Full disclosure: I am a metal fanatic. Grew up on it. Played it professionally for 20 plus years. Still obsessed with crushing riffs and and crunchy guitars. So when I found out that there was a documentary about one of every heavy rock fan's favorite singers, Pentagram's notoriously eccentric frontman Bobby Liebling, it jumped to the top of my must see list. Admittedly I was reticent, as I've yet to see anyone "get it right" 100% as far as the honesty and unflinching view of the pitfalls of chasing a dream, and falling into the traps of drugs and vicious cycles. There have been some noble attempts, and encyclopedia like documentations of the birth of sub-genres such as thrash and death metal, but the art form of "heavy" is much like the blues that it borrows from. It's folk music, and to truly understand it, it must be entered into culturally.
So who better than two experienced documentary filmmakers, Don Argott and Demian Fenton, who just also happen to be heavy rock musicians themselves, to document the life, and phoenix-like resurrection, of one of metal's best kept secrets, the aforementioned Mr. Liebling? He and the and the band he fronted, Pentagram, were laying down the crushing riffage as far back as the early seventies, and their legacy has slowly galvanized, putting them deservedly into the hierarchy of influences for a lot of modern metal bands, particularly the stoner rock and sludge sub-genres.
When we first started this interview, the call kept dropping when we said the word "Pentagram". Supernatural intervention?
TWITCH - (reconnecting) Well how weird is that? We start talking about Pentagram and the call drops.
DON and DEM - Oh man that's some spooky stuff right there.
TWITCH - Anyway, ok, so doing a documentary on Pentagram frontman Bobbly Liebling, who is to put it euphemistically, kind of erratic, looks like it was quite a journey both as filmmakers and as people.
DON and DEM - Oh for sure. I think Bobby's life is erratic, and it's a little odd, but as filmmakers you go through certain scenarios, and luckily we didn't have to play any games of gaining anyone's trust. We took the subject very seriously. As it went along we asked ourselves a couple times "Why are we here?" but it was to get and give someone the respect they deserved. That was the journey. You just have to understand that the life you are entering isn't yours, be open minded, and understand it's not your place to judge in that arena. making a documentary is really about trust and respect, so you can capture the truly intimate moments. We weren't in there with cameras rolling our eyes going "Look! He's smoking crack!" and we sure weren't going to do that with Bobby's situation. That wouldn't have been honest to what his life is really about.
TWITCH - The film is also about Bobby's manager, Sean Pelletier, who runs an indy label and kickstarted the resurrection of Bobby's legacy of work with Pentagram. I came to really like this guy through the film. What's up with him now?
DON and DEM - You know Pellet, I have never met anyone who is more sincere about music. He's managing other bands, and seems to always be a couple steps ahead of others. Right now he's managing that band In Solitude (a popular young band, playing very vintage sounding music ala Mercyful Fate and New Wave Of British Heavy Metal stuff). Sean is always working for the music, he's so so generous. He just worships metal and hard rock. he'll do whatever it takes, if there's money involved or not, and use four year sof his soul to do it to help out music he loves.
TWITCH - I speak from experience as a recording artist, even the DIY industry is full of shady people who ending up buying cars with your sales while you take dry Ramen on the road to eat. (everybody laughs) That said, yeah Pelletier (Pellet) looks to be something of a minor saint! Do you all stay in touch now?
DON and DEM - He totally totally is the most awesome dude. And yes, I was just at Bobby's over the weekend, and talked to Pellet.
TWITCH - So peaking of Mr. Liebling, how's he doing now?
DOM and DEM - You know, I was trying to describe this to someone else. You see the movie, and the end is crazy, and where Bobby ends up is crazy (ed note - not to spoil but it ends on an up note, ala Rocky), but man you walk into that house and things are going well in his little world and it all just makes sense. It's great. One thing we say about the film is it's not a traditional rock doc. You know, yeah we ressurect this rock god and get him back onstage and there's the whole finale and everything...but the other journey in the film is Bobby, and the fact that he's trying to regain the life he lost to drugs in stuff. For us that's really the movie. And yes, Bobby is still doing okay.
