EXCLUSIVE Interview with Bobby Liebling of Pentagram: The Voice of the Head ‘Ram

To quote legendary Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling, speaking about himself, “I’m one of the original dinosaurs that made it through the ice age.”

It doesn’t really matter that the dinosaurs died millions of years before the last ice age, because Bobby‘s right anyway. Not only for a rock and roller, but for any human being at all to have survived the life he’s led so far into his existence is beyond fantastical. The stories he has to tell are guaranteed to blow your mind like the first time you heard “Forever My Queen,” and having spent an hour with him on the phone to conduct the nearly 5,400-word interview you’re about to read, I can honestly say that you don’t even have to ask him about them; he’ll just tell you. Bobby Liebling is an open book.

Three years sober, married to wife Hallie with a full touring schedule, a movie about his life, the prospect of a new album and a baby on the way, Liebling‘s drug years — decades, really — now serve him as vital memories of everything he’s come through to get where he is today. He says he’s blessed and I don’t know how many other explanations there are for it than that, because to hear him tell it, he probably should have died multiple times over by now.

Throughout the course of our conversation, Liebling went from laughing raucously about the mob guys in the Philadelphia neighborhood where he and his wife now live to audibly welling with tears talking about last year’s untimely passing of Blue Cheer bassist/vocalist Dickie Peterson. And even as Pentagram guitarist Russ Strahan announced his departure from the band on March 14 (which Liebling hints at in our conversation), it leaves the door open for new lineup opportunities that will supposedly be announced soon. For now, Pentagram is rounded out by bassist Mark Ammen (Unorthodox) and drummer Gary Isom (Spirit Caravan, Valkyrie).

What you’re about to read is probably the most fascinating and, again, open, interview I’ve ever had the pleasure to do (and I barely asked any questions!), and it is with great honor that I present it to you, as true to how it happened as possible, in Q&A form after the jump below. Please enjoy.

…I caught your Philly show…

Do you know that was the worst show on the whole tour by far? There was nobody there compared to everyplace else. B.B. King’s was wall to fucking wall. They had to line up with security guards for an hour and a half for autographs and pictures. Literally.

What happened in Philly then?

I have no idea. I guess ‘cause I live here now. When you live somewhere, people say, “Wow, it’s gonna be great! The hometown crowd!” No. It’s going to be empty because they take for granted that they can come see you again and be fine. That’s the true psychology that people don’t read. Always, whenever I play for Washington D.C. or Baltimore, I say, “Ah shit on a stick, I gotta play D.C. This bullshit. Fuck, I gotta play Maryland.” That kind of stuff. Sonar, when we played, when we started our debut last March, a year ago, the sixth was Webster Hall in New York, which was a sardine can — packed, I mean packed to the rafters; from 20 countries people flew in to see us — and then we played the next night at the Sonar in Baltimore, which supposedly brags of holding more people, which it does not, ‘cause Webster Hall was huge. That’s 1,100, no question about it. It’s got the whole balcony ring around the top, and you had to walk sideways and slide through people to get to the merch table. The next night we played at Sonar in Baltimore, and you’d get this roaring applause for each song, then dead silence within 10 seconds. Like they’re sitting, waiting, looking at you, and I’m like, “God damn it, make some fucking noise” (laughs)! Overseas, in Europe, between songs, they’re going “Hey! Hey! Hey!” or clapping or going “Pent-a-gram!” until you start the next song, or if I come to the mic and give ‘em a little speil about something, they try to listen, but otherwise… In Baltimore, the show was a dog to me. And that’s half an hour from where my folks live and where I resided before I met my wife. From 2002 to 2007, when I finally moved to Philadelphia.

Well, if New York was good and the rest of the shows were good, do you feel like you have some decent momentum going into this next batch of dates?

Oh, the momentum is really big. This next batch of dates is what’s called a secondary city tour. Even though they did ask us to four exact identical places in a row and two of them we clean sold out last time — they asked us right back to Seattle, same place. The guy was great to us last time in Seattle, and I like playing Seattle because it was a hotbed in the ‘90s for heavy music. The Nirvana, Soundgarden trip and all that. Alice in Chains. Those bands, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine — and a band called 8Stops7. They had two great big hits in a row. One was a real schlock pile of a ballad, and the first hit ever was called “Satisfied,” and the guy sounds like Eddie Vedder without the wiggling, and the guy sounds like he’s about to go completely off the edge psychotic and commit suicide on every song. You can hear him breathing like he’s about to implode or something (laughs). They’re a fantastic band. They were on Warner Bros. too, and had incredible production. They were really great. But aside from those bands, like Rage Against the Machine I love. That’s the only — if you want to call it rap — I don’t. That, to me, is heavy, heavy hard rock, and I like the guy, Zach de la Rocha, ‘cause he’s a stand-up-for-what-he-wants. Plus he’s got the coolest name in history (laughs). I’d love to be named Zach de la Rocha (laughs)! That sounds like, “Come on, guido!” Sounds like Jersey, right? Nicky, Vincenzo and Antonio (laughs). Pinky rings. I live in Little Italy, and it’s total mob control and total mob fronts. They have a social club every corner (laughs). The place where Guccione breaks open the parking meters (laughs), and what you call a Donnie Brasco. One of those. I’ve one here called Café Italia (laughs).

