2012, Features, Interviews — March 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth of Overkill


“This is an age of technology, of megabyte and gigabyte, etc and I think that it says older when you think in terms of electric, but when you think in terms of age I think it has a lot to do with a period of time and a long period of time.”

From Bio:  “Although everybody seems to have a different account of who came first in the world of New York/New Jersey area thrash metal, it seems certain that New Jersey’s Overkill have stayed around the longest, and have never let their fans down by remaining musically consistent and true to their roots for over 30 years.  There are few names as well respected as Overkill, and with the resurgence of metal in the music world, this band is poised to return to the top. Overkill are ready to show mature metal heads they still have it and are geared up to teach the new schoolers exactly how it’s done.”

Fifteen albums already under their belt, Overkill have just released their sixteenth album ‘The Electric Age’ and it’s a kick ass slab of metal.  Sitting at home in New Jersey and waiting for the snow to come down, we had the chance to talk to Overkill singer Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth about the band, the new album, touring and some great stories about Australia.

Your new album is due at the end of March, can you give us an idea of what to expect?
Oh geez, to verbalise the audio.  It’s funny because my voice is still healing from the screams and I think D.D’s fingers are still warm from playing bass, I mean it’s only been three weeks since we delivered this record and as we were mixing it I was recording all the way up until the end.  So it was about an eight month process but it gave us the luxury of time and I think when you have time you can go after the small details which we did.  This record has got almost with that time factor in there, it still comes across with that immediate energy, it seems to have a similarity to the last record but with different production and seems more power packed for the amount of time that it passes.

Did this one come together any differently compared to previous releases?
I think a little more time on this one than the last one and I think that’s necessary, you know, we’re kind of a blend between modern technology and the old school sweating in a room and working out the songs.  So the songs have been worked out old school and recorded that way, you know everyone’s playing with Ron the drummer to start the record.  Then you start trading stuff back and forth via wav file and I’m in a small studio in my house, Dave’s down in Florida, then we’re all together for two weeks, then we’re apart for two weeks.  Over that eight month period it gave us the opportunity to look at the material we had and present it really the best way we could and say ‘hey you know this really could be better’ or ‘this could be faster’ or ‘maybe we should cut the tempo on this just a little bit’ or ‘it needs another verse or it needs another chorus’ so I think that was the difference was the amount of time.

What was the inspiration song wise on this album this time around?
It always starts with, our songs obviously start with the riffs, and D.D. collects the riffs and that’s on a continuous basis.  The last release was ‘Ironbound’ and that was 2010 in February and this guy has got something in his pocket that’s a recording device, he’s got one in his car, he’s got one on the bus, so you’ll see him at sound check putting riffs down for the last tour for the next record, so I think that’s always the start.  When it comes down to what my end is, I start writing as a song develops in phonetics, I go with the melodies first and I go after what the drums are doing.  I try to fit all of that in, so the inspiration for me really comes to how they play and then I try to marry a vocal line to what that drummer’s doing and then add the twists and the turns according to what the guitars and bass are doing.  Regarding the topic it’s always based on emotion and probably the most recent emotions that have risen up in my life recently or my life within this band.

Is there a meaning behind the album title ‘The Electric Age’?
Obviously a period of time, it sounds very old school with the word ‘Electric’ it’s almost a forgotten word, I don’t think people use the word electric unless they’re paying an electric bill, or an electrician uses it.  This is an age of technology, of megabyte and gigabyte, etc and I think that it says older when you think in terms of electric, but when you think in terms of age I think it has a lot to do with a period of time and a long period of time.  So we were looking for something that had a little bit of value than just the moment, something that encompasses more of a career than just one particular record because I do think that on these records we have what we were and what we are becomes a blend and it makes the music of the day, the music of 2012.

How has being on Nuclear Blast helped to prolong your career?

Well you know, we’ve been on a lot of labels over the years and one of the things I really like about these guys is that they’re obviously fans of this music.  If you go in to Donzdorf, Germany where their headquarters are, it’s in this one horse or one sheep town out in the middle of nowhere, but everyone’s got on some kind of black heavy metal shirt, everyone’s in a T-shirt that says Exodus or Overkill, Suicidal Angels or Meshuggah and I think that’s kind of cool when you’re handing your material over to people that are in to the scene you feel a lot more comfortable.  I remember, I think it was back in ’93 when we were on Atlantic and I was sitting in an office with D.D. and we were talking the promotion plan for the new record, and the guy was in a suit and a tie and he got a call and he had to get up and take it and I looked at D.D. and I said “We are Fucked, this guy knows nothing about us” ha ha.  In Nuclear Blast I think it’s the exact opposite.

What are your touring plans for the run of this album?
We start in the US, we do what’s called Killfest here with a band called Balphagore as support, they just recently had a problem with their singer, he went through an operation and because of his health they had to drop off, so we replaced them with God Forbid and a couple of smaller bands, The Aborted and a couple more, so it’s going to be a four band package that goes through the US.  That takes us in to the festival season into Europe, then a European tour to follow, and I’m pushing like hell to get back to the Asian area and the pacific to see you people again, we had a real good time there and it was only three shows and I keep telling my agent, three shows, twenty six years man, you can add another five ha ha.

So no solid plans yet to come back to Australia?
No nothing direct, but we’re pushing, I mean that’s the idea, we have to get a promoter involved down there.  If you have momentum, use the momentum, you know we manage the band as well as play in the band, so I think we understand a lot about momentum and a lot about exposure so it wouldn’t be too soon to come right back and say, expand the base in Australia.

