Artist: Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, Lead Singer for Overkill
Label: Bodog Music
Interviewed By: Ken PierceInterview Date: 1/18/2008 Photo By: Ken Pierce (2007)
When it comes to Thrash Metal legends there are probably few bands like Overkill because not only are they able to say that they helped the genre form but they also never really swayed from the path since their inception in 1980. The band recently released their new album “Immortalis” on new label Bodog Music and they are seldom found off tour however we still managed to get some time with singer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth during one of those occasions. We talked about a little bit of everything that Overkill was up to and even covered some of the singers other adventures in life and music. The transcription of our entire conversation is presented for you below.
PiercingMetal: As Metal history has documented quite well - Overkill was one of the very first Thrash Metal bands around so I am curious as to what it was like performing this type of Metal back when the genre itself was still in its formative stages.
Blitz: Stop, I think I’m popular but I think that what made it sell was the commitment to it. Not just by ourselves but by those who were also within the genre, those who believed. Obviously that following grew into legions at one point and still to some degree to this day. There was a great value to it and it was influenced by what had come out of the United Kingdom with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and with us stuff like the Dead Boys and The Ramones to a certain degree, Motorhead. It was different, it was new, but I think there was a great belief in it and that’s what sold it in time.
PiercingMetal: When the group first began what would you say appealed to you most about the kind of music you chose to do and what events led to the formation of Overkill.
Blitz: My Father sat me down I remember and I was in college but we were doing gigs at night and it was Overkill, rather a version of it and I think it was right before Bobby Gustafson had joined the band, and he said “so what do you think about this music thing?” and I replied that I think we have a great chance to make some noise and maybe get a deal etc.etc. and he goes “are you sure it’s not just about free beer and girls” (laughs). Years later I confessed to him that in those early days I had lied to him and that it was mainly about free beer and girls. But there was something different about it obviously and it was aggressive, it was action versus reaction and I think that this was the first time barring Punk that there was action versus reaction music. Definitely for the first time in Metal. Pits formed, and there was natural movement in the crowds, stage-diving started up. The Hardcore scene grew out of it so in some sense it was the planting of the seed that became the mighty oak. So it was really cool to be there at the beginning.
PiercingMetal: Your saying the planting of the seed that becomes the oak is perfect in setting this next one up so how easy or hard was it to keep focused on this goal with no real road map for the exact kind of music that you are doing?
Blitz: That’s a good point but I don’t really think that there was a goal as opposed to more of a day to day existence and to some degree I think we have kept that with us. If you put as much as you can into the moment, then you succeed for the moment. But if you string all the moments together and you look back, as I can look back, I can say that boy those moments have actually turned into a career. So I don’t really know if there was a goal or a road map to get to bigger, I think in that case it was to do what we could under the circumstances. If they expected eight, give them ten or if they expected ten, give them eleven. I think that it was a great philosophy in hindsight for success. Always do more than was expected and I think that this was something that you could stamp as a moniker on that whole scene. Always do more than was expected of you.
PiercingMetal: Recently, the bands first drummer Rat Skates released a DVD called “Born In The Basement” and…
Blitz: Here’s my shot……”Who?” (laughs) – g’head. Sorry I had to do that (laughing).
PiercingMetal: Dude, it’s all good when this is fun to do.
Blitz: I’m going to refer to him for the rest of this as “my drummer”, but I did see it.
PiercingMetal: So this movie is literally a user’s manual on what needed to be done to make a band work as a DIY sort of enterprise. Thoughts on it?
Blitz: Yeah I think he did a really good job on it and Rob was a promotion machine quite honestly and he really put a lot of hard work into Overkill and I do think that when promotion originated that it originated through Rat. The greatest misconception about that is that he was joined at the hip to my partner now of twenty five years D.D. Verni who got mentioned as “the bass player” through the whole film. It was the both of them concocting those promotional ideas and making those tee shirts and stickers too. I think its one mans point of view but I do think it’s a great DIY. If you apply today’s technology to it the hard work is always going to be necessary. This all was really pre-Internet and it was during a time where you had to get out there and hand out press kits, you had to sticker things, you had to trade tapes and get into fanzines. This was also all by snail mail this wasn’t instantaneous information. So your results were slower but I think your results really stuck. When you created alliances or friendships with those fanzines of the bands people would listen to the band and they became real. I think that this is why that DIY approach that Rat highlights in his documentary really could apply to today. A really Old School philosophy with New School technology.
