Caveman Logic: An Interview with Jimmy Recca and Sonny Vincent
The Limit is a new band with decades of experience. The super-group centers around the trio of Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling, Testors guitarist Sonny Vincent, and former Stooges bassist Jimmy Recca with Hugo Conim and Joao Pedro of Dawnrider bringing it all together. Caveman Logic marks their first album together and is a phenomenal amalgam of each member’s history and influences.
From the opening track, “Over Rover,” it’s clear that is not an easily defined record. The song opens with a doom-laden riff that kicks into high-energy punk beats, coming back down for a doom-psych bridge led by Recca’s bass and featuring Liebling’s spoken word. One thing that definitely ties it all together is the spirit of rock and roll, and Recca has it in spades.
Recca is known as a proto-punk icon for his time with The Stooges in 1971 just before the band’s first breakup as well as guitarist Ron Asheton’s New Order. Although he has deep roots in that style, he cannot be pinned to one sound on Caveman Logic. At times he sticks to the pocket to hold the groove steady, other times his melodic runs add dimension to the guitar work by Vincent and Pedro. The attention to detail on his craft is clear in his support of the vocal lines on songs like the ultimately catchy “Black Sea,” which you’re bound to have on repeat.
As seasoned as these players are, the road to creating this album was rocky, to say the least. An ill-planned rehearsal and recording schedule in Portugal turned from a dream to a living nightmare that, looking back, was a comedy of errors. Luckily the process ultimately forged their friendship and they can look back and laugh.
We caught up with Recca and Vincent, who told us all about the band’s creation and the unreal circumstances of the album’s creation.
Fellas, I dig this album. I’ve been jamming “Black Sea” over and over.
Jimmy: It has that effect on people.
There’s not a whole lot about the origin of this band, so I wanted to piece it together how this came to be.
Sonny: Jimmy knew Bobby briefly in the past. They had jammed together but didn’t know each other that well. I didn’t know Bobby at all. There was a guy that was a friend of Bobby’s that was a mutual friend to all three of us. He played my music for Bobby, who was pretty knocked out by it so he called me on the phone.
I had never even heard of Pentagram. Bobby sent me some of the early stuff. I thought, “Oh cool, it kind of sounds like Blue Cheer or something.” I had already been talking to Jimmy on the phone and goofing around. We had some things in common. Jimmy played in the Stooges and I made a few albums with Scotty Asheton from the Stooges and Ron Asheton produced one of my albums. We both love Scotty dearly, so it was nice to connect with Jimmy that way.
Jimmy Recca: We have a DNA thing. We’re within six months of the same age as each other. We both started out in rock and roll around the same time in 1970 or 1971. We’re like the younger brothers to the Ashetons. Those guys were a little older than me, but that was my first entry into the rock and roll world. I was 18.
When Sonny hooked up with Scotty, it was over many years. I just talked to Scotty back in the ‘90s. We were talking about how things had progressed to that point. This was before the Stooges even regrouped.
Sonny: So [Jimmy and I] had that connection. I had been talking to Bobby, and we decided I would produce an album for him. I had read that Bobby was the “father of doom,” so I took a bunch of songs I had written and sent them to my friend Hugo in Portugal. He’s in a bunch of different bands: a punk band, a doom band, you know. I told him to take the songs into the studio and slow them down to make them more doomed out. I sent those to Bobby, and he said, “No, I don’t want to do them that way.” I said, “Well what do you want to do? It sounds like you want to make one of my albums with you singing.”
We switched tracks and I sent him the original versions of the songs I did. Then I sent them to Jimmy because we invited Jimmy to make the album with us. We were really honored by that because Jimmy is very selective about what he does. I sent them to Bobby to write lyrics and Jimmy began practicing them in Philadelphia.
The plan was that we would go to Bobby in Maryland and work at a cool studio there, but it kept flaking out and not working. The other guitar player I had talked to lived in Portugal. He was going to come to the D.C. area to come record with us. We had done so much work on the songs and working on them, then the studio had suddenly flaked out. So Hugo said, “Why don’t you come to Portugal and I’ll set up the studio?” That’s where the nightmare began. [laughs]
We had no helpers. Plus, I hadn’t seen that movie [Last Days Here] that Bobby was in. Talking on the phone, we were getting along fine, like two kids. Three days before we went to Portugal, I saw that movie and thought, “Oh [expletive]! I’m gonna need three nurses, three security guards, a lion tamer, a psychologist, a massage therapist… this guy is nuts!”
Jimmy: Bobby’s indiscretions put him in jail for over a year. We won’t go into how that happened. I had met Bobby in 2014 or 2015 at a Pentagram concert. I happened to be in New York visiting a mutual friend. He said, “Hey guess what? I’m going to see Pentagram and Bobby is a big fan of The Stooges and [Ron Asheton’s] New Order.” I had just licensed my New Order stuff out to Cleopatra and they sent me a ton of CDs.
