Anvil: Off the Beaten Path
GW I noticed that you have silverface Fender Twin Reverb amps in your backline.
LIPS I love the sound of a Twin. It’s an openback amp, so the sound goes everywhere, which makes it even easier to get feedback. And they’re really loud. I’m running those amps with the volume at only two and a half, maybe three. They have a master volume control with pull boost, but I don’t use that. I run the thing completely clean, with all of the tone controls at 10.
GW So what’s the source of your distorted tone?
LIPS In the early Eighties, I went to Japan, and they had a hundred different distortion pedals for sale. I bought this tiny nine-volt battery-powered amplifier that I wanted to use in the dressing room. I tried all of these pedals, and I found this Tokai distortion pedal that sounded amazing. It captured all of the nuances of my playing, even when I was using that little piece-of-junk amplifier. When I got home, I plugged the pedal into my Twin, and it blew me away. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Over the years I found out that pedal is identical to the Boss DS-1. There’s virtually no difference, so that’s what I use now.
GW You sometimes play the guitar with a vibrator. How did you come up with that idea?
LIPS In the Sixties they had these battery-powered motorized toy cars called Motorific. When I was 10 years old, I was playing with one while my guitar was plugged in, and I could hear the motor through the pickups. When I started Anvil about nine years later, we were first called Lips, because all of the songs were going to be about sexual stuff. I wrote a song called “Bondage,” and I came up with the idea of using a vibrator to play the guitar, because I knew that the sound would come through the pickups. I could also use it as a bottleneck and bang on the strings with it. If I got a vibrator with a variable speed control, I could make it sound like a Harley-Davidson. I actually used a vibrator in the studio to record the intro to the song “Motormount.” That’s actually the vibrator going up the strings, and the guitar is tuned to an E chord.
GW The metal scene has changed a lot since Anvil first came along. How do you think the band fits in now?
LIPS The electric guitar is still growing and becoming things that it never was before. I think that we still haven’t entered its renaissance yet. At the same time, it’s extraordinarily redundant, but look at all of the different types of music that the electric guitar has inspired. It’s universal, and it’s virtually taken the place of orchestration. There aren’t as many clarinet or saxophone players today, so your chances of finding the next Benny Goodman are a lot less than your chances of finding a thousand Yngwie Malmsteens. There are a lot of great guitar players in basements all over the world. Today our kids love the same music that we do, and that’s because it’s all electric guitar music. The lines between genres are starting to blur.
I think we’re going into an age where genres will no longer exist. There will just be music that you like or don’t like. I was born in 1956, which is about the same year that rock and roll was born. My lifespan covers the entire history of rock, from Elvis Presley onward. Here I am at 53 years old, and Elvis is still considered cool. So is Chuck Berry. You can say the same thing about Johnny Winter, Ted Nugent and Jimi Hendrix. And you can say the same thing about Anvil. We’re not going away.
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