CHILD OF DOOM
[Here follows an interview with the founder and singer of Pentagram: Bobby Liebling. This interview took place prior to a Pentagram gig in London. For a video of the interview, just scroll toward the end of the text and click on the indicated link. Note: the text below contains Q&As that had to be omitted from the footage owing to adverse technical issues.]
This summer you’ve done a number of festivals in countries such as France, Sweden and Spain. What is your assessment of those recent events?
I was sitting in a tent watching Twisted Sister play and watching Status Quo play…it was awesome. The fact that those people were in the same company as me…well, I was thinking how did it get to this point? It was pretty startling.
I also met Michael Schenker…I had talked to Michael Schenker years ago but I hadn’t seen him in many many years. He’s losing his hair…like I am, he’s getting old but he can still play his guitar well. He’s a wonderful player.
Around a year ago you played in this same venue but there was Tim Tomaselli on drums and now you’ve got Sean Saley. How did Sean become part of the Pentagram family?
We auditioned Sean after Tim was having back problems – Tim has one leg and this was causing him pain in his spine when he played. Tim’s a good guy and I really enjoyed playing with him. He’s a fine drummer, a real professional. But I think Sean’s great, he’s a good drummer too. Two songs were all he needed to audition and we immediately knew he was the guy for us.
Speaking of line-ups, Victor Griffin announced he would be leaving Pentagram at the end of this tour. Do you feel disappointed or bitter at his decision?
(Yes) I was disappointed at his decision but I understood. He was originally supposed to come back just to help me out on 1 tour but he ended up doing 2 years of touring and 1 great album…
… “Last Rites”…
It was a good album.
Yeah, I agree.
Will Greg Turley be following his uncle in leaving the band?
He’s staying. There will be him (on bass), Sean’s the drummer and we’ll have to find ourselves a guitar player and keep going. We’ll have to keep going because Pentagram is all I do and I need to pay the rent. [grins]
In the “Last Days Here” documentary Geof O’Keefe (co-founder of Pentagram) remarks that he’d be willing to play again with you and record new material with you. This might sound far-fetched but what are the possibilities of him picking up the guitar again and replacing Victor?
I’ve already asked him and he can’t do it. I had talked to my manager about this….but sadly Geof can’t do it.
[Geof O’Keefe is currently involved with Bedemon who, a few weeks ago, released their first album in 30 years. When the band was formed in the mid-1970s, Bedemon consisted of ex-Pentagram members and even Bobby himself had briefly played with the band. Guitarist Randy Palmer, who conceived Bedemon, died tragically in August 2002.]
I love the new Bedemon album [“Symphony Of Shadows”]. It’s great…I’d give it a solid 10/10 rating. Geof’s guitar playing really blows my mind. We used to make fun of him because back when Pentagram was formed, Geof played guitar but then he switched to drums. But now he has become an amazing guitarist. I’d love to play with him again if it were possible. Hell, I still love the songs he wrote for some of the Pentagram albums.
What do you remember of the time that you played with Bedemon?
Bedemon wasn’t really a band. It was just a get-together on week-ends to help Randy out with a few songs he was writing. We recorded every song on a reel-to-reel tape recorder with two plastic microphones. Besides singing I also played some bass on a few songs. I think Bedemon is more of a project than a band. Now it’s Geof’s project after Randy unfortunately left us. Randy’s death hurt real bad because he was a dear friend.
When, following Randy’s death, they tried putting the band back together Vince [McAllister – Bedemon and ex-Pentagram guitarist] died [due to cancer]. At the time I was screwed up smoking crack, doing heroin and all kinds of crap. So I didn’t really give a damn and I wasn’t involved in Bedemon’s comeback. Up until that point, Geof and I hadn’t been in touch for about 20 years. I was in a very bad personal situation. Finally we said “Look, we’d better bury the hatchet. We’re not getting any younger, man. How much longer before we’ll be gone?”
We wrote some great songs together. Geof and I had a real knack of writing great songs together.
In “Last Days Here” you also make reference to the incredible support fans have given Pentagram over the years. Can you mention any specific incident on this that deeply impressed you?
When I see online that people have [Pentagram] album covers or my face tattooed on their arms…..one of my best buddies has the cover of “Show ‘Em How” tattooed on his arm…..another guy I saw had his whole chest covered by “Review Your Choices”…..those people are stuck with me for life. [laughs]
I suppose you can’t be more devoted to the band than that.
