The Limit’s Bobby Liebling: “I Hate Doom Metal…I Play Heavy, Hard Rock With a Punk-Ass Street Attitude”

That The Limit’s Caveman Logic came to fruition is a triumph unto itself. The band’s ranks include Bobby Liebling of stoner-doom icons Pentagram on vocals, Sonny Vincent of New York punk legends The Testors (among other projects) on guitars, and Jimmy Recca of Detroit hard rock pioneers The Stooges on bass. This many volatile elements in one place might sound like a recipe for drama and disaster, and indeed the making of the record was not without its complicated moments.

“We only had three and a half days rehearsal,” says Liebling. “We had three six-hour rehearsal sessions to learn the entire album from total scratch. A lot of the arrangements got changed, and the lyrical parts, in our little tiny practice place. Thought we’d have a recording studio, but it turned out we were in a barn behind someone’s house.”

At the end of the day, Caveman Logic proves that a little turbulence can be good for an album. The record’s old-school hard rock blares throughout the album, from wailing opener “Kitty Gone” to down-and-out rager “When Life Gets Scorches.” Along the way, fans are treated to an array of bluesy solos, jaunty tempos, and lyrics about the world doings its damnedest to break you. Though the album benefits from modern production, its attitude shines through first and foremost, a product of its creators’ collaboration.

“It took about two months of going back and forth to get the proper mix,” says Vincent. “Eventually Bobby and I collaborated on the choices in the mix — bring this up, bring this down — and eventually we were super happy, because our engineer [Paolo Viera] is really good. It was just hard to do the mix remotely at first…When we got the rough mixes, Bobby loved the album so much that he didn’t want to screw it up, so he kept wanting to see the mixing process, to see the board. And I said, No, let’s do it this way. And once we worked on the mixes, we’d send them to Bobby, and he’d says, Well, I think the guitar solo should be louder, I think this should be louder…And I’d say, Dude, that’s EXACTLY what’s in my notes. So from that point on, our trust level became very strong, because we wanted the exact same thing.”

Given the musical pedigree of The Limit, it seems like it’d be pretty hard to get you all in a room together.

Bobby Liebling: It was!

Sonny Vincent: We did this record just before the pandemic hit, and we did a lot of talking on the phone, and we traded files and learned the songs. We recorded this in Portugal. The music worked out well — we had a good communication eventually, and we were able to get some magic out of each person. The fact that we didn’t know each other well was really in the way at first, because in Portugal the daily stuff was just a nightmare. It was all chaos. It was set up in a crazy way, and we were a bunch of older dudes set in our ways.

BL: We had a mutual friend who had introduced Sonny and I to each others’ music. I was introduced to Sonny’s music in 2015 and I loved it right away, because I’m a punk rocker. That’s what I really am — I have an attitude onstage and in my music. They might see a hard rock band, but my attitude is from the streets, with belligerence. And then about three years later, Sonny got introduced to Pentagram. I was already an acquaintance of Jimmys, though I didn’t know the guys from Dawnrider [Hugo Conim and Joao Pedro, guitars and drums]. Sonny had worked with them in the past. Sonny and I finally got in contact in the fall of 2019, and we decided, let’s do a record together. We called on Jimmy and asked if he’d like to do this stuff, and he was all on board. 

SV: Both Bobby and I were used to situations where we called all the shots with our bands. When we finally did get together face to face, there was this control thing, with two roosters looking at each other. We eventually found our way.

How did recording in Portugal come about?

SV: We had a studio by Bobby in DC, but that fell through. And I had some friends up in Portugal who said, ‘If you can get here, we can set up the studio.’ And the thing is, I had just seen the documentary about Bobby, Last Days Here — and like a lot of people, I saw that and didn’t know how long ago that was and how evolved Bobby had become since then. I didn’t see the movie until a few days before we left to record.

BL: Yeah, understand that the movie was made at the end of my wreckage era. I’d been functioning and touring all over the world for 11 years since that movie got finished.

SV: Three days before we go to make the album, I see the movie, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, do I need security guards and nurses? Handlers to take care of Bobby?’ But the truth is that was a relic back from the old days. Bobby knew how to take care of business. The real problem was that stuff was not set up for us in Portugal at the time. Hugo, our friend in Portugal, God bless him, he’s a dreamer, but he doesn’t realize that you need some practical plan in place.

BL: Little did we know at the time!

That had to be frustrating.

