Earlier this month on Saturday 12 March, during Canadian Music Week 2011, I had the privilege of meeting Canadian metal band Anvil. Two years earlier, I had first learned about Anvil after first seeing them live on Friday night at CMW ’09 and then later that weekend seeing the Canadian premiere of their documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. That film was my highlight of CMW ’09. It is an outstanding rock and roll movie but also just an immensely powerful and moving human story of endevour and commitment… you should really see this film if you haven’t already. Fast forward two years, and here I was in the soon-to-opened Noble Street recording studios where around a dozen or so people, mostly press and industry, were invited to join Anvil’s Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner for a listening party for their next album Juggernaut of Justice, due for release in Spring.
It was a really cool experience: sitting there in the swanky master control room of the studio, with it’s ginormous NASA space command mixing desk, while hearing the first play of Juggernaut of Justice from the FLAC files that Noble Street had received from Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 where the album was recorded. Rad.
It was also a slightly awkward experience. To hear the album track-by-track for the first time ever while in the room with other press and the band themselves… it was a unusual and the first time I’ve ever been in that situation. Of course, there was hearty hand-clapping and fond words after each song. For the duration of the play-through, Steve Kudlow stood standing next to the doorway looking thoughtful, and a bit inward, as he was likely gauging the reactions of the people in the room. Hopefully Steve was proud of his record. When the album had played through and we were back in the studio reception area, Anvil’s publicist Paula asked me what I thought of the album and I wasn’t going to exaggerate the truth: “Well it definitely Anvil,” I replied. But the best Anvil album ever, right? Sure. It’s the best Anvil that I’ve heard – I especially liked the more Motorhead style tracks of the album – but it’s still Anvil. And as much as I love them for who they are, Anvil’s music is never going to change the world.
The thing that really endears me to Anvil is not so much their music but their spirit. The reason Anvil’s story is so moving is because they never gave up. And that kind of dedication is something that has to be admired. Meeting Anvil during Canadian Music Week 2011 was special for this reason more than any other. Because even if I’m not a huge fan of their music, I still have a ton of admiration for Anvil for the same reason that most people do, due to that never-say-die attitude. Lips also has an endearing winning-grin. Definitely underdogs that I’m happy to see make it.
Being dedicated is something that has been on my mind a lot recently. As the editor and founder of Music Vice, I have a ton of fun and there are some amazing experiences but running a global online music magazine is a never-ending load of hard work. And this is not my job – it’s the reason I went to University but for me, Rock and Roll Don’t Pay The Rent. In fact, doing this costs me money… the host servers, domains, bandwidth, etc. Music Vice is and always has been entirely an entirely independent, DIY publication: what this means in reality is that like most blogs and zines, we have no money and that myself and all the contributors involved do this for their own love of music. It’s a lot of work and a lot of dedication. I’m stoked to see how something that I started as a ‘zine in college nine years ago is now an online mag with some great writers and photographers helping out from three corners of the globe. I’m immensely proud of the work and content that we all put together and it’s especially cool when we get a big-hit story, such as recently when we covered The Verge Music Awards and outranked even the Globe & Mail by being number one on Google and the related news wires. Score. That stuff is cool. That’s the plus side of dedication: having a cool website that we can use as a soapbox to talk about music.
The downside to dedication is that sometimes you wonder what it’s all for. To give you a brief snapshot of my average week at present: I currently work at least 45 hours a week at my day job, often running to a coffee shop at lunchtime to catch up on website related stuff such including editing, writing, and all the emails (currently my inbox shows 3227 unread emails – haven’t done a mass delete in two months), then in the evening if I’m not heading out to cover a show then I’m likely inside working on my monitor tan as I do more work for the site. On top of that, I also now have to fit in time each week for my new indie radio show, Radio Wunderbar, and my band. At the end of the month I pay my rent and my bills and after groceries and the odd beer at a show, I still don’t even break even; that’s the bread & butter reality of it. It’s a common ‘starving artist’ living reality that is shared among some of my friends and so many of the indie bands out there. We all have day jobs. To me it’s about survival and just continuing to be in this great city with its amazing music scene, which was the reason I hopped the Atlantic in the first place.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Einstein.
And maybe it is crazy. But dedication comes easy if you love something enough – like spending 30 years of your life studying lions. For the most part there is always a regular enough flow of great moments to make it all seem worthwhile. Like discovering a new favourite band or making a cool new friend. The odd thank-you is always welcome too, but we’re not in this for the back-pats; we just do it all because we’re hooked on music and we like to talk about it. Simple.
Life in an indie band is a crazy amount of hard-work and dedication
Anvil’s story is all about hard work and dedication. There are thousands of other bands out there right now who are busting a gut to try and get somewhere with the music. Among these were my favourite bands from Canadian Music Week: The Black Phoenix Orchestra, who drove across Canada from Calgary to be in Toronto for CMW; the Zoobombs, who toured North America this month with stops at CMW and SXSW to try and build their fanbase and find a record label here; and right here, in my adopted home of Toronto, The Mercy Now are one of hundreds of talented bands in a very big fish pond who are slugging away to get somewhere with their music; and the fantastic Berlin Brides from Greece, who returned to Canada again (they played Indie Week last October) but are still yet to find a label here despite managing to pack-out their CMW showcases. (The Berlin Brides ended their CMW experience by being guests on my new indie radio show Radio Wunderbar – they were great, look out for the podcast soon on Music Vice!)
Illegitimi non carborundum
The bad side to all this obsessive dedication is that sometimes you have to deal with some bullshit. It’s part of life but this is especially inevitable in the music industry. There are plenty of cool people in the music scene but there is also no shortage of low-life rats and assholes. Unfortunately, I ran into a few of these rats in the build-up to Canadian Music Week. I’ll say nothing more but it’s the usual tale of lies, false promises and general shittyness from music biz people. This kind of stuff is an a chore and a hassle. At these moments I remember; “Illegitimi non carborundum” – don’t let the bastards grind you down. Life is too short.
Earlier on Saturday at CMW, before meeting Anvil and seeing the Zoobombs, I met up with Darren McDade, frontman of the Black Phoenix Orchestra. Darren was one of the most real, straight-talking, non-bullshit, musicians that I have had the priviledge of meeting. Off the record, Darren told me a few stories about the bad side to being in an indie band, with some stories of lies and let-downs from agents and promoters. It was refreshingly honest. On the record, he had this to say (mildly explicit, F-bombs from yours truly included):
Sums things up nicely.
Best of luck to all the bands who made it to CMW, I hope you all got something positive from the experience. Stay dedicated. The next big one in Canada is NXNE ’11, can’t wait! (Who cares about the Junos? Not me!).Big shout to all my awesome contributors who make up team Music Vice, with a special mention to Toronto contributors Natascha, James, Renee, Caroline and Darcy for all the help with CMW coverage. Thanks , as ever, to the bands, promoters and labels who help continue to support this website by providing access to artists, their shows and music. Long live indie!!!
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice