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Bobby Blitz Ellsworth – Vocals for Overkill

Date: 1/12/10
Interviewed By: Rich Catino


1. In Overkill’s 25 years of making music the band never stopped making thrash metal, but "Ironbound" is your thrashiest release since say "Horrorscope" and "W.F.O.". Did you try to achieve what has happened on "Ironbound" on previous albums or would you say it’s a happenstance?

BOBBY: I would say it’s a happenstance but I think there is reasons. This is the first time in a long time we did a lot of touring, we did two European legs, one at the beginning of the "Immortalis" tour with a band called Mortal Sin, and we did one with Exodus. The American runs were with Warbringer and Epitherion, so it was kind of a thrash year for us concerning "Immortalis". So when you come off the road with Exodus your cut from the same cloth, same era, friendly but still competitive with each other, hahaha, you know, and you take that vibe in when you start assembling the record. That’s where that happenstance becomes, the X factor, because that’s what we have done all that time prior, being around all that thrash music, and you can’t help not be influenced by it when your recording an album.

And this past weekend we shot a video for 'Bring Me The Night' with director Kevin Custer who also shot & directed the 'Skull & Bones' video. Kevin really has a great vision for how to film a video for this kind of music and he came up with some great lighting effects for ‘Bring Me The Night’. I can’t wait for everyone to see this video.

2. Do you think "Killbox 13", "Relix IV", and "Immortalis" had to be made in order to get back even more to your roots on "Ironbound"?

BOBBY: I’m a firm believer in that, that every step you make is necessary to get to your successes and I do think that those records have their successes but are not as cohesive as "Ironbound". "Killbox" to me is really a valuable part of real estate for Overkill, there’s a lot of cohesion in it but not a real blend of all the elements that make up Overkill where "Ironbound" is from start to finish, with all its dynamics, it really is a hard hitter. "Killbox" maybe just wasn’t as hard of a hitter. "Ironbound" is just up their flailing away. I think the unique qualities that give "Ironbound" its dynamics is Dave’s (Linsk) work, the guitar work is really out front and I think he is one of the best guitar players Overkill has had, in the top three. The guitar lines are a fabric through the whole album, its that feel that you can’t really put your finger on and almost has a progressive feel at times. Everything from this surf rock n roll stuff to this intense orchestrated stuff, so if we are banging it up with these unusual arrangements but still thrashin up and this guitar line that weaves through the whole thing it becomes that extra dynamic that ties it all together.

3. Well now that you mention it, speaking of a progressive feel, when I first listened to "Ironbound" I immediately heard the albums "Under The Influences" because of its weird time/tempo changes, and "Years of Decay". Do you hear that as well?

BOBBY: Sure, I hear it. I suppose since that’s part of our makeup its always possible to revisit that period without compromising your integrity, it gives you license to I’m not going to say re use, but re invent, because even though this record has that feel which is a great thing, its not those records. And it doesn’t have those formulas on it. So reinvention is the key word here really. Its necessary not to rehash things because then it becomes "what once was", you know. I think this record is different and Overkill in 2010 while still captures those moments from the earlier albums.

4. Where do you hear the albums "Killing Kind", "From The Underground and Below", and "Necroshine" on "Ironbound" since those albums were a little more groove based in the music?

BOBBY: Hmmm…interesting, that’s the first time I’ve been asked this. DD (Verni, bassist) is really the master of the breakdown, he understands a riff but he also understands the dynamic of a breakdown. So when you have a song like ‘The Green and Black’ off "Ironbound" and that heavy groove section in the center, same with the title track, these are probably the elements of that era so there isn’t an abandonment of the groove because its obviously their and a big part of what we do and are. There is a big stomp in what we do, a song doesn’t just have to fly along like a speeding bullet or the speeding train on fire, its also got to be a sledgehammer. When we put together a setlist together we always talk about dynamics, and the speed versus the hammer, hills and valleys. But DD really is the origin where these songs start, like on the ‘S.R.C.’, the "Subterranean Resistance Cult", hahaha, the revolution, the fire still burns, hahaha.

5. What do you hear differently in Overkill’s music when you change guitarists?

BOBBY: I think its funny how people think we do this often but Dave Linsk has been the longest standing guitarist in Overkill, ten years. More than Bobby Gustafson, played on more records than anyone else, so this is really a gelled thing. And our other guitarist Derek (Tailer) has been with us for eight years so this is the longest team we have ever had. But I think change is necessary and it happened when Dave entered the band because he did a little work on “Necroshine”, but (former guitarist) Sebastain Marino had done most of the playing, and I think you gotta celebrate the guy’s talents.

