Anvil: What Heavy Metal Dreams Are Made Of

LET ME tell you about Canada’s number one secret weapon. It’s called Anvil and when they finally decide to unleash themselves on this poor unsuspecting planet, it will send nations to their knees in fear. Headbangers worldwide will be in serious, danger living under a constant threat of a possible haemorrhage and mothers, you know what’s best for your daughters. Start building that protective bunker, now.

OK, Ladeez’n’Genn’lmen, make way for the invasion of Canuke Power! Yes folks, I too was under the illusion that Canada was responsible for the most insipid, bland form of music this side of the Eurovision Song Contest, offering us such pathetic attempts at rock and roll as Triumph, the poorer man’s geriatric version of Grand Funk. Up until recently the Suterian vision seemed to be dominated by the twee tinkering of synthesizers and shrill, grating vocals that represented the acceptable sound of the airwaves. Everything seemed to be a little on the conservative side, until I connected with Anvil, that is…

This group’s first album, although recorded in shabby circumstances, proved to be a major suprise of the year. It’s sleazy, arrogant, loud and fast. The whole attitude is so damn cocksure that it demands and grabs your attention whether you like it or not. A four piece, they write songs as macho and chauvinist and tacky as a copy of a Fiesta Readers’ Wives Special with subject matter ranging from ‘School Love’ and ‘Bondage’ leaving very little ground uncovered in between as they play with the confidence of seasoned veterans and the charge of possessed juvenile delinquents out on the prowl.

Anvil stick close to the roots of HM, no compromise/no mercy which as it turns out, is why it’s taken them so long to get where they are today. Most important of all they are fans, which is something I found out after seeing them live. Anvil, who have already made quite an impression on this mighty organ’s independent charts, have just completed recording a new album under the production guidance of HM whizz kid Chris Tsangarides with a grandoise title of Metal On Metal. The group and their product have reaffirmed my waning faith in this form of music, which is on a slow but sure decline, gradually submitting to the stranglehold of slick, commerciality. Like Motorhead, this bunch are a final glimmer of hope to keep the HM fire blazing.*

I have landed in Toronto and the spirit of Dean Moriarty is nowhere to be seen as this haphazard, makeshift flesh and blood pulp edition of a Kerouac novel stumbles through the airport’s immigration area wallowing in a sea of self pity and phlegm.

As I find myself in the terminal grips of bronchitis, mother nature decides to dump its final winter calling card upon Halfin and myself and our entry into this city came complete with a welcome mat of snow that had even taken the hardened locals by suprise.

My eyes felt like they’d been on the receiving end of Jake La Motta’s fist and the ol’ proboscis was running with the gusto of a leading contender in Chariots Of Fire, but before you could say ‘time change’ the highly efficient and very personable Attic PR (Hi Ralph!) had us showered, changed and tucked behind a table at a local night spot known as The Gasworks, clutching feverishly onto our beverages and witnessing the second in two sets of Anvil. Six sets later (they were doing a three day residency at this joint) left me in no doubt that this group are the most invigorating product to pop out of Canada since Ms Trudeau’s fleshy overspill at Studio 54.

Even though half my grey matter was still readjusting from the GMT blooze while the other half remained splattered, long lost after being dislodged about the confines of Deeside Leisure Centre when Motorhead broke the sound barrier along with thousands of unsuspecting ear drums, it wasn’t hard to suss that Anvil are a band with huge potential. In fact after only a couple of sightings I was sold, convinced that this was The Best Heavy Rock Band I’ve seen this year. Suprisingly enough live they totally match, if not surpass, recorded product, a major feat in itself with a show that requires seat belts and asbestos ear muffs to prevent third degree burns.

So, picture this seedy little joint that uses splintered fragments of glass for sawdust, and has bouncers who look like they fell redwoods with their bare hands and whose faces feature a road map of scars to remind them of previous encounters with difficult clientele. They’re an assortment ranging from down and out Hosers (a Canadian expression for ‘rednecks’) to a variety of headbangers and bikers, the latter being a particulary menacing brand of road rat.

