We’ve been reviewing your releases for quite a few years, but do not know much of your backstory.
Jethro Tull, especially 1972’s Thick as a Brick. I started playing bass in September 1971 and wasn’t very good by 1972.I played bass and double bass for junior high jazz band. Some kids made fun of me behind my back for lack of ability I really practiced and joined my first rock band in 1973-then Chicago was all our favorite group.
In the beginning they didn’t make me change chords, so I learned improvisation on the root chord. By 1975, the Who was our fave. There was a songbook from Quadrophenia which wrote out John Entwistle’s bass parts I learned them note for note.
In the fall of 1975 I was voted #1 bass player in the school.in 1972 I got a fuzz box and turned the bass upside down, strummed the root and 5th on G and D string and it sounded like a punk/metal 6-string. For all my live shows from 1981 and all my records through 2010’s The Rabbi is dead’ this bass was playing all my chords and guitar leads. The Ramones and Green Day , flogging molly and the butthole surfers were my faves later.
How did you get bit by the performance bug?
My first band started playing out in 1973 when we were 15. The next year , all the girls had their sweet 16s and we played lots of them. What was really cool about this, when I played in the band, the girls finally noticed me. There was no turning back until 2011.
You are a prime age to be influenced both by the orchestral/progressive rock of the 1970s and the proto-punk music coming out of the NYC scene in the mid-1970s. What trends (cyclical or otherwise) ehave you observed during your musical career?
The worst thing that happened was the disco invasion in 1976. I wanted to be John Entwistle, lead hard rock bass player and played the disco tunes that way. I was thrown out of the band for this, after much local success. I just turned 18 then. When punk broke at the same time I was unaware of it for 2 years. Then WPLJ in NYC started playing the Ramones. I got Rocket to Russia in 1978. I was able to perform this music live on the bass. In 1981 I played a gig for a Jewish singles function with Ramones tunes and some of my early originals-“Municipal Swimming Pool “ and “meat Cleaver Girl. It was ill received but it was animportant show for me. In the mid 90s, I was drawn back tomy youth and bought Tull’s back catalog in a month. On my 10th Cassette, I did Thick As A brick #1-4 using a distorted bass and singing through a megaphone. In 2005,Green day’s Americcan Idiot put in my heyday on stage, doing 12 minute medleys from that record.
In total, how many recordings have you released over your career? Taking a look at your discography, which compositions and albums are particular favorites of yours.
‘Terminator” will be my 25th commercial cd since 2002 and I released 38 cassette albums between 1991 and 2001. Most of the latter were lost in a housee fire in 2001 and hurricane Sandy 11 yearlater—so 63 will be that number. I like th songs I write for my dogs especially ‘3 Little Puppies;(2010) and Dogpark (2004). My best seller is 2009’s “Crank That Kosher Boy” which in itself made me $225.00 as compared to the $3,750 for 104,000 sales of my 1st 23 cd’s
When I was with JDub records (they released DikKtatoR 17) they described my development as “crooked and without direction. The problem was when I worked as town comptroller, I put down thhe tracks as they were , mixed them down loud and released the records. My ‘guerilla methods andunusual instrumentation has earned me a place in the outsider music world. I retired in 2014 and now go over the tracks, redo some and all that. What started to bother me as late is those doubting my abilities. I dusted off my 1911 trombone and buried in the mix of the ‘Return of the Jewish Pirrates set. When I started with Blast-O-Rama this spring I bought 3 additional trombones, a bass, alto and soprano. And actually wrote in parade type llines to go with the bombast and distortion. The problem with this is that I have no teeth so I must blow hard into the instrument and still have the range of a school boy. I hope the next 2 albums will show me off in a better light
You have kept busy over the last few months, with a four-volume release Return of the Jewish Pirate and Terminator V617-F. What do you think that these albums will add to your legacy?
The RJP set was done for my fave DJ’s at WUSB_FM who had me on the air on 12/30/2014 to celebrate the release of ‘cancer Ward’ I starting doing my fave cover tunes, I took my 1st break on Feb 19 and I was rushed to the hospital for transfusions. When I came home I never stopped except for Shabbos and the album became out of hand—88 songs of which I fitted 76 on 4cds. The album sold very well early and I donated and will donate all proceeds to animal rescue.”Terminator V617F (named after the JAK2 V617F mutation which brought me til now. I have much about death and dying on this record-“famous When I’m Dead” Accidental Overdose( Thhe Rabbi Is Dead) and a cover of my theme song on stage Jim Carroll’s People who Died” I want the trombone parts on this one to be more out there then they were in “Blast-O-Rama”
You’ve received a pretty grim diagnosis; could you go into that briefly?
In 2010 I was diagnosed with a relatively minor cancer called polycythemia vera, filed under leukemia—myeloprolifirative neoplasms. I had too much blood and had to get 2 pints removed every week.this wasn’t working. In 2011 I went on chemotherapy and retired from the stage. I left it unattened for a year and started with Sloan-Kettering. They did a bone marrow biopsy in 2013 and determined my disease progressed to stage 2 myelofibrosis, a condition where the bone marrow turns from spongy to fiber and slowly stops making blood cells. My last biopsy determined im I thstage 5 high risk Post polycythemia myelofibrosis with about 10-16 months to live. I will die either by the progression to acute myeloid leukemia , an opportunistic infection, or the lack of good blood cells.
Most individuals would normally take an extended vacation or tick things off their “to-do list”. You’ve continued to record. Why is that?
The recording and performing process is very challenging now. I sit on a dog bed by the instruments and board and every 2 tracks or so I lay down on this. Sometimes I pass out and take all the instruments down with me. Then I come to sit up and record the next track. My ability to do this is extendingmy life by giving me strength.sometimes my voice goes week and it kills me to play guitar and the low notes on the bass trombone get me dizzy—but I’m fighting this disease and will do it til I die. (from 2015’s “Spin a Dreidl All Around ME”— “Here I am: another Festival of Lights/this year I put up quite a fight/60 for my strength 50 for my life-the strength to make it to the Seventh Night”
Is Terminator V617-F your last album?
I do not think so Dr.McQuiston. if I die tomorrow, I instructed my wife and children to release ‘greatest hits albums’ so I will be putting recordslong after I’m dead. I’m 62 minutes into Termintor V617f and hope to have out very early 2016. I will be recording, even when my abilities after T V617F and as you wisely say ‘maybe he will put out a more cohesive album.i’ll do that.
For those wanting to hear your music, how can they do so?
I have a soundclick media player on my website gangstarabbi.com. there are 110 songs on it covering the last 25 cd’s and mid page Bad’lania is a soundclick player with primitive ongs from the cassette age—1991-2000.
We always conclude our reviews at NeuFutur with an open-ended question. What would you like to say to our NeuFutur readers?
Firstly I need to thank neufutur magazine for the excellent coverage of my career since 2003s Desert Fever Brigade. I need you to be there til the end
Thank you so much for your time. Information about Lieberman, his releases, and samples of his music can be found at his domain http://www.gangstarabbi.com/ .
Selected Steve Lieberman Reviews: