Jimmy Kay from Canada’s The Metal Voicerecently spoke to front man Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth from OVERKILL whose new album The Grinding Wheel will be released on Feb 10 2017 on Nuclear Blast.
When asked about how he goes about writing the lyrics
“First and foremost I like to speak about things I know and probably the thing I know most about is Overkill, I’ve been here for over three decades and most of my principles and good things I have in life have been given to me through Overkill. And I think there are a lot of principles in anybody in a band in that amount of time, in a business or a relationship, it what makes me me. So I speak about our principles whether they be commitment, whether they be unity, friendship or betrayal, I trying to use broad strokes with regard to how I live my life. In my lyrics I would speak like I am having a conversation and that apply that to content.”
When asked about his opinion on politics
“It’s a great personnel interest but I don’t think I am qualified to tell people what my views are, what my stances are and not that I have great influence. I’m the same asshole who was part of the writing of ‘Feel The Fire’. the point being in politics it should be personnel and not swaying that by an entertainer. I think when people get a record deal and they are relatively successful and get more and More successful after three more records, that person thinks that they are suddenly smarter then they were on the first record, it’s just not true, sure there is growth but you are the same guy. “
When asked about his opinion on how the Thrash genre keeps growing
“There is something really pure about thrash and the reason it is pure, first and foremost is it’s value, it transcended through generations, there has been an influx of new. new bands and new younger people into the music and they are hungry for stuff that happened in the 80’s. It is pure. the reason it is pure because it stays in the underground and is not touched by the finger of commercial music and it is therefore not disposable and it’s value will transcend generations and I think that was truly the message of Heavy Metal not necessarily rebellion but the honest way everyone feels about something even if that pisses you off.”
The release of a new album by legendary New Jersey thrashers, OVERKILL, was a good reason to have a chat with the band’s frontman Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth to speak about “The Grinding Wheel” plus more news from the band. Several excerpts of this interview can be read below:
It’s always cool to start the chat about “Chaly” if you are talking with an OVERKILL member or a die hard fan. So after asking how Chaly was today, we started to have a chat about the idea: “When Overkill started we were obviously a cover band, playing stuff we like – everything from Motorhead to NWOBHM to some punk rock. And one of the newcomers on the scene back then that was making the biggest splash, was Iron Maiden and they had Eddie.
We were an unsigned cover band, we said that ‘they have Eddie, we need something like Eddie’. I remember D.D. drawing on a cocktail napkin, it looked like Popeye’s head with two wings on it. It was an awful rendition that actually made it to a few tshirts at the beginning, then we finally had an artist do it… Eddie came first, so I would think Eddie would be the father.”
If “The Grinding Wheel” is not their best album then it is definitely one of the band’s top three. It is one of those albums which I am not getting tired of listening to. OVERKILL‘s thrash style of music mixed with some elements of old school heavy metal, made this album stunning! So I asked Bobby where this came from?
“I think the idea first and foremost that should be understood is that Overkill never forget where we come from. Just even having that talk of Chaly versus Eddie, we understand that we came from a certain era and that era was a combination of things. That era was rock ‘n’ roll, NWOBHM, traditional heavy metal and punk rock. And it became other things over the years – it became groove, it became hardcore, so all these elements were added to it. And I think that what we do, we use the elements where we come from, knowing what we want and putting it through a kind of Overkill machine. So then at the end of the experience or process, it comes out with the Overkill brand.
At the end of the day when the mix is done, it says Overkill and I think that’s always our goal, to put our stamp on our performances.”
OVERKILL is mentioned as the Mötorhead of thrash metal, I agree with that. I asked Bobby how he feels about that and also what influences Mötorhead had on their band?
“You can just look at the name of the band and say that we were influenced greatly by Motorhead. This was a band that we were actually covering, when Chaly started taking shape for us in the early days.
So Motorhead has been there for us as an influence or a love from the beginning. And I can probably say to this day that I’m still a Motorheadbanger. It’s what it was all about for us with one of our favourite bands. So I think that the influence is the rock ‘n’ roll influence that Overkill has, I think thrash is heavy metal with energy, but rock ‘n’ roll is not far away from it. I think it’s one of the characteristics that we’ve carried for many years.”
I changed the subject and brought “The Big Four” into our conversation, asking Bobby how he feels about his band not being classed as one of them and what were the facts behind the forming of The Big Four?
“Who? (laughs) I’m sorry I just like doing that. That’s my answer! First and foremost I think it’s necessary to be concerned with your own house as opposed to what other people do. I think for sure they’re a great complement to the metal community and it shows the power of being able to play the size of venues that they do. They reinvented music on a heavy level by showing that a band out of San Francisco could make this happen at this large scale.
