Photo courtesy of E1 Music.
To say New Jersey’s OVERKILL blazed a trail for the majority of thrash bands would be an understatement. They blazed a trail, stomped it flat, poured molten metal all over America, and never stopped. This year OVERKILL celebrates 25 years of wrecking necks worldwide, with their 16th studio album (IRONBOUND), new record deals (E1 Music for America; Nuclear Blast for Europe and beyond), a track on the hit BRUTAL LEGEND game, and a tour to follow. CRYPT was able to get some words in with founder, vocalist and manager Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth…
True metal THANKS to Bill Meis of E1 for making it happen.
KK: BLITZ! How’s it goin’?
BLITZ: Good, partner, how are you?
KK: Allright, Livin’ large in Connecticut…
BLITZ: Is there such a thing as livin’ large in Connecticut? Only Lieberman lives large up there, right?
KK: HAAA! Right…but you guys used to record here in Stamford, so you must’ve liked something about the place…
BLITZ: We actually haven’t been up there since ’02, but we always liked goin’ up there, ‘cause it was close to home, yet a little bit farther away…we were considered ‘boarders’, ‘overnighters’…but now we keep the money in the family, we do it down at DD’s place in Jersey.
KK: Yeah? You’ve got your own studio now?
BLITZ: Yeah, DD (Verni, Overkill’s bassist) has one.
KK: Cool…I saw you on Eddie Trunk’s metal show…you and your wife have your own chocolate business now?
BLITZ: Oh yeah, I’ve been importing chocolates for six years, now. It’s not something I really bring up, but Eddie Trunk’s one of my best customers.
KK: Well, OVERKILL chocolates would sell a hell of a lot if you brought them to the shows…
BLITZ: I tell you somethin’, the demographic has changed, the younger people who’re interested in thrash, listening to Lamb of God and Municipal Waste and whatnot are starting to check out OVERKILL now, which is great, but our demographic, the guys who followed us, are in their 40s now, so they can afford high-end chocolates right?
KK: Come to think of it, an OVERKILL protein bar would be killer, too.
BLITZ: Well, I guess so…I haven’t put on any weight in the last 25 years.
KK: Yeah, you are one of the more shredded guys in metal. I wanted to ask you about some of the titles on IRONBOUND…what does ‘The SRC’ stand for?
BLITZ: Subterranean Resistance Cult.
KK: Heh! Nice.
BLITZ: (Laughs) Kind of fits, underground bands, right?
KK: Yeah…and “Endless War”, is that about what we’re stuck in now?
BLITZ: Well, I’m not really a social commentator…I suppose you could take it with regard to that, but originally the song was written about the amount of time we’ve put into this genre of ours, into this scene, into OVERKILL. You know, this is an endless thing. This is two and a half decades of fighting it out in the trenches, up in Connecticut, everything from the West Hartford Ballroom, to Toad’s Place, to all around the country and all around the world. So it seems to be that war with no end. And the cool thing about it is that it doesn’t have a negative outcome; it’s been a positive journey for us, and for those who follow us, too.
KK: So it’s been like a struggle, but in a good way.
BLITZ: Right…like I say, I’m not that direct with regard to social commentary, but I suppose the song does fit the time we live in right now.
KK: How about “The Head and the Heart”, what’s that about?
BLITZ: That’s actually an original book written about religious persecution that happened in England in the 16th or 17th century, and how immigration came to the US because of that, and there can be good things…How one door closes but another one opens, as long as you’re willing to wait around in the hallway.
KK: While I’m at it, congratulations on the cover art for IRONBOUND, that’s got to be one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long time.
BLITZ: That came out well, it’s from Travis Smith, he’s been working with us for a while. He’s got a really good vibe for us, and we’re all so happy with this record.
KK: Right, speaking of that, you and D.D., would you say you’ve got a ‘formula’ for OVERKILL? You seem to have a straight, hammering metal philosophy, and you don’t stray too far from that…
BLITZ: Well, with this record, you’d hear something different this time. We do have a formula, obviously, the riff starts with D.D., and then it develops from that point on with the help of the other guys and their talents. Ron (Lipnicki), being the newest member on the drums, really brings something to the party. He’s the youngest guy in the band, so really brings the energy, and I think he inspires the other dudes to play at his level. You know, nobody wants to be surpassed by the new guy’s energy. You go “Jeez, look at this motherfucker go”, and it brings you up to that level. But it also develops out of Dave’s (Dave Linsk) talents. I think one of the things you’ll hear on this record is that Dave’s carved himself a niche with regard to heavy metal as being one of the guys to be reckoned with! I mean this is a real guitar player’s guitar player. This guy’s something else. He can do all of it…everything from dirty rock and roll all the way up to these orchestrated thrash-type progressive leads and guitar arrangements. So I think this record contains, let’s say, the best elements that we have as OVERKILL through this twenty-five year period. And it’s probably the heaviest thing we’ve done in fifteen years.
KK: Wow. So, have you set the bar pretty high for Dave, or has he pushed himself to play heavier?
