Thursday, April 9, 2009

ANVIL: Q&A with Lips, Robb, Sacha -- and Jarrod Gorbel of The Honorary Title



Yesterday, TrustMovies covered ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL. Today, we'll give you the transcription of the interview we had with the band's lead guitarist "Lips," drummer Robb, the film's director Sacha Gervasi and Jarrod Gorbel, lead singer and guitarist of the alternative rock group The Honorary Title.

It seems to me that having an up-and-coming musician see the film and then talk to these two guys -- who have been around (and around) the musical block -- proves more interesting than just TrustMovies on his own. Or, put another way, let's expand for today TrustMovies into TrustMusic.

As the press rep brings us over to a table in the Fireplace Room of Manhattan's shabby-chic Bowery Hotel, we introduce ourselves to the two stars and their director:

Jarrod Gorbel: Jim's my uncle, and he has a movie blog, and I'm in a band that has recently gone through another hell of touring. So he suggested that I come and meet you and maybe help ask a question or two.

TrustMovies: I wanted Jarrod to see your film after I'd seen it because Anvil! is such an amazing movie. So far, everyone that I know who has watched the film has fallen in love with both you guys.

Jarrod: The movie was awesome -- so great and almost like a tearjerker. It was really emotional for me because I have been there and gone through all the touring -- and the pain that comes with it. And I thought, Gee -- I am really feeling this too much! But then I watched it again with my girlfriend and she was all teared-up too. So I guess you don't have to be in a band to have this movie affect you.

TM: Yeah. My companion cried, too. And yet I had to plead with him to watch the movie. In fact, it wasn't until Jarrod said to him, "You have got to see this movie!" that he agreed to -- and then was so glad he did.

Sacha Gervasi (the film's director): Great! So spread the word.

TM: We will. We are.

JG: I noticed that, when you were touring, two feelings came through very strongly: anger and sadness -- the two extremes of dealing with touring, which are totally normal. In Spinal Tap -- to which Anvil! will be compared, even though Spinal Tap was fake -- there's a lot of humor going on. But were you guys able to see the humor in the hellish part of touring?

Lips: Oh, yes. We live with it. That's how you get through the tough times. It's all about balance: the worse it gets, the more you make fun of it. How else are you gonna deal with it?

JG: Exactly.

Sacha: The reason Spinal Tap was so funny was that it was painfully true; people couldn't believe that it was a fake documentary. Just as some people imagine that our film is a fake documentary, something aritficial. Besides which, the fact that Rob Reiner of Spinal Tap shares the same name with Robb Reiner of Anvil is another kind of insane universe. Of course, our Robb has two b's in his name! In fact, when Anvil was going through this tour, it was both horrifically painful and horrifically funny because the sheer desperation of human circumstances were so bad. But then (he looks over at Lips and Robb) you guys have always been pretty self-aware of how funny your circumstances can be.

Lips: Absolutely

Sacha: You write songs like Show Me Your Tits and Hair Pie and Five Knuckle Shuffle. So there has always been a level of humor to Anvil -- this silliness -- along with its heavy metal music.

TM: What's that early song of yours that you mention in the movie?

Robb: Thumb-Hang -- about the Spanish Inquisition.

TM: That's what wonderful: it's music, it's history, it's all sorts of things!

Sacha: And it's authentic.


TM: What surprised me, at my age and with my own musical tastes -- which do not run toward Heavy Metal -- is how much I ioved the film. A few years back I tried to watch, but found it very hard to get through, that Metallica movie that the group made . So I thought, well, I'll try to get thru this Anvil thing. And wow-- the personal angle -- you two guys -- come off so strong that the movie pulled me in immediately. I think it really won't matter what the music is for most audiences. What matters instead, is how much you two guys care about the music you make.

Robb: It's one hundred percent integrity. Integrity has always meant the most to us -- to do it our way, the way we want to do it, and that's how you achieve your identity and your integrity. It's a kind of dual thing.

Lips: In this heavy metal genre of music, if you are above-ground and everybody knows your music, then you are square, you are out. I know this sounds really odd. Metal is a really strange genre, and so is its audience. Like, if you stay underground, you are cool. But the second that everybody knows who you are, then you have gone commercial and you have sold out.

TM: But then, how do you earn your keep -- make your living -- if you stay underground and cool?

Lips: You supplement your income, like you see us doing in the film. You accept the fact that you just swallow the pill: You are not going to sell millions of records and you must work within the parameters of what is available to you . And you just get thru it. But you maintain your integrity while you are doing this because there is no dictatorship telling you what you have to do or what is expected of you. You are only doing it for yourself -- and your fans.

Sacha: What you said earlier was very a insightful point: that it doesn't really matter what the music is. For the musicians, of course, it does. But for the audience of the film, it does not. When I decided to make the movie I wasn't making it for a heavy metal audience, but for a movie audience. When I first told my producer Becky Yeldham (who also produced The Kite Runner and Motorcycle Diaries) about the movie, she didn't even want to hear about it. She hates heavy metal, absolutely. When I said I want to do something with this band, she said absolutely not. So I said, wait, just let me tell you the story. And when I finished telling her about Anvil and the journey these guys have made (almost 40 years!) she was like, "I have to produce this film." I think this movie was always meant to be. It brings a different sensibility to heavy metal films because it is not realty a heavy metal movie! Instead it is a movie about perseverance, family, the nature of male friendship -- and endurance.


The real surprise of the film is that, within an arena in which most people would expect to find little more than a few jokes, instead they find themes that are so resonant for general audiences. It's really important that the message gets out there that the movie really has little to do with heavy metal: It could just as easily have been about two guys building the pyramids, or two blokes on a U-Boat, yet it's really about this incredible love story between these two guys. How many people in the world have a friendship that good that lasts for 40 years?!

TM: I think the movie is also about success: the nature of success and its perception.

Lips: Yes, the nature and perception of success. Success for us was being able to record the songs we love.

TM: To my mind you are successful because you are doing what you want to do, no matter what.

Robb: Yes, and we hope that people see that.

TM: If they see the move, they will.

Lips: People still ask us, what didn't you ever quit? Well, how can you quit something that you really love?

Robb: Sure, you can ask your dentist why he doesn't he quit. The poor guy may be miserable He wants to jump off a bridge because he's bringing pain to people. But we don't tend to ask the dentist about this because he is making money, but he'll quit because he can't handle it anymore.

TM: Or he'll commit suicide. Apparently, dentists have a high suicide rate.

Robb: It's important in life to enjoy what you've got, and we have a god-given talent, given to us as children. We've talked it through our whole lives, and there is just no quitting.


Jarrod: In the film, you basically say that same thing a couple of different ways. And that was inspirational for me to watch it coming from another musician who has been around awhile. That's the mentality you have to have.

Robb: You have to believe in yourself.

TM: (to Jarrod) That's what you have always had, I've thought. (To Lips and Robb) I've know him for 20 years, since he was jus starting out, and I was amazed at first that he would pursue this path. But after awhile, I thought, gee, he must really love what he does to keep on like this.

Robb: That's how the music works. It’s always about the music.

TM: That's what is so interesting -- and ironic -- is that there are going to be lots of people watching your movie, and loving it -- and loving you two -- who don't give a damn about the music. And yet that is what keeps you going.

Robb: You know what: the movie may actually turn people on to our music!

Sacha: That's true! (Everybody agrees on this point)

Lips: The real beauty of this is… You know, when I was starting out, I met Bon Jovi. And I've always had a big burr up my ass about commercial music. It would normally not be my cup of tea.

Well, I got to know the guy personally, and now it's impossible for me not to love his music. Impossible! Because, when you get to know the people, that's it!

TM: That's true. In fact, now that I've met you a couple of times and we've talked, I feel like I know you, so it will be much harder for me not to listen and try to understand, and … even start to enjoy your music.

Lips: Right on. And if you feel that way, then you feel a connection to the person, and so then it becomes impossible to lose the connection to their music. Because it is part of his identity.

Jarrod: It's such awesome exposure to have this movie. Because it will take your music so far beyond its usual audience.

Lips: I think the movie speaks volumes for anybody going out, let’s say in their own business, trying to make a go of it with their own talent, whether it's being a tailor, a painter, businessman, stock market guy. You're just going for it! Once you have the belief in yourself that says "I am going to get this job done," then it doesn't matter what other people say. This movie should give people inspiration. If you don't love something, why are you doing it? Life is too short, man!


TM (to Sacha) How did you hook up with these two?

Sacha: I met them when I was 15. I was just a very big fan of their music when I was a kid. I love them. I went to see them play in London and afterward, I forced my way backstage 'cause I wanted to meet my new idols.

TM: When did you start making movies.

Sacha: I went to UCLA film school in, like, 1995 and then came out and started work on my first movie right out of film school in 1998.

TM: How much of Anvil! is still on the cutting room floor?

Sacha: About 318 hours!

