Earlier this week, former ANVIL bassist Glenn Five issued a press release (which can be read here
) announcing his departure from the band, citing creative differences. Shortly thereafter, G5 conducted an exclusive one-on-one interview with BraveWords.com scribe Aaron Small:
In your press release, you state that you were “limited creatively.” Can you please expand upon that?
“I have a lot of creativity in me to offer and I want to explore that. I have written many of my own songs over the years, some of which wouldn’t have suited Anvil much and some which could have been great Anvil songs. However, although we wrote as a trio and arranged and built the puzzle pieces together, it is Lips that writes 99% of the riffs. I would add my stamp to Anvil’s sound by writing the bass lines to Lips’ guitar riffs. It’s those guitar riffs that give Anvil their signature sound, and I think that is a great thing, it is definitely not a negative thing to have ‘a sound’. But as far as musically collaborating I was never encouraged to bring my music to the table and that has limited me creatively. I’m a musician, I’ve been a musician since I was big enough to sit on the bench in front of that Hammond organ. A musician to me is about being creative with other musicians and I need to get back to that. It’s been great playing, recording and touring with Anvil, especially during the rediscovery of the band over these past few years. I just wasn’t fulfilled enough creatively anymore.”
You also state that you want to “broaden my horizons.” What exactly does that mean?
“First I want to say that I appreciate and cherish all the great experiences I’ve had with Anvil. I’ve seen and rocked the world, I have made many great friends and associates over the years and have experienced many things that some people only dream about. The path that Anvil has been on has been a very long road. One that has lots of history that deserves my respect and I’m proud to be a long part of that history. Anvil’s path will continue to move forward for, what I hope, is many years to come. But in my opinion, musically, it has been a very straight and somewhat narrow road without much room to grow. One of the issues for me is that they haven’t been inspired by any contemporary music or artists, therefore there is nothing new and fresh about their music. I love Anvil songs but I also have a very wide pallet for music, classic and contemporary in many different genres, and I would love to start doing things outside the proverbial ‘box’. I was always that kind of musician and I want to experience new things with my future. That’s how we grow. Anvil will be just fine on their proven path, and that has somehow inspired me to find my own way. Now I’m at a point where I want to grow musically and expand my experiences. To find another path.”
Was Anvil a true democracy, or did Lips and Robb call all the shots?
“As far as my status in the band, I had no say in any of the business side of things. It’s easy to understand. Lips and Robb had been there since day one and I joined a band that already had a past and a history. So yes, they called the shots when it came to band decisions. I was cool with that. I knew the deal when I joined the band. However after almost 16 years in the band it became more difficult to accept them not taking any of my suggestions or ideas seriously. I really wanted to take Anvil in a much more professional direction but the guys are very stuck in their ways and resistant to change. The truth is, sadly, that Lips and Robb have always considered me as little more than just their bass player. The other guy in their band. It was the two of them and me, not the three of us. In fact, I was often reminded by Robb that Anvil was and always will be just Lips and Robb. I know Lips also shared this sentiment , but if anything he tried to protect me from the fact that he and Robb were on their own mission and I was just a player in their play. Hey, to me that meant to just enjoy the ride and not have any of the pressures. Not a bad deal at all.”
After 16 years in Anvil, was quitting the band a difficult decision to make?
“Well I devoted over a decade and a half of my life to Anvil. That’s a long time to do anything. So on a certain level it was hard to leave. It was a decision that I had been thinking hard about for a long time. I didn’t make it lightly. Throughout the years many people asked me why I remained dedicated to the band. I always found an answer for them. For a time I had many reasons to stay, it was lots of fun to play bass in Anvil and experience all the things that came with being in the band. For the most part I was just dedicated to Lips. I think he actually appreciated my contribution, or at least he let me believe he did. Robb didn’t deserve my dedication to be honest. He had no appreciation for my loyalty or hard work and didn’t hide that fact. In recent times I’ve found it harder and harder to answer that question of dedication. So I really had to have a look at the big picture and think about what I want for my future. What I want is to progress as a musician and a performer, and I don’t think that will be possible in Anvil. I just don’t believe that Anvil will ever advance past the 80’s metal revival. Which as I stated earlier is their path, and it’s cool. I couldn’t be happier for them that they have found success on that path. I just need to find another path that will fulfill my creativity. One that I can progress musically on and do things that are fresh and relevant. One where I will be appreciated and respected by my peers.”