BLITZ: Well, he pushes himself. I mean, OVERKILL doesn’t have rules, which is really a good thing about it, and I think that’s why it survives for this long. Nobody sits down and says ‘You have to do this or you have to do that’. It’s more about development at our own pace. And Dave is very much a perfectionist when it comes to how he plays, what he plays, what he knows. He’s a guitar guy through and through. If he’s not doing OVERKILL stuff, he’s doing stuff at his own studio. If he’s not doing stuff at his own studio, he’s at a guitar show (laughs) y’know, trying to pick up a new Les Paul, some Randalls, and whatever new stuff is out there. So he’s really in touch with his art, and that becomes something that the rest of us have to celebrate. Because if you’re that into it, you don’t put a leash on a guy like that, you let him run like a fuckin’ wild dog.
KK: How did you wind up on the BRUTAL LEGEND soundtrack? (Overkill’s “World Of Hurt” is in the new computer game—KK)
BLITZ: They contacted us. And it’s cool to be involved with stuff like that, because it shows the value of the band, over the course of these years. You know, it transcends not just the genre of thrash, but into that whole retail gaming market, and other things. So it was cool to be asked to be on it.
KK: Yeah, it’s good to have OVERKILL anywhere. Are you on any movie soundtracks?
BLITZ: Something off of The Killing Kind…I forget the name, it was one of those karate movies. Maybe I’ll remember it by the end of the interview. We were on the soundtrack but we didn’t appear in the movie. It was…arrrggghhh…it was a Jet Li movie…
KK: Was it The One? ‘Cause that had a metal tinge to it…
BLITZ: Hmmm, well it was for The Killing Kind record, so it was about twelve or fifteen years ago. Nothing recent.
KK: It’d be great to have OVERKILL on a horror movie soundtrack, you’ve got a great sound for that.
KK: Now, you’re going to be touring in Europe first, on Ironbound…are you going to take Exodus with you, or are you going to pick up somebody else to open up for you?
BLITZ: We’d love to do it, but Exodus is obviously unavailable based on their studio time…y’know, Exodus and Overkill are really cut from the same cloth, we come from the same era, just different coasts. There’s a real brotherly vibe between the two bands, so that tour in Europe was great. But what we’ll do in the US is have Vader, God Dethroned, and Warbringer…
KK: I’d like to see a “KILLFEST” with you and HELSTAR, AGENT STEEL or RAVEN on the same bill…they might not be as popular as OVERKILL but they’re all back in the game.
BLITZ: And they’re all great bands. And I think that’s the idea, in this day and age, is that you’ve got to put a good package together, and you’ve got to make it worthwhile, to bring people out of their houses, really give them something, you know?
KK: Definitely. Are you keeping your side project THE CURSED still going, or no?
BLITZ: Yeah, for fun. We write every now and then. The Cursed is a garage band, it’s just that simple. I mean, you picture a bunch of middle-aged guys crackin’ a Heineken and puttin’ Playboy centerfolds up on the wall, like you did when you were a kid…(laughs)
KK: ‘Cause I got to review your CD “Room Full Of Sinners”, and it seemed to have almost a 70s feel to it, like Nazareth or Blue Oyster Cult…
BLITZ: It had a real rock and roll vibe to it, and that was the fun part about it. Y’know, Dan Lorenzo’s a good friend, and he’s been pestering me for years to write with him. I’ve always liked his stuff, and finally he caught me with a couple of riffs that caught my ear. And if I was going to do something, it wasn’t going to be ‘OVERKILL II’, it was going to be something different. And this was something like Black Sabbath met The Stray Cats, it was kind of fun, that there were saxophones in it and y’know…we had a blast making the record, so it’ll continue, but at a very slow pace.
KK: Okay, IRONBOUND makes 16 studio LPs, plus you’ve got 2 live albums and ‘Coverkill’, and all the tours…How has your voice managed to survive? A regular human being would be mute by now, with their vocal cords ripped out. But you just keep on going, and it’s amazing…
BLITZ: Well, for Christmas about 10 years ago, I got a superhero kit…
KK: (Dead serious) Oh, yeah?
BLITZ: Nah. I don’t know…Marlboros?
BLITZ: I don’t know. If I think about it, I’ll probably fuck it up. I really don’t worry that much about it. It’s never failed me. I live my life the way I live it. I think when a guy has problems singing, sure, it could be physical, but I think a lot of what brings on the physical is psychological, about worrying about it. Because of what you just said: Most other guys couldn’t last this long…well, those other guys think that they can’t last this long. My opinion is, I just don’t think about it. I mean, I’ve been known to have a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, riding my motorcycle, in 18 degrees with my mouth hangin’ open…I don’t know how much worse you could get for your voice, really…
KK: Well, Coverdale said his instruments were ‘Coffee, Marlboro 100s and a wing and a prayer’, and he’s 55 and still singing, so maybe ‘mind over matter’ is enough…
BLITZ: I think it’s part of it, and I obviously love this. We don’t do 200 shows a year anymore, we do 150. And 150 is still a good schedule, but the point is I still get really excited about it. It’s not humdrum to me. It’s not just another tour, it’s not just another show. OVERKILL is special because of that reason. And that’s how we feel as a group of people. And if you have that going into it, that excitement, that adrenaline is a drug. Y’know, I’ve always said I’ll stop doing this when I don’t feel the high. That’s yet to happen. Maybe that’s part of the reason it works for me as an individual, because I still get that high off of it.
