The Limit are a new band, but they have some legendary members including vocalist Bobby Liebling (Pentagram), guitarist Sonny Vincent (Testors) and bassist Jimmy Recca (The Stooges). Their debut album is Caveman Logic. Liebling and Vincent introduce us to their band.
Chad Bowar: How did the band form?
Sonny Vincent: It was a very interesting way to connect. Bobby and I really didn’t know each other. I had not heard Pentagram and Bobby had not heard my music until a mutual friend played my albums for him. The friend had been a driver on a couple of my tours. Over time he played many of my albums for Bobby and apparently Bobby liked em’! The mutual friend gave Bobby my phone number and Bobby rang me. Bobby turned me on to the early Pentagram recordings that had a cool Blue Cheer vibe. Him and I had many hilarious phone calls. It was like we already knew each other in school, getting in trouble with the teachers!
After a while we got serious and decided to make an album together. I had been talking to Jimmy Recca also at that time and I invited Jimmy to play bass on the album. Little did I know the chaos and insanity that would ensue. Anyway I picked up Bobby with a rental car at his house, that was February 2020. That was a good meeting and fun, so far so good. That was the first time I met Bobby in person. We had a studio in mind near Bobby in the DC area but that fell through so we wound up going to Portugal where our second guitarist Hugo Conim organized a recording studio. That started a journey that turned into a very stressful time. Back to the time line: after I picked up Bobby from his house we met Jimmy at the airport and we stayed in rooms at an airport hotel. In the morning we flew to Portugal. We woke up and went on a 34 hour odyssey. Tons of layovers and delays. The nightmare had begun.
Bobby Liebling: Sonny and I contacted each other through a friend who drove a tour bus for Sonny’s tours. He was also a friend of mine. The mutual friend played all Sonny’s albums for me and I was knocked out! We started out by just making telephone calls in 2019. Sonny had friends in Portugal and the whole thing is a really long story. I had jammed with Jimmy Recca at one time and I know Sonny was a friend of his. I was psyched to do an album with Sonny and Jimmy! But like Sonny mentioned we had many challenges at first.
What inspired the band name?
Sonny: Bobby came up with it. We tossed around many ideas but none felt right.
Bobby: I sort of had that name in my back pocket for years. Always fancied it!
Describe the songwriting process for Caveman Logic.
Sonny: Before we met to go record I sent songs that I had written to Bobby and Jimmy. Also sent them to Hugo and Joao in Portugal. I wrote the songs specifically for this album, although three of them I already had from before. Those three songs I knew Bobby would bring a new element and depth to. Jimmy rehearsed the songs each day and Bobby began writing lyrics to them. After the guys learned the basics of the songs we went off to the studio. Like I mentioned we recorded the album in Portugal. Bobby changed up some of the songs by asking to slow some down, add another chorus, etc. Generally speaking Bobby and I wrote seven songs together, him and Hugo wrote two and like I said there were three songs I had complete with music and lyrics from before (“Black Sea,” “Human VS Nature” and “Death Of My Soul”).
Bobby: I wrote most of the lyrics throughout the album with the exception of three songs. I came up with singing parts with the help of Sonny. Sonny can write amazing hooks!
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Sonny Vincent: The music went well. We have been doing this for years so you could count on us to handle the music part without strange events. But the time between was absolute hell on earth. We didn’t know each other like The Beatles knew each other. They all knew each other from grade school. We are all from different states, different neighborhoods and vastly different upbringings. It took us a while to find our channel. After all, The Stooges all grew up in the same area, Ron and Scotty were brothers. In our situation we didn’t know each other at all. To be honest, I had not seen the documentary on Bobby Last Days Here until a couple of days before our flight to Portugal. I thought “Oh, no! Do we need five nurses and 10 security guards now?”
Over the phone we had a good time, but in person it was another story. Both Bobby and I are very accustomed to being the leader in our careers. It was very difficult for us to learn when to push forward and when to bend. Bobby became very stubborn, Jimmy became very angry and frustrated, Hugo was often sad. I tried to mediate, but that made things even worse. Each day someone was threatening to leave, threatening to go to the airport and say, “Fuck You! I’m leaving!” In restaurants Jimmy would stand up in front of everyone and scream at Bobby. Bobby was interrupting Jimmy when Jimmy would speak and it drove Jimmy nuts! One time a lady at a ticket counter said to Jimmy and Bobby, “If you two don’t stop fighting I will call the police.”
It really was that bad. Like a kind of nightmare. You know how some groups are together for 20 or 30 years and then suddenly they hate each other? We hated each other right at the start! At first it was so awful! The only thing that worked out was the music, that went more easily and organically. We had similar opinions and ideas when it came to the music. But the entire journey and most of the time there was nearly unbearable. During the 34 hour duration flight that I mentioned was from DC to Lisboa. During this time Jimmy lost his wallet, Bobby lost his phone and I lost my patience. We were already in chaos during the journey and when we arrived we were put into a small apartment all together where we argued and fought like angry kids. We were all confused and it was utter madness. It was like in the book Lord Of The Flies where the kids are shipwrecked on an island and go animalistic. The crazy thing is after a while we began to bond and learn about each other. Then we began the recording – that’s where the magic came into the picture. And after all that we went through we are quite close now, with lots of Love. Fucking hugging like hippies!
