Blazing through the slipstream of the Juggernaut Of Justice album and tour success, Canadian metal legends Anvil are back with a new line up and a new album.
Ever-present drummer Robb Reiner is confident that the band’s latest album, Hope In Hell, coming out in May this year, will build upon the success of their recent resurgence and deliver their best release for thirty years. “I can’t say much about it other than it’s fucking awesome!”
Robbo was very relaxed and happy to talk about new bass player Sal Italiano’s input, getting back out on the road, and stepping away from their breakthrough documentary Anvil! The Story Of Anvil.
Continue reading for the interview!
Geeks of Doom: Hope In Hell will be album number 15 and I take it you’re very happy with it?
Robb Reiner: Absolutely!…It’s an incredible evolution from the last album even though it has the same feelings perhaps in some ways, except Lips [frontman Steve Kudlow] and me always felt like we came very, very close in getting it right on the last album, but we didn’t get it completely right. With this album I think we absolutely got it right this time. I love the album; the production is beyond stellar and the performances are incredible.
Geeks of Doom: On Juggernaut Of Justice there were some new elements to the Anvil sound – “Swing Thing” for example was a metal jazz track. Is there anything like that that we might expect this time out?
Robb Reiner: No, not like that. That was a one time thing, “Swing Thing.” Some people say it was a very ambitious thing, but we wanted to do that for many years and just finally decided then, Let’s just do this metal jazz thing! It’s cutting edge and we could have done another one, we actually could make a whole album of that kind of stuff. But that wouldn’t really be an Anvil album, would it?! To do another one in the same world as that one, it wouldn’t work. It was a one time thing so this album is completely nothing like “Swing Thing”!
Geeks of Doom: So it’s more straightforward, with the Anvil riffs?
Robb Reiner: Yeah. Here’s how I encompass the upcoming record: Hello 1981 to 1983!
Geeks of Doom: Sounds good to me!
Robb Reiner: Yeah, the real Anvil fans are going to rejoice like I don’t think they’ve rejoiced ever! The record is the complete true essence of real, real Anvil. I mean, since those years this record is the only one that’s gonna make you feel like that.
Geeks of Doom: Cool. Like you said, stellar production by Bob Marlette again.
Robb Reiner: Yeah, Bob produced it. We had such a great time making the last album with Bob and he brought a lot of fresh stuff to the band…Lips and myself, we wrote the whole album, like we do all the albums, and it came together very quickly and organically. It was like it was already in us and we just had to get it out. There was no laboring on anything, it was just flowing. It’s funny, I’ve talked to the guys in Saxon prior to making their latest release and they were forced to go back and listen to some of their early records and then they were asked, What would you do next? I know Black Sabbath, Rick Rubin [producer for the upcoming album] did the same with them, sat them down and said, Listen to your first album – now what would you do next? Now having said that, we didn’t need to do that, we just did that!…we just instinctively knew.
“Here’s how I encompass the upcoming record: Hello 1981 to 1983!”
We just came so damn close on the last album that now we know exactly which way to go. So it came together very, very quickly and honestly and organically and it was an amazing process really. Bob did a great job….it’s more aggressive.
Geeks of Doom: Excellent. How is Sal settling into the band?
Robb Reiner: Well Sal, in general, he’s been a great fit right from the beginning…we’re a lot more pleased with the kind of sound that he’s brought to the table. He’s brought us more of a, for a lack of a better comparison, a Steve Harris [Iron Maiden] essence just in the sound aspect. It’s very clicky, it’s nice, man, it’s clean. You can actually hear the distinction in the notes. We didn’t have that in the past and we wanted to try and get there but it was just not going to happen. So Sal has fit in really good so far…looking forward to taking the band out on the road later this year and blasting some of this new material for the fans.
Geeks of Doom: Did you know him before he joined?
Robb Reiner: I’ve known Sal since 1982, so we go back. Sal’s a die-hard Anvil fan and he comes to Anvil shows when we’re playing in New York and he comes out and sees the band. Over the years he would come just to attend our shows, so he’s just an old friend. He was in a band called Cities [1980s New York-based heavy metal band with Twisted Sister’s A.J. Pero on drums] and they used to open up for Anvil in the New York area back in the ’80s so we go back a ways as old buds and I just asked him if he wanted to give it a go and he said, well, what else do you think he said – Hell yeah! It was very quick, the transition. There was no real transition; we had cancer surgery and we were saved.
Within the band nothing changed for Lips and myself. All that changed was the personnel and the sound, but it was uneventful actually for us, it was in and out.
Geeks of Doom: But you consider that an improvement in sound?
Robb Reiner: It’s a massive improvement, in many ways. People last year that saw the band live, that’s all that was said to us. So we had to weather that kind of talk, people seeing the band and comparing the band – a new sound, a new look and all this and everybody was very, very happy. Everybody liked it better, it was pretty well unanimous. So what were me and Lips to say except, Ok, let’s keep rockin’!
Geeks of Doom: Like you said earlier you can’t wait to get out on tour again…
Robb Reiner: Oh yeah, I can’t wait. It’s driving us crazy!
Geeks of Doom: Have you got anything planned so far?
Robb Reiner: Yes. Nothing’s been announced but, yeah, I believe we’re going to be running through Europe June, July, August-ish. That’s what I’ve been told.
Geeks of Doom: How did you find it last time you came to the UK?
Robb Reiner: Our last show in the UK was last year we did Bloodstock [Festival] and without any question it was our best Anvil show ever in the UK in my opinion. Probably many peoples’. I’ve never seen so much love for Anvil in one place at one time in my life, it was incredible. It was about 8,000 people there I guess, when we were on. Everybody said we were the band of that day. It was incredible.
…looking forward to taking the band out on the road later this year and blasting some of this new material for the fans.
Before that, our last UK tour, that was very successful for me. The UK has really come around in a lot of ways and a lot more people are buying our music now. It’s not really about the movie, if you know what I mean. Yeah, the movie still produces people to the brand name as it were, but people are discovering the music so it’s going beyond the story or the movie which is why it seems to be rising. People are buying our music, man. They’re downloading, discovering it, seeking it out and they’re getting into it. We got hundreds of letters here and emails just saying exactly what I’m telling you… they write us saying, Hey man, I got into you through the movie but I bought your records! and go on confessing how great this song is and this album. So people are actually getting into Anvil’s music and I couldn’t be happier for that. That’s what this is all about!
Geeks of Doom: Do you feel like the influence of the film [documentary Anvil!: The Story Of Anvil] is wearing off and now the music is speaking for itself?
Robb Reiner: Absolutely. The film is never gonna go away. For Lips and myself it’s always been about the music. We just went on a movie ride, as it were. We became kind of like movie stars out of it. That was not the game plan but there’s two sides to Anvil now; we’re like rockers but we’re also movie guys.
It’s not gonna go away and it’s not gonna change… everytime it plays another ten thousand new Anvil fans are born instantly and this just keeps going on and on…it’s a timeless thing because the sentiment and the message of that movie is timeless. It just happens to be about these metalhead guys who are representing this story. Anybody can relate to it…it opens their eyes to it, then they go check out the records and they find out, Hey, these guys are really fucking good! It’s just instead of being on the radio we’re on the big screen! But it’s only about the music for us.
Geeks of Doom: Your new fans might be surprised to learn that Anvil has been going officially for 35 years. Do you have any big plans for the year ahead?
Robb Reiner: Nothing to do with that…no plans in that respect. What we have been talking about doing after the Hope In Hell tour, what we are planning is another right after and we’re going to call it the One, Two, Three Tour and we’re just going to play songs from the first three albums. The whole Anvil set will consist of material from those three records, five songs from each record, switch them up every night. So we play a fifteen-song set and everybody and anybody who’s now never seen Anvil or wants to hear Anvil playing those old classic tunes, that’s all we’ll do in the whole show…I’d love to do it myself ‘cause we’d get to play some really cool tunes we never play! And there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of fans and we get loads of letters, especially young fans, Hey man, your fuckin’ first album [Hard ‘N’ Heavy] is great and Forged In Fire smokes and Metal On Metal is the best! But we don’t play everything off those.
Anvil’s new bassist Sal Italiano was in the New York-based 1980’s heavy metal band Cities with Twisted Sister’s A.J. Pero on drums.
Geeks of Doom: It would focus your setlist more because right now you’ve fifteen albums to choose from, that’s a lot of material!
Robb Reiner: And you couldn’t do it all. We’ve yet to satisfy an Anvil fan or crowd anyways with a setlist! It doesn’t matter what we do, it’s never enough! But we’re thinking about possibly doing that…I think it’s a great idea and it will probably be a very successful tour. Hearing people say, We get to hear “Bondage”? Holy fuck!
Geeks of Doom: When you come to the UK, will that be to play festivals or headline shows?
Robb Reiner: In the UK I would rather do our own shows. Our last tour…we did great in every town. It’s like all good people know who we are! That’s kind of how I felt, the turnouts were pretty well full houses everywhere we went so it was good, man. The last London show we did was out of control, we couldn’t believe we were in London because London’s usually a lame town, right?
Geeks of Doom: I was there, that was a great show!
Robb Reiner: Oh really? Great, so then you know. But then you would also agree with me that London can be considered not that much of a rocking place, right? Compared to Birmingham or Manchester and Leeds and Newcastle and all these places…in London a couple of times we played there it was ok, but it wasn’t like Newcastle. But in London [last time] it was close to that, like, wow! A lot of people showed up and they’re actually in to it so it was pretty surprising to us, being in a band, after the fact looking back on it, it was a little bit better than we thought it to be. Yeah, the UK’s cool, man. We look forward to returning there when we can…the UK are ready to take another smashing!