KK: Plus, so many others have given up at this point, and you guys keep going, it’s pretty inspiring to everyone else…
BLITZ: Well, we’re trying to avoid manual labor, y’know…(laughs)
BLITZ: And this is one of the best ways to do it, doing something you love. And IRONBOUND, our 16th studio album, it’s the most energetic thing we’ve done since the early 90s.
KK: Right, speaking of that, a lot of your fans on Amazon refer to Horrorscope and Necroshine as probably OVERKILL’s two defining moments…Is there a meaning behind the title “Necroshine?” It sounds like a ‘light in the dark’.
BLITZ: Well, it was a strange period of time for us…I had developed sinus cancer (At this point KK thinks: WHAM…a word combining ‘WHAT?! And ‘DAMN!’…since he’d never known this) between the record prior, and that record. I remember we had to cancel some shows because of it, and it’s probably the only time we had to cancel for any reason.…and what was going on…I’ve been so close to D.D. over these years that, it was in the balance for a month or so, we’re waiting, and had to keep going back in for operations and stuff. And he (D.D.) said “Dude, is there anything I can do to make this easier?” And I said “You got any riffs?” (laughs) “Can you send some riffs up there so I got something to do before the bandages on my face are taken off?” And he said “Yeah!” And that’s really what Necroshine came out of. My opinion of the time—it’s ancient history now, it doesn’t matter. What mattered was the fact that even under the circumstances we decided “Hey, maybe we ought to write a record, because we don’t know what the future’s gonna be.”
KK: Sounds like you were turning a negative into a positive…
BLITZ: Well, you do what you wanna do, you know? I mean, you want to lay there in fuckin’ bed with a tube in ya? Not really. I remember thinkin’ “If this is gonna be it, then this is gonna be it, I can accept that…what I won’t accept is goin’ out without my boots on.”
KK: God, I had no idea it was that bad…
BLITZ: Well, it hangs in the balance, I mean, I had to go through a couple years of stuff with this. But the first thirty days were pretty tough. Because they were obviously afraid it would get to the brain, and they wouldn’t know if it got to the brain, obviously they can’t open your brain and start cuttin’ pieces of it out…
KK: Agggggggghhhh…(horrified, but still keeping the visual for a horror story)
BLITZ: And so the idea is you’ve got to wait and keep going through tests to see how far it’s gone. So I suppose all that translates into a record like Necroshine. And many of the songs titles on that album were based on feelings I was going through at the time, it’s just that simple. But the brighter side of the story is, we’re having this conversation 12 years after that, and ten years after Necroshine. So it’s a good thing, not negative.
KK: Well, I’m glad you got through that, I know everyone else is, clearly…
BLITZ: Not as glad as I am! (Laughs)
KK: I know, I smoked for almost 20 years and just quit, I hope I stopped in time. I read that one in three Americans gets cancer but only one in eight athletes gets cancer…
BLITZ: I saw that recently, on the news. But you can’t deal the hand, you can only play the cards you’re dealt. That’s really as simple as it is. You don’t know what the fuck is gonna happen. You know, the older I live, maybe the more I appreciate OVERKILL for that, as time goes on. I’ve always appreciated this band, but to say that this has now been my life, and being able to get me through the hard times and help me enjoy the great times even more so. I mean, that’s really what it’s all about. I tell my wife, most times I leave the house: “Honey, if I get hit by a bus…” and she says “I know, put on your gravestone: ‘It was a great ride’.” (laughs)
KK: Yeah, speakin’ of a great ride: when you started out as a cover band…did you ever think it would last 25 years and 19 albums?
BLITZ: No, not at all, not then…in fact, I just had this conversation with a guy ‘cause we’ve done a lot of interviews lately…I was at a University in New York City, and I left that university to pursue this, because we got signed. And my father asked me “What’s this really about?” And I said “Well, people have an interest in it”. And he said “Are you sure this isn’t about girls and free beer?” And I said “No! Of course not! It’s artistic, y’know?” Well, in any case, Mike Piazza from the Mets hooks me up with his luxury box, for my father’s 75th birthday. So I’m sittin’ there with him, and he says “Well, I really knew this OVERKILL thing would work out, I was behind you all the way.” And I said “I’ve got a confession to make…you remember when I left the University? It really was about girls and free beer.” (Laughs). But as time goes on, you realize the value in it.
K.K.: THANKS, Blitz! And Congrats on 25 great years…
Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth: Vocals
D.D. Verni: Bass, backing vocals
Dave Linsk: Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Derek “The Skull” Tailer: Rhythm Guitar, backing vocals
Ron Lipnicki: Drums
1.Feel the Fire
3.Under The Influence
4.The Years Of Decay
6.I Hear Black
8.From the Underground And Below
9.Wrecking Your Neck (Live)
10.The Killing Kind
14.Wrecking Everything (Live)
Also available: OVERKILL—Extended Versions; OVERKILL—Then And Now
© 2009 Crypt Magazine. All Rights Reserved.