PiercingMetal: Did any special recollections come flooding back to you when you sw some of the clips?
Blitz: I just told this story and I was really disappointed that they didn’t include this. We used to take turns delivering press kits and the ultimate club in the New York Area was L’Amour. You had to get there and these guys eventually ended up managing us based on either our tenacity or the fact that we gave more than was expected. So it was my turn and I was over in L’Amour East, as they had two clubs at one point, and one of the owners walked by and I walked up to him and called him by name. I shook his hand and said I’m Bobby Blitz from Overkill and he goes “I know who you are kid, I have a press kit for ya. As a matter of fact I have forty of your fucking press kits”, so I ask when can we play your club? So he says “look, you’re a bunch of nice kids, I like the curly headed one, I like the blonde one and I like the guitar player and I like you, but your band sucks. (cracks up laughing), so I am thinking to myself why this moment wasn’t included in there because that was a good one. The point is that DIY/improve/hone your craft/create alliances/don’t give up I suppose, or at least in my perspective, is why that genre did more than just burst but grew up into an adult and had impact for let’s say three or four generations at this point.
PiercingMetal: Yeah it’s amazing actually. Now despite the numerous changes in the guitar player role over the years we have always found the partnership of Blitz and Verni as the never failing core. How strong would you say this partnership is now and what are your thoughts about working with one another for such a long time.
Blitz: We are thick as thieves’ man I tell ya. To some degree we almost think that we are doing something illegal or like we are getting over which is the beauty of it and to some degree is a motivation. I have this funny little anecdote that I tell my wife and I say listen I’m leaving the house but if I get hit by a bus you can put on my tombstone that it was a great ride. So I think that D.D. feels the same way. To be able to do something that you love to do and to almost find this by some degree by accident and be a part of its origins and then to take it a couple of decades plus into another millennium, go around the world countless times is quite a testimony to living your life the way you want to and I think this is one of the motivating factors for D.D. and myself over these years that we have always felt to some degree that we got over on what life’s hardship can always be and that was to work the way we wanted to. To the sense that it feels like we aren’t working at all.
PiercingMetal: The group also welcomed new drummer Ron Lipnicki not too long ago. How do you like working with him as opposed to Tim Mallare.
Blitz: Well Timmy gave a great amount to this band and was a great friend and a great drummer over all those years. Ron is a new animal and I suppose to some degree one of the things that I have learned after Bob Gustafson had left the band in the early nineties was that change doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. It can be positive and Ron has added something to this band that we’ve never had before and I think that he has the most creative type drumming. I think he brings us up a notch with regard to a contemporary value with the way that he interprets parts. He definitely has the best hands that we have ever had with regard to a drummer. I think feet are questionable because we have had some great ones come through like Sid Falck for instance. He was a fantastic drummer for three records with us but Ron is up there and Ron continually improves and is trying to improve himself. I think when you listen to “Immortalis” and you press play you notice that there is something a little bit different and that difference is Ron. I think his excitement and his talent brought everyone up to his level. I don’t think we have a hard time getting psyched to do a record but there is always an X-Factor that makes a record better and that in this case it was Ron.
PiercingMetal: I’m going to jump around a bit and of course we will talk about “Immortalis” but speaking on excitement for the band and what it is all about, let’s talk about those fans. You have an audience that I have rarely seen the likes of in terms of utter devotion to the band and I say this not only as someone who has watched the group from the sidelines when you are on the stage but also from those first few moments of the show in the photo pit where I get to bring some of the action to the people in terms of photography. Do you think it’s their dedication and overall allegiance that helps out in this thing continuing or for that matter makes you continue to press forward with Overkill.
Blitz: That’s doubtless, I mean you do it for the smiling faces and again its action versus reaction where our action is one, two, three, four, break into the song is what you witnessed from watching on those sidelines and that becomes a huge motivational factor. That’s about having impact on people, including myself, and their having an impact on me. It becomes personal and I think that it is one of the things that Overkill has always managed and that’s we’ve been reachable and that we are personal and that we have shunned a lot of the things that people don’t like about the music industry. We come across as one of them who were really fortunate and lucky to be able to be up on the stage and I think in that kind of camaraderie it’s really what that relationship is all about. When you say that you have rarely seen the likes of people like this with regards to dedication and let’s say over the top enthusiasm, I think that is because they are really an extension of the band and the band is an extension of them. It’s really just that simple.
