This is an interview that James McQuiston conducted with Steve Lieberman. Lieberman, the “Gangsta Rabbi”, released eir “Melancholia Falling” a few months back. Check out eir website at http://www.gangstarabbi.com .
When and why did you first get into creating music?
In 1968 I wrote something for clarinet and trumpet and played bass in some successful local rock bands til 1978.. the ‘modern age’ started in 1981 when i put the theory i had developed as a boy to the test. If you take a bass and distort it to the max and play double stops with fifth intervals you can be a solo artist without knowing the guitar. to this day i can’t play the guitar at all. i recorded a live show at some synagogue on 7/16/1981, then a vinyl 45 called “Nuclear Blitz-Edits 96 and 85” in 1984. from 1991-2001–AND THEN THE 12 cd’s. i was a rebel from birth and probably not good enough to try to copy anyone who was/is out there–so i do what i do musically and will continue til death
What is the explanation behind you being the “Gangsta Rabbi”?
i was ‘religious’ from my bar-mitzvah in 1971 until about 1978-i got the ‘calling’ at the end of 1994 and fervently studied the bible as i do til this day. in my zealousness i found a number of violations from the biblical text to common jewish practice as dictated by the man-made talmud. i separated from the organized jewish sects at the end of 1995 and formed a very strict sect called the badlan’im or ‘isolationists’-which stresses the bible as law as it should be as well as continual prayer, vegetarianism and fasting.at every wedding and funeral i challenged rabbi’s on these precepts and prevailed each time. so ‘gangsta’ =rebellion against the status quo while ‘rabbi= one learned in the Words of G-d’
How many albums have you released as a solo artist, and do you think the quality of these releases have suffered in any way due to the heavy release schedule you maintain?
i have released 38 cassette tapes between 1991-2001 using either a singalodeon or tascam 4 track cassette recorder–most of these were lost due to a house-fire in 2001 where i pretty much lost everything. i re-allocated the insurance proceeds from the losses in my studio to procure a korg d-1600 which in 2002 was state of the art. i released my 1st cd ‘bad’lania rising’ on 8/27/2002–other than that one and 2003’s ‘jewish lightning all 11 cd’s currently released were reviewed at neufutur. my 12th cd ‘last of the jewish pirates’ is all done except for the artwork–so will be released in summer 2007 and i have 14 songs recorded towards my 13th album that will be called ‘shake the missile base’ as for the quality–i myself can’t hear any lack therof cause my hearing is shattered from 36 years of playing loud music. the AMG categorizes my main genre as ‘obscuro’ because of my disregard for most of the rules of engineering and for the small albeit cult-like following i have in pockets of the world because of my spirit of disregard
Individuals can guess at some of the influences that are important to you by seeing hat songs you cover on your albums, but who would you identify as the most important artists in the creation of your overall sound?
i really don’t want to be influenced by anyone but jethro tull has to be the biggest one–i learned the flute at the tender age of 43 to take their concept of flute/rock fusion to the next level to put it in a punk setting. i was in college when punk was introduced via the ramones and sex pistols–so a definite influence there–and not to mention the 2nd wave of british metal via motorhead who taught me to thrash when needed
Do you tour much/at all? What is the crowd reaction to your performance?
yeah–i play out a lot–i do much better outside my home state of new york. i’ve reached the semi-final level in 2 very large music festivals-not from the number of votes but by wild cards–all the festival bosses seem to like me. the crowd reaction has really been excellent–‘viva the gangsta rabbi’ was an example of that–it was an all ages show–my strongest demographics are the female age 16-20 believe it or not. when a dude looking like a middle aged heavy set hippy takes the stage with a bass a beat machine and a flute–one tends to take notice–but its just me –doing what i did for decades
Is it more difficult to create the same sound with live tracks as studio tracks, since you are the only one out there performing?
my sound is totally different live then it is in the studio. i recently bought my first guitar amp(vs a bass amp) a little hiwatt bulldog and my live sound with that is very 1977 old school punk. even when i play with my band( me another bass player and a drummer) i still have to provide the chords and leads so i can’t play much flute which is important for the studio sound–but i did learn to play the flute and bass at the same time!
Besides the theme of “cover album”, do your releases have much of an overarching theme to them? Is it a conscious decision to go with a theme or is it more of an organic theme that comes into being?
my most thematic, almost conceptual was my 11th ‘melancholia falling’ every 15 years -i’m hit with a monster depression-and this time hit in 11/2005 and continued all the way to 4/2006. i was creatively crippled while it went on–but as it lifted time was a factor–i was in a better frame of mind and the episodes were still on my mind–so i wrote that one in the following months. also in my 7th jew in the underground i was mourning my puppy buttons who passed at 14 1/2 on 9/22/2004–so a whole section was dedicated to her memory.
Who would you identify are up and coming artists that individuals need to check out. Conversely, are there any artists that may not have been as successful as they should have been that individuals should try to learn about?
i’m really very ignorant when it comes to modern music–it seems to follow on of maybe 5 formulas barring the proverbial door to anyone who ventures outside of them
How do individuals get in contact with you? Should individuals be on the lookout for any new albums or tour dates in the near future? Finally, is there anything that you would like to say to the readership of NeuFutur?
my second charity covers album (my 12th) last of the jewish pirates should be out this summer–and my 13th the very happy positive ‘shake the missile base’ should be here before the end of 2007–and you can catch me anywhere between the east coast and midwest live