Interview: The Limit
I always had it in mind to do an album with really punk flavoured attitude, and things fell into place very handily as Sonny and I had very similar ideas.
The Limit are a band who consist of Bobby Liebling (Pentagram) on vocals, Sonny Vincent (Testors) on guitar, Jimmy Recca (Stooges) on bass and rhythm guitarist Hugo Conim and drummer João Pedro (both from Dawnrider). They have joined together to unleash the album Caveman Logic which is a stripped down collision of energetic punk and passionate heavy rock. Gavin Brown caught up with Sonny and Bobby to hear all about Caveman Logic and how The Limit started as a band as well and their vision as The Limit as well as how their music had been received so far, the guest appearances on the album, and both artists time in Pentagram and Testors.
E&D: Your debut album Caveman Logic is out now. How did the creation and recording of the album go?
Sonny: Well, it’s a story filled with exhilarating highs and very negative soul draining lows. I want to be honest! Bobby and I were connected by a mutual friend, he had driven the tour bus on a couple of my tours and he knew Bobby for years. He was playing my albums for Bobby and Bobby called me on the phone. Bobby had never heard of me and apparently he got inspired hearing the songs. We didn’t meet in person at first. For some time I had been talking to Bobby and Jimmy Recca separately about getting together to make music. Bobby and Jimmy had known each other from past shenanigans. Bobby and I had many hilarious phone calls but at some point we got serious talking about making an album. I then invited Jimmy Recca to play bass on the album. I sent demos of my newest songs to Jimmy and Bobby. Also my friend in Portugal Hugo Conim learned the material, as well as adding two songs of his own to the list!. Bobby then wrote lyrics to most of the songs partially at home and partially in the studio. At first we were going to record in Maryland near Bobby and Hugo the second Guitarist was going to fly from Portugal to the States, but the studio in Maryland didn’t work out so Hugo organized a studio in Portugal for us to record in and he enlisted the drummer João. Bobby, myself and Jimmy Recca then started an epic journey to Portugal that was an incredible crushing 34 hour flight plan. It started off normal -It was very pleasant meeting and picking up Bobby at his house. The journey to the airport was fun, but as we boarded the plane with Jimmy the nightmarish odyssey began to unfold!! The ‘Making Of’ was very stressful, the saving grace was that the music went better than we imagined! Have you ever read the book Lord Of The Flies where kids are shipwrecked and they are stranded on an Island? You know how they become primitive and animalistic? That’s what happened when we got to Portugal. Eventually we bonded and learned how to work together. Now we are all in Hippy Land in love and hugging, but at first people at ticket counters and restaurants were threatening to call the police if we didn’t stop fighting. Really in the middle of restaurants Jimmy and Bobby would stand up and loudly fight, everywhere. Each day, each person in the ‘band’ threatening to leave and go home! Only Hugo and João were acting level headed and adult. I suppose we had to first go through a ‘Trial By Fire’ to find the way. Sometimes I wonder if all that stress, chaos and insanity gave sparks and lightning to our recording. It was a daily situation of Hell on Earth but the music went very easily and organically. We found our magic and luckily I knew an amazing engineer in Portugal (Paulo Vieira) so that was a great connection. After we all got home we needed to seriously ‘recover’ from the violence and stress. But sure enough we are ready to do it again!
Bobby: It was insane at first. Me and Jimmy were always bickering and fighting but then 10 minutes later he would kiss me on the top of my head. Sonny was trying to ‘mediate’, but that didn’t help, because suddenly he was in the middle. Hugo was often sad! It was very crazy until we learned more about each other and developed a bond. The music went so well I was often brought to tears. Folks, this was not some plush, cushy situation, but being professionals we knew our job was to deliver the electricity. We gave birth to a beautiful, pissed off baby!
E&D: Did you record the album together in the studio or remotely due to the pandemic?
Sonny: Like I said we recorded the basic tracks in Portugal but then, yes indeed suddenly Covid hit when we still had to do some over dubs and the mix and because of that we had to do the final touches ‘remote’ via internet. Pity because I had my ticket to go back to Algarve to mix and add some parts. Instead I invited some pals to add the parts and that worked out really great! Maybe Bobby can tell more about the studio in Portugal. One thing I want to mention again is that our guardian angels were Hugo Conim and our Engineer Paulo Vieira!
Bobby: We recorded the album over a very short period of time. Had it not been for Paulo, things would not have gotten done nearly as quickly as far as basic tracks or overdubs were concerned. The overdubs were all done remotely, and Sonny spent a lot of time sending things up and back in the initial mix with Paulo. Then, he sent everything to me later to review on each song (one or two at a time) to give feedback for ideas of changes and additions in production, and then he would send them back to Paulo. It was an up-and-back process that initially took only 4 days to record as far as the basics went, but the album ended up taking 5 months in post-production and mixing due to the pandemic.
E&D: Are you excited to get this album out and unleashed on the world?
Sonny: Oh Yeah! Once we had the rough mixes we already knew we had entered the realm where the “music is playing you” rather “you playing the music” It’s a special geography to traverse! We felt lucky that we clicked and matched and are excited for folks to hear it.
Bobby: Of course. I always had it in mind to do an album with really punk flavoured attitude, and things fell into place very handily as Sonny and I had very similar ideas. I’m very excited for everyone to hear it and sample its flavors.
E&D: You’ve got guest appearances from guitarists Fabian Dee Damners (UDO), Nils Finkeisen (Die Krupps) and Paul Simmons (Bevis Frond) on the album. Can you tell us about their contributions on the album?
Sonny: Like I explained, we flew to Portugal to make the album. Later I was scheduled to go back, to do the mix and add a few more guitar parts. But suddenly because of Covid-19 all flights were cancelled and I could not go back to the studio and meet up with Paulo. At that time I decided to add some friends of mine to contribute to the extra, fill guitar parts remotely. We had to do the mix remote as well. Some background on the ‘special guests’- While living in Hamburg I formed a short lived band with Nils Finkeisen (Die Krupps). I was exploring a slight different direction. Sort of a mix of my music with a more brutal edge and a bit more experimental. Something like ‘Swans’ with a touch of ‘Melvins’. We were in rehearsals playing some of my ‘classics’ and some new material that I wrote for the band with Nils and a drummer. We played a small tour, a few shows in Germany and Holland. But then the drummer had some personal issues he was sorting out and I then moved back to Holland, so the band that we were developing never had a chance to grow past its infancy. Pity because it was something that appeared very attractive to me. Thats how I met Nils. Fabian Dee Dammers as some of your readers will know is a major asset to the music culture in Europe and beyond. Back in 2015 I had a European tour already booked and I began my search in putting a ‘line-up’ together. A few months earlier I had done some recording sessions with Alex Schwers the drummer of the German group ‘Slime’ and I reached out to Alex to play drums on my tour. Alex introduced Fabian Dee Dammers to me and Dee came on my tour playing guitar. So fast forward to the ‘Making Of’ Caveman Logic. In Portugal Bobby was reading a biography about Michael Schenker. After talking to Bobby I discovered that Schenker occupied a holy place inside Bobby’s lexicon of love. I myself only had heard the name Michael Schenker ambiently from people. I suppose that might be sacrilegious to some readers here. I figured that I must have heard the guitar work on the radio etc. But then I realized that certainly I must have heard his work with UFO and Scorpions, here and there. After all I had lived in Germany for 10 years or so and they crank all kinds of stuff in shops and at parties etc. I just didn’t connect the name at first but Bobby played a lot of it through his phone. When I considered who to add as special guests to fill out the guitar bits, I remembered Bobby’s love of Michael Schenker so I invited my good friends Fabian Dee Dammers and Nils Finkeisen to play on the album. Also I invited Paul Simmons who tears up a guitar now and then!! It really came out beautifully! When Bobby heard the initial mixes with those guys and Paul Simmons (Bevis Frond) he actually cried tears over the phone telling me how much he loved their parts. I was very psyched that Bobby loved their parts!
Bobby: Sonny had their acquaintances but I had never and still have not met the other three guest players although I certainly would Love to. I was blown away when Sonny sent me the songs with them added on! Wow!
E&D: Can you tell us about the video you have done for the song ‘Black Sea’?
Sonny: At first Hugo Conim and I were compiling shots and clips for the video, as well as my friend Paul Blaccard. Then Bobby and I organized the parts where he is singing in the video which my friend Paul Blaccard compiled. Finally I sent them all, as well as my personal film archive all to Kalle -Erik from Svart Records and said ‘Run with this baby!!” He did a great job. But the next video ‘Kitty Gone’ is Kalle- Eriks masterpiece.
Bobby: I had nothing to do with the video, other than sending the lip sync video of myself which would later be overlaid and underlaid in the video concept itself. Sonny knew the people who were able to do video editing and production, and he had a big hand in it.
E&D: What has the reaction to the band been like so far?
Sonny: Both fans in my ‘camp’ and Bobby’s are feeling it. I think we are lucky that we made something that people are digging and are inspired by. We didn’t make a real plan or direction to dial in elements. We simply got together and did what we do.
Bobby: It’s been fantastic and I’ve been overwhelmed with the reaction being more positive and on the plus side than I ever imagined. Everyone seems to enjoy it no matter what genre of music they’re in.
E&D: How did The Limit start as a band in the first place?
Sonny: I already went into that but may Bobby has a few words.