PiercingMetal: Between the last two studio albums we found Overkill on Gigantour among all of these bands who probably learned a thing or two from the handbook that you guys wrote. What was the overall experience like for you as a performer and did you think this gave even more strength to the band.
Blitz: Oh yeah absolutely, and you know one of the things that Overkill always managed to do was deliver and we’ve never had a problem with who stages it and whether its for forty-five minutes or an hour and one half and I think that this is really evident and its one of the things that could be added to that last question with regards to enthusiasm from the people who love this band. To present yourself to new people or even to reintroduce yourself to people that said to me that the last time I heard you guys was “Horrorscope”, which is what some people said to me who I met on the Gigantour. So I tell them well we’ve been around and have been doing a few things. We haven’t gone anywhere but I think that this becomes self evident under those circumstances. The other thing that Gigantour did for me was, and I am not going to say that it introduced me to new Metal because I obviously have Shadows Fall, Trivium and Lamb Of God stuff and I’ve liked it very much, but I don’t think that I am ever really sold until I see it in its very purest sense and the purest sense is hearing the high hat and then watching the show. We struck up a great friendship with the Lamb Of God guys based on that and I think that they very parallel principles that we have. A lot of the things that I said earlier you will probably hear to some degree or some variation of that in one of their interviews. I think that when you think alike that you can accept each other and look at what each other is doing with a greater respect. I think that is what sold me on Lamb Of God because I had the chance to see these guys twenty six times and I could say that they are the real fucking deal these guys.
PiercingMetal: You know my next question was going to be what were some of the bands who stood out the most in your opinion so outside of Lamb Of God who is a juggernaut onstage if you ask me who else did you find impressing you and also would you do this sort of thing again.
Blitz: Oh absolutely and without question. Once again this was the kind of thing that reintroduced Overkill to a mass of people since I am not going to say “the masses” and it was a great thing for us. It got us the Bodog Music deal and the reason I am talking to you is because of that Gigantour and the cool thing about that Gigantour is that there are a lot of people who will walk the walk or talk the talk rather and say “oh I am connected to my roots” or “it’s all about the old days” and they’re bullshit. Mustaine is about these things. Mustaine…..well I have been banging on his door for a year and a half saying you got to get me on this and one day a call comes and he says you know I would love to have you on this and it would be just like 1987 again when we did “Peace Sells” and “Taking Over” he says, remember that? And I go yeah that would be really cool man. So he says why don’t you just come along, so here’s a guy who doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. That’s how simple it was for us to get on the Gigantour and how simple the negotiation was for it. In any case I did like some of the other bands that were on it and I tried like hell to get into Opeth but I just couldn’t do it. Love the guys personally. Liked the Arch Enemy stuff, and liked the whole riffing and love Angela’s approach to stuff so I would have to say that my two favorite bands on the tour were based on my introduction to Lamb Of God and getting to see Arch Enemy.
PiercingMetal: We see a lot of Metal Reunions happening, and we have had KISS do it some years ago, “Guns and Roses” which I have to use quotes on since that is because to many this is just Axl Rose and a cover band and now it seems as though Van Halen is doing it albeit without Michael Anthony. Have you ever had the interest in reuniting the “original” Overkill or is such a thing even a possibility.
Blitz: You know we never really talked about it outside of some comments with a sidewise smile and I think that we have always had a value within the market and within the genre. There was a time when Metal kind of lost its momentum and it was back in the nineties somewhere and a lot of people went home and worked for Dad but there were a handful of bands that really hung in there. My feeling about it was that it really opened the doors for bands like us so we could really show what we were made of because if its not popular and you go home I think you are doing it for a different reason. So when it comes to reunions I am really not that excited about a whole bunch of them. I think a lot of those bands went home because Grunge made them. Because you know Testament never went home, Exodus never went home and we never went home. For us it was about doing this because we loved to do it. We may have had to do it underground but it really didn’t matter. So I think that the point about us with the original lineup was never really discussed outside of a hinted snicker as opposed to anything else because I think we value the fact that we said we were standup guys and if there was ever a time to prove it, it was ’95.
