Steve Lieberman, also known as the Gangsta Rabbi is a Jewish-American punk rock /metal singer, songwriter, multi-instrumental musician, composer, producer and former village comptroller residing in Freeport, New York. He is also a Hebrew Nazarite, the founder of The Bad’lanim, a minority sect of Judaism and a vegetarian since 1995. On all his releases, Lieberman sings and plays all instruments. In addition to guitar, bass and beats, he adds flutes, various brass instruments and a variety of Eastern instruments. In his later years, he has added and arranged trombones in an effort to fuse punk rock with marching band music and elemental jazz, thereby creating a more powerful sound. As his condition has worsened, he has produced each subsequent album to be heavier by adding more instrumentation and distortion to symbolize his ongoing fight with the cancer and strength gained from the music and his faith. We got to know Steve better in our interview below, where we talked about his recent release of “2nd King”!
When did the genre of Jewish Punk come into play for your music career? I became of age musically when punk came out. I was in 1st year college. I was writing, but had no means of recording, and I couldn’t play guitar, just bass and couldn’t sing. By 1981, those things didn’t matter, I overdubbed on 2 cassette players and played all the chords on the bass.i started this project in 1991 at age 33. I was always religious but in 1994 I became a zealot and my writing focused on the Bible and Holocaust by my 12th cassette in 1995. The jewish punk thing became prominent from author Michael Croland’s 2016 book, Oy Oy Oy Gevalt: Jews in Punk, where referred to me as ‘the self-proclaimed king of jewish punk’. I ran with it. I became ‘king’ of a subgenre.
Tell us about your latest release! What went into the making of this work? This is a sequel to my 2017 release ‘King of Jewish Punk #30/#68. This will be my 31st cd and 69th release since 2002 and 1991 respectively. Like 1st King, 2nd King are rewrites and new versions of my vast back catalog. Some of the songs were good but got little attention since they were not on ‘popular’ albums. The last song on the album “25 Days in a Coma” is new as it describes my 2nd trip to the Lowest of Heavens as I was in a medically-induced coma from 12/29/2016 til sometime this January. I got pneumonia which is deadly in late-stage leukemia patients.
What is your main goal for this release? I was accepted as ‘the king of jewish punk’ basically for my prolificness but not for any one song or any one album. I have goals before my time runs out. I needed to be on a cover of a magazine which I was on Jamsphere in 2/2017. I need to have a song licensed and I need one of my songs to break the mainstream. My production was always a problem. I put much more attention to production this one, but probably not enough. I still record on a 1999 Korg D1600. I put up songs on reverbnation’s ‘crowd reviews’ I consistently earn between 4.5-5 out of 10. But ‘Little Kosher Girl” got a 6.7 on the 65th percentile, which was promising.
What would you say was the most challenging part of writing and recording your latest album? It is harder to rewrite a song then it is to write a new one. Every song I chose, although I never played it live, I was able to create the riffs and melodies s that was good. The most challenging part is I am unable to sit up for more than 30 minutes at a time before getting sick. I have one session in the morning and one in the evening.
Besides the release, what is next for you in 2017? I hope to stay alive for the year as according to the experts I am on borrowed time for 18 months and counting. i don’t see cancer doctors for 7 months. They have no answers for me. I was on 4 different rounds of chemotherapy. Nothing helps. However, in 2017, I will hopefully release 3rd king, 4th King , and 5th King.
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