Next thing you know someone rolls up with a lion in the car.

Exactly. All this kind of shit (laughs). And they’ve got three tables and you see about 20 metal, wrought-iron, heavy duty iron chairs sitting outside in front on the street with about 15 old, white-haired pot bellied guido guys (laughs). The old gumbas. The old cappos, the lords of the mob, sitting there talking Italian all day. You overhear sometimes. One night I walked through and heard, “Next time I’m gonna hit him with a crowbar and kill him” (laughs). Usually they’re speaking Italian. Sometimes you’ll see one person eating spaghetti and meatballs at two or three a.m., and the place is never open otherwise. They’ve got three tables (laughs). That’s so fun. I get a kick out of that kind of stuff, because I’ve lived so many of my years in the underbelly of life, with the drugs and all that shit. When Johnny Thunders died, I became the posterboy for narcotic abuse (laughs).

That’s a hell of a mantle to take up.

Yeah, I know. I’m straight three years, I’m married now and my wife’s gonna have a baby in August.

Yeah, I read about that, congratulations. Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?

I don’t know yet, we didn’t go. We didn’t check. The next go around we’re gonna check. I’m having trouble, struggling so terribly bad right now financially, that believe it or not she had to apply for Medicaid. That’s the rock and roll life. We’re the only country not socializing [healthcare]. We suck because of that. That’s the worst pile of shit I ever heard of — I hate it. I’m another left wing radical like Wayne Kramer, who did make it through the depths of addiction and still has his radical observations of what goes on, yet his third album, called Citizen Wayne, where he’s dressed in all brown (laughs), which was square in my day, and he’d become part of the system, because you can’t fight it and you can’t beat it. But he still recalls back in the days of White Panthers and MC5, when it was anarchy and, “Fuck, go get high, go wild in the street! Stay alive with MC5! Kick out the jams, motherfuckers” (laughs). Wayne Kramer is my hero. He’s the one guy I’ve never met personally who I want to meet horribly. I’ve missed him play three separate occasions in Washington D.C. I found out the next day he played a 100-seat club. I died, because I love his solo career. I adore his albums. They’re recorded just like the old days, all flat, reverbed up, no bells and whistles to speak of, and Wayne’s been in the underbelly, and he’s one of the few — like myself — dinosaurs that made it through the ice age and through 25 years of hard drug addiction, and is still alive. He married his drug rehab counselor (laughs). God bless him, he’s still here. Ah, enough from my mouth, do it.

(Laughs)

I told you. I can’t stop talking. I’m actually going to see a therapist about that.

About not being able to stop talking?

Yeah. Honestly. I can’t stop talking. No choice about it. I have absolute obsessive motor-mouth. I interrupt everybody I meet until they can’t stand me and they want to shoot me or leave (laughs). It’s one of the two. I can’t stop, and I call it politely, “Oh, I’m just interjecting,” when I’m constantly interrupting everybody (laughs). Rude as hell.

Is that a mania kind of thing?

It’s a thing that, when I was born, they didn’t invent Ritalin yet (laughs). That’s what that is. I have incredible ADD and hyperactivity. Not really the attention deficit, but I’m hyperactive.

Makes for a good stage show, though.

Definitely for that. I’ve got the I-can’t-stop-my-legs syndrome. I’m talking to you and both of my legs are going. My wife calls me “twinkle toes,” when I’m laying in bed she sees them going left-right-left-right. “There goes twinkle toes” (laughs). I can’t stand still on stage. I can’t.

Why do you think the appreciation for Pentagram has grown the way it has over the last decade?