When you talk numbers, numbers make the world go around, numbers put food on your table and numbers put the Big 4 in arenas. For me, it’s not a concern. To even be asked the question from you is quite a compliment, but this is quite simply an accounting issue. He who sells the most gets to be in the Big 4.”
I asked “Blitz” about his favourite singles and albums but he preferred to speak about his favourite singers:
“These are guys that I like for different reasons. I was always a huge fan of Freddie Mercury and probably that record would be Sheer Heart Attack. I think he is the full package with regard to presentation, songwriting and singing talent.
Other singers, let me see, Iggy Pop – but that’s more of a pop approach to things.
I was a big fan of Dee Snider, the reason is that I always thought he did more with less.
Rob Halford – to this day, this many years into it, I have a note that I use, a real high pitched scream. I always think when I’m doing it, if only I could do it as clear as Halford. To some degree he still inspires me this many years later.”
Back to “The Grinding Wheel“, Andy Sneap who seems to be one of the busiest people in this industry, was part of the production personnel on this album. So I asked Bobby‘s opinion on working with him:
“One of the things about Andy – he’s got a state of the art feel to understanding this type of music. I think he works within a template of how he does things. What I like about him is that he thinks out of the bounds, for instance, what I mean is making each band sound like that band. He’s got to give them individuality within that template.”
You can listen to the whole of this interview on the audio player below:
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 areawe 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.”
For more information on OVERKILL check out their official Facebook page here and official website here.
Hammerfest VI took place on March 14th – 15th, 2014 at Haven Hafan y Môr Holiday Park in Pwllheli, Gwynedd, North Wales. Two-camera footage of OVERKILL in action can be viewed below:
OVERKILL‘s highly anticipated new album, “White Devil Armory”, is due to be released worldwide in July. The cover art can be viewed below. The tracklist is as follows:
‘Where There’s Smoke…’
‘Down To The Bone’
‘King Of The Rat Bastards’
‘Another Day To Die’
‘It’s All Yours’
‘In The Name’
About the album, singer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth told BraveWords recently:
“The hardest thing for me is trying not to repeat myself. I think that’s absolutely a fucking impossibility as a thrash band. I read an article once that had a quote after it, saying how many times can you use the word ‘pain’ and ‘death’? (cackles) It’s probably a more difficult album for me to write, from that perspective, because I try to challenge myself and not fall into that whole thing. With regards to the music, one of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s more of a heavy metal record than the last record. To me, the last one came across as more of a thrash record, maybe a two-dimensional record. This one has more moods and nuances, so let’s say maybe a three-dimensional record.”
OVERKILL frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth spoke with Jo Schüftan at Horns Up Rocks! when the band hit New York City on November 24th for the last show of their tour with KREATOR:
Overkill have announced their first European run in support of the band’s upcoming, as of yet untitled new album which is targeted for a release in March 2014.
Tour dates, with support from SKELETONWITCH, include:
13 – London, UK – Islington Academy (with SOILWORK)
14 – North Wales, UK – Hammerfest
15 – Dublin, Ireland – The Academy
16 – Glasgow, Scotland – Cathouse
17 – Manchester, UK – Sound Control
19 – Köln, Germany – Essigfabrik
20 – Bochum, Germany – Matrix
21 – Braunschweig, Germany – Meyer’s
22 – Leipzig, Germany – Hellraiser
24 – Mezzago, Italy – Bloom Club
25 – Aarau, Switzerland – Kiff
26 – Aschaffenburg, Germany – Colos-Saal
27 – Ludwigsburg, Germany – Rockfabrik
28 – Nürnberg, Germany – Hirsch
29 – Saarbrücken, Germany – Garage
The Mighty Z of Capital Chaos TV recently caught up with Overkill frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth at The Fillmore in San Francisco on November 14th, where the band were performing with WARBRINGER and KREATOR.
Interview footage, as well as performance clips for the tracks ‘Fuck You’ and ‘Hello From The Gutter’, can be seen below:
On February 14, Jo Schüftan of Horns Up Rocks! conducted an interview with vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth of New Jersey thrash metal veterans OVERKILL at the Best Buy Theater in New York City. You can now watch the chat below.
OVERKILL was forced to drop off the “Dark Roots Of Thrash” tour with TESTAMENT last week due to Bobby‘s ongoing bout with pneumonia.
OVERKILL‘s new album, “The Electric Age”, sold 6,500 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 77 on The Billboard 200 chart. The CD was recorded and mixed at Gear Recording Studios in New Jersey, owned and operated by OVERKILL bassist D.D. Verni.