fbpx
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The heavy metal band that could

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

In April 1982, Steve “Lips” Kudlow, front man of the heavy metal band Anvil, appeared on the cover of a British music tabloid wearing studded leather and wielding a chainsaw with a dildo between his teeth.

The image (and the accompanying story) stunned a British teenager, Sacha Gervasi, who attended Anvil’s concert at London’s legendary Marquee club and was “riveted by this lunatic front man jumping about in a bondage harness, playing slide guitar with a marital aide.” Over the next few years, Gervasi worked as a roadie for the band, which Kudlow and his best friend, drummer Robb Reiner, had founded while growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in Toronto.

Two decades later, Gervasi revisited the bandmates to shoot the documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” which has been selected as the centerpiece film among some 230 features, shorts and music videos to screen at the Los Angeles Film Festival, June 19-29. The movie describes the years the band inspired future metal royalty, such as Metallica and Slayer, whose members appear on camera; it recounts Anvil’s descent into obscurity in the mid-1980s and the founders’ struggle to keep rocking, even while holding down day jobs, into middle age.

Along the way, Kudlow and Reiner embark upon a grossly mismanaged Eastern European tour (a fight breaks out when one club manager attempts to pay them in goulash), they reunite with a top metal producer for their 13th album and finally perform a triumphant “return” concert in Japan.

Critics have lauded the documentary as “a real-life ‘This is Spinal Tap,'” (although drummer Reiner is not to be confused with that mockumentary’s director, Rob Reiner). A Rolling Stone headline asked whether “Anvil!” is the year’s “great rock movie,” and Variety called it “an underdog saga even nonmetalheads will root for.”

“On one level, the film is about these funny metal guys playing music into their 50s, but on another, it’s about best friends with a vision they’ve never given up,” Gervasi said.

Kudlow and Reiner — who alternatively appear close or at one another’s throats — are a study in opposites. The likeable but high-strung Kudlow is the son of a Polish immigrant tailor who frowned on his rock ‘n’ roll fantasies. Kudlow told The Journal he went through with his bar mitzvah just so he could buy a guitar with the gift money, but his dad barred him from playing music at home. The taciturn Reiner, meanwhile, is the son of a Hungarian-born Auschwitz survivor — a jeweler who not only encouraged his son’s music, but paid $25,000 to finance Anvil’s first album.


Sascha Gervasi, the director of “Anvil! The story of Anvil” joins Jian Ghomeshi in Studio Q

“My dad saw his own father die three days before the camp was liberated,” Reiner said from his Toronto home. “After what he had been through, he only wanted to see his children happy.”

Kudlow introduced himself to Robb after hearing drum riffs blasting from Reiner’s home, and the teenagers began rehearsing daily in Robb’s basement. “Steve dropped out of school as soon as he met Robb,” Kudlow’s mother complains in the film.

Gervasi angered his own parents — especially his father, an Oxford economics professor — by declining a history fellowship to Harvard University to pursue a career as a heavy metal drummer. Eventually he gave that up to attend King’s College in London, UCLA’s film school and to pursue a career in screenwriting, penning 2004’s “The Terminal” for Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in 2000.

The following year, Gervasi was surfing the net late at night when he suddenly wondered what had happened to his friends from Anvil. “I assumed that they had either broken up or killed each other,” he said. Instead, he discovered through the band’s Web site that “Anvil had released nine more albums since I had last spoken to them, and I hadn’t ever heard of a single one.” He promptly e-mailed Kudlow, who flew out to Los Angeles for a social visit.

The idea for the film hit Gervasi during that visit — specifically, on the day he took Kudlow to meet his mentor, Steven Zaillian, the screenwriter of “Schindler’s List.”

“Lips [Kudlow] was talking in a very animated way about his latest album or tour, and I told Steven, ‘He never gave up, and his passion is exactly as I remember from when I was a kid. He still believes Anvil can make it.’ I found that remarkable and said, ‘There might be a film here.'”

Gervasi mortgaged his home to shoot 320 hours of film from 2005 to 2007 — much of it following Anvil’s miserable Eastern European tour. On that trip, the frustrated Kudlow sometimes vented his anger at Reiner, who quit the band several times in response.

Yet they stayed best friends: “I think that Robb and Lips are both outsiders in a way,” Gervasi said of their camaraderie. “Steve has always been the black sheep of his family; his siblings include a doctor and an accountant. And Robb, I think, was quite damaged by his father’s Holocaust experience, even though [the elder Reiner] was supportive and rarely talked about the camps.”

Their interactions at times are so reminiscent of “Spinal Tap” that Gervasi’s cinematographer pulled him aside — during the goulash incident — to ask whether the bandmates were actually actors. “Once Lips ran offstage and was kneeling in pain with his hands down his trousers,” Gervasi said. “He’d sung so hard that his hemorrhoids had popped out. Then he ran back onstage and sang a song.”

“We decided not to put that incident in the film — although I must say it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen — because we didn’t want to ridicule these middle-aged guys who were still trying to rock like 20-year-olds,” he added.

“Through everything, they continued following their dream. And that’s what makes their story so compelling.”

