Interview By Alison Booth
Formed back in 1980, before any of the names in thrash who are so big today, such as METALLICA, MEGADETH and SLAYER, exploded into life the forefathers of them all, New Jersey thrash instigators OVERKILL. As with many bands who have been around for over thirty years, it is only natural to have had line-up changes, which OVERKILL have, but with no detriment to them, always having had the constant strength of vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni there.
As powerful and fresh as ever, the band released their 17th studio album “White Devil Armory” in 2014 and have just recently released their limited edition box set “Historikill: 1995 – 2007”, featuring eleven OVERKILL albums on 13 CD’s and a bonus CD (including demos, remixes and an unreleased cover song) in digi sleeves, via Nuclear Blast.
Senior Manager Alison Booth recently had an entertaining and enlightening discussion with vocalist Bobby about the new release, forthcoming tour dates, British fans and their sense of humour, plus lots more. Check out a few excerpts and the full chat on the audio player below.
Talking about the “Historikill” box set, Bobby explained:
“It’s an era of metal that was probably not the most popular with regard to being in any type of limelight or spotlight, it was the underground, darker days. Just prior to this, Metallica changed the world with a bunch of their music – they were picked up by Elektra Records and many of the other major labels followed suit. You were a horse for these big labels, you were supposed to make them cash. But the cool thing about this type of music and thrash in general was that it was really hard to be, kind of hard to saddle a wild horse you know. And what ended up happening was that a lot of bands didn’t follow suit with Metallica and a lot of labels started disposing of them when grunge came in, you know they couldn’t get rid of bands fast enough. Everybody either quit or went to smaller labels who started understanding we came from the underground, that’s where they should be and Overkill’s one of those bands.
Because of that change we started managing ourselves, we started taking our business and bringing the fences in and understanding that if we were smaller, we’d be less penetrable by the outside. So we managed ourselves, cut some great deals and the Historikill period is that era for us. It was great releases from the underground, regardless of popularity. Just because it wasn’t popular didn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing, I mean this was something we loved doing. I think it’s that great crash course for the fan that has gotten on board in 2008, 2009, maybe our last three releases where popularity has not waned any more, but it’s exalted, it’s back to some degree. So here’s this era you can experience when it wasn’t the easiest thing to do and not the most popular, but still solid, really upscale, tight thrash releases.”
Bobby spoke of the early days of OVERKILL:
“We were born of the NWOBHM meets Motörhead meets the New York punk scene. We were fans of those types of genres and I think if you put the NWOBHM and the Ramones, The Dead Boys, Iggy Pop and The Heartbreakers and you spun it all around, you get Overkill when you threw it out on the floor. There was no rules, we were a cover band playing stuff off ‘The Ace Of Spades’ and ‘Young, Loud And Snotty’ by The Dead Boys. So we presented ourselves to both types of fans and eventually we morphed into one. And I think what was cool about it was that it was happening in other places too, around Essen Germany there were bands called Kreator and Sodom. It was happening on the West Coast with Exodus and Metallica and Megadeth and Slayer, and all this stuff was kinda happening.
But there was no rules, there was nothing to follow. I mean there was a music blueprint to follow, but not with regard to this music – we weren’t joining something, we were part of the creation of it. So how was it, it was chaos! But it was killer. I think the thing that made it happen, is the fact that there was no world wide web. It was a big world and it was a frontier – we had to walk into places and shake hands, knock on doors and be insulted. It kinda makes you the people who you are when that happens, so it was awesome.”
Discussing the next album, Bobby stated:
“I’m more of the media guy, my partner D.D. plans, you know we get together and confirm plans for the future. We’re looking towards the end of ’16, October, trying to jump ourselves into a great time to release, to be able to do what we really like doing which is live shows. I mean the studio’s fun, don’t get me wrong, the studio is action versus reaction, but the pay off is the live show, especially for me personally. I found my drug and it happens behind monitors and in front of amplifiers and drums and that’s where I like to be. So we’re looking toward mid October for a release in ’16 and immediate touring to follow.
When it comes to writing you know there’s something about this band, I can only speak for ourselves – a lot of guys during the darker days of metal just kinda quit, ‘how come nobody recognises my genius?’ you know? ‘Well, ‘cos you’re sitting in your parents’ basement, playing guitar and chain smoking’. [laughs] So I kinda think that our work ethic has been instilled from the area we grew up in. Our parents and grandparents handed us this ‘if you work hard and do it with a smile, you’ll be the happiest man on the face of the earth,. You’ll find something you love and you’ll take it to new places.’ And I think when it comes to writing that’s the way we kinda look at it and it’s about action versus reaction, but we never stop writing. It’s not that we sit down and say ‘oh it’s time to write’, it’s really more time to assemble what we’ve all written at that point and that’s where we are right now, we’re right before the assembly point. The riffs will become songs and the melody lines will dance over the top of those riffs.”