TWITCH - Well yes, Bobby's struggle is the entire movie for me. Again, coming from that background and having seen many people I knew in metal die from their battle with drugs, and having had my own, I gotta say it's quite an emotional ride. How personally involved did you become while filming?
DON and DEM - Well Dem did most of the filming and really kept the project alive and going, because we were working on other films at the time, so I was there. Then Bobby's life moved at weird pace, so ti all worked out at the time, but I think Dem became pretty involved in Bobby's world. I think the film is a reflection of that, you can tell it's not a crew. it's one guy with a camera, and I think it serves this particular subject really well. We did get close personally to Bobby, and luckily I feel it helps the story. It made easier for Bobby too, there isn't a crew up in his face and all that. That translates to the typeof film this is. And to see someone with the amount of strength Bobby has, and how he really wants to change his situation. You have to respect that. We never set out to make a rock doc, and certainly didn't set out to make a Pentagram commercial, but when you start to get calls from Bobby's 80-something year old Mom who needs help, the lines between film maker and friend are going to blur. Bobby was making a go at it and I certainly wanted to help out.
TWITCH - Speaking of Bobby's parents...they were supporting Bobby and yet Bobby always had the money for drugs. To put it delicately, he seems to kind of fail up. Did you find that Bobby's parents, who figure heavily into the film as well, were enabling their son?
DON and DEM - I feel certainly that is where Bobby got the money, but being outside that situation I had a bit of an opinion. then you go in and talk to Diane and Joe (Bobby's parents) who are just such beautiful people, who am I to say? If they were not to give him money, and tell him no and shut hm out, that would have been a mother basically knowing she was sending her son out to die. I think without them Bobby would have been a goner. And that really tough life, whether it be family or friends, is something people around addicts also have to go through. I do think we are conscious of that within the film, and ask some tough questions. We are total outsiders here, but we also know how anyone in this situation would probably act. That's their only son. On the other side of that, you also meet ex band members who do not want to meet up with Bobby and jam again. So that kind of addict thing works both ways man. Being someone like Jeff or Joe (ex-members of the band Pentagram), being in a band with a drug addict for a long time is infuriating man. TWITCH - One thing I thought was really touching was when Bobby moves to Philadelphia for a woman, the first girlfriend he's had probably in decades, and his father says "I miss him. I miss him terribly." I don't want to say too much and give away how things turn out, but I guess it's no secret Bobby is alive and well so...
DON and DEM - Right right. But in the first five minutes of the film you are already wondering what the fuck is going to happen with this dude (Bobby).
TWITCH - Oh my god man, yes. Really stressful stuff for someone like me, from that scene and with memories of that behavior as well. *shivers*
DON and DEM - But you know, the film doesn't end on a tragic note thankfully. I saw Bobby over the weekend man, and he's doing great with his marriage and the family he's started (*which figures heavily into film) and people think it's weird from the outside. The age difference between him and Haley (Bobby's wife), but when you're there everybody is really happy and it just works. Bobby is like 59 now, but he's really 25, so he married someone that age.
SCREENANARCHY - The whole relationship thing for me is the centerpiece of the film. It's not about Pentagram re-emerging it's about Mr. Bobby Liebling finally emerging, from what seemed to be a stunted life. And finding someone who really loves him.
DON and DEM - Yeah, he's not jumping in a limo every night or anything close to that. Their relationship is based on love. And now Bobby, you know he's a dad, and he's kind of acting older, and is a family man and homebody. The last time I saw him he wasn't in leather pants, he was in sweats man (laughter).
TWITCH - So to wrap this up, you two are also musicians, yes? DOM and DEM - Yep! We are in a band called Serpent's Throne. It's instrumental, heavy rock, twin guitar harmonies, influenced by the classic 70's stuff like Sabbath and Thin Lizzy, and that first Wishbone Ash record.
TWITCH - It's no surprise to me. Last Days Here does not play like a film made by an outsider to the scene. Well done fellas. DOM and DEM - Thanks man. We hope everyone enjoys the film, Pentagram fans or not. Cheers!
Click the links below for the Last Days Here trailer, as well as samples of Pentagram in action, and a taste of the directors' music work in Serpent Throne.
Sundance Selects will release Last Days Here theatrically and on VOD. Look for updates here.