Interview with Anvil frontman Lips

Date: January 31, 2020
Interviewer: Greg Troyan of Lipstick Generation


Sleaze Roxx: Let’s begin by talking about the new album. What would you say is the difference between ‘Legal At Last‘ and other Anvil releases? What were you trying to accomplish with this album that’s different than on previous albums?

Lips: I don’t know that we’re really trying to do anything in comparison. I never really think about things in comparison. I don’t pit one record against the other. Each record as I make is a statement for its time and place. Right now, where that all comes from is because in Canada, they’ve changed the laws and you can now smoke marijuana, grow marijuana — all the different aspects of that drug are no longer illegal. That’s the first step. But on many other levels, what is implied and what is kind of throughout the whole record is a string of coincidences that are all a result of my environment and the timing.

Sleaze Roxx: Could you elaborate on that more?

Lips: Well, marijuana was not made illegal to begin with because it’s bad for you. It’s completely about economics. It’s about the economy and business. Marijuana could have been used to replace the cotton industry. Paper, lumber, construction, bio-diesel — These are very, very, very huge, huge industries that had to be protected and therefore marijuana was made illegal. Not because it got you stoned or because it was bad for you. It was bad for the economy. Now, all these things are environmentally touchy subjects. Had cotton not been used, and had we been using hemp, then there wouldn’t be as much water pollution because all the runoff from the chemicals that it takes to manufacture cotton from the plants is absolutely insane. That’s one aspect. It would have put the clothing industry into peril and chaos because hemp is a lot more durable of a substance than cotton ever could be.

So, in other words, if we had green jeans instead of blue jeans, they’d last ten times longer and that’s not good for Levi’s, right? And we know how big of a conglomerate that Levi’s is, right? When you consider the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and where we are today, everybody wears jeans. That’s a huge, massive, massive, massive amount of industry that we’re talking about here. So putting the cotton industry out of business is not a good thing. The environmental strain that the cotton industry has means a lot in a certain sense. These are all contributing factors to why we have global warming. Now, we can get into the conversation of what does global warming have to do with anything, because we don’t want to take responsibility. We don’t want to believe what Greta’s [Thunberg] been saying. We don’t want to believe the humanity has a play in what’s going on in our environment. If you have any intellect whatsoever, you’ve got to realize of course we have an impact on the environment. You know, come on [laughs]?

Sleaze Roxx: Absolutely.

Lips: You can try to disagree and say that global warming is a natural phenomenon and it would be happening anyway. Well, it wouldn’t be happening at the speed it’s happening now. There’s no way. I’m not even going to get into that argument. Regardless, the stuff that’s going on, how does that relate to the content on the album? Let’s take “Chemtrails.” Why are airplanes dumping chemicals into our air? To combat global warming. From what I’ve read, they are dumping aluminum into the atmosphere which is a reflective chemical that doesn’t let sunlight through. So we wouldn’t have chemtrails if we didn’t have global warming [laughs]. Okay, so those thing are connected. So, maybe we shouldn’t be using oil because everything we create, which is tons and tons and tons of plastic, is all dependent on the oil industry. We wouldn’t have the tons and tons of plastic had they been using hemp. And the plastic that you get from hemp use is biodegradable and we wouldn’t have the ocean packed full of water bottles. And maybe we wouldn’t need water bottles because we wouldn’t have polluted our fucking water because of all the stuff we did to it by using cotton.

So, all of these ideas are what led to ‘Legal At Last’ and the implications of the legalization marijuana on the planet, not even to mention our health. We depleted our environment and everything in it of the chemicals that are bioproducts of the hemp plant, the CBD chemicals. The CBD chemicals would have been leeched all through our water, in our soil, in our air, everything we consume, even the meat that we eat, even the cattle, would be positively affected by having the chemicals of CBD in their bloodstreams and in the meat. And because we’ve been so depleted of that chemical, we’ve all of a sudden come to realize that by taking CBD oils, it takes your cancer away. What does that mean? It means that we depleted ourselves and made ourselves more open to cancer, never mind giving ourselves cancer from our environmental decimation. In not letting the chemicals from marijuana into our ecosystem, we’ve depleted the natural inhabitants for warding off the cancer. It’s multiplied the problem even worse.

So, the concept and idea of ‘Legal At Last’ goes a lot further and has a lot broader implications than just, “Let’s go smoke a joint.” These are the things I want people to understand about what is implied. And as far as the album cover is concerned, when my wife said to me, “Guys, you should call the album ‘Legal At Last’”, the first thing that came to my mind was obviously of course, coming from Canada, being a Canadian — celebrating the fact that it’s finally legal in Canada seemed like a good idea — but along with that idea, it had to fit in with how does it work with Anvil and the art concept. Well, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Let’s create an Anvil that looks like a bong.” In doing that, then the next biggest question was, “Who’s going to be smoking the bong?”