PiercingMetal: Would you say that this is your favorite or best lineup to date either in the musical or creative sense. Or do you even have a preference.
Blitz: It’s definitely the most dealt and every lineup has their pluses and minuses as well as pros and cons but the thing about this lineup is that in the live arena it is an absolute killing machine. This is in my opinion due to Dave Linsk’s assimilated into the band with more and more responsibilities as time went on. Dave is the longest standing guitar player in Overkill and its really hard to believe but he has been there since 1999. People think that it was Cannavino or Bobby Gustafson but this is the longest standing guitar player in Overkill. Dave knows this band and Derek knows Dave and Ron has gotten to know both of them and D.D. So I really think that this in the live situation is the perfect situation for us. Especially in 2008.
PiercingMetal: This is kind of connected to that question so I apologize for any similarity. What about the current roster impresses you most as the founders of the group?
Blitz: What impresses me most is that it becomes a killing machine. If I can say that with complete confidence that I don’t care who took the stage before me or who is taking it after, its ours for the next sixty minutes. That’s because of the other four guys who stand on that stage. What we do when we set up our stage and I don’t know if you notice this from where you stand but I don’t ever stand in the middle. Since we’ve gone five piece all the way back in 1990, I’m off to one side, D.D. is off to the other and the guitarists are on the wing. It’s setup like a defensive line with a linebacker behind it. Its not setup as “look at me”, it’s about the band. So if I have the confidence in the other four defensive lineman then I know that we are about to win this game every night. That is really why it works. It’s that amount of confidence and what they bring to the table and that’s the talent and that’s the no think. Run with it, one, two, three, four go.
PiercingMetal: Let’s go back in time a little bit to after the stroke scare in 2002, it wasn’t too long before you were back in business and I had caught a show on the tour supporting “ReliXIV” and this was a serious health issue so I was really impressed to notice that you didn’t seem like someone who was going to let a little thing like this slow you down at all. I wonder what helped you recover and even have the tenacity to do the Metal stuff again.
Blitz: When I think back on it the event was not as bad as it had been portrayed and I have always tried to say that with regard to it. It was called a TIA which is a very mild stroke and its more about a warning sign for more of them as opposed to long term damage. I knew by the next morning that I was going to be playing again and I knew it that quick. Even the doctor in Germany, who was the head of neurology, and I was sitting on the end of the bed and he was this really cool guy but you would think he was a stiff so I sez “What do you say you let me go at 2” . He says if I let you go at 2, you are on that train and you’re making that next gig aren’t you? So I told him that he was probably right, so he says “I’m letting you go at 5” (laughs). So I knew right away is what my point was. It never ever scared me and with regards to any sort of rehabilitation it was simple, all I did was live my life. I was tired for a month, I had numbness for three months but it was soon gone. I mean I like laughing about it because shit happens and it doesn’t just happen to me, it happens to other people and just because of where it happened and when it happened it got publicity. In my mind it was like, geeze am I going to be able to ride my motorcycle again am I going to be able to get a hard on again and this is what I am thinking and I’m going what a fucked up world. Regardless, the best rehabilitation was to do what I had always done. It was not about sitting, and I remember sitting down with this other neurologist and he is trying to put me on some medication you know and I am like there is going to be this, and there is going to be that, and this is going to change my whole fucking life. So I said “Dude, you take it”. What are you out of your fucking mind!!! I said give me eighty good days over eighty mediocre years anytime. So he tells me that I’m going to run into all this trouble if I don’t and I might be riding that motorcycle one of these days and something is going to happen so I said “hey its better than all these side effects”. So the point is maybe that what I’ve done over all these years has made me what I am. Maybe what I am is the real deal when it comes to this shit. I mean I cant sit here and make testimony for myself I can only tell you the way I live so to do all that so soon after “ReliXIV” was the right thing to do for me. That was rehabilitative. I don’t drool on myself and life is fucking good so I am not going to sit around and ever worry about that shit. I’ve made more fun of it than I actually ever thought about it seriously since.
PiercingMetal: Let’s talk a little about the new album. “Immortalis” is your latest slab of Metal but before we discuss it, tell me about what led to the reunion of Overkill with Johnny and Marsha Z. and how has this reconnection been so far.
