“I Literally Didn’t Expect To See Him Again Alive”: A Conversation With Pentagram On Life, Death, And Everything After

-By Zack Sigel

Bobby Liebling has been writing music since before your parents were born. His band, Pentagram, may be one of the most influential heavy metal bands in history; it’s certainly one of the longest lasting. But much of Pentagram’s existence has been defined by its struggle to stay whole. Liebling spent much of his career in various states of addiction to the kinds of toxins that tend to kill musicians on or around age twenty-seven. Because of this, more people have left Pentagram than have played on its records or in its live shows, with the intertwined futures of the band and Liebling himself always uncertain.

In 2011, the documentary Last Days Here showed Liebling at his worst, nodding off and scratching out subcutaneous insects. But the film ended on a positive note: Liebling beat his addictions, had gotten married, and a baby was on the way. He made a triumphant return to playing live, taking the stage at Manhattan’s Webster Hall to rapturous cheers. Shortly before the film’s debut, longtime collaborators Greg Turley (bass) and Victor Griffin (guitar) also rejoined the band. This time, it was for good. Now Pentagram has had a chance to reflect on the legacy they’ve left, and what comes next.

[this interview has been lightly edited and condensed]

Zack: Can you talk about the themes on the new album a little bit?
Bobby: Victor and Greg did most of the writing on this album. And it’s really [their] stuff. I’m happy with it. I’m real pleased with it. It’s very, very honest, and very simple and to the point.
Greg: It has… [crosstalk]… and the darkness.
Bobby: It has light at the end of the tunnel.
Greg: It’s coming up at the end.
Bobby: It’s not like our usual stuff when at the end you’re completely condemned.
Zack: Have you found that making music has …
Bobby: … condemned me?
Greg: Into what?
Bobby: I don’t know. Too many women, too many late nights.
Zack: It’s 2015, and you’ve been playing music for almost 50 years now…
Bobby: 51 this year.
Zack: 51 years, congratulations, that’s awesome. Have you found it’s gotten easier, or harder?
Bobby: [to the band:] What are you looking at? [laughs] It’s easier. Because I used to hide a lot of things, to be honest, and real ground level, I used to hide stuff from the band, stuff like that, all about the demons, things I wouldn’t volunteer. Figured I’d be ashamed of myself. But now I’m not ashamed anymore about that stuff. Because it’s like, well, I paid and paid, you know? Everyone’s gotta pay for all their sins. [This is an in-joke with the band; It’s how he introduces one of their most popular songs, “All Your Sins.”] I’ve paid enough and I’m comfortable now. I’m just trying to get old. Trying to still be here.
Zack: What changed to make you more open?
Bobby: The acceptance of the people I’m around has changed. I don’t think I’ve really changed. They’ve seen like, well, that’s just Bobby.
Greg: Well, we’ve seen him at his lowest, and that…
Bobby: Yeah, right.
Greg: … on camera, and it’s the real…
Bobby: … the real deal. Right? [laughs] Greg: So when you see him on camera, [that was] just a little glimpse of what Bobby was, and so you see that, at his lowest, and he’s come up out of that. He’s pretty honest, and straightforward.
Bobby: I told him, I screw up. I’m human, that’s all. Now and then you fall on your ass. You got one, that’s what it’s there for. [laughs] Pete [Campbell, drummer]: It’s there for a reason! [Bobby laughs] Zack: What about the role of spirituality, which I heard you recently discovered?
Bobby: It’s not recently discovered. It’s recently just really brought to the peoples’ focus. I portray a darker person than I realized I really was. Because we all have dark sides to us, and it’s just how much it manifests in the public, I think. They’re very lenient of me, because they know I say, I screw up too. We all do, that’s okay.
Zack: Would you say that you’re still trying to bring the same kind experience you’ve brought the last forty years?
Bobby: It really hasn’t [changed]. The people haven’t really played a lot of attention. They see Pentagram! “Oh, they flipped the cross!” That’s one little narrow passageway of many words that are misconstrued, or contrived into their more stereotypical meaning, or something like that. You know, Pentagram’s just five. There’s just five people, and that’s all.
Greg: You think, “Forever My Queen”, is that a dark song? When was “Review Your Choices” written? [The band has cited “Review Your Choices” as one of its more spiritual songs.] Bobby: 1969.

Embedded from www.youtube.com.