Bobby: The situation in Portugal was tough on us. We wound up in a small apartment with not much privacy. The personalities really clashed at first. We never knew if we would implode! But as professionals we knew how to handle almost anything and we made it through. It was well worth the “trial by fire” because we gave birth to a beautiful pissed off baby! And of course we are all close friends now after the experience.
How would you characterize its style/sound?
Sonny: I’m not sure. Street rock with depth. I like the autobiographical aspect of Bobby’s lyrics on the album.
Bobby: Heavy rock with a punk “fuck you” attitude.
How did you come to sign with Svart Records?
Sonny: Hugo contacted them at first, then Pellet became an envoy for a few weeks. Svart Records is an amazing company and group of people.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Sonny: That the right people get a chance to hear it.
Bobby: Would like to be in the hearts and ears of rabid rock ‘n roll fans worldwide!
Once concerts resume, do you have plans for The Limit to tour?
Sonny: We had talked seriously about that.
Bobby: We have some great offers, but must wait to see how to deal with this pandemic stuff.
How has the pandemic affected you personally?
Sonny: I like to ramble, travel and explore. This shit has seriously trimmed my wings for the time being.
Bobby: So many tours were canceled, it sucks of course.
Sonny, you were part of the early days of NYC punk. What is the biggest misconception about that era?
Sonny: One of the biggest misconceptions was the concept that “anything goes.” Although there was a broad range and scope of what was presented in terms of music and art, there was a very narrow stylistic code. I remember in the beginning kids would come onto CBGB and have their bell bottom pants taped over or stapled so they would appear as straight legged. I thought that was very cool in that it represented a visual statement. There was a strong ethos to divorce ourselves from the fake rock star system. Certainly the ’60s started out wonderful but we end up with rock stars living in castles and pretending to be street rockers. We were dead sick of those music industry mechanisms and we wanted to subvert them and destroy them as much as possible. But of course if you look around today it all turns out the same – commercialism.
But to answer your question directly if a band showed up in CBGBs around 1977 playing a guitar between their legs, and lurking on chicks, wearing bell bottoms, it wasn’t considered cool or progressive. In the early NYC punk scene at Max’s and CBGB there was a focus on a certain rawness and originality and anything to do with the established rock star system was considered archaic. We didn’t need to continue on the already established iconography of rock star bullshit. But that was back then and it was an exciting moment of rebellion and change. These days, stylistically I really don’t care if someone wears bell bottoms, suits, sleepwear, or bathing gear, I just want the passion and the music.
Sonny, was Joey Ramone supposed to produce one of your early albums?
Sonny: Yes, Joey was a dear friend of mine. And we had a plan to record an album of mine in Detroit that he would produce. My band at the time was Scott Asheton (Stooges) Captain Sensible (The Damned) and Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys). I was living in Holland and flew to Detroit to meet up with Scotty, rehearse some songs, choose the recording studio and hotel. Everything was set until Scott introduced me to a lawyer who ruined out deal with the record company. This chump is on the staff of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame now.
We were being financed by a cool middle class German label and he kept squeezing them for money, over and over, until they got cold feet. He really wrecked that. You just don’t deal with a German label like “Waxy from New Jersey.” He was rude and uncouth and wrecked our deal. So Joey never did produce the album. We did manage to record in Nashville and salvage at least the songs and our brief lineup. The album (Sonny Vincent’s Rat Race Choir – Pure Filth) came out on a small Swiss label. But the album sounds more like a demo. Recording that is another story. Cheetah organized the “studio” in Nashville and it was a 4 track Teac on some guy’s coffee table with guitar pedals as outboard gear! We did our best, people love the songs but the production is beat.
Sonny, you’ve worked with so many great musicians over the years. Who are a few of your favorites?
Sonny: Yeah, ever since I dropped the whole band concept I have been able to play with many wonderful musicians, many famous, many unknown but badasses. It’s too hard to name favorites. Such raw emotion, passion, power and dedication from so many. I will say working with Scott Asheton was effortless and we had a close friendship. But I have been fortunate and blessed with surfing for years on the excitement and the sparkle in the eyes of many musicians I have played with.
What’s the status of new Sonny Vincent solo and Testors albums?
Sonny: For the past year I have been holding back on any personal announcements because we want The Limit to gain as much thunder as possible. But I do have an upcoming album called Sonny Vincent- Snake Pit Therapy coming out in September. A book I wrote under the same name just came out on Far West. And yes, there has been some work on Testors material.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Sonny: I would like the thank the people from all over the world for the great response to my music. Also I didn’t know so many folks from the metal and heavy community were aware of my stuff. I think the word started to spread when a few years back Darkthrone’ covered my song “Bad Attitude.” In my formative years I did play a heavy style and I guess that still shines through. Perhaps they should hear an archive record of mine that came out on Hozac Records. It’s called Diamond Distance & Liquid Fury – Sonny Vincent: Primitive 1969-1976. This one has surprised a lot of folks!
Bobby: Svart and other labels are re-issuing some Pentagram albums. Pentagram has upcoming tours if the pandemic doesn’t get in the way! Grab the Limit’s album Caveman Logic. I’m very proud of this one folks!
(interview published April 10, 2021)