Blitz: Well I think some of that has to do with the Gigantour because we were again introduced to the Metal community on a higher level with regard to profile and visibility because of that. I remember getting ready to leave for that and getting a call from Spitfire Records from a guy named Rob Gill and he says “we’re going under you know”, so I was like I’m going out on this fucking tour with no label and he tells me “sorry dude”, so I tell him “keep it under your hat” because we had about three other labels interested in us since our deal was going to be up. By the time we had gotten back from Gigantour there were six. One of them was John and it just seemed like the right thing to do, it seemed full circle. It seemed that we had parallel thinking with regards to Old School bands and Old School promotion and using modern technology with all of this. MySpace, add this, add that and we were comfortable with these people. We’ve had a relationship with these people from the beginning regardless and maybe not a day to day relationship but we are in touch on a regular basis. So it was an easy decision for us to make with regards to do you do SPV or do you do this other label or do you go to John. We said lets go to John. We know what to expect over there at least.
PiercingMetal: Regarding material, how hard or easy is it to come up with stuff for the band to do especially after all these years. What went into the writing process of “Immortalis”.
Blitz: Well obviously it starts with D.D. and he really is cognizant to not repeat and there are “Overkill-isms” that will show up in songs, whether that be a choke or whether that be a fill into a riff, things like that which are common to the band but not with regard to songs. Only sections of the song or minute sections of that song. So I think when he starts with that “I’m not going to repeat” approach to it, it helps me to finish the song with regard to not repeating. The hardest thing for me to do is to not use the same phrases because phrases to me are as they are. Its more about a phrase than individual words for me. So when I take that and put it to a melody sometimes that phrase just fits and I’ve used it in the past and I have to go through it again and again just to make sure that I am not repeating. So I think that with D.D. starting with that non repetitive type approach to it gives me an easier job on my end, but it’s not really hard for us to come up with a tune. I think Overkill is what Overkill is and it falls within a certain category and I think we know what we are. It’s always going to be a Metallic-esque record and have that go for your throat type of attitude supporting it.
PiercingMetal: On the album you shared the microphone with Randy of Lamb Of God and this was obviously because of the Gigantour affiliation. Do you think that we will see Blitz on some Lamb Of God music in the future?
Blitz: Oh please that would be an honor. They can’t afford me though (LOLOL). It was really cool, I was having coffee and I said “you wanna” and he said “when?” (laughs). I really have a lot of respect for people who you can present yourself to one way and when push comes to shove you really find out what a guy is all about. Randy is the real deal and its an honor to be a friend of his.
PiercingMetal: From the album what would you say are your favorite tunes, and which do you want to impress upon the audience the most.
Blitz: I love the ACDC on steroids, the “Walk Through Fire”, “Hellish Pride” is one of my favorites, don’t know why but maybe because its so different for Overkill and course “Skull And Bones” with Randy. I think just having a guest vocalist on something is a great step for us and I am not sure that it is necessarily forward but it sure is either left or right.
PiercingMetal: When you guys came through New York a few months ago I had gotten to do my few minutes of camera work in the beginning and then I get to reviewing the rest of the show from the side there and when the band gets up to “Skull And Bones” I admit that I was looking around everywhere to see if something was going to happen. I’m saying to myself “is he going to come out during this one”, and partly for the media op and second for the safety op because I knew if he did that the place was going to blow up. (Blitz cracks up…..) now I am not sure you remember this but it was a couple of years ago at this same venue during the “ReliXIV” tour and that barrier went and after the show when you caught me in the back of the venue you laughed and said “hey your alive, that’s good” and you told me that you saw the thing moving while you were singing and you thought to yourself how you hoped we got out of there. .
Blitz: Oh man I remember that going on and it was not because of security, because the security team is really good there (Bobby is speaking of B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in NYC)
PiercingMetal: I agree, but the barrier for that show was not the kind typically set up for a show like Overkill and I think that they just didn’t expect the fan reaction that ended up happening.
Blitz: I don’t know if you remember but there was a girl in there and if you were taking photos of me she was a little bit to my right and she couldn’t have been more than five feet tall and that barricade started coming down and I looked down and said “oh my god they’re gonna crush her chest”. You know just kind of break her rib cage and I am kinda looking and I am kinda reaching and feeling around seeing if I could get anything and all of a sudden the barricade comes down and no girl. So I am thinking to myself, oh fuck she’s underneath and the song is going on and I’m looking for her and looking for her and then all of a sudden out of nowhere “bop”, there she is with a big smile on her face. So I said to myself oh thank God.
PiercingMetal: I remember how you laughed when I told you that I didn’t think it would get that insane and you replied, “come on Ken its an Overkill show what were you expecting to happen”. When I commented this in the concert piece many of those who read it asked me if it was really that crazy so I suggested they get themselves educated and see what I was talking about first hand for themselves.
Blitz: You know its nice that this carries on for all these years and I know that it can look a little scary at times but the reality is to have that action versus reaction and having had this type of impact over that amount of time and to be able to say “yeah come on its an Overkill show, what did you expect”, if you really think about it you can say, “hmmm that’s right”.
PiercingMetal: It also becomes a funny story as well and since I am not injured and alive to tell about it so be it. Bobby pauses for a moment to check on his new German Shepherd pup who he believes is making her way to the leather furniture since he is not watching her. We discuss pets for a moment as my own cat was vying for attention during the whole interview but it was quickly back to the Metal.
PiercingMetal: The “State Of Heavy Metal” has changed dramatically since you both began this adventure so I wonder what your views are on the current picture of the genre and its overall place in the music industry. What would each of you like to see happen.
Blitz: See happen, well I would like to see it develop like it is developing again. I think we are getting a real honest approach from some of the newer bands. The ones that are getting recognition at a high level I think deserve it and I think that this is because of their honest approach to this. You know Metal is about that feeling and I think a lot of these bands have that feeling so I think the health of it is really positive at this point. I think for it to be able to develop at its own rate again and to just move forward at this rate would be the best thing for it because it only grows. You see it with regard to video shows, and you see it with regard to popularity, with record sales and really the record industry is dead. We are really talking about the download industry and part of the reason that units are even sold these days is because of some of the younger Metal bands and I think that it is because they are the real deal and because they get the real support from the people who are into them. So I think the health or the state of the union is quite good at this point when it comes to Metal.
PiercingMetal: Who is the perfect band to tour with in your opinion and I have to say that you brought some great groups along for those New York City shows. You brought Sonata Arctica with you once and those guys are a lot of fun and just recently you had After Forever who I think are a powerhouse that more people should have been aware of and just didn’t, or at least this was the case in the States. Who are some of the bands that you like to work with?
Blitz: We also had Epica with us at the Starland Ballroom and we had a young band out of Canada called The Agonist and its about making the package and making it a little different and its also about exposing ourselves to people who need to be reintroduced to us or those younger Metal heads who were never introduced to us. Again its Overkill’s stage for that ninety minutes and we have no problem giving it to someone before us or even us taking it before someone else. We booked ourselves on a full sold out tour with Motorhead going through Europe. What a rush and I mean I cut my teeth on these guys and I toured with these guys in 1987. I got invited up to sing Overkill in Berlin and geeze I felt like I was fucking eighteen years old again. All I could see when I stage dove in when they do the double time at the end was this big grinning Lemmy Kilminster looking down on me as if to say “Good one boy” (at this point both of us do our best Lemmy impressions and amuse each other). My singing was done so I am wondering how the hell am I going to get off that stage during the instrumental part, so I figured let me just do what I do and I dove in. So I think the package is necessary and we are trying to work on something right now for the West Coast and from there we will be back on the East Coast for some dates and this is all being set up while we are speaking.
PiercingMetal: Let’s talk briefly about the side project things, you and D.D. each have one. You have or had The Cursed and D.D. I know has The Bronx Casket Company, so what if anything is the future for these two enterprises. Is this stuff we will see you working with again?
Blitz: Well obviously I can only speak for myself but I think D.D. just continually writes music so there are probably seven Bronx Casket Company records back there somewhere. With regard to The Cursed this was the first time that I stepped out of character in a twenty five year period and I tried it once before with somebody else, I had worked with the guitar player in Savatage Chris Caffery and we had written ten songs together but it just never came to fruition as far as I was concerned. Working with Dan in a Rock and Roll/Metal-esque type pocket was an outstanding experience for me and it was just really, really about a side project. It had garage band written all over it again and I think if you listen close you can hear Heinekens popping and people laughing in the background telling dirty jokes. I mean it was a hell of a lot of fun to make and I think it is evident when you press play on that record that it’s really about fun. It’s not about deep thought quite obviously its most specifically about what fits the music with regards to lyrics and melody. Will there be another one? I would hope so because I had a great time doing it and I really look forward to working with him again.
PiercingMetal: What I did like about it the most was that it did step you outside of what we know in Overkill and the vibe you get from watching Bobby Blitz onstage for twenty some odd years because I think that its good for the fans to see as well since it shows them how fresh you need to keep music and how you can change it up whenever you want to. You don’t want to go out there and deliver “Overkill II” with a whole bunch of different guys.
Blitz: No that wasn’t necessary because when Dan and I spoke about it, and Dan has been trying to get his hooks in me for since Non-Fiction toured with us in 1993, so we were really talking about a twelve year period before I ever worked on one of Dan’s riffs but he was constantly sending them to me. They always caught my ear because he is a great writer, he is a great riff writer and you know, we sat down and talked and said this can’t be Overkill it has to be different. It has to be involving some of the other musical interests that I have because sometimes when I am riding on the motorcycle I am listening to The Stones and The Cursed has got a little of that Stones-esque vibe to it, or even some Motorhead or some old school Rock & Roll. And I remember him agreeing and the first thing I did was I went out and bought the “Essential Johnny Cash” and I practiced that whole record for almost three months before I recorded one Cursed thing to try and develop a full different low end. You know that guy’s voice when it came to low end was so recognizable and you know it sounded like bourbon and cigarettes but also sounded smooth as butter. I felt that this would be a great starting point for me and it really gave me to find out if I had the cojones to step out of character and do something really different and it was really inspirational to learn that double record and to sing those songs in a real low register and then apply that to The Cursed. So that’s really where that whole different approach came from.
PiercingMetal: Now even though the new album has just come out I am sure that someone who has been in the business as long as yourself never really stops thinking about the future of the band so would it be safe to assume that there is already material on your mind and things that you feel that you want to sing about on its follow up?
Blitz: No I don’t because I am really a day to day guy and you would think that it would be the other way around but I found this out only in hindsight. If I can really stick the day as opposed to looking to the future it really becomes less about disappointment for me. If I take that attitude from day to day I become ready for each day that comes up so when the next record comes up I am not thinking about where I am going with it with regard to Overkill. I’m thinking let me talk to Ken, I’m thinking I will talk to someone else after him, let me get ready for this tour and let me make sure that I am in shape for the tour. That is my forethought and that’s it. Its really, really simple for me. It’s really about putting as much as you can into the day and take the attitude into the next day and usually the future takes care of itself. It’s really the only way that I can say that this has lasted for twenty five years. I didn’t know that then and I only know it in hindsight and I find myself saying well I might as well do what I did yesterday since that kind of worked. So it’s a real simple process for me and it is not about deep forethought.
PiercingMetal: Just a couple of more quick ones for you. Earlier you mentioned that when you secured the Bodog Music deal that they had suggested these things and the way I had phrased this question for you is has stuff like MySpace.com and YouTube.com helped or hurt the band in your opinion. I say helped based on the cross networking that one can generate from such a thing but I ask about hurting because there are some entertainers who feel that these mediums offer up too much in the way of free stuff as opposed to having an audience pay for it.
Blitz: No, I never think in those terms. You know I have to admit that I was never really adverse to file sharing from the beginning. The problem that I did have with file sharing was if you had the whole file but if you were going to grab a song or two and you are going to do this or that and you need the information its an over saturated market. You know if I was doing this for the money I made the wrong map because this is not the way to go after the cash. So in my opinion visibility is really, really necessary so I think it only helps. I think it keeps people involved and I mean, I am on my website and its my homepage on the computer when I turn it on. I check to see if there are messages and I answer those messages from other people with regards to the site. I remember that there was a bunch of people talking in the Forum and they are arguing that you downloaded the record how could you do that to Overkill. So the others are like, well, I wanted to see if I was going to like it because obviously I will if I do, and this is going back and forth so I am sitting there going who could blame them. It’s right there and its available and if the guy buys it afterwards it kind of works all the way around and everybody becomes satisfied. So I am really not adverse to the My Space and that type of technology and that type of cross-marketing.
