IT PLAYS LIKE a tired Hollywood sports cliché: A protagonist defies the steepest of odds, disproves the naysayers who said he was too weak, too short, too old (or, according to Lars Ulrich, too Canadian), and achieves his dream. However, the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil and the band it portrays are far more than Hollywood fluff.
Steve "Lips" Kudlow, lead guitarist and frontman of Toronto's now infamous metal band, is one of the most passionate and inspiring figures in music. Along with drummer Robb Reiner, his musical life partner, he has been playing since 1973, experiencing nearly every extreme of the industry along the way. A longtime inspiration to countless influential metal acts, Anvil mastered the Japanese rock festival scene, dropped off the radar completely, and even survived the small-town bar gig circuit. And still, the boys carry on.
"We are not like Metallica, in the sense that they own Home Depot. We're [just] the corner hardware store. We have a clientele and we've kept it going all these years," claims Lips, an eternal optimist.
These days, talking to Lips is like having a conversation with a 16-year-old on perpetual summer vacation. Thanks to the critical acclaim of Anvil!, Lips and Robb have reached an unexpected apex of their career. For the first time in over three decades, they have been able to quit their day jobs and are now in the midst of a 29-date headlining tour.
While the film may have brought the band success, for Lips it always comes back to the persistence of the band: "The movie would never have happened if it weren't for the music. It was a fan that made the movie. It's not like [a record company] bought into the band and is trying to make us big. It's a testament to sticking to your guns and doing what you want, the way you want to do it, and getting away with it."
"People know us as people and what we've desired and longed for [for] a lifetime... and they're witnessing us getting it," Lips explains when discussing Anvil's fanbase, which has been known to tear up at recent shows. "It adds another level, another feeling you don't get at a rock concert."
Watching Rocky Balboa triumph over Apollo Creed is moving, but witnessing the personified dream that is an Anvil show will truly leave you inspired.