I can pinpoint it down to the people my age, who have grown up, have had children who are now 16 and over, and can attend Pentagram shows. Their parents turn them on to Pentagram. I’ve met hundreds of couples who brought their kids worldwide. Every country I’ve been to at least has had two or three couples bringing their children with them and have said, “I’ve been listening to Pentagram for 30 years, I want you to meet my son, he’s dying to meet you.” I’m covering a generation from 16 to 60. It’s definitely because of that influence, coupled with the fact that I am a dinosaur that made it through the ice age and the retro movement, and stoner rock movement, as they call it by coined phrase — I just say we play real, real, REAL heavy hard rock. I don’t call it heavy metal anymore. They still say “The godfathers of doom” when we come on stage, and it is downtrodden — I’ll put it that way — in mood. I write all minor stuff, bum outs (laughs). Pretty depressing, kill-yourself music, which a thousand people around the world has told me has saved their life, which blows my mind. Especially Sub-Basement, which is my absolute, hands-down baby, for production, and for the most sick, demented pile of songs. I can only listen to it once every two or three months. I absolutely can’t listen to it, it’s so entirely bummed out from first note to last (laughs). It’s very sick in the head. I call Show ‘em How the sister album to that album. Show ‘em How is very clean production, and it redid some of the Pentagram classics like “20 Buck Spin,” as opposed to Sub-Basement, let’s say “Target,” is the typical Pentagram, bluesy-influence with Blue Cheer mixed into it, and on Show ‘em How, “Show ‘em How” is, the changes and a barrage of feedback at the end, uncontrolled like “Doctor Please” by Blue Cheer, but instead of all the dementia that’s on Sub-Basement, the other group of song moods on Show ‘em How, instead of demented, is sad. It’s pathetic and sad and very close to my heart and toned down, dear to me. Like “If the Winds Would Change,” “Last Days Here,” it’s the only ballad Pentagram’s ever done, really. It’s a “Gimme Danger” I’ve-got-nothing, Iggy-type of thing. Up that alley, completely, compared to Keith Richards and Kurt Cobain in one article, which, my god, I couldn’t believe they’re putting me in that kind of company (laughs). Like, what’s wrong with this picture? I should be licking their balls (laughs). “Last Days Here” — the first rehearsal version is on First Daze Here — when that came out, they said, “This guy Bobby Liebling sounds like he’s so truthfully depressed, and so honestly, totally suicidal that we wonder if 10 minutes after the recording session did he jump off the studio roof and commit suicide.” It’s the hopeless despair of it. There’s no glimmer of light anywhere in sight. Of course, Jim Osterberg being a close friend of mine for many years — I followed The Stooges in the early days — I met him by cleaning the peanut butter off his body in a bathroom in 1970 (laughs). …But I think it’s the retro movement, to answer your question.

You mentioned the First Daze Here compilation of older material. Do you think that’s part of it?

I think that’s some of it, but not really, because Show ‘em How is even more of a proper recording. All of the songs on First Daze Here and First Daze Here Too are demo recordings. I didn’t want them released at all, and they caught on like wildfire. Like Hiroshima (laughs). That’s why on Show ‘em How, I did — and you know, on Sub-Basement and Review Your Choices — I did “Forever My Queen” on Review Your Choices and on Sub-Basement, I finally put “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head” on it, you know, and people overlook those things and it kind of bums me out. For instance, on Show ‘em How, my favorite ballad I ever wrote in my life is “If the Winds Would Change,” and that song’s incredibly, sad, horrible, Stones, ballad. Bummed out. Sad. Just like “Downhill Slope” is on Review Your Choices. Same kind of song. And “Goddess” and “Wheel of Fortune” is total Iggy on Show ‘em How, and that’s the real version we finally did in the studio, the real way, and almost completely duped it exact, the original version of it. It’s a demo tape on First Daze Too, I think. Yeah, because we wrote “Wheel of Fortune,” “Last Days Here,” a song called “Sufferin’” and a song called “Backlash,” which I haven’t recorded yet — “Backlash” will be on the next album — all four of those songs were written the same day by me and the original drummer Geof O’Keefe. There’s a song on First Daze Too called “Everything’s Turning to Night,” and that’s just a rehearsal thing, on a real shitty recording, on the second CD of it. We recorded with two plastic microphones and a seven-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder (laughs). That’s true. That’s the First Daze Here Too recording, but it still got the message across and it has a lot of the real bummer stuff. “Backlash” is not on that either, but “Everything’s Turning to Night” will be on the next album, finally done in the studio.

Do you have new material too in addition to the older stuff?

Yeah, there will be. There’s stuff like you heard, “South of the Swamp.” That’s a ball-breaker (laughs). That’s true Pentagorgon (laughs). “Taking the Mores” is one, which I don’t think I’m going to end up putting on the album because, between you and me — well, I’m not even going to get into it. Let’s just say (laughs), it’s an internal situation in the band, that’s all (laughs). You will be seeing the same four members on the March tour, that’s all I’ll comment about that. We already have a May tour also. I don’t know if it’s been announced or booked, in the US. We’re headlining at the Maryland Deathfest. There’s a 10-day tour around it, which is all completely East Coast again. We play Florida, we play Savannah, we play Raleigh, North Carolina, we play in Baltimore again, we play Boston. It’s pretty much like that. Then, also, some dates like this one coming up in March is West Coast. This one’s got Seattle, then it’s got Portland — the same hall we sold out — Frisco, the same one we sold out. We’re not playing House of Blues because they were booked. That’s the only reason we’re not playing there again. We were about 50 people short of cram-packing that too when we played there, in Hollywood. This tour, like I said, also has secondary cities. We start in Indianapolis. We play Columbus, Ohio. We play Milwaukee, Pittsburgh. Lincoln, Nebraska — who the fuck thought that one up (laughs)? I’ve never gotten a fan letter from that state in history (laughs)! Then we’ve got, in California, between Frisco and L.A., I think we’re playing in Romona at a place called the Power Room or something in California. Tempe, Arizona, we’re playing. We were canceling that initially, but we’re playing. We were trying to move Tempe to Vegas, but the guy doesn’t want to pay properly, so sorry. I can’t afford to do that now.

