It’s late on a Sunday and Overkill are in town. For those who missed their brief gig at the 100 club a couple of months back, the full European tour is now in progress, the band were also taking in Sheffield the day after on their UK stretch. I was lucky enough to speak to vocalist and front man Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth. Overkill have been active since 1980, and since their debut ‘Feel The Fire’ in 1985, they have been at the forefront of thrash metal. Overkill are a band that have never lowered their guard or quit when the scene did not suit like so many of their peers, their last couple of releases on Nuclear Blast have gained a well-respected following.
AN: ‘The Electric Age’ is a fantastic release, there is no let-up in its speed and aggression, you have not a moment to take a breath during the album, Compared to ‘Ironbound’, what do you feel is different on ‘The Electric Age’?
BLITZ: Well, around ‘Ironbound’ a lot of people were saying that we’ve come back, we’ve never been away! But I think that record showed the thrashier side to us and that energy carried over into the ‘The Electric Age’. I also agreed that ‘The Electric Age’ is more power packed than ‘Ironbound’, the breaks are shorter and there are much less of them.
AN: During your career, you have never actually changed your style, you have always given 110%, whereas some of your peers did change their style to suit the fashion, particularly in the 90’s.
BLITZ: We’re kind of in a box to some degree, we can extend and extenuate it to some kind of degree or we can feel bad about it. I know that there are so many bands that were peers of ours when we started but we just found what we were all about right away. If you can keep the energy level high, then that’s always something we can be proud of. It’s one of the things that Overkill is about, it’s more than necessary. (RN: hence Overkill!)
AN: Any album bears fruit when you see Overkill live, if you have a crowd running around like looney’s then I think that is testament to your music.
BLITZ: that’s cool
AN: I’ve personally never been disappointed with an Overkill show
BLITZ: You know, that’s something I kind of want to take to my grave you know. I’ve never had the presence of mind to rip somebody off because I had a headache or an upset stomach.
AN: So we can have another 30 years of Overkill then?
BLITZ: (Laughs) wait a second, that would make me 83!
AN: (Laughs) But if the Rolling Stones can do it, you can!
AN: Well, moving on, I always ask bands this, how do you usually record your ideas? Collectively, separately etc?
BLITZ: We have a formula you know; it’s normally D.D. (Verni – bass and co-founder) and myself. Most of the time he gets ideas for riffs or he gets ideas from me about song arrangement. That song is then demoed then it kind of evolves through the other guys. It’s initially with a drum machine but then we cannot put a leash on a guy like Ron (Lipnicki – drums) and Derek and Dave Linsk (guitars), they have ideas, they have to be heard on the record, that’s what makes a man’s band. I finish the record, now my ideas will be interjected along the way so it becomes a process of all involved until it finally, you know, until the cake is done I guess. I am the last to go in the studio and I’ll ask for things to be changed, because I may need a different groove here, a different groove there and everyone is very open minded about it. That’s what’s always worked for us, and it’s worked for us to some degree since ‘Horrorscope’ (the bands 1991 release).
AN: So prior to ‘Horrorscope’ did you do things differently?
BLITZ: Well that was the first time we did it differently, that was the first time there was only two of us. Prior to that there was three, prior to that there was four of us. So going back to now, there was two of us and we got a whole bunch of new guys, so we thought let’s let them throw a load of ideas around, I think the record should be an Overkill record rather than just two guys. By the time the next record came about, all were contributing.
AN: You have taken the KILLFEST around the states earlier this year, and I had the pleasure of seeing you at the 100 club for the ‘converse represents’ event… (http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/08/overkill100club/).
How did you get involved in the Converse event?
BLITZ: That was what you call a “cold call” through our agent. This guy from cornerstone in New York, called our agent in Germany, and said that Converse were doing a different music night, each night at the 100 Club during the Olympic Games and we want Overkill to be the metal band. So while we were working out the logistics and stuff, it turned out that this guy who called was a fan of the band right from the beginning. So when he was asked about a metal band, he said “who better than my favourite”. So that’s how it all worked out. I’m actually wearing the kicks (trainers, sneakers) they gave us (laughs).
AN: ‘Killfest’ has been a consistent touring force for a number of years, do you chose the support bands yourselves?