How did Lips and Robb react? Did they try and convince you to stay?
“I don’t think they were shocked about my decision. I had voiced my thoughts of moving on a couple months prior to leaving. When I told them I was going to leave the band there was no encouragement from them to stay, although Lips did say he hoped I would stick around until August as he expected that management would be booking shows until then. Because the next U.S. tour was to start between 5 and 6 weeks from that point, I told Lips that they could hire me for the next U.S. run and the few other things that were already booked if they couldn’t find a replacement in time. Unfortunately as I was explaining this to Lips, Robb made some very disrespectful remarks, the gist of which was they haven’t wanted me around for years and people don’t attend Anvil shows to see me anyway. It was at that point I decided I had played my last show with Anvil.”
Anvil embarks on a 21-date US tour beginning January 27th in Ohio. Did you feel at all guilty about giving Lips and Robb such short notice to find a replacement bass player? Do they have someone lined up yet?
“Since last May, the band schedule had tours pretty close together leaving only a week or so between runs. I knew I had lots of time to think about my future because no matter what I decided I wasn’t going to leave the band with only little pockets between runs. That would make it very difficult for the band to get another bass player, and I didn’t want to jeopardize any upcoming tours. When I had made my decision and knew I was going to leave the band there was a U.S. run and a European run left in the schedule. I decided to finish up the year. During these last couple tours of the year there was talk about another U.S. run at the end of January. I knew that would leave a month and half between tours, which was probably going to be the longest space between tours until at least the end of the summer. I thought that would be the best time to leave the band, it would give them ample time to find a replacement. Although my press release came out this week on Jan 16th, I told the guys I was leaving one week before Christmas. So I moved on at a time when I thought it would be the least inconvenient for the band. I didn’t want this to be difficult for Anvil. I’m moving on to improve my career and have had no intention on hampering theirs. I’ve heard that they’ve got a great bass player on board and I wish them all the best of luck.”
Do you think the Anvil movie overshadowed the band’s music? If so, was that a source of frustration?
“I think for the most part the music has been overshadowed for their whole career. I was part of that struggle to be heard for many years. For whatever reason the market for Anvil music is a very small part of the metal community. The movie was a beautiful story about perseverance and friendship, the music was just the back drop. If anything, the movie brought the music to the people more than ever in the entire history of the band. It was huge exposure to many people who otherwise never would have listened to Anvil music if not for the movie. The frustrating part was that after the buzz of the movie died down the exposure of the music died down too. Millions of people love that movie and came to Anvil shows to see the characters in the movie. Three years later when we released the best album Anvil has ever written and recorded, we no longer had the big name record companies or press involved with the band, and those millions of people who supported the movie didn’t keep coming out to support the music. It’s kind of a funny thing that without the years of unheard music there wouldn’t have been much of a story for a movie, but without the movie there wouldn’t have been the platform to showcase the music. I suppose that is why they’ve agreed to do part two which is rumoured to start filming this year. The band is losing momentum musically and they know that they need to remain in the public eye. Truthfully I believe that’s another reason it’s a good time for me to leave. I am all about being a musician. The Hollywood scene is cool, and I’m glad I got to experience a bit of it, but it’s a long process to make a movie and I would rather focus my efforts on being a musician than being a character in a film.”
Approximately how many shows did you play with Anvil? Can you pick out one or two favourites?