How do you rate the Australian crowds compared to those around the world?
Well you know, one of the things about metal, and it’s funny, I was doing a Japanese interview the other day, it’s a great leveliser I suppose that’s with many music’s, and if cultures are different, cultures become the same as soon as the music starts, there is no language barrier between us and an Asian country.  Now obviously there’s no language barrier between us and Australia, but there is cultural differences to some degree.  I look at it and I thought about it, everybody sort of thrashes the same around the world, but these guys remind me a lot of the Americans, but it’s something to me, I’ve played 2,000 American shows in my career, so I’m probably pretty right one with it ha ha ha.

I’ve seen you’re playing Wacken festival, a festival you’ve played a number of times before, how cool is it to be a part of that?
It is cool to be a part of, you know it’s the biggest one obviously, it’s done very well, the production is fantastic.  It runs like clockwork but it’s still fun to settle in and have a few beers with the guys from other bands that you haven’t seen in a while.  I remember that was one of the last times I hung around and drank with Pete Steel in one of our last times through and you know, I’d known Peter since he was in Carnivore, we were just kinda old New York buddies, but I do enjoy that end of doing it and I do enjoy the crowd, the crowd always gets really psyched up.

I hate to make you sound old, but at now over 30 years as a band, that’s a pretty good effort…
Well, no, I started when I was nine ha ha
Well looking back has there been a defining moment you can share with us?
You mean besides going to Australia for the first time? Ha ha.
Ha ha any other ones?
Defining moment?… I suppose obviously over thirty years it’s not one book, its many chapters of that book, and I always think that getting signed was the most amazing thing. I still get a smile on my face, I have the picture in my office talking with our lawyer and the record company and we’re all drinking sixteen ounce Budweiser beers and putting our name on the contract.  I’ve always thought that was what opened the door for everything else, so I would assume that’s the defining moment and then everything followed.

What is it that you think keeps the band together and relevant?
Well this is something that you love, you don’t do this for thirty years, I mean, at this level it’s not something that makes you rich, but it’s given us a great feeling of success and I think men do things for different reasons.  We obviously make a living out of it, we have, but there’s a great love of this.  I think the more you’re off the needle, the more you’ve got to go back to the needle, it’s that whole feeling of it has an addictive nature to it.  Somebody asked me about any drug habits I had when I was younger, and I said you know, I always experimented, I never had a fear of them but I never really got hooked on doing anything but the metal, it was always kind of the dope that kept me off the dope and to some degree it was what I keep going back to with regard to adrenaline.

Any plans for a new live CD / DVD in the future?
You know I would think so with regards to what our reputation is about and that reputation is that we’ve always been able to deliver on that live stage, but it’s not anything we think of specifically right now because The Electric Age is so damn new, my fingers are warm, my throat is sore, it’s only that old, so will something happen?  I’m sure it will, but is there any active plan?  No there’s not.  I always wanted to do a live show in Turkey because we only get there now and then, or maybe a live show in Australia because we hardly ever get there and I always know there’s a great excitement when a band is not on the normal touring schedule on the norm from going through there once every eighteen months for instance.

As one of the pioneers of Thrash metal and still doing it today, why do you think Overkill never took off the way others did?
Geez I don’t know, obviously something has to do with song writing, I mean there’s some great songwriters, and we’re obviously talking about The Big 4 to some degree here.  I mean Metallica wrote great songs man and had super opportunities and super management and I think with those great songs, as long as it’s presented to the right people at the right time it takes off.  With regard to us, I don’t know, I think we’ve always been underground, smaller with maybe even regard to thinking with what other bands have done, you know there’s not a huge distance with us and some of the other bands with regard to the Big 4, I mean with Metallica, it’s really The Big 1 and the secondary 3 ha ha ha and following them are a bunch of other ones that are doing actually pretty good.  Sometimes you talk to people in New York and they’ll say there is a Big 4 but Overkill’s one of them ha ha.

Do you have any memories of the Australian tour down here?
You know, I can tell you, I was just asked what I remember about Australia, and obviously the shows and I had a really unique thing happen to me.  I never wait for the luggage when the luggage comes off and I usually grab my cigarettes, through the terminal, go through customs and I get picked up in customs by one of your people at the border and I’m looking around and they didn’t pick anybody else.  He said “It’s just random” I said “Alright, be honest with me, why’d you pick me?  Does it have anything to do with the way I look?” he leans over and he goes “Absolutely” ha ha ha ha I said “Now this is a fuckin’ cool country.” I said search away my friend.  I said it’s about time to run into a country with a set of balls.  Then to take it one step further, I was reading this book, all these anecdotes by a woman who wrote a book called ‘what would Keith Richards do?’ and this guy pulls it out and said “Do you have anything in common with the famous Keith?” I said “No, not a thing, just music.” Ha ha.  I loved being down there and that as my introduction to stepping on your continent and the energy that followed over the three shows that we had the pleasure of doing with the Australian head bangers.

Essential Information

From: New Jersey, USA

Band members: Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth – Vocals, D.D. Verni – Bass, Dave Linsk – Lead Guitar, Derek “The Skull” Tailer – Rhythm Guitar, Ron Lipnicki – Drums

Website: http://www.wreckingcrew.com

Latest release: The Electric Age (Nuclear Blast, Riot! Entertainment, eOne Music)

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