When I first interviewed Bobby Liebling, the frontman of the legendary Doom Metal outfit Pentagram, back in 2011 I thought that this would be a one-off experience but the Gods seem to be favouring us all recently.
Following another classic battle with the weather elements, Pentagram managed to finally arrive in the UK for a short tour in which their classic debut “Relentless” will be performed in its entirety so the first thing I did was to get another interview with the man himself!
Joining a short queue of fellow journalists I was finally allocated a slot with Bobby during which we discussed the band’s current situation, Victor Griffin’s departure and Bobby’s plans for the future.
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.
- Bobby, how are you doing first and foremost?
Bobby: I’m a tired old man (laughs) but I’m OK.
- Isn’t it great to know that there are five journalists sitting here dying to talk to you even though the questions posed you would have probably heard many times already?
Bobby: Yes it is.
- Before we start discussing about music and the band and knowing that you are from the East Coast of the US I really want to say that I hope that all is well with your people and that your family is safe.
Bobby: My family is OK, my wife is here with me but she will not come to the gig tonight as she is quite tired so she is now back in the hotel sleeping. My little boy is also fine so all is well (laughs).
- Is there something between you and the UK weather that we should be aware of? Last time you attempted to come to the UK from Scandinavia you experienced stormy seas. Now we have super storms trying to prevent you from playing here to us – what is happening?
Bobby: Everywhere I go I am being followed by a black cloud (laughs). We had to negotiate hurricanes before we left home but we are used to such things by now. The important thing is that everybody is OK.
Family is the most important thing to be but all is well. My wife is an amazing person! She supports me and loves me and that is all I need to do the things I do. I wanted to take her here with me on this tour because I realised that when I was twenty six years old I did not get to see anything as I really screwed my life with the choices I made. She has the chance to do the things that I couldn’t and so I want to help her experience these things as I love her. She gave me my son and she’s the one person that I always want to be with.
- When “Last Rites” came out I had the pleasure of talking to you and I do remember finding you in a very positive frame of mind. I am really happy to see that you are still in a positive mood and that it was not just a phase you were going through. You still come across as a man that is happy and content.
Bobby: I am happy because I have my little boy! I am also in position to earn money as before I could hardly have paid the rent with what I was making. I am very lucky to be able to make this a profession as I really enjoy playing.
- It certainly seems to be the case. I mean, you were by far one of the highlights of this year’s Hellfest – your performance there was absolutely spot on! This, by the way, is an opinion shared by many colleagues.
Bobby: Really? Thank you – that is special for me to hear especially as it took a while for us to play festivals outside the US and now we do so many shows…it is so surreal! It is unbelievable that after so many years I am now able to do all those things that I always wanted to do.
Tonight it is the fourth gig that we play on this tour and we are visiting thirty six countries. I had visited five states up to the point that I was fifty five years old and now these last three and a half years we have played everywhere in the States and we have also visited thirty six countries outside the US. I have been to a lot of places and I have seen every culture on earth…it’s a trip, a dream come true! In this tour I took my wife with me as I wanted to give her the chance to see the world.
If you are to do all those things as a normal tourist you will have to pay a lot of money, covering flights, hotels etc. I love being here as this is the country that gave birth to the best music, with bands like Wishbone Ash…
- I love Wishbone Ash but I had a very bad experience relating to a mint copy of their album “Argus” and my mother…long story. Let’s just say that there is a reason why I am very panicky about other people touching my records…hehehe. “Argus” is a magnificent piece of work.
Bobby: It is! I own forty seven different Wishbone Ash records! I have singles, live releases and bootleg stuff, some of which are hand numbered!
- Where do you live again (I laugh)?
Bobby: I am not telling you (laughs). Wishbone Ash was one of the best bands in the world and a great influence. Andy Powell is the father of heavy guitar and Michael Schenker is the son. Schenker is probably better in technical terms but Powell was more soulful.