You’ve got a baby coming!

Exactly. I’m supporting a family, and my wife is coming on the March tour with me, and the May tour, she’s gotta stay home, because the baby’s coming August 15, so she’ll just be starting her sixth month when the March tour ends. Her pregnancy, she can’t travel. Especially flying, which especially May, June and July, I’ll be doing a lot of European festivals.

Oh, you guys are heading back to Europe?

Yes. Pentagram will be going to Europe (laughs). Pentagram will be doing some big-ass festivals over there.

And who’s gonna be in Pentagram at that point?

No comment (laughs). Sorry.

I was actually just going to ask you about the recording lineup for the album, but I guess that’s out.

For Last Rites?

Yeah.

Last Rites is gonna be recorded in September and October. We were going to release the Live in Chicago album from the last tour, because they did a live mobile unit recording of the concert, and the people were jammed into the Empty Bottle again, which was the last date of the tour and the first date of the first American tour, but I’ve since acquired personal management. I am now managed by Barley and Hops Management… [Gonna] try to get me back some of my money from the ripoff bastards like Black Widow, who I did five albums, three comp albums and 10 magazine CD inserts for and saw not a cent of royalties since 1999. And 17 t-shirt designs. And never saw one penny. Joe Hasselvander finally got convinced by them, they actually came out and said to him they were paying me every six months and I must have been keeping it. And the fact of the matter is something which I won’t specify because of slander, but something stinks in Denmark in that company, obviously, and I know exactly what it is. Every six months, I am getting cut a royalty check by the entire, sole supervisor, handler, accountant and monetary person of the two people who run Black Widow, Massimo and Pino. Massimo, the president, has no knowledge, and nothing to do with the finances whatsoever. Therefore, every six months, I am getting cut a royalty check, I’m quite sure, and it’ll probably be close to a million dollars now, and I haven’t seen one cent of it, and I know where it’s going by the person who cuts the check. Somebody’s into the third set of books. You’ve got your real books, you’ve got your IRS books, then for the band, you’ve got your cookbooks. That’s the way the music business goes. Whether it be anyplace, something’s going on, and the musician usually ends up getting screwed… The wealth is there to be shared, just please let me have more than a bite of the crust. Most musicians, we don’t go to heaven like other people do, with social security benefits, health, dental and all that. You just stay till your rock and roll end and that’s it. You’re a memory and you’re gone, and if you ain’t socked it away in a shoebox somewhere, you’re fucked. Right now, I’m trying to strike while the iron is hot, and he said that’s not selling out, he said, because you’re one of the originals who’s here, that hasn’t died. I’ve been granted by god a 10th life, if cats have nine (laughs), from all the narcotics I’ve done and all the years I was a hell of a heroin addict, a hell of a methadone addict and a hell of cocaine smoker and shooter, and I’m still alive to tell the story by the grace of god and three years sober now, happily married, and gonna have my first baby legitimately, everywhere. I won’t even tell a lie nowadays. Literally (laughs). I refuse to lie, even. I’m noticing that when you do things right, you get ‘em back tenfold, baby. I was in the underbelly of life. I made millions, tens of millions of dollars, sometimes in cash, five-figure millions at a time, but it was all running cocaine for the Median cartel during the Escobar years. And I blew it all, every dime of it on my own personal whoring, car-buying, house-buying for my friends, buying Ferraris and chinchilla coats and diamond rings for broads and flaunting it. I was 25 years old and we were running across from Bogotá and back in a Cessna every week and splitting $20 million cash three ways (laughs). And I shot it all up. I’m not proud of it at all, but god’s been awful good to me, man.

