Bobby Liebling reviews his choices: An interview (Part One)

Posted by Alexander Hay

In the wake of his new album, the Pentagram leadman waxes lyrical

Living in a ram's head - Bobby Liebling, second from rightPentagram's lead singer, Bobby Liebling, may not strictly be 'legendary' (at present, he's still at the 'cult hero' stage) but after 40 years in music and more than a few missed boats, flubbed lines and rather too many drugs, he deserves his reputation among fans and, perhaps, the breakout his band has been narrowly missing since its formation, back in 1971.

The band's major independent label début, “Last Rites”, was released worldwide last week and they're presently on tour. At last, it seems, success is near. Fortunately, Bobby still found time to answer our questions.

Bobby himself, who turned 57 and became a father for the first time last year, points out the album represents another first for him. “This is my first sober album ever and it is the right way to record, I tell ya. I can actually remember the studio!”

He sounds exhilarated to be 'clean' after all these years, but there's an unavoidable sadness underpinning much of what he says, and many a praise exulted to God. (Born Jewish, he has become something of an informal Christian since cleaning up his act.)

Still, he's happy with the results - “I got the best possible performance out of my voice as a result of it not being choked by vices”, he freely admits, knowing that much of what has befallen him is self-inflicted.

“I mean, I guess I always knew, it is just now that I'm determined to take all the right paths for once.”

That wasn't the case with the band's last album, “Show 'Em How”, which, tellingly, lead to a seven year hiatus. As Bobby puts it, “something called 'life' got in the way”. The ensuing chaos, including a near death experience for both him and the band, probably would have been grounds to quit for some.

“It takes a long time for an old dog to teach himself new tricks”, Bobby admits, crediting his wife's help as much as his own need to go straight for his recovery.

Good management and a strong brand helped no end too. The owner of the band's current label, Metal Blade, was a long term fan of the band, and Bobby also had the good fortune to get back in touch with an old friend, the band's returning lead guitarist Victor Griffin, who he's known and played with, on and off, for the past 30 years.

Once Victor parachuted in to rescue several dates in May 2010, the two rediscovered their old chemistry (as Bobby rid himself of another kind of chemistry) and saw an opportunity to try to salvage the band.

“It was clear to both of us that it was time to make it work... for once”, Bobby says. He adds with equal measures of gratitude and regret: “How many people get a second chance to 'make it' at 57 years old?”.

“Last Rites” itself has a raw but direct feel. Bobby attributes this to having been recorded quickly, with Victor alternating between the studio and touring with his other band, Place of Skulls, and their then drummer handing in his notice just before they hit the studio.

For Bobby, however, it's Victor's guitar work that stands out, describing his musicianship as “hazardous as a hundred heart attacks but as soft and savory as warm butter”, hoping to see his friend established as “a guitar God, because he is.” Victor also provided vocals for one track, “American Dream”, which was apparently “by my insistence”, as Bobby puts it.

He is impressed with the end result, raving about the finished product at some length. Like many of Pentagram's recent albums, “Last Rites” is a collection of new tracks and old, the latter culled from the nigh-on 500 he wrote in the early 70s “when I was 18 years old”, and which he likes to revisit to give them the performance and production he believes they deserve. “To me, I am witnessing my children mature into adults”, he says.


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Alexander Hay

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