Things are going well for metal band Anvil right now. Since the documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil reintroduced the once-forgotten band to the world, fans (including those famous ones) have been eager to hear more from the Canadian metal heroes. May 10, 2011 will prove that since their initial fame in the early 80s, Anvil has continued to rock as they release album number 14: Juggernaut of Justice.
I couldn’t wait to talk with legendary Anvil drummer Robb Reiner and excitedly made the call from my house in England to his studio in Ontario, Canada. A very engaging and openly honest man, Reiner was happy and eager to talk about his beloved band and music that he has been devoted to for over 30 years. With the new album, a Canadian tour on the way, plans to tour Europe this summer, and having been part of “the biggest rock movie ever,” we had plenty to discuss. He also talked with great enthusiasm about the future of metal music, being on tour, starting a revolution, and something called “metal jazz.”
Geeks of Doom: You must be busy gearing up for the new album, Juggernaut of Justice, and your upcoming tour?
Robb Reiner: I’ve been busy, yeah. The new album drops May 10th here in Canada and the U.S. It’s going to come out in Europe I’m just not sure when. And then we’re going to do our first full-blown coast-to-coast Canadian tour.
Geeks of Doom: With some shows with Alice cooper?
Robb Reiner: Yeah, we have four shows with Alice Cooper in the middle of the tour in Ontario. We’re looking forward to the whole thing, it should be really really good.
Geeks of Doom: You got back from a South American tour recently.
Robb Reiner: Yeah, that’s true. We did our first South America tour which was extremely successful for us. [Anvil has] never been there. It was like the people have so much passion there for music, I’ve never seen that much passion ever. I thought the Japanese or the Germans were passionate but, boy, South Americans, I think, got them all beat!
Geeks of Doom: Do you like touring?
Robb Reiner: I love touring. That’s the only place where I feel truly alive. I love traveling, I love seeing everything, I love meeting people, I love engaging with the fans and most of all, more than anything, I love performing live. That’s when I am alive when I get to perform for an audience. So I love touring. Coming home and sitting around is always, in comparison, a lot lamer.
Geeks of Doom: But you get to paint when you’re at home! I know you love to paint; you’re a great artist.
Robb Reiner: Oh, thank you very much. That’s what I do is paint when I’m off the road, that’s how I keep sane, really. Keeps my mind off of wanting to be on the road. You can’t always be on the road, unfortunately. That’s rock and roll.
Geeks of Doom: Going back to talking with your fans; I know you interact a lot with your fans on your personal and Anvil-related Facebook pages. Do you enjoy that?
Robb Reiner: I love it, actually. I’ve always liked it anyways, I’ve always liked talking to fans as I said, but engaging this way through the social media thing, I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’m meeting a lot of cool people and I really like to hear what people have to say because it gives me a true pulse of the public, what’s going on out there, you know? I get the pulse. I get a real pulse with things. I don’t know, I enjoy it, I learn a lot from it and I apply it to things that we’re doing with the band. What I’m finding is we’re really turning into the peoples’ band, you know, like in a big way. I think there’s going to be a revolution happening the way it seems to be going!
Geeks of Doom: Would you say that’s down to the film? Since then the band has reached out to more people and people are more aware of you now?
Robb Reiner: That’s absolutely for sure. Currently to this day, 88 million people have seen the movie worldwide, is what I’ve been told. It’s like the biggest rock movie ever been made. And it transcended metal. Everybody, all walks of people, if you’re human, if you’ve got a heart, you can relate to that story.
Geeks of Doom: But then if it’s not people who are as entertaining and as great to watch as you and [Anvil singer/guitarist] Lips then it doesn’t reach as many people as Anvil!: The Story of Anvil has.
Robb Reiner: Right. Well obviously we have our own unique dynamic. It’s bigger than metal, the whole thing. The whole thing for me is all about the band and the music and that’s all I’ve ever been focused on. Thank God that the movie opened the door for us and millions of people now are discovering the band’s music and buying it and actually becoming real devoted fans of the group. Last year we toured everywhere around the world. We performed to almost 400,000 people last year live.
And we won, if you were going to call it we had to go out in battle, we won the battle. We showed the world we’re a really tremendous band, we’re amazing musicians and we’re for real. No fucking around, we’re the real deal and that’s why we’re here today.
If Metal on Metal was the future of metal back in 1982, then Juggernaut of Justice is the future of metal in 2011. That’s my whole humble opinion on the whole thing.
Geeks of Doom: Where did the name come from, Juggernaut of Justice?
Robb Reiner: Sacha [Gervasi, Anvil!: The Story of Anvil director] of all people came up with that name when he was putting the movie together. That’s where it came from basically, just an innocent thing he threw out there; ‘your band’s working on the next album, juggernaut of justice’. To us we thought that was really profound because that’s kind of like what happened with the band in a way after that movie started to rock, it was a massive sense of justice being served up for us, you know? So we thought that was a great title and we ended up making a whole album.
Geeks of Doom: I’ve heard the first track that you posted on the Anvil fan-site, Juggernaut of Justice, and it sounds great.
Robb Reiner: That’s just the beginning, that’s like nothing where the record goes. There’s an instrumental on the record called ‘Swing Thing’; we’re going to introduce to the world metal jazz, so picture Buddy Rich playing metal! We have a song on that kind of level. ‘YYZ’ by Rush will be a forgotten piece of work! [Laughs]
Geeks of Doom: Juggernaut of Justice is the first time Anvil has recorded as a three-piece, is that right?
Robb Reiner: If you want to really get technical virtually most of Anvil’s records always were recorded with three guys and just extra guitar solos were added. But it was always the basic thing was always laid down by three guys. See, Anvil’s always really been a three-piece, we’ve just had another guitar player as a live cosmetic application. I became really tired of that whole format and we wanted the band to be a true, true power trio, full-blown, you know? And that’s what we are. [Now] we’re like a new band, man. The band’s never been this good in its 33-year history.