To survive that is…

It’s incredulous. It sounds like delusion. People say, “The guy is delusional.” Well, check it all out. I won’t tell anybody any lies. Everything I say is to-the-bone truth. I just refuse to do it. Sometimes the truth hurts, but I’m gonna give it to you, I’m sorry. Because that’s the way my man upstairs, who saved my life, wants me to. He sent me my wife, who I believe is actually an angel sent to me for divine intervention to save my life, which would have been probably gone about three months later if she hadn’t have met me when she did. I was shooting so much drugs, and had come down to so much weight. If you look at some of the early pictures on the Pentagram archives, where my hair is all grey and I’ve got it tied up like a pineapple, and I’ve got a filthy t-shirt on full of burn holes and a crack pipe hanging out of my mouth, and my neck has a ring of dirt around it and this kind of stuff. And this is in 2005, still. And then in 2007, I met Hallie, and I have one tattoo on my body, which is on the website also, my MySpace, and that’s her name on my collarbone, and that’s it. I have no tattoos, no body piercing, no nothing, just that word, because that’s my angel that was sent from god to save my life. And I truly believe that. I believe in divine intervention now because I am a living, walking testimonial that miracles can exist and do. I quit all those drugs. 40 years of shooting heroin, up to a thousand-dollar-a-day habit, on top of 100 milligrams of methadone piggybacked, and $500-$1000 every day of my life of crack smoking around the clock, sometimes staying up 10 days without one minute of sleep or one bite of food or drink, and doing all of that and then stopping cold turkey, no programs, no hospitals, no help, no crutches, nothing. Absolutely because of my love of Hallie, my wife, and wanting her back from when we had broken apart. That’s impossible to do. I don’t know any case of any junkie who’s done that, down from 100 milligrams a day to nothing. Because if you know anything about methadone, you virtually can’t kick it, ever. The recidivism is about 99.9999999 percent, to go back, relapse, at least on heroin on the streets when you get down to detox levels, about 20-25 milligrams. Every single junkie hits the streets again, and I walked off 100, cold turkey, while I was piggybacking maybe, at that time, $300 a day of heroin and $500 a day of haldol and crack, and now, absolutely nothing. Not an aspirin. And didn’t go back. And I’ve known probably one million, literally, junkies in my life, having mingled in the underbelly my whole life, and having been a junkie since my early teens, and after 40 years of that whole thing and 30 years of the methadone, 27 with crack and to stop with nothing, I know of zero, honest to god, strike me dead, I know of no case in my life that I’ve ever met that has done that and not either fallen to death or relapsed or AIDS or overdose. Death. Death. Thank god they finally acknowledged 10 years ago that besides benzoes — which I still take xanax to this day, and they first invented Xanax in 1976, and I still remember about ’80, I take those for hyper-anxiety disorder, and I do have panic attacks very badly, and I’m prescribed those, which I take the bars. I’m prescribed three Xanny bars a day. It’s a lot of Xanax. The two milligram bars. I’m supposed to take three of those a day, I take one, one and a half. How do I control something I am, being the junkie, garbagehead, totally, of any substance, for so many years? I started taking drugs when I was seven years old. When I was seven years old, I was getting drunk, smoking pot and hash. I started tripping on L.S.D. in ’64, when it was still legal, way before The Beatles did. I was 10, and taking legal L.S.D. 25 in an eyedropper in the eyeballs. Pure L.S.D. (laughs), real hallucinations, where you can sit and hold a conversation with your best friend all night long and he’s vivid as I would be standing in front of you or you are looking at your telephone, but he isn’t there at all. By ’71, I had stopped tripping already. I’d quit (laughs), and was already deep into heroin. Knee deep (laughs). A lot of shit reflects. I obsessively talk about drugs because it helps to keep me in check, because I don’t want to go back to where I came from, because, god love him, I don’t want to end up like one of my fallen, dearest-to-my-heart heroes that really hurts, Dickie Peterson of Blue Cheer. I’m just totally to this day rattled and will be for the rest of my life over Dickie’s death. And Paul Whaley and Dickie, finally becoming close, dear, personal friends of mine — my name is on their very last album. I feel like god knows Paul is in Germany, I can’t locate him, he must be absolutely devastated, having played for over 40 years with Dick, and they’re such really incredible people. The last album was done with Joe Hasselvander playing on some of it, my drummer, and that was released with some of the lousy cuts with Joe taken off, and they put on “Maladjusted Child” and the redone “Just a Little Bit,” and a song called “I’m Gonna Get to You,” which are three of the best songs on there with Paul. But they started coming to Maryland to record it, because they wanted to do it with the same engineer, the same studio, as I’ve done all my albums. And that’s where they did it at, and did it with my sound man since 1986, Chris Koslowski at Polar Bear Lair in Middletown, Maryland. Paul came from Germany, and I got very friendly with them, and Paul started staying at my house when they were in the recording studio. I couldn’t believe it. That’s like me getting to have John Lennon stay at my house. I have like 20 Blue Cheer autographed albums and t-shirts, and I have the t-shirt Dickie used for pajamas one night, sleeping. That was the only one [they had] and Dickie gave it to me right off his back (laughs). His nightshirt when they stayed overnight from the studio (laughs). These are things I hold dear to my heart. I’m a male groupie all the way, buddy.

