Australian cinema-goers have their chance this month to enjoy the glory of Anvil: The Story Of Anvil. This documentary follows veteran heavy metal band Anvil as they attempt to bring their sound to the masses. Glibly described as “a real life Spinal Tap”, Anvil: The Story Of Anvil is an exploration of the glory of music, and is full of heart. And hair. John talked to Robb Reiner (not that Rob Reiner), the drummer of Anvil, about fame, ambition and music.
You’re travelling the world, you’re supporting AC/DC, your albums are being re-released, all effectively on the back of a documentary about how you’re not successful. Is that ironic?
Well, it’s ironic that we have been successful in my point of view, the fact that we’ve recorded 13 albums and we’ve been touring for 30 years. But mainstream success is what’s now coming about. It’s a great thing, the movie shows the truth, it tells the story, people are engaging and it’s a great thing.
It’s a great movie, but the film promotes you as a band that doesn’t have a fanbase, but you obviously do because you’ve had 13 albums.
Absolutely. We’ve had a great cult following, a cult status, underground following for 32 years. Success to me has two parts – one part is having financial success and stability and all that, and the other part is having mainstream success where everybody knows who you are and when you play thousands of people come and your music’s on the radio.
And you’ve passed from the core fanbase, and being able to release albums, to that second type of success?
All those doors are opening for us as a result of the movie telling our story.
You’ve been on the cusp of this sort of fame before and things have gone wrong in the past, how do you think you’ll handle it differently this time around? What have you learnt?
I’ve learned… I could write a book on what I’ve learnt. The difference between now and then – what happened to us business-wise in the past is we had a manger who derailed our progress, our career, from exploding at a crucial time – metal was blowing up big. We created that whole movement originally and when the time was right we weren’t there. We were in a quagmire of shit. Today – today’s a different world. I’m celebrating it. This whole entire discovery – rediscovery – of Anvil is just a celebration for me and I’m just enjoying every minute of it.
You’re an older man now, is less of the money going on cocaine and hookers than it would have in your twenties?
If all this would have happened to us when we were in our twenties then more likely we probably wouldn’t be here to be talking about any of it. But all this is happening at my time in my life at this age now… you value things differently, you appreciate things differently, you don’t take anything for granted and you actually have an understanding to what it all really means. But when you’re a 20 year old kid you’re green and you wouldn’t value it in the same way.
The film’s being promoted as a real life Spinal Tap – were you concerned the film could be making fun of the band?
The movie’s not like Spinal Tap, really. The only thing that is like Spinal Tap is, I guess, that it’s about a heavy metal band, my name is Robb Reiner but that’s with two ‘b”s, we visit Stonehenge and some gear goes up to 11 or something… there are some parallels, but… it’s like a Trojan Horse to the public consciousness. The British media created the spin on that Spinal Tap hook anyway, in my opinion it’s not like Spinal Tap at all. Anvil’s for real, we’re a real band. Spinal Tap is fake, see. Spinal Tap is the fake Anvil.
Did you hear there was a rumour going around that Anvil was an exceptionally complicated mockumentary? There were still people who didn’t believe you were a real band.
Well that’s cool. I don’t mind that. I’ve been accused of being a professional Hollywood actor. That’s pretty complementary.
You’ve been going for decades, what stopped you giving up?
We were never going to give up, we did this because we love it. We have a passion for music. It’s our identity. And we love doing what we do. That’s it. So there’s no reason to give it up. Plus, give up for what? We have fans. We have tens of thousands of fans throughout the world who buy our records – that’s reason enough to keep going.
But how have you not got jaded after this long?
Because I’ve always known that one day the majesty of Anvil would be discovered.
And so we have discovered the majesty of Anvil?
I believe it’s happening.
What’s up next for Anvil? Is there a new album coming out?
“Juggernaut of Justice” in the next album, it’s finished, we’re hoping to put it out next summer. We’re going to continue doing what we’ve always done, there’s just a whole new element now. We quit our day jobs, we don’t work any more, we have a real manager, we have agents, we have record companies, we have a full-blown team, the missing link that has been missing for many years and we plan on rocking the world, man.
You can hear this interview – in a way – in episode 10 of The Outland Institute. Due to the poor technical quality of the recording (and the phone line from Australia to Canada) the roles of Robb and John are played by Carla McCallum and Mike McEvoy – it’s just like Frost/Nixon. Download the hell out of it.