Pentagram | Interview | Bobby Liebling

Uncategorized January 21, 2024

Pentagram | Interview | Bobby Liebling

Heavy metal pioneers, Pentagram, formed in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971 around frontman Bobby Liebling.

The band remained obscure during the ‘70s and had many ups-and-downs through the ‘80s and ‘90s only to re-re-emerge as a powerhouse in the 2000s and a major influence on the still developing metal and doom metal scene – although Bobby disavows the term “doom metal” to describe his own music. Regardless, Pentagram are in many ways considered one of the all-time great heavy metal bands and have spent the last decade touring relentlessly when not thwarted by Bobby’s legal and medical issues. As of now, Bobby seems to be happy and healthy as he celebrates his 70th birthday, over 50 years of Pentagram, and his ongoing musical endeavors.

Illustration by Justin Jackley

“The ride is too short anyway”

Hello Bobby. Thanks for meeting with me. First of all, happy 70th birthday to you!

Bobby Liebling: Hey, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me here.

How did it go? What did you get into yesterday?

A whole lot of nothing! Which was fine with me. I’m just a whole lot of getting old. Yeah, it sucks. Trust me, you’ll get there.

Hopefully so. Yeah, I just hit 40 myself…

I hear you. You know you have a lot of roads still to cover though.

Yeah, that’s for sure. Well, over these 70 years, what do you think is the most important life lesson that you’ve learned?

Never trust myself! I really don’t know… Just persevere and keep following your dream, man. That’s all you can do, right? The ride is too short anyway. So, you might as well, you know, keep on chasing rainbows.

Pentagram | Geof O’Keefe, Bobby Liebling, Greg Mayne, Vincent McAllister | Photo by Cameron Davidson

I wanted to ask you about the latest seven-inch record – ‘The Singles’. Has that already been released?

Yeah, they just came out about four days ago and they’re selling really well and I hope everybody will pick up one of them. They are through Creep Purple Records out of Lithuania of all places. Yeah, a long way away but they’re doing a whole bunch of merchandising for us and everything, you know, they got buttons and pins and hats and shirts and all that.

Ok. Yeah, really cool.

Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It’s the first thing to feature Matt Goldsborough on guitar that we’ve had come out on vinyl. So, I’m really happy about that. Matt’s back on board and we plan to forge forward in 2024. Yeah, a lot of roads.

“There’ll be a brand new Pentagram studio album”

What are your plans for 2024?

We’ll probably just do several one week things on the road in the States if we need to go in the motorhome and that’s kind of fun. And then, maybe a few fly-ins just for weekends for the big festivals in Europe. That’s all we have planned right now though. And a brand new album! I can’t tell you what label that’s on but we just started rehearsing a week ago for the songs and just started writing them. Actually, we have got to turn that in by the end of April and there’ll be a brand new Pentagram studio album – the first one in 10 years, so, I’m pretty happy about that, you know? I’m a little overdue.

Do you do all the writing yourself or is it collaborative?

With this one, it’s very much a collaborative effort. I did almost all of the writing in the really early days. All the old standards in the early seventies and stuff and then we started dividing it up more through the years as it went on. I split a lot of writing with Victor Griffin, our former guitar player. Love you, buddy! And you know, now it’s all four of us contributing and we hope to give you guys a nice new product. I’m really looking forward to that. It’s been just such a long freaking time.

Yeah. I’m sure Covid was a big setback for everybody. The whole pandemic thing…

Yeah, it was. We had our first Japanese tour planned and that got canceled right in the middle of Covid. Then, at least, we pulled off South America in ‘22 and that was fun. That was the most fun tour I’ve ever done!

What were some of the highlights of that tour?

The food! Oh, man. They got some great food down there and just all the people. It was like I finally got to taste a little taste of the rockstar kind of life, you know? And it was pretty wild though. We had the Hells Angels do our security in Argentina in their colors and everything. It was pretty scary. At first, we were kind of reluctant.

Yeah, I bet! After the whole Rolling Stones’ Altamont fiasco.

Yeah, we had that and we had a bunch of fans. I mean, I’ve never had such an experience in my whole days on the road. It was like people screaming and the girls crying and pulling their hair out of their head. It was like you felt like The Beatles for the first time ever. It was like, “wow, this is like really being a rock star.” It was really fun, man. The people in Chile were great and in Colombia, all the countries. Brazil was really fantastic. I really wanna get back down there. We really enjoyed that. More than anything we’ve ever ever done. I mean, the fans are great everywhere and I thank them all. I love them all, but the South American people are fanatic about their heavy music.

