HARD ROCK HIDEOUT INTERVIEW: OVERKILL – BOBBY “BLITZ” ELLSWORTH
When you think of Thrash Metal legends, the first bands that come to mind are usually Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Exodus and Anthrax. Old School Metal fans know… there is another extremely key player in this legendary mix of Thrash Metal originators and it is - Overkill. Going on three decades, with 15 studio albums, an EP, a covers album and 2 live albums under their legendary Thrash Metal belts, Overkill is as Metal potent as ever. Setting out to embark on their Spring North American Tour in support of their 15th studio album – “Ironbound”, original member and vocalist Bobby “The Blitz” Ellsworth cordially took the time recently to talk to Hard Rock Hideout. Here is what Bobby had to say:
HRH: What were the thoughts of Overkill going in to record Ironbound?
Bobby: There was a newer energy within the band, we came in right off the road to assemble Ironbound. The unseen hand or the x-factor was the energy we felt in the studio. It was business as usual, still we were feeling something special while recording Ironbound, this afforded us the luxury of coming together so quickly as musicians and finishing this album.
HRH: Ironbound is on the E1 Music label, are you committed to a defined number of albums with them?
Bobby: Yeah, 100 albums! (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) You know Bobby, at the rate Overkill has been going over the years, that is not far fetched!
Bobby: Two more records with E1 Music here, with Nuclear Blast for the rest of the world.
HRH: I actually feel Ironbound is one of the best Overkill albums ever.
Bobby: Thanks, that’s quite a compliment! After 15 albums and over 25 years of Overkill, we are concentrating on today and this Ironbound album and tour. The beauty of Overkill is you know what to expect, yet it is different with each album. Ironbound has teeth, energy and the x-factor, there’s turns at every angle. Ironbound is rooted in what Overkill has been doing since we first became a band and what we are doing today. This album gives you the best of both worlds.
HRH: Where can we catch Overkill on tour this Spring, any updates?
Bobby: We begin our tour on April 1st, in Philadelphia at The Trocadero and on May 1st in New York City, (Nokia Theater in Times Square), it finishes. Coming out to see us live is to really experience Overkill!
Bobby: Not necessarily, I write abstractly. “Endless War” is a little bit more personal and abstract, yet it relates across the board. One man’s cross doesn’t outweigh another man’s cross. This song can apply to what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and real life at home. I make comments socially and politically when I write. Ironbound screams louder in the dark, the angst and chaos is valid emotion on Ironbound. I have had over sixteen records to cleanse myself!
HRH: “The Goal Is Your Soul”, can the lyrical content here be representative of white collar crime on Wall Street?
Bobby: Not necessarily, it’s more of a comment on right wing and fanatic Christian and Muslim religions. Organized religion is dangerous, it creates an army in it’s own right. There is danger in the word organized. Organized religion is very follower based. You can also interpret it as the enemy is right here, every day with politics.
HRH: Overkill is arguably the most consistent Thrash Metal band in history, based on album releases and touring. Was an old school work ethic instilled in you at an early age?
Bobby: I think so, it’s my background as a person. DD, (bass guitarist and founding member), and I were raised as such, with a “you want then work for it” discipline. It’s the principals and values of Overkill from the very beginning that has led us here. Doing more and giving your all is the premise this band works on. We always tweak it up, year after year. Our strong work ethic, helps in getting us to go through the artistic torture of making albums for so long, being a band and touring.
HRH: Two words to throw at you, use a free style way to convey your thoughts about them please. Punk Rock.
Bobby: Unbridled energy. Punk Rock has always been the x-factor in Overkill. We started our band covering Punk Rock songs! The Dead Boys, Ramones and Sex Pistols are all influences. The Punk Rock influence is what gives Overkill that different angle that other bands don’t have.
HRH: From “Relix IV”, I love “Old School”, it has that Punk Rock sound and feel.
Bobby: It’s a great song, it’s been a live staple on our set list ever since we released Relix IV.
HRH: What peer band would Overkill take to battle with?