I don’t think there has to be any rules because that becomes burdensome and this is supposed to be fun. Say our newest guy comes in, like Ron Lipnicki on drums and he’s the fucking kid at 37 and he comes in with this higher level of energy that inspires everyone around him. If we are getting dragged into something its like walking with led shoes, it becomes a task, but someone comes in and wants to keep playing and doing their parts over and over again, it really inspires us guys who have been here since the beginning and we gotta say "I’m not gonna be shown up by this fuck", hahaha. I think the new energy inspires the older energy and if the fires burns its not hard to turn it into an inferno, hahaha, you know. And a guy like Ron who burns all over the place you gotta throw wood on it, so it becomes inspiring for us. You know I gotta say Ron to a large degree is responsible to the energy on “Ironbound” because he gave us through the "Immortalis" touring, and the "Relix" stuff, he gave us that thrashier feel on the road because he’s not all just feet, he’s got a lot of hand work goin on and you don’t try to corral the horse you let it run free.

6. What are some of the topics addressed in the lyrics on "Ironbound"?

BOBBY: As far back as "Necroshine" I’ve dealt with some personal issues and I looked at things a little differently back then, that there has to be…you have to realize how fragile things are. And that its not always good to be brooting and stabbing all the time, hahaha, you know what I mean? So it was more of a personal awakening and I tried incorporating that into the lyrics. This record ("Ironbound") is really about celebrating in regard to lets say the negativity that surrounds the community, but to recognize that what we are is part of a community and that the community really holds up the backend of what this band has done for two plus decades, is pretty powerful in itself.

A song like ‘The Green and Black’, I stole that right off the New Jersey Devils channel, hahaha, you know "This next hour is for those who bleed the red and black", hahaha, and I’m like "O…I gotta have that, man". But I think the idea is in general topics are personal and may start off negative but always searching for the positive. ‘The Green and Black’ being lets say the celebration of those beyond the band and all the way to the ‘S.R.C.’ being if you want it go get it, if you want help ask me. So I don’t think my lyrics are your typical for thrash metal but there is a little bit of religion and politics thrown in there, like ‘The Goal Is Your Soul’ and ‘The Head And Heart’.

7. Do you ever write music and if so what song have your wrote music for?

BOBBY: I don’t really sit down and write music per say, I can sit down pick up a guitar and figure out my vocal line so it doesn’t rub up against the other guys. The melodies are the serious part for me and I do that in fernetics prior to, there may be a topic but I don’t necessarily write the topic and sing the melody.

8. You have the 25th anniversary of the band this year. What type of setlist do you prepare for the live show and will it include any surprises?

BOBBY: You know I think a big part of our survival has been understanding opportunity and understanding the day. And not necessarily resting on laurels, I’ve never considered us to have laurels and maybe that’s probably a good way to look at it because you then compete in the day and I think competing in the day is more important than what we plan for an anniversary show. Now when we go on the U.S. tour in April, we are not planning a "Feel The Fire" event its gonna be an "Ironbound" event. But obviously later in the year we are gonna do a few one off events where we will celebrate our existence, and that’s a testimony to those who bleed green and black (Overkill’s colors), but I think why people like this band, why I like this band, is because we really squeeze the day, and that’s a hell of a lot more important than what we did yesterday, you know.

What I think what will happen is we will plan it as we start touring, the first show is February 6th in the Netherlands, a month through Europe, then South America, the States and then festival madness over seas in the summer which I highly recommend anyone to experience. Its amazing to see really especially Wacken in Germany, where there is 60,000 metalheads, the beer is flowing, and there’s not one fist fight. Nothing like a big festival in the States, hahahaha. You know something, there are festivals like Rocklahoma which we played over the summer who are trying to incorporate that European feel, there were no incidents there and I felt good about it. I was standing on this stage at a festival in the States and for once people were getting along with no fights.

You know what it is, if your name is Pierre and you live in Paris and your 14 years old sittin down at dinner and you ask you pop for a beer, he’s gonna poor ya a shorty. Its not a big fuckin deal to ya, hahahaha. You turn 21 here and your gonna make everyone pay, hahahaha, for not givin me that beer when I was 14, hahahaha. I’ve done it, I’m not immune to the problem, hahaha.

9. There are a few songs I’d like to hear in the set. I’m curious to your thoughts on them and the possibility they may appear during the "Ironbound" touring cycle?

BOBBY: Sure, fire away.

‘Feel The Fire’:

BOBBY: Yes, we did that in Europe last year and it went over really well. It wasn’t something I was looking forward to playing but what I think is cool is when you have a different lineup playing it that regardless of how you played it then it has a modern feel for today. I think what makes it what it was on the album was those who played on it, and who plays on it live make it what the song is live.