So, then eventually it came around to, “Well, we’ll have an angel smoking the bong” because that depicts everything that’s good, or what humanity has labeled as good. Angels are supposed to be people that have been good in life that go to heaven and become an angel. Having said that, the back cover is the devil. So, the front the cover is the angel smoking the bong, the back cover is the devil smoking the bong. And what does that represent? For better or worse. That’s the ultimate statement. I’m not telling people to smoke dope. I’m not telling people not to smoke dope. It’s up to each individual to make their own decision. That’s what it’s about. That is what is being depicted.

The other thing interesting about the symbolism is that on most Anvil covers we incorporate the “666”, which comes from the song “666” from the ‘Metal On Metal’ album. And of course, the whole idea of the “666” being a “metal thing.” We’ve somehow been able to employ it on all of our records, and on this particular record, we put it on the devil’s anvil on the back cover, but it’s a representation in the Hebrew lettering for “18” because it’s our 18th album.

Anvil‘s “Nabbed In Nebraska” video (from upcoming Legal At Last album):

ANVIL – Nabbed In Nebraska (2019) // Official Lyric Video // AFM Records

Taken from the album “Legal At Last” out February 14th, 2020Order: – Nabbe…

Sleaze Roxx: So, I want to talk about the “metal thing”. A lot of traditional metal acts tend to lean conservative politically, and yet Anvil has a lot of environmental messages. Would it be fair to say that Anvil is a left-leaning band politically?

Lips: No.

Sleaze Roxx: Really? So the song “Gun Control” from the album ‘Anvil Is Anvil‘ is…

Lips: No. The song is an observation. There’s no statement anywhere in that song that I’m saying “make guns illegal.” I would never say that. No way. Because you know what? If I lived in the USA, particularly in Chicago, I’d own a gun.

Sleaze Roxx: So what is the statement of the song “Gun Control”? I recently re-listened to all of your albums to prepare for this interview and would like to hear what message you were trying to get across with that composition.

Lips: It’s about how there’s no answer. There’s no fixing that problem. That’s what I’m saying.

Sleaze Roxx: Understood, I just wanted clarity on that. So you would say that Anvil is a politically neutral band?

Lips: Absolutely. I don’t make judgment on anybody, especially political judgment. No way. I won’t do it. The only thing that I touch politically is on that particular album was “Die For A Lie”, which is essentially about religion. Religion is a very, very, very touchy subject, and I will talk about that. I do discuss it and I have my views on that. I’m not left or right. I’m an atheist. And I’m an atheist for good reason. I don’t see proof. I don’t see science. I don’t see anything that makes any sort of sense on any kind of level in believing in an invisible entity that takes money. I just don’t get it. I don’t get it. And I certainly don’t get the concept of the Muslim religion on the level that you kill “infidels”, people that don’t believe, and you’re going to heaven to have virgins? Give me a fucking break. That’s dying for a lie.

So, those are the kind of things I’ve got lots to say about and have a point of view where I’ll make a judgment and a statement. But about gun control? I won’t judge anybody on that. I won’t go there. Look, Toronto is supposed to be a gun-free zone. Ninety percent of the guns that are in our fucking city right now come from the USA. We’ve got murders every fucking day from gunplay. It’s illegal to own a gun. It’s illegal to carry a gun and it doesn’t change a fucking thing.

And I can go on to say the same thing about drugs. Making drugs illegal is stupid. Instead of wasting money by funding these police programs and spending billions of dollars in court costs and all the fucking jailing of all these people, why don’t you help the people who are addicted and put the money into that? That’s not left and that’s not right. I have certain views but I wouldn’t say that I’m ultimately liberal or ultimately conservative. I’m neither and just have my views on the way the world is. And the world is so baffling. Sometimes, it is unbelievable.

Sleaze Roxx: So, you have obviously written praises to marijuana in the past, not just on this album but on previous releases as well. You also mentioned your atheism. There are a number of individuals who have experimented with psychedelic drugs who claim that it gives them a spiritual experience and has given them faith in a higher power. Have you experimented with psychedelics and do you have any comments on the people who believe in a higher power based on those experiences?

Lips: Well, obviously they’ve done something that’s warped their brains. Is it a state of reality? Absolutely not. So, no. Not interested. I don’t go there. Spirituality. Okay, you can believe in coincidence and “this is meant to be” and there’s a God who’s directing and making things happen or not happen. It’s just a crock of shit. Everything is random. And stuff just coincidentally happens randomly. There’s no order or shape or reason to any of it. It’s just us as human beings looking for reason and direction and drawing the lines between the dots. We’re creating it but it’s not because it really exists. So, no, I don’t buy into that shit.

Sleaze Roxx: Anvil has been praised for the band’s consistency in sound from album to album. Anvil always sounds like Anvil. Do you listen to artists that sound similar to Anvil and do you ever desire to stray from the Anvil formula with your albums? Is the Anvil sound just your natural state of being?

Lips: I don’t look at it as a formula. I can’t change the sound of my voice. I can’t change what I look like. I guess I could dye my hair or shave it off, but it’s still ultimately me. My eyes are going to remain the same. I can’t change the color of my eyes unless I put contact lenses on or something. So, I don’t look at it like you can just change at will. It’s about what comes natural. It’s all about what comes natural and that’s all that matters to me. All that matters to me is that whatever I create is natural.

