you come through here, but his first words, “Why don’t you fucking do it?” I said, “Well, you know who I am and what I was getting ready to do. I was getting ready to record the album; I’m under contract.” He said, “Well, that’s OK, listen to my new album.” That was it. I thought it was great. I still think it’s a great album [Another Perfect Day]. I think it’s one of the better Motörhead albums and more different ones because it’s actually a very separate type of album from the rest.

Andrew:
Definitely a good record. A classic for sure.

Lips:
Yeah, man, I think it was better than Iron Fist. I thought Iron Fist was almost redundant to Ace Of Spades. I told that to Lemmy’s face. I had a long-standing relationship with the guy. He was a great guy, but like an older brother who was in another band, who asked me to join at one point but couldn’t do it. Not that we didn’t want to. We just couldn’t do it, that’s all.

Andrew:
Wasn’t it meant to be at that time.

Lips:
Just wasn’t.

Andrew:
If he had asked you a few years later, after the first three albums, say in ’85, would you have done it?

Lips:
Yeah…in between in the dead spot, especially the dead four years. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have been obligated to do anything, right? Yeah…yes, I probably would have.

Andrew:
It’s like everything else. I think everything’s just a matter of timing.

Anyway, with the new record, you put it out, it’s doing really well, and you guys are booked on this big tour, and you just started it out, and you had to kind of hit the pause button. So when everything starts to open up, maybe, I don’t know, this summer, whenever that happens, what’s next for you guys?

Lips:
Well, what’s next is we’re in the midst of writing the new album. All the music is done, and I’m working my way through the lyrics. At this point, we’re hoping that we can get to get to Germany middle of August to record it.

Then, in the middle of September, we leave for 30 or 40 shows. Nice shows that we were booked on originally but got canceled due to the pandemic.

Heavy metal menschen | American Jewish World

Andrew:
So you’ll be able to fulfill the tour that you guys were supposed to be on.

Lips:
Right, all we got was three and a half weeks of touring for Legal At Last. We did one live stream, but I don’t think it’s such a great thing. I don’t know. I’ve tried the live stream thing a little bit. It’s not the same.

Andrew:
It’s fun, but it’s just like watching a YouTube video of an old show or something at the end of the day. It’s fun, but it’s nothing like being at an actual show.

Lips:
We did do one in the summer. It sounds absolutely spectacular. There are two videos right now; you can watch them on YouTube under District 7 Production and L’Anti Bar & Spectacles on July 4th, 2020.

Andrew:
Nice. I will check that out. That’s cool. So you guys are writing the new record, I guess maybe next year? Maybe 2022, the new record will pop up?

Lips:
Yeah. We figure that we will be finished recording it by mid-September 2021 and that it should be out March 2022. It should be a year from now. We hope.

Andrew:
For all of us fans stateside, is there any chance we’ll see you guys play some live shows?

Lips:
We finish the European dates in November or December, then with the new thing not due until March…yeah, we’re planning to come to the States after that.

Andrew:
That’s great. I’m looking forward to that.

Lips:
It could be as late as the summer, next summer. It’s a while off. There are all kinds of complications right now. First of all, you get you can’t get your work visas right now. I can’t even cross the border. So, all that shit’s closed. So what the fuck? [Laughs]

A comovente e atemporal história do Anvil

Andrew:
You can’t even think about it. It’s hard to even think of, I guess.

Lips:
By the time it all clears up, you’ll have nearly two years of fucking all this shit being held up. There’s going to be a huge line to play shows. Who knows? I hope we can come around that time. I really don’t know.

Andrew:
Hopefully, in a few months, everybody starts to get vaccinated, and they start to open everything up again.

Lips:
There are all kinds of vaccines, and everybody out there is crazy. The conspiracy theories sometimes are killing me. I imagine many people have got nothing better to do than read H.G. Wells. These fucking people are going on about cyborg technology and that the vaccines don’t work, and they’re injecting a chip into us all. That’s some great technology. It’s going actually to kill you via remote control. [Laughs].