Bobby: There are plenty of us that are cut from the same cloth. Exodus. Overkill and Exodus hold a lot of the same principals. There’s still competition there, yet when we toured together it brought out the best in both bands on stage.
HRH: Are we experiencing a Thrash Metal revival or has Thrash Metal never gone away to begin with?
Bobby: It never went away! Overkill has been doing this straight since 1985. There is a resurgence in popularity with great young bands like Warbringer, Gamma Bomb and Bonded By Blood. Plus, Overkill is also recruiting younger fans with Ironbound in 2010.
HRH: Over the years, what moment truly defined Overkill as being resilient to outside forces?
Bobby: Overkill is special, we always have been able to put ourselves as people ahead of the band. I have known DD for thirty years, our friendship is amazing. In Overkill, “you” come first, not your writing. Overkill is a team, we are more so real about life, instead of business.
HRH: If you could have any famous musical guest on your next Overkill album, who would it be?
Bobby: I’d like to do a duet with Ronnie James Dio. That would be a lot of fun! Lemmy too, (Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead). Lemmy and I sang live together once onstage, it was a lot of fun.
HRH: “Coverkill” is a great tribute to many legendary bands and their songs. What are the chances of there ever being a Coverkill II?
Bobby: I’m not thinking in those terms now. There is a possibility, of course, that it could be done. Since Coverkill, we have covered some new and different songs, Eric Burdon and The Animals and Johnny Cash are just a couple of examples. Still, I think in terms of the day instead of the future, it’s more about the now.
HRH: “Promises” on “From The Underground And Below”, (1997 album), I really like. Is there another ballad in the future for Overkill?
Bobby: I don’t think so. This song was written due to the death of a very close friend. I was able to cleanse the soul through these lyrics. It was necessary for me to get rid of the sadness I was feeling because of this loss. It is real emotion that you hear on “Promises”, not contrived emotion. That song was not the norm for us, then again, it was not the norm for us to be in that situation to write that song either. It’s life, an opportunity to express that emotion I was feeling on a higher level. “Promises” is a testimonial to someone’s life is a way to explain it.
Bobby: They can handle alcohol! Really, the idea of alcohol is part of someone’s life at a younger age in Europe, not so in America. Shit can happen in the U.S., one hundred thousand people will create assaults in the U.S., there’s nothing like that over in Europe. I was at a festival right here in New Jersey last year, there were people arrested for assaulting a police officer! That’s pretty bad when the police start getting assaulted at Rock festivals here. The festivals in Europe are well organized, big beer sponsors are needed and Europe has them. Insurance costs for festivals can dictate why the U.S. doesn’t go for them too.
HRH: What is your favorite Overkill album and why?
Bobby: Horrorscope from ’91. It’s the first album DD and I wrote together. I can’t look at Ironbound as being my favorite because it is new, I need to let it sit with me for about a year.
HRH: One of my favorite Overkill albums too, I love “Frankenstein”.
Bobby: Yeah, that’s a good one! DD has a running joke that Frankenstein is the best song I’ve ever sung on! (laughs)
HRH Note: “Frankenstein” is an instrumental.
HRH: Throughout the years, what tour sticks in your mind the most?
Bobby: Motorhead 1988 and 2007. Growing up a Motorheadbanger, the excitement to meet and tour with a band that I looked up to was incredible. We covered their songs in cover bands and now we’re on tour with Motorhead! In Europe, on the 2007 tour with Motorhead, Lemmy asked me to sing onstage with him! That was just a positive experience! Here we were in 2007, nineteen years after the first tour together and Motorhead is just as nice a group of guys as they were when we first met them.
HRH: Is The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame useful or useless?
Bobby: Useful, I was able to carve my name into the bathroom stall wall there with my pocket knife! (laughs)
Bobby: It’s very cool. There are different things in Rock and Roll to be recognized. It’s an avant-garde answer to what music was in the 1950′s. It’s Rock and Roll history and it’s a necessity to bring forth this history to the public.
HRH: I feel Motorhead belongs in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bobby: They will be someday.
~ by Metal Odyssey on March 29, 2010.