BLITZ: to a certain extent, these guys were available (3 Inches of Blood and Purified In Blood) and we knew these guys were making a buzz at the moment. We liked the record, they were available, and in fact that has a lot to do with it you know. Sometimes you try for bands to come on tour, they may not want to play ball, we always wanted with Killfest to do almost a kind of double headliner thing, if we get two bands of the same, shall we say stature and flip flop closer to the show, that would be the ultimate goal. Both bands get 75 minutes, both bands get the full lights and backline, that would make it a great night. Then it becomes better value to people.
AN: But you have had some special bands on Killfest in the last few years (Heathen, Destruction, Exodus)…
BLITZ: Yeah yeah sure, we also had Mortal Sin, but that did not come to theUK
AN: Really? Damn (Mortal Sin have now split up – again!)
AN: This is the 4th date in on the European trek – all good so far? No problems with border control then?
BLITZ: (Laughs) No, it’s a ride to the ferry, and when people get up in the middle of the night you never know what is going to happen. We have guys from Poland and an American guy from Polish decent and I remember the last time we came over these guys were up drinking Vodka and telling jokes to each other long after I went to bed and when I got up for immigration there was like 3 empty bottle of vodka, and when they walked into immigration one was singing “God Save the Queen” and the other walked into a glass partition. So I said to myself “ah, we’re never getting on that fucking ferry are we” (laughs).
AN: You did 2 dates down in Brazil at the end of August, is that the first time you have played there?
BLITZ: That was actually our third time we played down there. First time in 2000, 2002, 2010 and this year, so it’s actually our fourth time.
AN: It’s always been a place I’d like to see a gig at, what do you make of it?
BLITZ: oh it’s great, it feels dangerous, it’s definitely not Disneyland, it’s much more of an adult playground and the kids down there are killer.
AN: What do you go for entertainment on the road? Write music; listen to music, read, sightseeing etc?
BLITZ: I mess on the internet a lot because I have a couple of other businesses outside of music and my wife and I import chocolates so it’s necessary for me to stay involved with things. We are looking at starting another business so the accountant is in touch and it’s easy to skype everyone now and I also own a mailing company, I’m really silent in that though, but I keep in touch.
AN: So of other musical projects, do you still keep in contact with Dan (Lorenzo)? (a few years back Blitz and Dan (of Hades) did a project called “The Cursed”)
BLITZ: I love Dan, the thing I always liked about Dan was that whatever he is doing he is so committed to it, but until you get him to that point, he is a nutty neurotic! He’s a cool guy who writes great riffs, me and Dan struck up a great friendship. One of the things I liked about The Cursed was what is was, we did not have to do business on the internet, we did not have to do interviews, I did we did it just as it was, I loved opening a beer and listening to a song that I created, that was an great feeling.
AN: Well, that about all I have, thanks so much Bobby for your time.
BLITZ: alright, thanks.
So ended on of my most anticipated interviews, those who know me would know that Overkill are my favourite band, so this was something really special for me to do. We ended talking about the new Kiss album, now that isn’t a bad thing to do is it.
Later in the evening, the live show killed once again. Purified By Blood had a really good sound but musically it was not my thing, there was a small pit but it wasn’t until 3 Inches of Blood hit the stage that the crowd got moving. Those who love their epic heavy metal with a touch of Judas Priest will surely know this band. As for Overkill, what can I say? Their sound was perfect and the energy they gave the crowd was immense. Many circle and mosh pits were forming through the set which included one rarity of recent when they played ‘The Wait (New High in Lows)’ from their ’94 W.F.O. album. Although I was a little disappointed that we never heard ‘Wrecking Crew’, I certainly did not and I stayed till the bitter end! It was good to see the new tracks like ‘Electric Rattlesnake’ and ‘Save Yourself’ go down a storm and the other good thing to hear was the band mixing up the set list from their vast arsenal compared to the relatively short one hour set earlier in the year at the 100 club. I was a little worried about attendance at this gig as Voivod, Doom and Serpent Venom were playing down the road, but not to fear, the Overkill faithful showed their full support and the venue was rather rammed by the time the New Jersey thrashers hit the stage. A perfect evening!
Wreck Your Neck!