Australia’s Heavy magazine recently conducted an interview with frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth of veteran New Jersey thrashers OVERKILL. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On how he feels about the band’s latest studio album, “The Grinding Wheel”, a year after its release:
Bobby: “I think after a year of it and some tours through America, too, and some in Europe, over to Asia, first Chinese tour, there’s stuff down in Latin America, up in Canada, it stood the test. It still has the feeling that it’s a five-knuckle punch. This record shows diversity; it’s not one-dimensional, but multi-dimensional. It shows all of our influences, from punk rock to groove to doom, traditional metal, thrash metal, hardcore, it’s all in there. And that’s kind of, I think, a good way to represent yourself. This is where we came from, but it has a fresh face on this record. Even after a year of having it out there, touring it, I’m still proud of it. It’s one of our prouder accomplishments, especially when it comes to diversity and quality of sound.”
On whether after 18 studio albums, OVERKILL makes albums for themselves or the fans:
Bobby: “I don’t think we have an identity crisis, I think that’s what it’s about. Obviously, it is for us, that it just happens to raise the corners of the mouth of the thrash head and the metalhead. It’s not about thinking what would they like and it obviously has to please you at the core, so the writers, myself included, think in terms of that selfishness again. I think that it’s not such a hard sell because, you know, we’re really metalheads at heart. It’s not about a formula, a plan or fooling anyone. The guys in this band, especially this lineup, have been metalheads before they were musicians, so it kind of works for us, that we don’t have to keep that aspect of how we write. We can write selfishly, but still at the same time, please those within the fold because writing means to some degree, writing for other metalheads, too.”
On whether it’s harder or easier for OVERKILL to write new material this far into their career:
Bobby: “You know, I can only speak for myself; I’m not the riff guy. I kind of finish the songs, I put the roof on the house with melodies and lyrics and I have to watch myself as to not repeat. There’s a fine line between style and repetition, I think, so I have little post-it notes with some things that I know that I fall into, certain patterns with my vocals. Certain words that I use over and over again. I mean, how many times can you rhyme with ‘fire’ for fucks sake? I’m looking for new avenues to take them down, so let’s say I’m consciously aware of it, because this is really about pushing yourself. If you can push yourself in a different direction, even those small nuances in being a metalhead, you’re still going to come up with something great or something that is satisfying with regard to the writing. So, I’m always looking to improve and push myself into other areas while writing.”
On whether he knew of OVERKILL‘s original vision upon forming in 1980:
Bobby: “No, I had no vision. This was about chicks and beer. [Laughs] I can give you a long-winded, lying answer if you’d like. [Laughs] I’ll tell you’ll a funny story: I was in a school called Manhattan College. My father worked very hard to get in there. He put me through preparatory high school and the whole thing. I finally got into this great college, it was a Catholic college in New York City. In my second year, actually, it was my third year, I told my father I’m leaving the school because the band got a deal. He looked at me right in the face and goes ‘Is this about girls and free beer?’ I go ‘No.’ And 25 years later, I met a sports icon in New York, a guy named Mike Piazza, he was a catcher for the New York Mets. I did a bunch of benefits for him and he said ‘Whatever you need, let me know.’ My father and I are big Mets fans and I said, ‘I need your booth, your private seats for my father’s 75th birthday.’ He gave me 15 tickets and filled the place with booze and hamburger sliders. My father looked at me and said ‘I knew this OVERKILL thing would really work out someday.’ I said ‘Dad, I got a confession: When I left college, it was about girls and free beer.’ It’s a true story. He knew, of course. He was my father. He wasn’t an idiot. [Laughs] It was kind of cool to see that story actually come around from when he asked me and when I finally admitted it to be true after three decades.”
On where OVERKILL fits in today’s musical climate:
Bobby: “One of the things that is happening in the States, specifically, we were talking about the area before, it’s immigration. There’s a huge Latin immigration where you’d never be able to play some places like Panama or Nicaragua or places in Mexico. So, the scene is really healthy with young, Latin immigrants who love this. I’m not saying it’s all Latin, but there sure is a noticeable percentage. I think their luster or fever or hunger for this, to be able to experience something they couldn’t experience, 20, 10, 15 years ago, it has kept the scene alive in the States, especially in the New York/New Jersey area, which always has been an immigration hub with regard to newcomers who show up. It’s been kind of positive. If somebody asked me about immigration, I’d give it a thumbs-up with regard to if I’m standing on the stage and I see new Latin Americans going out of their minds because it’s their first time seeing this band.”
“The Grinding Wheel” was released in February 2017 via Nuclear Blast. The disc was produced by OVERKILL and mixed by Andy Sneap (MEGADETH, EXODUS, ACCEPT). The artwork was created again by Travis Smith (NEVERMORE, OPETH, SOILWORK, DEATH) .
OVERKILL has just returned to the studio to resume work on demos for its upcoming album. According to a post on the band’s Facebook page, at least four new songs are in varying stages of completion at this point, with more to come.
OVERKILL last year announced the addition of drummer Jason Bittner (SHADOWS FALL, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM) to the group’s ranks.
Photo credit: Stephanie Cabral