Yeah, and now it’s the chicks too. When Pentagram started out at least 85% of fans were young sweaty guys of 16 to 25 years of age. Now usually the first 100 people in the audience are young girls. And the truth is I’m not used to that. My wife gets a kick out of it. My wife is only 26 – I love my wife, she’s the only woman I’ve had in my life. She’s my soulmate. She’s everything to me.
Let’s speak about some of the songs in “Last Rites” – the most recent studio album from Pentagram. For instance what is the song ‘8’ about?
The lyrics are about my personal struggle. I was chasing my own tail…you know how the figure ‘8’ is written. ‘8’ is also the symbol for infinity. And that was the inspiration for the song.
What about ‘Death In First Person’…what is that about?
‘Death In First Person’…I didn’t write the lyrics to that – Victor wrote the words. That’s about what in the States we call ‘short-eyes’…..paedophile. That’s the lowest type of scumbag on Earth, because they traumatise the child for life. I’ve got a son now – he’s two - and I can’t imagine what I’d do…I’d kill that person that molested him.
Most of the songs in “Last Rites” were written in the 1970s. I strongly suspect that most of them are biographical in nature. If this is the case, do they give an up-to-date picture of yourself?
No, they give an all time picture of me. My philosophy is still the same. Pentagram’s lyrics have been misunderstood as being Black Metal type-of-stuff or Satan stuff for 35 years. All there ever was to Pentagram’s lyrics is that there are 2 ways you can go in life and you gotta choose. They are warnings, you just have to read the albums’ names…..”Day Of Reckoning”…..”Be Forewarned”…..”Review Your Choices”. You have to be careful in life because you might step in shit before you even know it. [laughs]
Several years ago I had met and interviewed drummer Joe Hasslevander [ex-Pentagram, ex-Death Row, ex-Overlord] in Germany when he was playing with Raven. How would you describe your current relationship with him?
Well, we’re not speaking at all.
Do you think his reticence might have any justification?
No. Not at all. Joe thinks I got paid thousands of dollars by the record company whereas I haven’t had a nickel from Black Widow Records. Not one nickel on my child’s life, on my wife. Not a nickel of royalties after we got the initial so-and-so thousand sold records. That’s why we said “Screw You!” and started selling the records to labels ourselves. We told them “Screw you! Fuck you!” I have nothing good to say about them, I’m sorry, except that they got my name around a lot. And that’s good. And they had extravagantly beautiful covers.
So Joe and I aren’t talking to each other and it’s a shame really. Joe’s got a lot of issues…..he thinks I’m the devil or something. Why does he drag me into whatever’s bothering him? He can still get plenty of bad things happen to him without involving me so I don’t want to be part of all that crap.
Let’s speak about something more positive now. One question I’m sure is on a lot of people’s minds is: when will Pentagram start recording a new album?
As soon as Metal Blade lets us. As soon as we can the money to fund the recording. Of course we also have to find a guitar player in the meantime. So we’re looking, hopefully, at Spring of 2013.
Plus I’ve just found out that we’re going out [on tour] again. [shrugs his shoulders and sighs] Apparently we’ve been booked for some March gigs. Right now my wife is asleep at the hotel, she didn’t even come. It can be tiring. All she’s here for is to love me and to be with me, to be my partner and my best friend. I never grew up. She grew up a lot. We’re 32 years apart in age but it’s like we have no age gap at all.
I guess you also have to make up for a lot of lost time as regards being on the road.
You know, I haven’t rested at all and it’s like I am still 18 years old. I didn’t grow up…I don’t want to grow up because people equate ‘old’ with ‘useless’ and I don’t want to be useless. I’ve already got 18 songs shortlisted for the next Pentagram album and they’re all me. I wrote 3 of them with Geof [O’Keefe] and 15 by myself. Also Greg [Turley – Pentagram bass player] and me wrote a few really good songs but we just never finished them ‘cause I was too screwed up at the time.
I don’t yet know what I will call it [the new album] but it’s going to be mostly songs written 1969 and 1968 – really old ones. They’re all short songs and I’m hoping to get 14 of them on the album. You know, everybody likes the older stuff I’ve written.
Well I believe there’s a lot of stuff yet to be discovered. Songs that haven’t yet been heard by the public.
Exactly. I mean I wrote 450 songs in 3 years. That’s a lot of songs. But that’s my life.
Bobby Liebling, it’s been a pleasure and an honour speaking to you.
The pleasure has been all mine and I thank you very very much. God bless all of you out there for sticking through with Pentagram.
Amen to that!
© 2012 Chris Galea
Interviewed by Chris Galea