We went to see Pentagram at the Gramercy and went backstage. I never really kept up with Pentagram because I was doing my own stuff and they had their own following here on the East Coast. Bobby is well known for his antics. Those guys are trying to keep him away from the powder and stuff like that. Unfortunately, that’s what my friend was doing there backstage – sneaking him the powder and using me as a front. It was old shit. It brings up old stuff for me. It’s like, you’re not pulling anything over on these guys. Anyway, I met Bobby and I signed him a CD.
A few years passed by and I went to another Pentagram show with another friend. It was this guy’s idea to move Bobby down to New York, so we all drove back down to Brooklyn. That’s where I really got to know Bobby and his ways. You know, it’s rock and roll. We all have our weaknesses and our demons. But there’s a time when you need to take a break. We got a chance to jam in Brooklyn and we liked a lot of the same bands. He’s a big fan of Iggy and all that stuff. We just had a lot to talk about.
Sonny had come here on tour in 2015 and there was talk that he was looking to put a band together. I told him to hook me up, but he already these guys he had worked with before. I said that’s cool, and that’s how we kicked off our friendship. Everybody was texting and keeping in touch. We were all producing something in our own lives and keeping busy.
When Sonny called me and said “I’ve got Bobby on this thing,” I said, “Yeah, we’ve been talking about doing something for a while.” I asked if it was really happening, and Sonny said, “Yeah man, and we’re taking it to Portugal. It’s a chance to play rock and roll, new music with cats that are like blood brothers.” He sent me the stuff in June or July of 2019. We finally got a deadline for taking off for Portugal in February. I went at it and played the songs every day. There was an excitement building up – three guys with 150 years of showbiz time between us heading overseas to make music.
I had visions of Gilligan’s Island on the beach with Ginger. They said we’d have rooms by the beach and a recording studio in this house that we’ll rehearse in. It was going to be a tropical paradise. It was really built up in my mind.
Sonny: It was supposed to be very different. God bless Hugo. He’s a very sweet-natured, beautiful guy. It wouldn’t have even happened without him. When it all came together I asked him to contact companies in Portugal that could help us. He did, but unfortunately, they all saw that movie about Bobby. They said, “What? We’re not going to give you five bucks!”
I thought the whole project was screwed. I was restoring vintage amps at the time. I had just sold a bunch of them, but the tickets were like $3,000 each. A few days later, I saw a ticket for $380 two ways from D.C. to Portugal, so I grabbed it. The unfortunate part about those tickets is it was a 34 hour journey from D.C. to Portugal, and you’ve got cranky, old bastards with no helpers to yell at.
Jimmy: I took a train to D.C. and decided to get a room in a nice place by the airport the night before. We all got a room there and I was waiting for Sonny and Bobby to show up. At that time, I felt like the Traveling Wilburys and we were all hooking up.
Sonny: At that point, everything was cool. Then Jimmy lost his wallet during an 11-hour layover at Gatwick Airport. Keep in mind, we didn’t really know each other. If someone gets to know me, they know I’m a responsible guy and I don’t let my friends down. But by the time we got to Gatwick, we were so tired and wiped out. Jimmy asked me and Bobby to watch his bag while he went to look for his wallet. We were out of it that we got up and left Jimmy’s bag in the middle of the airport. We found him at the coffee shop and said, “Hey Jimmy, how’s it going with the wallet thing?” He said, “Where’s my bag?” So we freaked out and ran back to find his bag. At that point, he must have been thinking we were “those” kind of guys. It started off like that and got worse and worse.
Hugo in Portugal is kind of a dreamer. His spirit and his vibe kept it all together. He said, “Sonny, you guys get to Portugal and we’ll have drivers. I know you’ll be tired, so for the first two days we’re going to go to an island and we’ll have a cook. It’s going to be beautiful.” I was sending Jimmy and Bobby pictures of this island.
We get there after the whole journey. Hugo says, “Go drop off your bags and we’ll go to the island.” The drummer said, “Uh-oh.” I said, “How far is the island from here?” He said, “Two hours.”
“…How do we get to the island?”
“How long is the boat ride?”
“Are there sheets and towels in the house?”
“Is there water?”
I said, “Dude, we’re tired. There’s no way we’re going to some island like Robinson Crusoe.”
Jimmy: We want to go to our respective rooms and have a good night’s sleep. I knew once I got in my room and laid my head on the pillow, we’d get up in the morning and all be buddies again.
Sonny: We got up to the apartment, and it wasn’t a hotel. I wrote many times to them that we needed three separate rooms because we’re old bastards. It could have been a Hotel 6 or a “Hotel -4.” What he did was book a small apartment with only two bedrooms. I ran to the first bedroom and threw my suitcase down on the bed. Bobby saw that and then ran like a weird, perverse rabbit to the other room.
Jimmy: I’m trailing from behind and I come around the corner thinking there will be another bedroom, but there’s just a couch there. All these guys were waiting for was getting into their party favors, so I’m thinking, “Alright, now I’m going to have to sit and listen to these guys all night.”