They call those “collectors.”

That’s right. I have John Lennon’s guitar pick. A real one. I went to a party at George Harrison’s house in Potomac, Maryland. Things like that. I did coke sitting in between Mick and Keith in 1978 for three hours. Sitting in their limousine in the back when they did an unannounced tour under the name The Cockroaches and played 1,000-seat halls, to see what it was like to go back to the little places. I sat at the Passaic Theater in New Jersey, and that’s where they played. I sat with my uncle, the promoter, and Mick and Keith and me for two and a half hours, just snorting coke all night, in their cocaine years. It’s pretty weird. I’ve seen a little life.

With good things happening now and hopes for signing to a new label that presumably won’t fuck you over, the new management, the baby on the way, the great touring momentum, being clean for three years…

The DVD is coming out this summer too. It’s going to [the] Toronto [Film Festival]…

…The DVD too. There are so many good things happening. Do you feel like you’re getting some payoff now for these hard years you’re talking about?

So far, to this degree, I’m getting serenity and tranquility. I know where I’m going after I die, and I have the most loving, dear, true, virtuous, faithful wife that I could ever ask for in history — exactly my soul mate — my best friend I’ve ever had in the life of Bobby Liebling, which is my Hallie, and she’s only 23. She’ll be 24 in April. And that’s my only legitimate marriage on paper in my entire life, as well as my only legitimate child that I know of. So I’ve gotten those payoffs, and hopefully, with this new management and Thunderdome Touring doing my booking — Dan Rosenblum has been great to me and now merged with a huge company — they’ll be doing overseas. I’m very blessed, as people and don’t even know what it means in certain authenticities. I’ve heard very often, “I’m blessed.” What are you blessed about? I know what I’m blessed about. I know how I’ve been blessed. There is a god up there, and he is looking out for me, baby. I’ve never been so full of soul, and that’s what a payoff is. There is no amount of money. I’ve had attaché cases stacked with close to $10 million at a time in stacks of hundreds that was mine. All mine. From running coke illegitimately in Cessnas. We did not know how to fly a plane the first time we got in the plane to Bogotá. No one had ever flown in their life. No pilot license. Nothing. Landing on the side of the bandito cliffs, up in the hills, the cartel hills of Bogotá, Columbia during the Escobar reign. I’m still here, man. Hell yes, I’ve been paid off. Hell yes, I have a fullness. I have a roundedness. I know I’m doing the right thing. I’m making people happy by entertaining them, and that’s what I do for a living. I’m not a singer. I’m not a songwriter. I’m not just a producer. I’m not just a musician, I’m not just a vocalist. I am a consummate professional entertainer. And that’s what I consider myself more than anything else. And people who write me and tell me “Sub-Basement saved my life” — and they mean it too — these are serious suicidal people who have, like I like to say, “itchues they ain’t gotten scratched yet” (laughs). Like, “You got too many itchues, you better scratch them itchues” (laughs). I like to say that to people. “You got a lotta itchues, you better scratch some of ‘em.” Like my friend [Tony] McPhee from The Groundhogs said when they left John Lee Hooker and he started his own band — because The Groundhogs were a backup band for John Lee Hooker in 1962 when Tony was 14 — people don’t know that, but their first album is called Scratching the Surface, and that’s what I’m doing finally. I’m hitting home in the hearts of a lot of people and making them happy, and that gets me soul fulfillment like no amount of money ever could. I’ve had the money and I was never happy at all. I was miserable… If I did schlocky accordion music with string sections and all that and did a version of “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head” like that, it wouldn’t be a sellout, because I’m one of the original dinosaurs that made it through the ice age. Quote that. I’d love to see that in quotes…

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22 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE Interview with Bobby Liebling of Pentagram: The Voice of the Head ‘Ram”

  1. John Kealy says:

    Hi,

    I tried using your contact form but it kept giving me an error message. Firstly, I’d like to say that the Pentagram interview is great and secondly, I see you’ve used one of my photos at the top of the article. While I’m happy that you liked it enough to use it in such a prominent position in the article, I’m a little concerned that you didn’t put a credit up along with it.

    If you wouldn’t mind, could you stick a credit on the page with my name (John Kealy) and if possible a link to my flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/kealyj)? I’m not looking for money or anything, just credit where it’s due.

    Thanks,

    John.

  2. Mike says:

    KUDOS on the interview.

    Just reading it is exhausting!

  3. phaseinducer says:

    Much of Mr. Liebling’s story reads like something straight out of the movie Blow. Looking forward to the “Last Rites” bio, which BTW is being done by Don Argott (Serpent Throne). Should be good!