Meanwhile onstage all hell is breaking loose as Anvil, now warmed up and lubricated by their first set, proceed to unleash material from their last album which immediately penetrates and embeds itself in my by now delerious state of conciousness. Having only beer aurally subjected to this collective, my immediate reaction to the group visually was a comparison to Ted Nugent meeting the Muppets. Once my perspective became clearer and more rational the group still came over as being totally OTT.*

Picture This. A four piece outfit who play with enough enthusiasm and zeal to make you think that the HM riff has just been invented. The backline features Chief Muppet Robb Reiner on drums, who looks vaguely like a younger version of Mick Tucker and sounds like a mixture of Paice and Powell (Ian and Cozy, that is), a proverbial powerhouse.

Next to him, rock steady and always on the mark Ian ‘Dick’ Dickson pumps at his bass with the ease and precision of a musical John Holmes. On rhythm and long flowing blond locks we have Anglophile Dave Allison providing teeny bop appeal, the Paul Stanley of the band.

But get this, they’re fronted by an absolute lunatic going under the guise of Lips. The guy looks totally crazed. Trussed up in bondage gear and tights, he is forever leaping off the stage into the unsuspecting crowd. His eyes look like they’re constantly trying to escape from their sockets while his mouth contorts into a ridiculous permutation of positions like it’s trying to crawl off the side of his face, while his head, topped with a mop of unkept curly hair, bobs up and down with the ferocity of a manic Angus Young.

At one point of the show Lips whips out a vibrator from one of his boots, turns it on and dips it into a customers beer, sucks the froth of the top and then dunks the throbbing apparatus down the front of an unsuspecting wench’s blouse. Believe me when I tell you that this mob are more insane than the great Gonzo, more motley than the Motley Crue, even grosser than the Rods. When they finally arrive here they will have the most staunch headbanger gibbering at the gills. They are what heavy metal dreams are made of.

Anvil’s first album is a cross between a house warming party at the Marquis De Sade’s and a picnic with Ilsa the She Wolf of the SS – local newspaper review.

Lips made his live premier at the age of 7, when on parents’ day when he played ‘Foxy Lady’ and ‘Purple Haze’ through a miked up acoustic guitar. He wouldn’t have made it on stage then if it wasn’t for his principal, who caned the stage fright out of him. The group began as a dream twelve years ago when two hardcore HM fans and school chums Reiner and Lips teamed up and decided to spread their particular firebrand gospel across a bland state. These Purple, Sabbath and Funk fanatics played in various garage outfits which occasionally made it to a high school dance floor and eventually prompted them to take things more seriously.

“We knew that you had to have money and the right collection of people to make things work”, revealed Lips, who is a much more quiet and introvert chap than his onstage persona would suggest. Our leading honcho was christened Lips by a highly suspect schoolmate.

“The guy just turned round to me one day and said ‘hey man you’ve got such a nice pair of lips’.” And that’s what they decided to call the band, as Reiner explained.

“The whole thing was totally contrived, me and Lips were sitting out the front of my folks’ house getting smashed when we suddenly thought, let’s call the band Lips. Then we though what sort of music would a band with a name like Lips play, it was obvious all the songs would have to be perverted.”

Lips: “Then we though let’s get all these sexual devices, whips, chains,…We used to do the show with bras and all sorts of lingerie hanging off the mike stands, at one time we wanted to build a drum riser that looks like a four poster bed.”

They recruited the rest of the band by putting a giant ad in the Toronto Star (which they didn’t pay for) and drew enquiries from interested big names, but finally found their man in Dave Allison, followed by Ian Dickson who was working out with a band in the rehearsal studio next to them. Initially they delved in the realms of glitterama.

Dave: “We used to wear spandex, make up and shit like that-really sleazy. We used to do a whole Nugent set, cloned him quite well.”

The band eventually decided to do a totally original set, quite a risky step in a system that almost made it imperative for you to play cover versions and put together an elaborate stage set up. They borrowed some money from their folks and girl friends, and assembled a selection of demos that eventually became an album, which they put out on their own Splash records. This drew the attention of Attic records, who got to see the band down at the aforementioned Gasworks which proved inspiring enough to secure a recording deal, whereupon the album was remastered and repackaged and the group were renamed to avoid confusion with other similary named combos. Also, they felt Anvil suited the HM imagery that they wanted to convey. They were also fighting a battle against Canuke MOR which was, and still is, polluting the airwaves.

