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Victor Griffin of Pentagram talks with Ron Holzner, formerly of Trouble

“I would be willing to die for my wife or God or something bigger than myself,” says the guitarist for the pioneering doom metal band

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Formed in 1971 by notoriously erratic front man and sole constant member Bobby Liebling (above, second from right), Pentagram is one of the very earliest doom-metal bands. Guitarist Victor Griffin, who first played with Liebling in the early 80s, helped keep the group on track during the years that produced its best-loved recordings—he appears on Relentless (1985), Day of Reckoning (1987), and Be Forewarned (1994). After leaving Pentagram he formed Place of Skulls, an explicitly Christian outfit, in 2000, but he agreed to rejoin Pentagram for the eagerly anticipated 2011 album Last Rites—on the condition that Liebling stay sober and the group drop its Baphomet insignia. Griffin has known Chicago bassist Ron Holzner for 26 years, and in some ways their careers have run in parallel: Holzner played with revered Chicago doom-metal band Trouble (which formed in 1979) from '86 till 2002. He's now bandmates with Rachel Barton Pine in Earthen Grave. Pentagram plays Reggie's Rock Club on Thu 8/18. —Philip Montoro

Ron Holzner of Earthen Grave played with Chicago doom-metal band Trouble from 1986 to 2002 - ED SPINELLI
  • Ed Spinelli
  • Ron Holzner of Earthen Grave played with Chicago doom-metal band Trouble from 1986 to 2002

Dude, I'm just so looking forward to seeing you play with Pentagram. This is gonna be a first for a lot of people in the city. Tell me about the new record. It's a little more dynamic compared to other Pentagram albums. Bobby has a lot of stuff in the vault as far as songs. We pulled them out and reworked some, and then there's new stuff as well. I think it's the best thing Pentagram's done probably since Day of Reckoning. It's got all the doom flavor to it, but it's also just a good, heavy, hard-rock album.

On the first record, the Relentless record, the way that some of Bobby's old songs were reworked blew my mind. I'm looking forward to hearing that on the new record. Yeah, I think you're going to find the same thing. We just took it and just jacked it up through the roof with more modern tones. A lot of that stuff that they did back in the 70s, they weren't pushing the overdrive like we do now.

You've got a five-disc CD player in your car. What five CDs are you gonna put in it? Right now I actually have a six-CD changer in my car. I have Creedence Clearwater Revival, I have the new Pentagram album, I have the new Place of Skulls album, I have Steppenwolf 7, I have Alice Cooper Love It to Death, and I think I have an empty space.

It's a shame that Steppenwolf got lost in the shuffle where people just know a couple of songs. They've got so many good ones, like "The Pusher." As a kid, I didn't know what the song was about; I just thought it was a cool tune. But as I got older, it's just like, "Man, this song is heavy." Well, they're a really blues-based band and they're sort of an acquired taste, other than the obvious radio songs like "Magic Carpet Ride" and "Born to Be Wild." They're one of those bands where a lot of people would buy the album for the hit song and think the rest of the album sucked. You and I come from the same school. We're album guys, we're not radio-play guys.

You and Bobby went through so much shit. It's nice that you're both on the same page and clean and going in the same direction. I've known Bobby for a long time. We've had that common bond. But we also both have extreme weaknesses—you know, that whole drug trip. After I rejoined the band last year, I had to see for myself that he was actually what he said he was, as far as sobriety goes. When I went on the road with him I saw he was putting his best foot forward. As long as you are holding it together, man, I'll be behind you and support you. And if he slips and falls like we all do from time to time, that doesn't mean I'm gonna split. You can fall back on each other, have the other there to help you out, pick you up, and carry you through the hard times and out of the temptations.

I'm gonna close this with this quote I read on your Facebook page. That isn't too creepy, is it? The quote is, "You never know if you're alive until you know what you would die for." Can you elaborate on that? We put so much importance on things that are just gonna pass—in the end it's all gonna pass. Is it worth the energy we put into it? The only things that are really worth the energy are the things that are gonna last beyond the grave, the people we love and the people we care for, and what we do for them instead of what we do for ourselves. The biggest one of those, for me personally, is a relationship with God. Until I got to a place where I was not afraid to die and I would be willing to die for my wife or God or something bigger than myself, I felt like I was searching for what my reason was for being. That's basically it. I think the most important thing is to look at what we can do for others and support the ones we love.

Now that is heavy. And thank you for letting me use "A Timeless Heart." That was the song me and Carol used when we walked down the aisle. Well not really down the aisle, more like across the bar. We had "A Timeless Heart" playing, and that was badass. I wish I was there for that.

That song is awesome and it'll always be dear to me and Carol. Aw, thank you very much, Ron. I really appreciate it. Give my best to Carol, too. 

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