Unedited email interview with PENTAGRAM vocalist Bobby Liebling for the band's new album "Curious Volume" - 3 August 2015
Das ungekürzte Email-Interview mit PENTAGRAM-Sänger Bobby Liebling zum neuen Album "Curious Volume" vom 2015-08-03
Hi Bobby, thank you for taking the time to answer a
few questions. I’m in Hamburg in Germany, where are you writing this from?
I am in my home which is outside of Washington,
DC. I am all alone, per usual. Just me and some music playing…
Congratulations on a great album. I really enjoy
listening to this. I love the diversity of the song material. My current favourites
are “Lay Down and Die”, “Dead Bury Dead”, “Misunderstood” and “Because I Made
I love how you’ve chosen a variety of songs that
are your favorites, songs new and old. This is the idea behind the
“curious volume” of songs on here. We chose songs which we felt covered
all aspects of the near 45 year history of the band. You get the old 70’s
song such as “Lay Down and Die”, “Sufferin’” and “Earthflight”. You get
our punk song, “Misunderstood” from the 80’s. You get “Because I Made it”
which was a demo song from the early 90’s and then we have our six new songs
such as “Walk Alone”, “Dead Bury Dead” and so on. It’s my favourite Pentagram
album, I’m very excited to play some of these songs live for the first time.
For people who haven’t heard it yet, could you
describe the album in your own words? Also: Where and how does it fit in with
your previous releases?
The record is like
most of my albums, there is a good portion of songs that I wrote during my
heyday between 1970 and 1976. The other half of the album are newer songs
written by the band as a whole. I feel that this album covers our
history, from our beginning as a hard rock band who accidentally helped invent
heavy metal, to the band we were in the 80s: A metal band who were working to
cut out our own style of doom metal. In the end, it’s only rock n roll.
The basis of rock n roll is the blues, what I call “downer music”.
Nothing is more downer than being doomed. This album is a doomed rock n
roll record, a curious volume indeed.
How long have you worked on this album? Writing?
The recording was
the longest process. We planned on recording during a two week period but
we got lots of road blocks from the studio we booked not being ready for work.
To our drummer quitting during the session, which meant that we needed to
re-record all the drums once we finally found a new drummer, to us having to go
way over budget because of all these reasons. We had to record where and
when we could so that meant 5 different studios in 4 different
states....man. It took months. Our producer, Mattias Nilsson, is a
well-known Swedish sound engineer and he had to go on a few long tours in the
middle of working on the album. Victor and Greg wrote 6 songs for the
album, actually about 8 songs but 6 made it on the album. They wrote
those under pressure, which is where they do their best work. So I guess that
worked out fine. If they had known they’d have four months to write,
maybe the songs wouldn’t be so good.
Which song is the oldest of the bunch, which one the
The newest was maybe
“Curious Volume” or “Devil’s Playground”, I forget. The oldest is “Earthflight”
and “Sufferin”....maybe a tie with “Lay Down and Die” which was originally
titled “Baby, Baby, Lay Down and Die”. We wanted to make it sound more
simple and we felt that if we left the “baby, baby” in there, it wouldn’t leave
the lyrics as open to interpretation.
Tell me about the cover artwork. That’s an interesting
image. How does it fit in with the music and the lyrics?
The album title was taken from a line in the
Edgar Allan Poe poem called “The Raven”. I wanted to use the whole line
from the poem, “A Quaint and Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore”. The band
convinced me to shorten it. I think both words “Curious” and “Volume” can
mean many things and many things that fit the band’s history as well as the
collection of songs on the album. We asked Richard Schouten, the artist,
to come up with something original. He read the poem, listened to the
songs and turned in the robot raven. I think the artwork, just like the
songs on the album, give the listener something to dream about, something to
wonder about. The artwork fits Poe, it fits the songs and it also leaves
things open to the imagination. It also fits Pentagram and our overall
Tell us a little about how the band is set-up. Are you
the definitive band leader or is this more of a democratic group?
I am the godfather of this band. Geof O’Keefe and
I came up with the idea of forming a band that we wanted to hear on Halloween
night, 1971. Our first rehearsal was on Christmas night of that same
year. With that said, this is very much a band. We are a family,
“the ram family” as we refer to ourselves. We have people outside of the
musicians such as our general manager Sean “Pellet” and Klaus Koschell of Vibra
Agency who tour manages and books us in Europe. I make the final
decisions but the band business is run by Greg Turley and Pellet, Greg is more
of the rehearsals and doing the budgets, he really works hard for us amongst
being a great bass player and songwriter. Pellet works with the
profile of the band and works on opportunities for us among other things.
Klaus guides us on the road, he is the only tour manager that I will take order
from. I respect him very much. I will say that I love this line
up. Victor is my brother. He was a teenager when we started working
together. His nephew is Greg Turley who is the son of his sister.
We are all very close and we take care of each other and we also fight like
cats and dogs of course but we come together as a family. We are very
lucky to have each other. Our new drummer Pete Campbell has got good
groove and is fun to be around which is more than I can say with some of our
past drummers. I want this line up to be our final line up.
Pentagram is notorious for the many line-up changes
you had to endure. Are you confident the current line-up might stay on a while?
I think I’ve got one or two more years of doing
this. I believe that we’ve found our final line up. I should say
that the door is always open for Victor to tour or not to tour. We are
lucky to have Matt Goldsborough always ready to step out on stage with
us. I hope at one point that both he and Victor can be on stage together.
I’ve always wanted two guitar players. I had that a few times in the 70s and I
hope to again.
I hear Peaceville Records might finally release a DVD
of the documentary"Last Days Here"here in Europe. Were you always completely
fine with that film? Almost everybody thought it was very good and it was quite
popular when it was on TV over here. But it also shows you in a few very
Yes, Peaceville will be releasing the film. It
really was produced by Pellet but he doesn’t get the written credit as he
should. Neither one of us saw any money from it but it does spread the
word of the band so I do feel fortunate. I do wish that it was more about
the band and the music but I now see how it not being a “rock-u-mentary” has
helped the film and therefore the band. It’s a story that a lot more than
metalheads can relate to. It is very painful for me to watch. I
really was almost dead when they started shooting. Pellet told me that he
didn’t think he’d get to finish the movie once he started. I think the
film serves as a reminder to me of how far I can fall. I’m blown away
that people such as Steven Tyler, Ozzy Osbourne, Eddie Vedder, Judd Apatow,
Jack Black and on and on have seen and loved the film! I think it
has brought us a lot of new fans and I am very grateful. But I am not
embarrassed to much, I’ve always shown myself in my lyrics, this was just the
I know you found God a few years ago and you changed
your life style dramatically. Is that something most fans approve of or are
there the ones that don’t get it and are taken aback by these changes?
Well, it is a
personal thing but I’ll say this. I’ve always been attracted to the dark
and I’ve always attracted the darkness to me. I feel the most comfortable
in dark places. I have seen first hand however how the dark can
eventually eat you alive. Read the lyrics to our song “8” ( “Ain’t no
light in a tunnel that’s a figure eight”) off of “Last Rites” and then let the
title of another one of my songs, “Review Your Choices” always ring
through your mind. As far as the fans who don’t understand that I’ve seen
“the light”....well, if they were true fans, they wouldn’t give a shit. I
want everyone to choose their own path. I sing about choices, only you
write your “Last Rites”. I am not one to preach, I struggle with
choices every day of my life. I wish all my fans the very best and I
truly love you all. As far as God goes, well, something, someone has kept
me here. There is no good reason as to why I’m still alive. I just
feel very fortunate and I want to enjoy my fans and my family as long as I
can. I think I have a few years left to go. Come on out and see me while
we are both on this earth.
recently finished a tour of Germany. And you’ve been over here several times in
recent years. Do you have any particular memories or feelings about touring
Germany, about the people or the place in general? Good or bad – you can be
honest here. ;-)
I will be deadly honest. I- LOVE - GERMANY! We all do.
Germany is one country, along with Sweden, that I feel really, really got us,
really understood us and loved us before anyone else….especially the US.
I feel very fortunate every time I step on German soil. Our booking agent
is from here but that is not the only reason we tour Germany more than anywhere
else, we love Germany. I have had a few bad experiences but that was my
own fault when I was slipping and got mugged and robbed. I told you that
I’m attracted to the darkness but for us, Germany is the light. We love
you and I hope to see you all very soon! Pick up the new album, we want
to play you some new songs and I want you to sing along.