Bobby: Sonny and I had a mutual friend who introduced us, and that friend also knew Jimmy, as did I. When Sonny and I first spoke, we thought it would be a good idea to call on Jimmy as a bass player. As far as the other two members, Sonny had worked with them previously on various projects. When I first spoke to Sonny, he mentioned the two Dawnrider members, and thought they would be formidable to be involved in the project. So thing’s kind of came together naturally.
E&D: Were the members all fans of each other’s bands?
E&D: What was your vision for the music of The Limit and do you feel you achieved that vision?
Sonny: We really didn’t know what to exactly expect. I don’t function in a methodical, planning way. With me it’s usually an instinctive, intuitive process. I just knew that when we got together the outcome would be something of value.
Bobby: There was no initial vision except to do good music together that was from the heart and soul. Sonny and I have never been into elaborate productions, therefore I think we achieved our vision in a much more striking and straightforward manner than we could have imagined, in the end.
E&D: Were the doom and punk elements of the sound of The Limit crucial to your music?
Sonny:No, Not at all. We just did our thing!
Bobby: I have to let the people judge for that. I don’t think there was any element of sound that was planned or crucial for anything, except to kick people’s ass.
E&D: Did you also want certain elements of Pentagram, The Stooges, Testors and Dawnrider to impact the sound of The Limit or did you want something completely new with the sound?
Sonny: We didn’t really think on that level. Not like a recipe, you know? Not like ‘O.K. Let’s make and album, maybe 10% Hardcore, a dash of noise, two teaspoons of ‘doom’ , some grated punk, and a dollop of pop” It just wasn’t spoken of. We just got together. We all love the history of rock n roll from soul, pop, industrial, metal, punk, hard rock.
Bobby: Obviously, what we had done in the past had come into play with our collective collaborative ideas in the end. But none of that was put into effect when thinking about what we were going to do.
E&D: Do you have plans to play live once it is safe to do so?
Sonny: We have talked about that and have some serious offers but we have to see how the world recovers from the pandemic first.
Bobby: We have dreamed about how cool it would be to play these songs in front of an audience but we don’t have any plans right now because the pandemic is going on. People ask this over and over without seeming to realize that you can’t make concrete plans at this particular moment on the Earth. We don’t know when “safe” will be reality, or what “safe” is at this moment.
E&D: Bobby, What have been some of the highlights from your time in Pentagram so far?
Bobby: All the big festivals have been a great joy to me. I like playing for the larger audiences, yet at the same time there’s coziness in the clubs. So, I can’t say something is a highlight. The highlight is making it in the rock n roll business.
E&D: Sonny, what were some of the highlights of being in the Testors?
Sonny: Playing in the epicenter of the NYC scene in the mid 70s. CBGB and Max’s Kansas City was quite wild. Lots of raw inspiration but I’m usually not the one for romanticizing about certain time periods in music or bygone scenes. There are scenes everywhere, here and now. Just need this Covid stuff to fuck off and get back to the source.
E&D: Sonny, What was New York like back in the days of Max’s Kansas City, CBGB and the early punk scene and how exciting was it?
Sonny: Like I said, it was quite wild, many people had only raw skills but inspired talent. Others were quite proficient and were also reaching a razor edge result. Very often after a show at CBGB or Max’s you would walk home on air, so to speak. There was a very deep core of creativity and because it was somehow new there was a lot of push back which turned it into a mission of sorts. The atmosphere all around and in particular the clubs was very mercurial, like some strange ether from another planet. They all came downtown to see us. Led Zep, Neil Young, The Who, Todd Rundgren. Like they were thinking- “What the fuck is going on here!!!!” My band Testors was maybe a bit different from a lot of the other bands. Sure a lot of the bands were expressing dissatisfaction feelings and disenfranchisement directions but on a musical level it was often more accessible.The early Testors music was a bit dark, it wasn’t something warm and fuzzy that you could wrap your arms around and feel good about yourself.
E&D: Who have been some of your biggest influences as a musician over the years?
Sonny: Too many to list and it changes all the time!
Bobby: The Beatles, Michael Schenker, The Dave Clark Five (because they were playing as a heavy metal band when no such thing was thought of or conceived yet). I love Mercy Beat for its melodies and that’s the era in which I grew up listening to music. Probably my biggest influence has been the Bonniwell Music Machine. He wrote really downer rock with a bummed out, pissed off, yet troubled attitude. I love garage bands, as they’re now called, which I consider to be part of the Mercy Beat era. The American garage bands were our answer to the Mercy Beat groups. I also love The Groundhogs because I consider them to be the only 100% original band that’s come in the hard rock genre.
E&D: What are your your hopes for The Limit in the future?
Sonny: To make another album under better conditions! And maybe play a few shows.
Bobby: To be a success and be remembered in generations to come.