“Anvil” will screen June 26 at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, after which the band will perform in person.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Man Who Held Anti-Semitic Sign at Ohio Protest Wanted to Target Jews at Kent State, Report Says

A man who held an anti-Semitic sign at an April rally in Columbus, Ohio, reportedly sought to target Jews at Kent State University. The Cleveland...

Bench Near Minneapolis Synagogue Vandalized With Swastikas

(JTA) — A bus stop near a synagogue in Minneapolis was vandalized with swastikas. The graffiti was discovered Tuesday on a bench outside Shir Tikvah...

ADL Report Highlights ‘Significant Trend of Anti-Semitism’ in ‘the Anti-Israel Movement on Campus’

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report on May 27 highlighting how anti-Semitism permeates “the anti-Israel movement on .” The report acknowledged that although the...

A New Relief Fund Is Providing Aid to Jews of Color Who Are Struggling Due to Coronavirus

(JTA) — A new relief fund is providing financial aid to Jews of color who are struggling economically due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Jews...

Pandemic Times Episode 47: The Value of Storytelling

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning at 11 a.m. A conversation on the unique power of storytelling with Rutger Bruining in London, founder of Story...

Obituaries: May 29, 2020

Beth Abramowitz died May 12 at 54. Survived by mother Barbara; father Abraham; brother David. Hillside  Louis Bauman died May 7 at 84. Survived by wife Myrna;...

Letters: Jewish Virtual Weddings, Masa Israel’s Legacy 

Prager’s Lockdown Story Dennis Prager’s “The Worldwide Lockdown May Be the Greatest Mistake in History” (May 8) validly complains that the left too often dismisses...

American Jews, This Shavuot it’s Time We Rededicate Ourselves to Social Justice

In April, we celebrated Passover during a modern-day plague. Over the past two months, the world has seen the horrors of that plague unfold....

Holidays and the Environment: From Shavuot to Dairy to Desalination

To prevent public gatherings during COVID-19, Lag BaOmer took place without bonfires, resulting in a significant reduction in air pollution. Now, Shavuot will be...

Israeli Defense Ministry: Gaucher’s Disease Drugs Can Treat COVID-19

The Israeli Defense Ministry announced on May 26 that the Israeli Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has determined that two drugs used for Gaucher’s...

Culture


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

Jews of Color Campaign Goes Viral After Article Relegates Them to a Statistic

Numbers have always held significance in Jewish culture, but without purpose, they can be harmful. This was borne out in a May 17 eJewish...

A Savory Shavuot Feast With a Sweet Finale

It was a sacred tradition. We would load up our minivans with lots and lots of food and our kids and head to the...

Why Summer Camp Is So Important to American Jews

Every summer, tens of thousands of American Jewish kids leave their homes, board buses and planes, and spend a month or two together on...

Diane Warren’s ‘I’m Standing with You’ Music Video to Raise Funds for COVID-19 Response

“I’m Standing with You,” songwriter Diane Warren’s Oscar-nominated theme from the movie “Breakthrough,” has gone global in a new video in support of the...

Latest Articles
Latest

Man Who Held Anti-Semitic Sign at Ohio Protest Wanted to Target Jews at Kent State, Report Says

A man who held an anti-Semitic sign at an April rally in Columbus, Ohio, reportedly sought to target Jews at Kent State University. The Cleveland...

Bench Near Minneapolis Synagogue Vandalized With Swastikas

(JTA) — A bus stop near a synagogue in Minneapolis was vandalized with swastikas. The graffiti was discovered Tuesday on a bench outside Shir Tikvah...

ADL Report Highlights ‘Significant Trend of Anti-Semitism’ in ‘the Anti-Israel Movement on Campus’

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report on May 27 highlighting how anti-Semitism permeates “the anti-Israel movement on .” The report acknowledged that although the...

A New Relief Fund Is Providing Aid to Jews of Color Who Are Struggling Due to Coronavirus

(JTA) — A new relief fund is providing financial aid to Jews of color who are struggling economically due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Jews...

Pandemic Times Episode 47: The Value of Storytelling

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning at 11 a.m. A conversation on the unique power of storytelling with Rutger Bruining in London, founder of Story...

Hollywood


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

‘Arrowverse’ Showrunner Greg Berlanti on Whether He’s Jewish or Not

Greg Berlanti is the executive producer of “Arrow,” “Supergirl,” “Titans,” “Riverdale” and “The Flash.” Between keeping his die-hard DC fans satisfied, the mega-producer also...

Jewish Grandpa Seeks Out The Family Who Hid Him From Nazis in Documentary “The Starfish”

New York director and producer, Tyler Gildin, through his media company Gildin Media, released a documentary titled The Starfish, exploring the life story of his grandfather,...

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 47: The Value of Storytelling

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning at 11 a.m. A conversation on the unique power of storytelling with Rutger Bruining in London, founder of Story...

Matti Friedman: Israel’s forgotten war

Shmuel Rosner and Matti Friedman discuss Matti's new book, "Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier's Story of a Forgotten War," Israel's war in Lebanon and why it...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x