Andrew:
We’re all going to become Cyborgs, or they’ll start tracking us. [Laughs].

Lips:
It’s a whole new level of paranoia. You’re worried about being tracked and signed into Google. You got people saying, “I’m worried about the vaccine making me sick, but I’ll stop at McDonald’s.” Sure, have your McDonald’s. That will help. Smoke a couple of good cigarettes while you’re at it too. [Laughs].

Andrew:
If nothing else, it’s good material for lyrics.
[Laughs].

Lips:
You know, I know some of it is, and that’s why I’m getting a kick out of it, and I’m laughing. But it’s not really a laughing matter. But the people, when they’re carrying on like this, in the future, I think people will go back, and everybody will have a good laugh.

Andrew:
Yeah, it’s a whole new level of paranoia and ridiculousness, really. All of it. You see it all coming out of the woodwork now.

Lips:
And the other thing is complete idiots on the same soapbox. As a knowledgeable person, it’s a big problem when it comes to the Internet. A complete idiot types in some shit, and everybody starts believing it.

Chuck Frederick column: Anvil is back; the metal's the same, but ...  pirates? | Duluth News Tribune

Andrew:
Well, I don’t know where I heard it, but someone once told me a long time ago, “Never underestimate the stupidity of the person standing next to you.” [Laughs].
That’s basically what it comes down to. And in the age of social media, that person standing next to you all the time on Facebook and Instagram, it’s like you just said, everybody believes everything now.

Lips:
[Laughs]. Yeah, I guess I can understand why. You can understand why it’s tough to discern fact from fiction, truth from lies. That’s from everything that’s being abused, that’s people’s trust being abused. People’s abilities being abused. You’ve people going, “I’m going to write…I’m going to type this lie, and I know it’s a lie, but I don’t care.”

Andrew:
That’s really what it comes down to. People don’t have any regard for the fact that there’s another human on the other side of the keyboard. They just put garbage out there, and they don’t feel the repercussions because you’re not actually looking at the person
.

Lips:
Yeah, yeah. I mean, they are completely insensitive. It’s horrible.

Andrew:
So, I’ve got one more for you. And I think you would have had a unique perspective on this beforehand, but now COVID obviously puts everything into a whole different context. For all the young musicians out there looking to break into the music business, what’s Lips Kudlow’s advice for all the young musicians breaking in?

Lips:
Ultimately, what it really down to is creating something no one else can do but you.

Andrew:
That’s a tall order
.

Lips:
It is, but ultimately, it’s the way forward. That’s what it takes. You have to know that it’s not only that but also your stage performance. Everything about it has got to be something that only you can do. And if it’s not, then you’re probably not going to get anywhere. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but ultimately that’s what it really comes down to.

People want to say something very definitively definitive so this is what it is. It’s unique. It’s why it’s there. That’s precisely what it means to have something, something that identifies you more than just your face and more than maybe the clown suit that you might put on. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. It usually takes a little more than that; it usually takes a song or two. But you need everything as a combined package, or ultimately, if you want something that’s going to work, you want something that’s going to be good in the live setting, and that’s an art. And so that’s one thing to learn. Learn how to play and write your songs, a whole other art in itself, learn how to put on a good show, learning how to deliver your message correctly. It’s singular to you to be yourself.

Andrew:
It’s hard to be yourself!

Lips:
Yeah! Also, to feel comfortable, to be yourself through your years. No, I don’t care who you are. No one comes by it naturally. I mean, you do it to a certain level. God, you know, it’ll be OK. I mean, that’s what made the movie [Anvil! The Story of Anvil] so great. That’s what it was doing. So, yeah, these are the things you need; you’ve got to be unique. The only thing that you can do is musically, be you.

Andrew:
Well said. I think that’s it, Lips. I really appreciate your time. Thank you for doing this with me. I really appreciate it.

Lips:
Oh, no problem, anytime. Hey, Take care of yourself and enjoy, all right? Bye-bye!

Anvil's Steve 'Lips' Kudlow: Our Main Currency Is Drumming

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Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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