STILL HUNGRY – Dave Allison, original rhythm guitarist & vocalist from Canadian metallers Anvil

ROSS HALFIN ?

Dave Allison was a member of Anvil for 10 years and recorded 7 albums, his last was ‘Past and Present’ live album. I got in touch with Dave and asked what are you up to now ? ‘I pretty much quit playing when I left Anvil. I went to see them for the first time last year and I got totally inspired to start playing again. I am currently working with a network of all pro musicians from back in the day. Guys who are still in the game. We are writing songs and recording mostly over the internet. If I told you some mischievous stories and funny anicdotes from back in the day it would be a whole different interview and very X-rated haha’.

Back then Anvil were Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow (lead vocals, guitar), Dave Allison (guitar, vocals) Ian Dickson (bass, backing vocals) and Robb Reiner (drums) The band were originally called Lips and released their first album independently. They changed names to Anvil and signed to Attic Records who re-released their debut album ‘Hard ’n’ Heavy’ in 1981.

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Let’s go back to the start, when did you first get into playing music and who were your influences ? ’First band I played in I was maybe 13! Mike Poitras on drums, Dave McLean lead guitar and myself on rhythm guitar! We sucked but we had fun! Influences ? Too many to mention but a short list would be Deep Purple, Cream, Hendrix, Sabbath, Boston, Styx and Aerosmith previous to meeting the boys! Oh and Rush of course! After that anybody and everybody. I should probably include The Who, The Beatles and believe it or not The Monkeys in that first list!

Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that ? ‘When I first heard all of those previous bands. I started playing Monkeys songs when I was 8 years old when I got my first electric guitar and amplifier from money that I made from my paper route!

The early days of Anvil were a hard struggle in Canada… ‘First gig was with Anvil was after 10 months of rehearsal. We done seven days a week, 8 hours a day. Most of that was just Rob, Lips and myself. Ian didn’t join the band till very late. We already had the first album written long before the first gig. During this time we self recorded and self-produced the Lips album which eventually became the first Anvil album Hard ’n’ Heavy’.

Back then what venue’s were you playing ? ‘We played every s******** in Ontario and Quebec. Anywhere that would have us. It wasn’t easy back in the day being an original band. And we were loud as f***. We were a band who played mostly original music and all the clubs wanted tribute bands so we bullshitted our set list and said we played all the current Hard Rock band stuff. But of course we didn’t. We did do a lot of Ted Nugent though. And we would play a club for an entire week. Back in the day that’s how it was. We used to play the same clubs over and over again every 2 months. The word spread about us and eventually so did our territory’.

MOR ANVIL copy

By 1982 Anvil had released their second album ’Metal on Metal’. That year they got a call to play a festival which was fast becoming a regular on the rock circuit. Can you recall playing the UK Monsters of Rock ? ‘Monsters of Rock gig ! Ho Lee fuk ! What an experience. It was surreal ! Couldn’t believe we were actually there. Although by that time we really were a well-oiled, road hardened and very confident bunch of guys. But it was still the biggest thing we had ever done. I think we were a little heavy given the rest of the line-up’. On the bill were Uriah Heep, Hawkwind, Gillan, Saxon and headliners Status Quo. By 1983 Anvil had released their third album ‘Forged in Fire’ produced by Chris Tsangarides…‘We always took recording very seriously and worked very much as a team to achieve the end result. This would often create a bit of tension between us but that’s just the nature of the beast and the end result speaks for itself !

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To promote the album they went out on the ‘Another Perfect Day’ UK tour supporting Motorhead. I saw them at Newcastle City Hall, plus before that, at Leeds Queens Hall on a bill with Girlschool, Twisted Sister, Saxon and Spider. What are your memories from that day ? ‘With those bands the Leeds gig was a little more in keeping with who we were and was much more comfortable. That was an excellent show on the day, and we had a lot of fun doing it and playing with those bands’.

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Photo: David Plastic

Did you film any tv appearances or music video’s ? ‘Not as many as I would have liked to but yes there are number of them. My personal favourite are the Tokyo Tapes live at Sun Plaza. One guy filming on the balcony with what must have been a huge camera and the footage is as raw as it gets, but totally captures what Anvil was all about.
There is another really good one back in the Hard and Heavy days which was a guy’s college project that I also think is pretty good although again very raw!
Slickest one was Super Rock ’84 but it is short and only includes the tracks School Love and Metal on Metal with just short pieces of both those songs. I would love to see the rest of the footage but I don’t know if it exists’.

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What’s your future plans ? ‘I have a home studio and do all of that on computer, so with the musicians I’m working with it makes it kind of easy to trade ideas without travelling great distances to play together. I’m also very interested in taking older songs and remaking them much like we did in Anvil. Eventually the plan is to put out a recording. With the whole new spin of course and much more attitude! I tend to like attitude !

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.