- Sometimes the feeling is more important than technique though!
Bobby: Andy has the feel and a great tone when he plays – he is absolutely amazing!
- We were recently informed that Victor (Griffin: guitars) will be leaving the band after the end of this tour – something that came to me as an absolute shock as you too have a great chemistry on stage.
Bobby: We make a great team together but…what can you do? I will have to find another one!
- Do you have anyone in mind at this stage?
Bobby: We have more shows booked after the end of this tour and so we need to have found someone by that stage. Next March we play shows like the Maryland Deathfest which are very important so we will see.
This year we played a lot of shows; next year what we will do is go out only for three to four days at a time because doing things the way we did this year was quite tiring. Also, now that I am a father I need to spend more time with my wife and son. When we started touring these last few years we did not expect things to be so busy, which is nice of course, but also quite tiring.
So, we will try to focus more on playing festivals next year; that is what we will try to do. The demand is huge but I am not a kid anymore; these old bones cannot take very much anymore (laughs). It is fun though – a real trip…very strange…surreal!
- You know, though Bobby, this is a trip for us too because there was a period when we thought we were never going to see Pentagram again live. Now, not only do we see a band that has good chemistry on stage but one that is also quite productive. Granted, “Last Rites” featured material composed many years ago but there was also new music produced.
Bobby: That is true, it is important to stress out that the incorporation of material that was first composed back in the 70s and included in our recent albums has always been the case with Pentagram.
The balance between old and new material in any Pentagram album has always been 70/30 in favour of the former and that is because I composed so many songs at the early stages in the band’s career that were never used. I don’t need to write much these days as there are still so many unused ideas waiting to be worked on (laughs). (Note: at this point Victor Griffin enters the cafe we are sitting and his presence makes Bobby a little bit disorientated but in a good way) Oh, there is Victor…he looks like he’s pissed off with something or…no, he look alright (laughs).
- Tonight’s show is focused around your first ever studio album “Relentless”, which will be performed in its entirety. Why focus on that album? Obviously because it is a classic! The question is: are you going to play material from any of your other equally impressive albums?
Bobby: Well, we will do “Wolf’s Blood” and a few more songs that we know people will like to hear from us.
- What is it about “Relentless” that made it the album that it is in your opinion? Why do most Pentagram fans single this one out more than the rest?
Bobby: I think that “Relentless” is a good album but not the best that we ever did. My favourite album was and still is “Sub-Basement” (2001) and then “Last Rites” (2011) which is also a very solid release. I don’t think that our first album is our best album! It is a good album and if people like to hear it then that is not a problem for us!
- I think that it is very impressive that after so many years and a long career you are still able to release good quality albums such as “Last Rites” – an album that is indeed one of the highlights of your career.I am not sure where you are going to go after Victor’s departure but you’ve had your fair share of line up changes over the years and you are still here so I expect that to continue to be the case. Things always seem to work out for you in the end…
Bobby: It will because I love what I do; I love producing music and playing music live for people even though I find it difficult to move my lazy ass around these days (laughs). There is still a lot of good music to be released by us, stuff that exists on demo tapes that have yet to be used and which I am sure that the fans of the band will like to listen to.
- Well, getting this interview slot was not very easy as there was much demand but your label Metal Blade was quite accommodating and they seem to me very willing to help promote the band’s music, so I guess all is well?
Bobby: Yes, I really couldn’t have asked for more!
- So apart from the live dates that you have already arranged what else is planned for the year 2013? Is it too early to even begin contemplating the band’s future?
Bobby: Victor wants to focus on his own work and it is both sad and hard to see him go bit we will move on. As for the future: who knows what will happen in a few months from now? We will see…
- Well, good luck with whatever you decide to do. As a Pentagram fan I will always support you whatever you choose to do, as long as the end result is you being a happier person. That’s the best way I can think of with regards wrapping up this interview.
Bobby: Wow, thank you very much! I hope you enjoy tonight’s show.
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