They are. I’ve heard they are very metal oriented in South America.

They go nuts! Really crazy. So, that was a lot of fun.

How about more recently than that? It seems like you guys have been heavily touring this last year, if not longer. Was that mostly in Europe?

Yeah, it was mostly Europe in ‘23. We did one long little run for a couple of weeks in Europe. We went through Denmark and Germany and Norway and Finland and it was whole bunches of fun. It’s always just fun for me in Europe. I love it over there, you know? And then we did just a couple of American dates out on the West Coast. I hope we’ll get out there in ‘24 again. That’s one of our definite plans and we also want to hit the Midwest because we have never played the Midwestern States all through. You know – Idaho and Iowa and Nebraska and Oklahoma. I’ve never been to Oklahoma. It’s one of the few states I’ve never been through and I’m hoping we can get out there maybe through Oklahoma or something like that. There’s a lot of neat festivals now, compared to what there used to be. Everything is a festival now. There’s hardly any gigging anymore and just the small venues and stuff. It’s all “let’s make a festival – let’s have 25 bands!” You know? And I hope we can get out to some of those too.

I’m in Austin and it seems like there is always some huge festival going on. From ACL to Levitation.

I love Austin. We’ve done a couple of South by Southwest shows and then I also sang with The Dead Boys on their 40th anniversary down in Austin at South by Southwest. I think at the Hotel Vegas. Austin is a great place, man. It’s hopping still. It really is. Austin always stays on its feet.

Just to backtrack a little bit, any favorite cities or venues from your European Tour?

I love playing in Norway and Helsinki. Finland was fun. A whole lot of fun. All the places are great, you know? The people are great everywhere, man. I just love getting around and I love doing the vagabond type of living and, you know, I’m used to living out of a suitcase. Hell, where I’m living now, I’m just living out of a suitcase and waiting for the next go around. I like playing in Oslo a lot because I love the scenery in Norway. It’s absolutely gorgeous with all the mountains and the snow and snow-peak-things and stuff, you know? It’s pretty. It’s like a Christmas card there. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. So, I enjoyed it. We had 10 out of 10 sell-out shows which is pretty impressive to me and the people turned out in full fashion and they rocked with us. It was pretty cool.

Do you find it difficult to keep up with such a hectic schedule?

Well, it’s always hectic now. Now that I’m getting older. It’s not easy to tour. People think it is, you know? “Oh, they’re living the life; it’s just sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” No, it’s a hotel call, then meet and greet, and then back to the bus, and back to the hotel again, and then you gotta eat, and then we gotta go here and there. It’s kind of a grind, but I enjoy it. It’s what I do. I make people happy. So, it’s fun.

What do you try to do to relax when you’re in between gigs when you’re touring?

Jeez, I sleep all the time. I can get into sleep because there’s not a lot of it, you know? If you’re not flying to one place, you’re on a bus or in an Uber or something like that and it’s pretty hectic but I try to sleep as much as I can and drink a lot of water. Dad taught me all of these things. Stay hydrated and go out in the rain and all that kind of stuff. Just take care of yourself, you know? You gotta take care of yourself. Can’t take care of yourself, can’t take care of anybody else. Right?

Yeah, exactly. Who were some of the bands that you played with when you were on this most recent tour?

Well, we toured with the same band for about five dates, Dun Ringill, they’re guys that used to be in The Order of Israfel. They’re European, mostly from Sweden and they’re real good people. We toured with several of them years ago in The Order of Israfel in ‘14 and ‘16 I think. Both years and they’re good people. “Hello” to my buddy, Patrik [Andersson Winberg] and Patric [Grammann] and all you guys out there. It was a lot of fun and we played the Helsinki Metal Fest. I don’t remember a lot of the bands because I can’t read the damn names with the Norwegian stuff and the Finnish. There’s a lot of black metal bands up there also and I can’t read the names. It’s just a bunch of chicken feet all connected together, you know? Kind of walking around while you’re looking at it and it’s pretty trippy. It’s still, nevertheless, a lot of fun. Took a lot of pictures, met a lot of people, you know? Always a good time.

I saw a photo of you with Jinx Dawson of Coven and Johanna Sadonis from Lucifer. Was that from Helsinki Metal Fest?