Bobby talks to himself constantly. It’s just a permanent tweak. I’ve gotta sit on the couch and wait till these guys go to their room, and then all I can hear is Bobby talking to himself. That’s how it goes for the next five days of rehearsal. Then instead of getting a day to sleep in, we go straight to the studio. Hugo came to pick us up at 9 am.
Sonny: It was like Lord of the Flies, where the kids are shipwrecked on an island and start acting like beasts. That was us.
I do want to say at this point, so you don’t get the wrong impression, that the music went really well. We had a professional connection and a good vibe together. But everything else was crazy.
Jimmy: We were staying on the 9th floor of what looked like a mental institution and it was off-season so we were the only ones there. The people there didn’t know what to make of us.
Sonny: Maybe someone reading this will think, “Oh, well what did they expect?” We would have been happy with a three-star hotel and a waffle house next door. They just threw us together like Lord of the Flies. I love Bobby dearly, but we were all fighting.
I was really interested in Jimmy’s stories because we had mutual friends in the Stooges that were like blood brothers. Jimmy would be telling me something about Ronnie or Scott that I didn’t know and I’d tell him something. Then Bobby would interrupt and say, “Well in Pentagram we did this and that” [and derail the conversation].
Jimmy: Then it was 30 miles to our rehearsal studio. We were crammed in a car together for hours and getting sick of each other. We had to keep it cool around these other guys and it was turning into a complete nightmare.
Bobby had this stack of lyrics, but only had a couple of songs that he put the words to. We had to rehearse these songs and we didn’t have time to do it the way we wanted. Everyone was supposed to know their parts. I had a stack of charts I wrote down and knew all 18 songs. This is music business: this is what we do. But sometimes you have these guys… especially lead singers. They have LSD – lead singer disease – where they think it’s going to all come together and they’ll have this beautiful canvas to work on. I had to work with a drummer I’d never worked with, and I’ve worked with some great drummers: Dennis Thompson of MC5, Scottie, K.J. Knight from Amboy Dukes. And I like to do things the way I like to do them.
I had only so much patience for amateur shit. When you’re tired and traveling, [you still do it.] It’s sheer determination. I might wind up punching you, but I wanna get a record done.
I wanted to ask you about the sounds. Sonny, it sounds like you’re still into the old-school gear. Is that the same for you, Jimmy?
Jimmy: I couldn’t say that. I play it forward and I go by the song. I’m a stylist kind of a bassist and play what the song wants. I’ll tell ya, I did hold back on a lot of this stuff to keep it in that rock and roll format in the track where you have the drum beat and rhythm guitar with the bass just pulsing. I kept that in mind and that’s something that I adjust to. It’s important to do that, but when the music flares on you have a chance to step out.
I’ve never been hemmed into any kind of genre. I’m a musician. I have so many influences and backgrounds behind me so I bring it all.
Sonny: We were really lucky to have Jimmy play on this record with us because, in my opinion, he’s on the level of Jack Bruce and John Entwistle. He’s really shining. That was one of the things we were looking forward to with this album. People would hear what we know about Jimmy and get that worldwide.
In terms of me, I played a Les Paul and a Vox AC30 and did what I usually do: get my sound and go for it. The music went really well. I was helping Bobby fit the lyrics in, so we basically wrote a bunch of songs together that way.
We were very blessed because one of the things I told Hugo before we went to Portugal was that I’m definitely not coming if we can’t get Paolo Vieira to be our engineer. I already knew his work so he had our back. Paolo could make an album in your living room or a tractor-trailer.
Jimmy: Paolo is on the level of Andy Johns. He’s a musician’s musician and engineer. He likes to have it live. Even the size of the studio we’re in didn’t matter because we had the vibe. The language barrier didn’t even come into play. That was the beauty of recording this album in spite of all the insanity. We did it because the music is the best thing. It’s all worth it for the end product. The reviews coming in are great from metal guys and punk guys. We’re no-frill, all-kill on this thing.
It does have an all-encompassing sound.
Sonny: When I was a kid, I was into hard rock. That’s where Bobby and I connected. We didn’t make a lot of plans [for the style]. We didn’t sit down and say, “We’re going to inject 40% hard rock, 40% punk, 10% flash…” We just knew that with our history and lexicon of rock and roll, when we got together we’d more than likely make something with some magic.
Jimmy: During the moments with Bobby where our tempers would flare, we would always have these moments where we could see above the cannibalistic insanity that we could tear each other’s throats out.
Alice Cooper just put a record out recently. Cactus just put a record out recently. These are all guys well into their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. And here we are. We come in from the world standpoint because those guys have their stuff American-produced. We’ve got a great label in Svart that looks at us like we’re amazing cats who have something to say. Like one reviewer said, if you go to any club anywhere in the world and hear this album playing, you’re in the right place. To me, at my age and with my experience, where else would I want to be?