Geeks of Doom: How would you say Anvil has evolved in those years?
Robb Reiner: Well, we’ve evolved in one obvious way: we’ve become more efficient, proficient songwriters and become far more incredible musicians. Some people say we were good right from the beginning and rightly so, perhaps, but we’re far, far better now in my opinion.
Geeks of Doom: You’ve always been great musicians from [debut album] Hard n Heavy. Metal on Metal was only your second album and that was incredible. But before the documentary, did you realise that there were so many famous, established musicians who respected your musicianship and you were the reason they got into music?
Robb Reiner: Absolutely, of course I’ve known it. That’s a great part of the whole reason why we never gave up and quit and walked away from this whole thing. [We’ve] known for years and years about what our music has meant to many people, they always told us. Endlessly, for years and years and years! What was the beautiful thing about it for me was that some of the guys actually went and told the world what they’ve been telling me for years. They told the whole world. That was a great motivation for me saying ‘hey, man, we’ve got something here and I’m not just going to walk away from this,’ you know? ‘We’re getting good at this and people like it’. It’s getting a break. America left us out of the party back in the 80s and now they’ve let us in the party in the 2000s.
Geeks of Doom: And now you’re hosting the party with Juggernaut of Justice!
Robb Reiner: That’s it! [Laughs] You got it! I like that, that was good!
Geeks of Doom: You recorded the new album at Dave Grohl’s studio, with producer Bob Marlette [Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper]. How was that?
Robb Reiner: It was an amazing experience. 606 is a killer studio, I mean world-class. Wicked sound, beautiful place, great gear. Working with Bob Marlette was a tremendous experience, there’s a lot we learned from it. He really opened our eyes to a lot of things about our songs. He was a great inspirational influence on the outcome of the record as far as how well it came out, you know? In my opinion he took us to the next level, and that’s where we wanted to get to.
Geeks of Doom: How does the Anvil songwriting process work? Do you get together with [lead singer and guitarist] Lips and [bass player] G5 and jam, or do you get together with songs in mind?
Robb Reiner: What we do is we have our own rehearsal room and all three of us do get together normally so it’s like a band thing. We smoke a lot of pot. That’s what we do, we smoke pot. But that’s neither here nor there, that’s just everyday life for us! So, you know, we get a little buzzed up. Lips has a lot of cool riffs and we elaborate and orchestrate a jam, I guess to some level. That’s kind of how we do it, you know? Lips comes up with a riff, we join in, we start jamming then, like ‘hey man, let’s do three of these and let’s do two of those’ and then make a rough arrangement and then the song builds itself from there. Once we’ve got an arrangement that seems to work reasonably well then Lips’ll write some lyrics then we’ll demo, maybe rearrange a few parts because now we’ve got some lyrics. And that’s pretty well the process.
Geeks of Doom: Has that always been the Anvil way?
Robb Reiner: Yeah, more or less, that’s how we always do it. We do it live in a room, we don’t use computers and that kind of deal. It’s very real, organic, you know? As real as a band can be. It’s fun! Listen, I go to the church of F.U.N.: Fun!
Geeks of Doom: The Facebook Official-Robb Reiner-FUN club!
Robb Reiner: There’s no better religion than F.U.N.! Having fun is what it’s all about so we have fun with it, you know? We enjoy it, we try to…we’re just big kids in aging bodies, you know? [Laughs]
Geeks of Doom: But the Metal keeps you young!
Robb Reiner: Absolutely. I couldn’t disagree with that at all! [Laughs] It certainly keeps me young!
Geeks of Doom: Could you tell us about the fanclub Anvil Metal Pounders Union? Did you set that up, was that your idea?
Robb Reiner: I think that’s on the bridge of going viral. It’s growing bigger every day, but it has this energy about it. I think it’s just going to fucking go nuts! It’s a fan club thing that some bands have, not everybody has these things but, you know, we had one back in the early 80s and it was called the Anvil Metal Pounders Union originally and I just reintroduced it. This time now we’re really making it into what it should have always been and it’s gone beyond that. It’s not just a fan club now, people all uniting for the cause of Anvil or metal, it’s a place that people feel a sense of belonging. People want to belong, that’s what it’s turned into.
It’s amazing, it’s like a special family, it feels like they’re all connected to each other and I love it. I didn’t really anticipate any of that aspect, but its really going crazy with that. I got people now with wives and husbands or their kids and families and everybody wants to belong to something special. I’m loving it, I think it’s so cool, man.
Sister D, who is the shop stewardess of the whole thing, she’s incredible. I got to tip my hat to Sister D. She’s come in with so much love and passion. I can only say she’s one special sister! I met her as an Anvil follower. We were at an apple store [where] Anvil was doing something for the movie and after the movie part was over she came up to me outside and she just said, ‘hey, is there anything I can do to help your band? I would love to do it.’ Here we are like 4 years later with the Anvil Metal Pounders Union [and] it’s going, like I said, it’s on the bridge of going viral.
I work in conjunction with her. I try to stay on top of it and get involved, I’m involved as much as I can. We work ideas out together and she runs everything by me. It’s a collaborative effort but she does a lot of the work. She’s incredible, I owe a lot to her. Her passion is undying. A very passionate person. There’s only one legendary Sister D out there!
Geeks of Doom: Robb, thank you so much for your time.
Robb Reiner: Thanks for your support and have a good night!
Juggernaut of Justice is available for pre-order on CD and MP3 Download through Amazon and will be released on May 10, 2011. Anvil begin their Canadian tour May 6, 2011; see anvilmetal.com for details.