That was just two gigs that I went to. First, I flew out to visit our buddy, Mark Brashears. Hi Mark and all you folks out there. Tommy and all of you in Kansas. And we drove down to Omaha, and I got up and sang ‘Forever My Queen’ with Lucifer. With Johanna and crew on stage. And then, a week later, here in Philly, I went to see them at Underground Arts, which is a kind of well-known heavy rock club out here in Philly. And I sang it again and we had a blast. We had a good time backstage. I love those people. They’re great and shout out to all of them people in Early Moods who were the band that opened for us in LA at Ventura. They’re a really good band. I really love all those guys and “hi” to Jinx from Coven also. I got to shout out to all these people, man. Without them, you know, I wouldn’t be around. I mean, all the people who give their support and their love through the years. It’s very important to me.

Jinx, Bobby Liebling, Johanna Sadonis

“You’re a product of your environment”

You’ve had a huge influence on the younger generation of musicians. Are there any bands that you’re particularly fond of that are kind of following in your footsteps?

I like Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and I like Early Moods a lot. They’re really good. I don’t listen to much new music. I mean, music has really changed so much through the years. I’m kind of stuck in my dinosaur ways of the old days. I like the seventies and late sixties. Of course, I mean, everybody is generational to me. It’s when you grew up that you reflect back on, you know? And that’s always “the best times in music were back in the day” as they always say. It’s true though: You’re a product of your environment and you grow up in a certain era, and that’s what keeps embedded in your head for the rest of time. And that was your best time. Growing up and then you grow old.

Do you feel like you’ve secured your legacy in rock and roll history?

I hope so. Yeah, I certainly hope so. Justin, it’s like, who knows what the future will bring when I’m not here? I guess I won’t care, right? But who knows? Maybe I’ll be looking down or looking up, or wherever I go, and hopefully the people will remember Pentagram and, of course, The Limit, with Sonny Vincent, my other band that I work with. Oh, we also got a new album that’s almost finished from The Limit and I hope that people will remember me. That’s all. Remember me for giving some good times.

Bobby Liebling | Photo by Cameron Davidson

They will. I really think they will.

Yeah, listening to Pentagram the first time getting drunk or with your girlfriend, the hoochie-coo, that kind of stuff, you know? I have people write me all this kind of stuff and it’s fun. It’s all part of the ritual, I suppose. Rock and roll.

Pentagram | Vincent McAllister, Bobby Liebling, Marty Iverson, Greg Mayne, Geof O’Keefe | Photo by Cameron Davidson

And you said you’re still working with The Limit right now?

Yes, I am. Yeah, definitely. Our second album is going to get mixed at the beginning of the year back in Portugal. Remote. We gotta do all the mixing remotely now. God, the technology is a pain in the ass and I’m not good with this stuff at all. It’s just what you gotta do now though. I mean, look at us; we’re sitting here on this little tiny box that’s three by six inches and I’m talking to you and I see your face. God, who would have ever thought, man? I remember when the cord was connected to the wall and that was it. When you leave your house, it’s over with, baby.

Yeah, harder to track down back then.

Yeah. You gotta catch me when I get to wherever or if I call, you know? Now there’s networking. So, that’s the good part of technology. It’s pretty cool because I have fans write to me. I had a guy yesterday write, “Hi, I’m in Serbia.” I said “Why?!” It’s pretty wild, man. The way you can get around the world like this. The satellite technology is pretty amazing. I wonder what they’re thinking about us on the other planets out there. We can’t be the only ones. There are definitely others here and they’ve been here through time. Look on the old pyramids and you’ll see the guy looking up with his spear and he’s looking up at a flying saucer, you know, and it’s etched in the pyramid and stuff. It’s pretty wild. Pretty out there.

“We’re not doomed yet”

Absolutely. Well, Bobby, I don’t want to keep you too long. So, I’ll ask if you have any final words for our readers?

I hope everybody will keep following Pentagram through whatever time there is and however long we keep the ball rolling and I’ll keep holding the flag of Iwo Jima type of thing and keep the crusade. And I love heavy hard rock. It’s not doom metal; we’re not doomed yet. People are always saying “Doom on! Doom on!” I feel like “why?” That’s dying! I’m not doomed yet… Don’t cut my time short, you know? 70 years ain’t enough, man!

Bobby Liebling

Thanks a lot, Bobby! I really appreciate you taking some time to talk to me.

Interview and Illustrations by Justin Jackley

Headline illustration: Justin Jackley

Special thanks to Mike Wuthrich

Pentagram Facebook / Instagram
Bobby Liebling Facebook / Instagram

One Comment
  1. The Triumph of the Thrill says:

    Nice to see the underground Rock legend featured here. Good too see him getting by and still rocking. Pentagram are one of the more interesting groups to emerge from Da Stoned Age.

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