PiercingMetal: On influencing the younger bands. Do you still find that you are doing this, and what in your opinion does a younger band need to keep in mind about climbing the ladder of success. Any advice, suggestions or wisdom to offer the inquiring minds out there.
Blitz: You know I found out that even on something like Gigantour that we had influenced bands like Lamb Of God and Willie Adler would tell me that one of the records he pounded into his head was “Under The Influence” when he was younger and I find out from talking to guys like Jason Bittner from Shadow’s Fall that it was “Years Of Decay” for him and he told me that it got him into playing his drums. So it becomes a great compliment but do we still do it I suppose to some degree but I am only aware of it when somebody actually tells me. What do they have to do? When it comes to the younger bands I think that they need to be committed to the idea and commitment is not just about saying it. You can talk it but you really have to be able to walk it. You have to be ready to go the extra mile, give more than is expected and not be disappointed by setbacks but to really learn from them. I think that for a twenty five year period we have obviously had setbacks, we are a self-managed band now for thirteen years. We’ve made some of these mistakes ourselves. We cant say that someone else did it but obviously because we continue to go on we have learned from these mistakes and have made the next time around that much better. So I do think there is a lot to learn and I do think to some degree that it can be learned from us because we are about correcting mistakes as opposed to just winning from the word go. So I think people have to be committed, walk the walk and learn from their mistakes.
PiercingMetal: Tell me more about the new DVD that’s coming out.
Blitz: Oh yes, the 5th of February, sixty minutes from Wacken Open Air festival. The original idea was to get us on the Wacken show and film us with as many cameras as we can and this was included in a digipak of “Immortalis” over in Europe. I think it was the first 75-100 pressings had it but Bodog Music wants to release it over here in the US for a reasonable price of about $12.98 but its sixty minutes of Overkill and they include two new cuts. For those who don’t know, Wacken is one of the Mecca’s over the Summer for Metal heads and I think this year there was 75,000 people at the festival and we played to 40,000 on a Thursday night and it is just outstanding. If you are a Metal head and you at least want to make the pilgrimage once it will always be worth the while and I think this DVD kind of sums it up. You will be able to see because there are plenty of crowd shots and footage in the German night air.
PiercingMetal: What’s next for Overkill Bob?
Blitz: Moscow is next and that starts our Euro run, and we will work our way back through Western Europe and I think over to the UK and then we are looking at a West Coast run and another East Coast run and hitting some other festivals in the summer. Two in Scandinavia, two in the UK so I guess saying business as usual is the best way to put it.
PiercingMetal: Last question. NY Giants or Green Bay Packers.
Blitz: Come on, Giants….did you have to ask that? You can actually replace the whole bat skull on the Overkill logo with a Giants helmet for this interview.
PiercingMetal: Oh speaking of the bat skull, the tour shirt this time around was absolutely riotous.
Blitz: Isn’t that great?
PiercingMetal: I love it
Blitz: You know who were talking about right? (laughs loudly)
PiercingMetal: Yeah of course, but I wondered if anyone has given the band some flack over that. (the bands shirt has a picture of the famous "Bat Logo" and the year of its birth, then it says "get your own logo" which is directed at another Metal band which uses a logo that is far too close for comfort. Perhaps you've seen it?
Blitz: Of course. It happens. Obviously. I did this Motorhead tour and a couple of guys from the record company are on the bus and they asked me for shirts so I tell them, oh wait I will give you the good one so when I show them the shirt they go “vass is dis?” So I was like, “you know, come on, read it” and they replied “I don’t get it” so I was like “wow, I guess it’s not worldwide” (laughs).
I found the conversation with Bobby to be both enlightening and educational as much as it was a lot of laughs and fun. The new release is a healthy slab of Metal that fans should get out and purchase and please do so without downloading those samples beforehand even though the singer approves of such actions. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you get yourself to an Overkill show when you next hear of them touring your region. Its much more than just a concert, it is a rite of Metal passage when it comes down to it. By the way, the New York Giants did in fact beat the Green Bay Packers in the football game that we referenced and then they would go on to play in the Super Bowl against the undefeated New England Patriots. The thrilling, sit on the edge of your seat game would find the NY Giants defeating the unbeaten Patriots in the final seconds of the game (17-14) and becoming Super Bowl Champions. It was a game that would go down in history.
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