Lips: “Most bars are wimped out and the rest just want to fire us, or they give us shit because they think we’re too loud. Normally crowds are very timid in Toronto, especially in bars. Because very few people actually go and see the band, the general thing is that you go into bars with your friends to get drunk.

“We’ve sorta changed that a bit, people definitely come to our shows to see us. The normal mentality is, let’s go out and get drunk rather than see the band.”*

Slowly but surely Anvil are beginning to get their message through, although they feel that they’ll have to go to Europe before they get any real recognition. The first album has already met with enthusiastic response in Britain, with frothing rave reviews from Barton and Toots Daley. I pointed out that most of their material was choc a bloc with sexual innuendos, with accounts of deviations and graphic acounts that seem to be too accurate to be fiction.

Robb: “Most of the songs on the album are about true occurrences. The first album was mostly written before we went on the road, so it was about teenage happenings that occured between the ages of twelve and eighteen. The new album is about everything that’s gone down on the roads.

“On this album we tried to be a little less upfront with the sexual stuff, just a little bit more tasteful with it and intelligent. We still feel the same way, but we try and present it in a more tasteful way so maybe we can get some airplay. We’d like everybody to know about us, but at the same time we don’t want to be outright pigs. Mind you, it’s sort of fun to be that way.

There are songs like ‘Pussy Poison’, Available Youth’ and ‘Local Muff’ that will probably never see the light of day as far as the recording studios are concerned, but there’s no doubt which way this bunch of louts leanings’ lie.

Lips: “Before I went on the road, I was really shy. In fact, the things I do onstage are the things I’d like to do in the streets if I had the nerve. I only had one girl in my life and that was it, then I went on the road and I dunno. . . I discovered reality.”

Dave: “On the road, it’s all for one and one for all and the only thing that counts is the band, everybody else can f. ¬off. That’s our attitude, which is not good and not bad. When it comes right down to it, when we’re onstage we put out and entertain the people. That’s what they’re there for, that’s what we’re there for. Once that’s all over, our diplomacy drops and then anything goes. Let’s just pig out, yeah, let’s be an obnoxious as we can be and wanna be.”

Lips: “People ask me, is it true what they say about rock bands. Everything about this band definitely is. Any girl that screws’ me, or want to, is really weird.

“On stage, I strike women as being an extremely perverted kind of person, and only the weird perverted kind of women will end up wanting to go with me.”

The group also indulge in ‘splashes’ which is slang for group sex . .. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’re all really close, a band that splashes together, stays together.”

Dave: “We have such a wild reputation, there are so many stories. We’ve had mothers calling us halfway across the country because their daughters have got on a bus to follow us. In Quebec City we’re rumoured to tie up chicks for three or four days, just leave them tied up on the bed.”

“When I die I’ll leave a good looking corpse and have had one helluva time, if I was to die tomorrow, I’d die with my’ boots on, a guitar in my hand and chick in my face. Hopefully, that’s the way I wanna go.”

Lips: “Heavy rockers are the scum of the earth, that’s how they’re treated in Canada.”

The band love their jobs and this new album should ensure a promising lucrative career. Before long, Lips will be adorning the guitar hero pages and numbers like ‘Jackhammer”, ‘Heatsink’ and the devastating ‘666’ will be standard stuff. It’s so exciting to see a band put out so much energy, promise so much potential and paint an encouraging picture for the future. Anvil are without a doubt my tip for the top this year, they’re gonna be Huge, you’d better believe it.

While they continue giving me graphic, candid descriptions of their tireless libidos with stories that would make the Rods sound like worn out impotent old men, and Lips describes how he breaks in his vibrators prior to each performance, I ponder on the fact that two years the band probably would never have got within sniffing distance of a recording contract, and now..

Lips: “When we started doing what we’re doing now four years ago it was just unheard of, nothing like that existed in the bars of Canada. If you’ve been used to bands playing top forty sounds and just mild music, background stuff and then all of a sudden you’ve got Anvil coming in there with stacks of gear and wild lights, and you’ve got this maniac running around in the bar pulling out a vibrator and dipping it in people’s drinks, people just couldn’t handle it.”


© Pete MakowskiSounds, 7 April 1982

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