“I’m guessing I’ve probably played about 1,000 shows with the band. At least half of those being in the last few years. Of course some of the greatest moments were opening up for AC/DC for three shows including one at Giants Stadium, and opening up for ALICE COOPER for a total of seven shows during his most recent tour. Also some of the big European festivals have been completely amazing, like playing after SLAYER at the Wacken Open Air Festival for around 80,000 people. Some of my fave moments have been a bit more intimate though. Like shows at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London England, where we played two shows in one day for a thing they call Secret Cinema. We did that in support of the Anvil film. Members of Secret Cinema are invited to a theatre on a certain day or night but they don’t know what movie they will see, they are just told the theme so they can show up in various styles of dress to accommodate the theme. They hire actors and build sets, it’s a whole production in and around the theatre that relates to the particular movie they are showing that night. After the end credits rolled we appeared from behind the screen and rocked full tilt to some very excited people who had just connected emotionally with the band in the movie. It was a lot of fun.”
You played on seven Anvil albums, which one do you like the best and why?
“It’s hard to pick a favourite. They all represent a period in my musical growth and ability and hold a certain sentimentality to that period of time. I’ve enjoyed all of the times we were in the recording studios. I’ve got to collaborate with two fantastic producers over the past couple albums, Chris Tsangarides and Bob Marlette. They are great guys who are amazing at what they do and who I learned a great deal from. I hold a special place in my heart for those two gentlemen. I hope I get the chance to work with them again one day.”
Last year’s release, Juggernaut Of Justice, saw you write and sing the song ‘This Ride’. Was that the opening of Pandora’s Box for you?
“As with all Anvil music we arranged Lips’ riffs and Robb’s and my contributions to those riffs into the music. I wrote the lyrics to that song. I just woke up one morning with the words right there in my head, so I wrote them down and showed them to Lips. He liked them enough to use them. Over the years Lips and I would work on lyrics together for at least a few songs per album. I had written the lyrics for Bombs Away on the This Is Thirteen album and Lips and I decided I should sing it. I was concerned that it would sound strange to hear another lead voice on an Anvil album. It had been many years since their original second guitarist, Dave Allison, took the lead vocal spot on a few songs. After discussing my concern with our producer Chris we decided it may be better if Lips sang the song. When in the studio recording Juggernaut we came to This Ride and Lips said ‘why don’t you sing it?’ So we approached Bob about the idea and he thought it was worth a try. I think the song came out great and I’m glad it worked out that way. I used to be a front man singing and playing bass before I joined Anvil so I felt comfortable in the lead vocal role. It didn’t necessarily open Pandora’s Box, it just reminded me that the box had been sitting there open all this time.”
Had Anvil begun work on a new album? If so, how much did you contribute?
“During a two week break a while back we started working on something, but there wasn’t time for it to grow into anything worth exploring. There hasn’t been any time really since the Juggernaut album to start a writing process. The band has been on the road for a lot of that time.”
Finally, what does the rest of 2012 have in store for Glenn Five?
“I’m very excited about this year. Change is a bit scary, but it’s also very invigorating. I am currently writing music and networking with the many peers and associates I have met over the years. They have been very supportive and have applauded my decision, and all believe I will be a great addition to any band, musically and personally. I have also been going to some open jams in the Toronto area which has been a lot of fun. I’m already feeling creative again. As well as session work and collaborating with other musicians, given the opportunity I would love to explore producing or working as a musical director. I’m just looking forward to the next chapter in my life.”
“If I can though, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the fans who have supported me and Anvil over the years. I would like to thank the management and agents and everyone behind the scenes for the past few years for all the work they’ve done to keep Anvil on the road. I would like to thank Sacha Gervasi for giving the world an opportunity to learn of a legendary band through his film. Most of all I would like to thank Anvil for letting me come along for the ride. I have lots of great memories and I owe a lot of what I have and who I am to the great experience I had with the band. I wish them continued success and heartfelt luck along their path.”