I’m the same artist, the same writer. I’m the same person. So, therefore, that’s going to remain the same. I have no will to change it. Why would I want to change it? And think about this. Every artist, no matter who the fuck they are — artist, musician, no matter what the fuck it is — you’re looking for your own identity. That’s what it’s really about. That’s what separates you from everything else. So why would you try to tailor it to make it to be like somebody else? You can have somebody else’s influence and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s exactly what I do. It’s my interpretation and my version of those ideas, but they are still ultimately my ideas and my version.

That’s how I look at what I do. I certainly do not intentionally go in any particular direction. I do whatever I feel comfortable with and whatever I feel like doing. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve done all along. I’m not a hit single writer, nor do I ever want to be, so therefore I’m not going to live off one fucking song or one fucking album for 30 years. I don’t do that. Never wanted to do that. Never will do that. So I keep putting out albums every two years and always fucking keep a schedule and keep hard at work and do this. That’s what it’s really about. It’s about getting everything done that you can while you’re alive.

Sleaze Roxx: Anvil is considered one of the most influential metal acts in history. I’d love to hear some thoughts on some of the bands you’ve influenced. Let’s start with Metallica.

Lips: I love them. They’re wonderful. Wonderful guys. Really, really wonderful guys. Honestly. I look at them as friends. Certainly not as opponents. I think they have terrific music. They’ve got a lot of melody and a lot of originality. They’re a great band all around! What can I say about them [laughs]? It’s all good, man!

Sleaze Roxx: How about Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer?

Lips: Well, I’ve been friends these bands most of my life [laughs]. I became friends with Scott Ian in 1982. We played a show in New York City with Riot and Raven. Scott Ian walked up to me and gave me an Anthrax t-shirt. It was hand-painted [laughs]. And I’ve been friends with him ever since. People like that are terrific.

It wasn’t until 2002 that I met Dave Mustaine. We were playing a festival in Germany with Megadeth and everyone told me, “You’ve got to stay away from Dave Mustaine. He’s a real asshole.” And I said, “What the fuck? Okay. Whatever.” So I walk up to Dave Mustaine and he looks at me and goes, “Oh, Lips! Man, I’ve been a fan of yours for years! Fucking wow! Cool to meet you!” There you go. There’s somebody who’s supposed to be an asshole who’s the nicest guy you could possibly meet. We ended up in a conversation about our kids and hockey and all kinds of stuff. He’s a fucking great guy. You know, what is there to say about Megadeth? Really cool guy, man.

Slayer? Some really interesting stuff. You know the guy who drinks beer through his nose, Mad Dog, right?

Sleaze Roxx: Yes.

Lips: So, Overkill were opening for Slayer. I think the bill was Slayer, Mötorhead and Overkill. This was years ago. So, the night before the show, the bands came into town, and I was pretty good friends with the Overkill guys and got a call saying, “Hey man, let’s go out tonight.” And we go drinking at a strip club called Zanzibar. So, we get to Zanzibar and Tom Araya is there, and we’re sitting and talking for hours and I introduced myself as Steve. I didn’t say anything about who the fuck I am or where I’m from, nothing.

So, the next night is the show night, and Mad Dog, the guy who drinks beer through his nose is on Slayer’s tour bus. He sticks his head out of the bus and says, “Hey Lips, come over here!” And I come walking over to the tour bus and Tom looks at me and says, “Hey Steve, what the fuck? Oh my God! You’re fucking Lips! Why didn’t you say that to me last night [laughs]?” It’s a really comical way to get yourself acquainted with a band. I sat and drank with them all night and he looked at me as if I was a regular guy and the next day finds out I’m the guy from Anvil, and he’s fucking losing his shit. So it’s actually really cool [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: That’s awesome and I know it must be a huge honor to have inspired so many artists to go out and form their own bands. To close out, I’d like to ask your advice to young bands just starting in music and what you want to tell kids out there forming their first bands. What advice would you want to give them?

Lips: Most important of all is finding your own identity. I think we were kind of touching upon that earlier. Ultimately, that is the most important thing. You’ve got to do it like no one else does it. You’ve got to find your identity and if you do that, you’ve got a fighting chance. Being like somebody else or doing copy material, you’re never going to make it on someone else’s dime. You’ve got to do it on your own.

So the first step? You’ve got to create an identity. Make a unique thing. Make music that only you can do. That’s the key. It’s not about being the same. It’s about being different and standing out. That’s how you become cutting edge. You might not make it, and you might get copied and ripped off, like Anvil, but nonetheless, at least you’re getting a fucking name and most importantly, you made a name for yourself. That’s what it’s all about.

Sleaze Roxx: Excellent advice. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.

Lips: Thank you.

Anvil‘s “Legal At Last” video (from upcoming Legal At Last album):

ANVIL – Legal At Last (2020) // Official Music Video // AFM Records

Taken from the album “Legal At Last” out 14 February 2020Order & Stream: – Legal At Last (2020) // Official Music Video /…