SV: We asked him to get a record company in Portugal to try and finance our expenses and recording, but all the record companies there had seen Last Days Here. That’s all they knew. So they said, No, we’re not giving you no money. We finally found cheap tickets on the Internet, but the duration of travel was 34 hours! When you have young dudes kicking around for 34 hours, it’s a laugh; when you have old, cranky sons of bitches doing it, you just get irritated. It was almost like an opening of a nightmare to come. When we finally got there, we were told that the idyllic island we’d be staying at had no water and no sheets, and the hotel we were staying at was a tiny apartment with only two bedrooms. Jimmy had to sleep on the couch! He was so pissed! So thank God the music went well!

How did these songs grow and develop during that process?

SV: A couple of people have asked us that — I function on a different level, as well as Bobby. We didn’t map things out, here’s 20% glam, 5% hard rock.

BL: There were parts to be learned, and we had written them out to get learned, and then we kind of spliced things together.

SV: We knew that if we got together, it’d be interesting, but it wasn’t mapped out. There was a part where we didn’t know how this was gonna go. Bobby didn’t know me, I didn’t really know Pentagram — Bobby sent me some links to some early stuff, I thought it was cool, like Blue Cheer — but because Bobby is often referred to as a guy from DOOM music, I listened to some doom. So initially, I sent some song demos to Portugal, and said, Bobby’s does doom. Slow the shit out of all these songs, detune them to D, and make them fit Bobby’s style.

BL: Little did he know I hate doom metal!

SV: I told Bobby I did that, and he said, No! I want to make an album with attitude!

BL: I play heavy, hard rock with a punk-ass attitude, a street attitude. I always have!

SV: So what Hugo did in the studio was for nothing. So I sent the originals to Hugo and Joao, and it just kind of evolved. At first I thought I would just produce the album–

BL: He told me that, and I said, No, I don’t want to do the album in that case! I want you to play on it with me,

SV: And then, with that in place, what it did become was the consensus. 

BL: It’s a straightforward rock album with attitude.

Something I really like about the record is it’s got big, tough hard rock songs, but they aren’t all about partying and having a good time. “These Days,” specifically, is a really melancholy song.

BL: I tend to write a lot of downer lyrics. And I always have. I’m into downer rock, that’s got a downer, depressed, desperate attitude — not doomed, just downer. ‘These Days’ is a great example, because I think that song does have a melancholia to it. It makes you look back and think back to the past, at how things were in my life. It has a despair — it’s heartfelt. 

SV: I was very pleased with the lyrics Bobby wrote, because I saw them as quite autobiographical. We can all dig songs that are just fun, but Bobby’s stuff was very interesting. Some of the themes are a little bit personal, a  bit depressing, but I’ve always been into that. My first group Testors in New York, we were in the punk scene, but that was so variable — Blondie, the Ramones — lot of it was happy, but you could tell they were not connected to the normal culture, that they were disenfranchised. Testors wasn’t warm and fuzzy. It wasn’t something you could wrap your arms around and feel good about the world.

BL: But it drew you in! When I first heard Sonny’s music, it drew me into that same feeling — This guy’s got a despair, and has a message. I’ve felt that also. We had a lot of similarity with our content of music. 

SV: Even when I hear a young band, I always respond and resonate when they sound a little bit desperate. I don’t care if they fall all over themselves, they need to connect.

How did the title and title track come about?

BL: Caveman Logic came from my ideology of life. It came from the fact that I always felt like I’m in primitive mode, as far as advancement. I like things very basic and straightforward to the point. When I did the Sub-Basement album with Pentagram, I have a line that says, ‘I’ve been called a dinosaur relic, stuck in the Twilight Zone/But stickin’ in the sub-basement keeps me lit to the bone.’ I took that and I updated it, many years later: ‘I still have caveman logic, I still can’t dodge it/I guess I’m bound to stay where I am/Frozen in time ain’t a capital crime, I’m stuck and insane in the rain, man.’ It’s the same kind fo feeling — I’m stuck in time, I like the era that I grew up in, and I wanted things to have that kind of feel. Really basic, from the heart. So they’re rocking out tonight, baby, and they’re having a sweet time where they’re going to pick up the chick in the GTO, and I’m cruising down to get some pussy, and then we’re going to get drunk — and then it’s about reality. And stuck in time is my reality. 

Along those lines, it never feels like you guys are trying to pander to new rockers, or become the next big thing — so what’s next? Is there another album in the works? Is there a tour coming up?

SV: We’d love to do another album, Like I said before, we didn’t sculpt it into shape in terms of how people would react, we just did what we do.

BL: Caveman Logic is really what we do. We dod the basics, now with high fidelity and technique and icing on top, some spiffy production, but not deep production and Fancy Dan stuff — we want a straightforward approach.

The Limit’s Caveman Logic comes out Friday, April 9th, on Svart Records and is available for preorder from the label’s site and via Amazon.

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Words by Chris Krovatin