Jarrod. Is there going to be a sequel?

Robb: There will be a lot of special features on the DVD.

Sacha: In any case, I have really known these guys for a long, long time, and that made it much easier to make this film. When I first told Lips about this, he sat down right there on the spot and cried.

TM: Your emotions seem very close to the surface at almost all times.

Lips: Yes.

TM: That's nice. And you-- (he points to Robb) -- seems very…. Not that your feelings are not there.....

Sacha: They are definitely there.

TM: But they're just very underplayed. This is one of the reasons you make such a fabulous team! Really! The Ying and the Yang…

Lips: Wow -- we were just last week remarking on all jewels: the teams from, well, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis to .. Cheech and Chong! Beavis and Butthead, whatever!

Sacha: The Independent of London called them the Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern of Heavy Metal -- which I thought was very good.

Jarrod: (To Sacha) Here's a quick question: You've know them for a long time so you knew what you were getting into. When you started to document it all, was a lot of it in the timing? When you were filming did you go, "Oh, shit, this is stuff that we really should have in there!"

Sacha: When you are making a narrative film, you have a script, but when you're doing a documentary, you sort of just go by instinct. You think, "Oh, this might be interesting," but then you really make it all work in the editing process.

Lips: Sometimes this all just felt really quite mystical in a certain way… as though it was meant to be. Even my mom said, I don't think Sacha really understands what possessed him to come and do this. There seemed to be omens telling us, ah-- It's almost unheard of. I mean, foreshadowing? In a documentary? I mean, how do you do that?!


TM: Are you guys "religious"?

Lips: Well, becoming….. Not the kind of organized religion, but "spiritual." I feel we are becoming kind of spiritual. There are things that have transpired in the last four years that make you really wonder.

TM: At the end of the movie, when we find out that things really do seem to be picking up for you two, when was that, date-wise?

Sacha: The end of 2006. Then we went back and shot some other things -- the family, etc., then we edited for a year, and then we went to Sundance. It’s been a year and a half since Sundance!

TM: Boy, things do seem to move rather slowly.

Sacha: It funny because, since the very first screenings of the movie we have had standing ovations at every performance and yet all the distributors were like, Yes, but it's a heavy Metal film. And we were like, Uh, no... it's not! So it was very frustrating.

TM: Yet these people are "in" the film business. They are supposed to understand these things…

Sacha: You have to understand, though, that they all loved the movie. It was not like the old days, not like Jack Warner. It is more the accountants now, I think -- all scared of losing their jobs. Which his why, by the way, that they are losing their jobs. No imagination! So, in front of their eyes, they were seeing audiences made up of people from 18 to 80 who were all loving the film. And then they ask, but how do we sell this. Well: How about showing it?!

TM: So who is distributing: Abramorama?

Sacha: That's Richard Abramowitz, our distributor. He's the guy booking the theaters. Here in NYC, the film is opening at both the Angelika and the AMC Empire on 42nd Street. Landmark theatres has pretty much taken it in every location, too.

TM: Good venues! What about Laemmle in L.A.

We're not doing Laemmle in L.A. because, with the closing of Virgin Records, that Laemmle theatre is pretty much of a ghost town now. There's just no traffic there.


At this point, the batteries in my digital recorder seem to have died. Fortunately Jarrod recalled his final couple of questions and the responses to them:

Jarrod: I asked what Anvil's touring plans would be, once the film is released. They said they are doing a tour in which the movie is shown first and they perform directly after -- which has proven very popular so far. I also asked if they planned on supporting -- opening for -- bigger metal bands after this new-found exposure that has come from the film. It seems that some of their peers might catch this film and want to help bring Anvil back into today's flourishing metal scene. And their answer was, Yes, that's what we hope.

TM: We wish the duo, their director, and their new movie much success, as we leave them in the hands of their next press interview....

All photos (except poster) are by Brent J. Craig,
courtesy of the film
Anvil! The Story of Anvil.

5 comments:

BJC said...

Anvil Photos by Brent J. Craig (except movie poster)

BJC said...

Photos by Brent J. Craig, courtesy of Anvil! The Story of Anvil

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Brent. I will add this to my actual post right now....

The Big A said...

I watched Anvil's story on VH1. What a great group of gentlemen! What a grand following of where they have been and where they want to be! Every day men who won't give up on themselves! I think it's great!

James van Maanen, said...

Everyday men, all right, except that they sure can can play their music! Glad the movie has come to VH1, where it should find an even larger audience of people like you, Big A, who will love it much as much as we did.