  4. Excuse me before I barf! When Bobby Liebling tells you he doesn’t lie, then he’s only told you yet another one! He acts like he produced “Sub-Basement” and “Review Your Choices” when in fact he slept through 90% of the productions of those albums, leaving all the production to me. As far as his claim to riding in drug planes form South America, running Coke for a Colombian Cartel and owning houses, jewels and furs, that is absolute lying madness. He ‘s lived in his parent’s apartment all his life pontificating his greatness and has never earned a dime legally or illegally until joining Death Row and still he didn’t make much. He hasn’t written one song since 1974. He also is wildly incorrect in stating that half of my work on the Blue Cheer album was crap and was the reason for putting Paul Whaley’s tracks on to fix the mess. I ought to know, I was there! The real truth is that I stepped down for Paul so that he could tour again as the drummer for Blue Cheer as this is all that the man had in life! Paul is my friend and my mentor for drumming. It was a privilege to share the album with him. The record company decided that since he was back in the band, it would be best to include him on at least part of the album since Blue Cheer would be supporting this album with Paul as the drummer. The tracks Bobby has mentioned as being crumby are classic, well played and well written songs that were to be released at a future date. He has just said this to minimize my importance in that project! Just ask the remaining members, Paul or Duck!
    Bobby had written some very iconic songs long ago that he keeps rehashing to this day and that’s fine. I don’t want to take away his past accomplishments which are valid, but to the fans I have to say they are getting a pack of lies from him about his so-called production efforts on past albums especially the ones I did alone with him for Black Widow! I virtually performed and produced them by myself! If it wasn’t for me supplying this guy with bands and songs and laborious work he would not be where he is today! Once again in this article, he falsely takes all the credit! Pentagram was put together by many very talented musicians who were forced to leave the band as they couldn’t put up with Bobby’s drugged out ego and all the lies and ridiculous selfish pats on the back to himself. This is why he is now saddled with young inexperienced yes men who have bought into his scam! The tales I heard at Hammer Of Doom in Germany from their touring partners Trouble concerning him and his entourage, were beyond a nightmare! He’s blown it with promoters over there because of his shenanigans! Why do I mention any of this? First off, I’m not “His” drummer! I have a very charmed career without his help and am still enjoying the fruits of my hard work! Secondly, he has wrongly slandered my efforts with my old band mates, Blue Cheer! If I have done so badly with them, why would I still be getting phone calls from Their guitarist Duck MacDonald in reference to doing more projects in the future?
    Sorry I had to deliver the truth on what could have been a good interview! But you must get the record straight!
    Sincerely,
    Joe Hasselvander

  5. Paddy Pig says:

    If anyone believes the insane rantings of an admitted heroin and crack addict, they should be drug tested themselves!

    Why do fans always want to idolize people like this rather then the talented musicians who actually did the work? (In this case, Hasselvander, Griffin and Swaney).

    It seems all Liebling does is talk shit about people who aren’t kissing his track marked covered ass. I suggest people check out Hasselvander’s blog (url above) for the truth.

  6. Nick Vivid says:

    Gotta say Joe Hasselvander is the real deal and a very honest dude. +1 to Joe’s credibility in the matter.

  7. Mitch Black says:

    It’s sad that old Pentagram members Vincent McAllister and Randy Palmer are dead, but no proper sites or mags seem to be remotely interested in a large retrospective Penta-feature including exclusive interviews with McAllister, Palmer and bassist Greg Mayne (still living) courtesy of a certain intrepid heavy rock journalist. People are way too concerned with Bobby L’s bullshit babble about non-existent fantasies like drug cartel connections these days. Pentagram’s 1971-1976 lineups were unknown to all but a handful of followers until the mid 2000s. People need to realize that a large part of the magic in the ’70s came from Vincent McAllister, Greg Mayne and Geof O’Keefe (along with the younger and less addled Bobby).

    Cheers to Joe Hasselvander for clearing up the mess here and elsewhere! Joe, Victor Griffin and Marty Swaney deserve lotsa credit for the 1980s to ’90s incarnation of the band. Current notoriety for Pentagram is a double-edged sword. While it’s awesome that people are paying attention to the old killer tunes, it’s not cool that the uninitiated take junkie babblings as truth.

  8. Dawn Wagener says:

    You would think by now Bobby would know how to spell his ”soundman’s “name, lets try to get this RIGHT…It is Christopher Kozlowski, and yes, at least he got Polarbearlair right!!To say that Blue Cheer came here because of Bobby is a joke!!Get off your high horse Bobby…This is why Paul has gone in hideing, an you haven’t been able to get in touch with him. GIVE IT A BREAK TOO MANY LIES!!

