Interview: Bobby Blitz of Overkill
The self-proclaimed “Wrecking Crew” also known as Overkill are set to destroy Australia in 2018. If you thought after 4-decades and 18 studio albums, Overkill would be losing steam, you don’t know this band at all. Throughout their existence, the New Jersey Thrash Metal forefathers have shape-shifted, and evolved, keeping fans on their feet the whole time. Recently, the band announced they will be bringing ‘The Grinding Wheel’ tour to our shores, allowing us sufficient time to prepare both our bodies, and minds for this sonic assault. We were able to speak with one of the only constant members, lead vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth about their upcoming tour, the current state of thrash metal, funny memories of their time here and much more.
Thank you so much for talking to us today, how are you doing?
Yeah very good, can't complain man. While you're just starting your day over there meanwhile I'm closing my office down fairly soon to end the day.
We're so excited about Overkill coming back to Australia. What are some things that you're looking forward to about your return here?
Well it's always nice to double dip and especially to go back to somewhere like Australia that's halfway around the world that seems to be full of metalheads. The culture seems to be very similar to our own, I mean I suppose to some degree we're cousins aren't we? But you guys still have that tropical atmosphere, but most of all the thing right at the top is I'm looking forward to the shows. That's what makes it happen, we still do this because we love to do this and I think it's evident when you hear the records and I think it's evident when you see the band live. This is what we like to do, we're proud men who are proud of what we accomplish night to night.
The Grinding Wheel has been out for over 6 months now, it felt like a really big album with all of the promotion and anticipation. How has the response been towards the new songs and record overall?
Oh yeah it's been very good. We're one of those bands where it's not about what we were it's about what we are for us. We still write songs because we want our songs to be heard, so we're not slipping one new song in and then playing more of the classic sounding tunes that people always like. It's all about doing 3 or 4, maybe 5 of the new tunes and getting those in the live set because those are the songs that excite us a band. So yeah, I think that's necessary from where we stand because this is a formula that we've used throughout our entire career. So the record was excepted at a pretty high level, it's not about charting or anything, it's about perhaps our friends coming along and seeing us. When you're playing the record before it's released and people already know the words from YouTube videos and lyrics videos to promotional videos, you know they've struck something. So my feeling is that of great satisfaction with the record, both live and the recorded version of it, because it seems to be something that still has current value or relevance in 2017 as opposed to let's look back on the past and relax and hone the record in. It still seems to have the angst, the grit, the aggression, the let's try to do it better type of feel.
What are you looking forward to most about coming back to Australia? Do you have any fond memories from your time here back in 2010?
I think we were there for about 5 days last time also, this time we'll be in Australia at the end of February and early March for about 6 or 7 shows. We like to experience the culture, we went to the Gold Coast and saw the koala parks, we like to get out and do stuff and see things. We don't like to sit in the motel room on the internet and tell people not to bother us. Instead we hop downstairs with our cameras into the tourist van with a cold beer in the back of the pocket. I was pissed on by koala's, I had a great show in Melbourne which I'll tell you about right now. I remember jumping off the stage, I would stage-dive show after show back then, and I still do it occasionally and I remember leaping off the stage in Melbourne and I'm coming down, and I'm looking and the crowd kind of parts and there's this one girl with her head turned away from me, I hit her right in the head with my knee, and I knocked her out totally unconscious. She's laying on the floor and I grab her with security and we drag her backstage, I'm sitting there and I'm patting her on the hand, I'm sweating and I got no shirt on, she finally wakes up and goes 'You're f*cking Bobby Blitz' to which I say yes! Then she goes, 'Do you have a cold beer?' so we got her a cold beer (laughs). So in any case I have memories and they're decent memories, I hope to maybe not let's not say outdo them, but to maybe relive some of them this time around. It's a great experience being in a band that allows you to see and allow you to have the opportunity to live these experiences.
Watch the live video for "Elimination" (Live in Sydney 2010) below:
What's your opinion on the current resurgence of Thrash Metal and how well not only younger bands are doing but also the old school bands still making incredible new records?
Well it's like totally f*cked up, I mean this should be a young mans game, I mean this type of music is about angst. I'm 58 years old for Christs sake, I shouldn't have any angst, but I still go 'You f*cking kids, get the f*ck outta my yard!' (laughs) I'm kidding obviously. But I think the point is and the principles of it were based on the voice in the dark, that cry out in the dark is the antithesis of what was the MTV generation back when the hair metal guys were kind of ruling. It surprises the experience that of the Overkills, or the Testaments or the Exodus type bands, that experience seems to shine through a genre that should be ruled by young men. I keep daring, my theory is dare them, come on, come take the flag, just try it, that kind of thing. I don't think anyone has taken it yet, you see some bands come up that can do some great things, but has the next Metallica been born yet? I don't think it has. But what goes along with this is with our experience comes the longevity of the not only the band, but the fan. We see that with the purity of this music or the approach of it, it's transcended from generations, father to son, father to daughter or grandfather to grand-kid, you know? So I feel like there's something to be said for the fact that it's a lifetime experience from the beginning, it felt that way. Obviously at this point in my life I can still say up to this point it's all been true. So I'd like to see the youngsters come up and take the flag, and take it with fury.
It's still cool that the younger generation can still experience the old school stuff, that Exodus and Testament are still out there, Megadeth, Kreator, Destruction, Mortal Sin, it's so cool that they can actually go back and listen to those bands because they are important to not only thrash metal but music in general. But the new bands still need that attitude, you can't just use those bands as a blueprint and then kept as that, it has to be something that's taken over-the-top.
Speaking of Testament, what do Christians and metalheads have in common?
Hmm, I have no idea, what do they have in common?
The both prefer the Old Testament.
(laughs) very good, alright, okay... What has 2000 legs and 2 tits?
I have no idea...
Overkill live in Germany (laughs) but I like yours better.
Watch the live video for "Rotten To The Core" (Live in Sydney 2010) below:
You can use that. After 18 studio album and decades of making music and playing shows all over the world, do you have a particular song that you still love playing live no matter how many times you perform it?
Good question, it's never been put to me that way exactly. Some of them I hear in my sleep you know, they feel like my alarm clock. I've performed "Rotten to the Core" from our album Feel The Fire through rehearsals and live shows probably somewhere around 10,000 times. You know, the songs that I love performing are usually the ones we don't play that often. I'm working on this DVD right now with D.D and it was filmed while we we're in Germany, we've gone over a lot of the tracks and there's a song from Feel The Fire called Second Son which D.D brought in and we hadn't performed it in forever. Straight away I was like, why are we not performing this song more? I love it and I can't get it out of my head since I've working on the edits for the release, so I think that it's always a surprise for me, it's not something that's repeated over and over again, it's usually something that's been hidden and needs to be dusted off again. That song, Second Son, is definitely the main song that appeals to me, especially during these later years.
Do you have any words or messages for you Aussie fans who are looking forward to seeing Overkill live again very soon?
We're very much looking forward to the second time that we'll be landing on your shores, we'll be starting in Adelaide on the 28th of February and ending with Perth on the 4th of March. Ten Commandments came down from the mountain but there was only one that mattered, and that was BANG THY F*CKING HEAD! See you in Australia.
Also, make sure you're looking at the stage and don't have your head turned away from Bobby just in case he decides to stage-dive.
(laughs) Good story and very true, thanks man. See you soon.
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Written by Steve Jenkins