  9. Lawman says:

    Holy cow!! this guy is more fulla crap than that crackdust guy!! Fukkin’ Boaby liebling is some kinda laughin stock after reading this bull!! Heads up y’all, the gravy train just sank!!

  10. Pellet says:

    I only read Joe’s response and not Bobby’s interview, mainly because I can’t handle white text on black, it makes my eyes boggle. I will certainly confirm the fact however that Joe was a very important part of Pentagram for many, many years. Just like he’s been an important part of many other bands for many years. Bobby’s songs are obviously very, very dear to me. I do believe that some of them are amongst the best darn hard rock songs of all time and neither he nor Joe, Vincent, Geof, Victor, Marty etc..etc.. right on up to the recently departed Russ Strahan etc..etc.. still don’t get the credit they deserve. I have a love for Bobby as a person still, even if it is deep down in my heart at this point. (I too feel like a bitter / burnt ex-member of the band in a way) I just have to put in my two cents for Joe. I’d do the same for Bobby if the tables were turned. It really does make me sad to see how some people need to take all the credit in bands. It is a “band”, not a solo project. Unfortunately, it is a common thing with many of my favorite bands. (SWANS is a great example, Jarobe never got the song writing credits she deserved and in my mind, she, just like Joe, helped to resurrect a dying and/or dead band’s career.) Everyone, lets just pay attention to the music and leave the drama for the movies. If not, I’m afraid that we all are going to lose some great music that only stands to improve our lives. In rock and with love for it, Pellet

  11. Mitch Black says:

    Ah, but the music biz is full of drama, scavengers and manipulators… That said, the current tour is doing wonders for The Gates of Slumber.

  12. Cat says:

    Kudos to Joe for his honesty…I know Joe, and he tells it like it is…”Dilusional” might be a good adjective for Bobby. I’ve known the chaos he’s caused…and Russ Strahan had the balls to call him on it…Much success to Russ…

  13. W. Stuart Rose says:

    Cocaine cessnas with millions of dollars and Ferraris? Are you sure you’re not on crack? Get the fuck out of here with that shit. And Hasslevander – even I bristled when I saw the “my drummer” comment. WTF??? I can’t stomach bullshit, and this is so full of bullshit it’s beyond belief. And an insult to every one of us who has been a part of Pentagram throughout the years.

  14. Metal Dave says:

    Man, what a drag. He says he doesn’t ever lie, then very clearly lies badly about drug use, opiate detox levels, being clean now (“not even an aspirin” then right to “I take Xanax to this day” ), which makes everything else he says suspect. I feel weird even commenting, but felt compelled to do so in light of such an all-over-the-place read.

    At least the songs will always be here for us.

  15. Disgusted Fan says:

    There seems to be no end to how far Bobby will drag the name of PENTAGRAM down at this point…. it’s a real shame.

    Bags of money, running coke from where, huh!?!? How about buying crack in southeast and taking it home (aka Mom & Dad’s place) in Arlington. I don’t mean to take personal jabs, but seriously- when you insult our intelligence in such ways it has to be said: bullshit.

    PENTAGRAM was once a name associated with one of the greatest and most under appreciated doom bands ever.

    I, as a fan, wish I could say it still seemed that way to me. I never thought I’d speak badly of this band, but at this point PENTAGRAM is a shell of what it once was.

    I think the screams have come… please stop ignoring them.

  16. Oz Tech says:

    The recent show in SF was a travesty, and Hasselvander speaks the truth.

  17. triangle says:

    This is a lie since 5 months ago i watched bobby do fat lines of coke in the van.

  18. Dave says:

    aside from all the behind the scenes drama with Bobby, I would say that the biggest mistake here is Bobby continuing a tour with a new guitarist that hardly knew more than just a few Pentagram songs. judging from the reviews that I’ve read, its sounds like the shows have been a complete disaster ever since the new guy (whatever his name is) has agreed to help out on guitar. I think a few shows should’ve been sacrificed in order to allow plenty of time to rehearse properly so that they could play a decent set (and play it well). Bobby could’ve retaliated to all these claims of lies, and continuing drug abuse with a fucking kick-ass Pentagram tour with an hour plus set of brilliantly played Pentagram classics. but no, sadly this was not to be. as much as I hate to say it, I think Bobby needs to read the writing on the wall and put the Pentagram name to rest for good.

  19. ezra agnew says:

    cool interview with my favorite lunatic. I notice that that dude still doesn’t have a photo credit.

  20. […] professional guitar player on board soon, he might hafta think up some new ways to make money.  Bobby seems to think he’s George Jung (scroll down for it), so I don’t wanna know what else is swirling around his drug-addled […]

  21. […] guy.  This interview, however, clearly shows he’s been worshiping a little too much at the Church of Bobby Liebling.  Interestingly enough, the last conversation I had with him via Facebook ended with him saying […]

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