‘Electro Violence’:

BOBBY: Well not on this first run but yes, it is on the list of distinct possibilities in the pool of ideas. It was one of those different songs we wanted to do from "Taking Over".

‘Head First’:

BOBBY: Not a chance, hahahaha, so now you know ‘Electro Violence’ came up, hahaha.

‘Time To Kill’:

BOBBY: No, we thought about it but we gonna go with a few other songs from that album instead, a couple obscure surprises.

‘Bare Bones’:

BOBBY: Hahahahahaha, yes, hahahaha, that’s a little bit of the obscurity, hahaha. I’m sitting here thinking "there’s no way this guy is gonna pick ‘Bare Bones’," hahaha, I can’t believe you fuckin picked that one out of 156 songs. We are rehearsing it as it was on record with the piano intro. Good call man, you need to go out and play the lottery tonight, hahaha.

‘Just Like You’:

BOBBY: Nope, not gonna happen.

‘Where It Hurts’:

BOBBY: Man, Skullman wants to play that so bad, Derek wants to play that so bad and we want to do something different off “W.F.O.” but ‘Gasoline Dream’ just has those great hills and valleys and that’s why we are always drawn to that one. If it was up to Derek he would do four off that album, hahaha.

‘Overkill I – IV’ medley:

BOBBY: don’t think so, we considered it but they are too long, we would have to do like intro and a verse, the first ‘Overkill’ is the shortest. If we did that it would have to be like a 25 minute medley.

10. When planning these anniversary shows, what type of things would you like to do? Special guests, a different stage set, props?

BOBBY: Obviously we would tape it. I would like to incorporate those who were their during our history as long as I don’t have to talk to lawyers or sign contracts. If its simple we will do it. I talked to Bobby Gustafson and is all for it and he’s one of the primary ones I’d want to participate anyway.

Concerning the stage, if you remember back in the early 80s we had a dungeon under the stage (under the drum kit), I came out in makeup with a cape, its not the worst idea and we still own a majority of the stuff. Its something we may do. From time to time we have busted out part of the stage, we used the ramps when we recorded the "Wrecking Everything: An Evening In Asbury Park" show for DVD.

11. What newer metal bands do you like?

BOBBY: There is a great thrash revival goin right which I think is really cool and I think its definitely increased the interest (for the younger generation) in the old guard. There’s the Bonded By Bloods, Municipal Waste I even like sometimes. Warbringer we are taking out with us again, Suicidal Angels from Greece, we are taking with us through Europe. You know what I really like about these bands is that they really reflect why the revolution started in the 80s, some of it is that social and political themes seem to be mirrored from the 80s and now, and I think which is why the music has value. But that value is now transcended at least three generations and I’m happy to see that they celebrate their influences. Its really a great time for a 20 year old thrash fan to see Warbringer on the same stage as Overkill because Warbringer obviously themselves probably has the Overkill catalogue in their cds. Like in a song ‘Scorched Earth’ from Warbringer, it has that old vibe but they are starting to put their own stamp on it.

12. While we are on the topic of new bands I highly recommend checking out Lazarus A.D. Do you know them? They are like a mix of Lamb of God meets Testament.

BOBBY: You know I have not heard of them but after you compared them to Lamb of God and Testament I gotta check them out.

13. Plans to release a pro shot concert from the 80s with the classic lineup?

BOBBY: Really we haven’t thought of it, we do have some footage. Back then we did travel with video cameras and got some stuff on tape, I remember one time DD got one of his cameras ripped off right in Newark airport and it had the footage from the whole tour. Its was crazy. But I suppose you could always run that footage through a computer and remaster it a bit also. There is one show that was shot in Poughkeepsie NY with three cameras, during the "Under The Influence" tour, some of the footage has been bootlegged on YouTube.

14. Any plans to remaster the Overkill back catalogue?

BOBBY: We tried to do that but the ones that we really want to get our hands on are the first several records instead of remastering something from the middle of our career. "Feel The Fire" we would like to include with "Taking Over", "Under The Influence", "Years of Decay", and "Horrorscope", and do it in a box set, but Atlantic Records has not been cooperative. You know your always talking to people at the label who weren’t even around when the band got started. It just becomes so costly to try and get back your own masters and we are talking to some people right now, maybe incorporating a partner who works with management, who deals with this type of re obtaining the original rights. It would be really about the Megaforce years and Atlantic distribution releases, so "Feel The Fire" is by itself, then the next four albums were on Megaforce/ Atlantic, then "I Hear Black" and "W.F.O." are Atlantic directly.

15. How about the "Power In Black" demo, will that be reissued?

BOBBY: I would throw it in but it already has been remastered by some cat who bootlegged it, hahaha. It came out on cd and went through a mastering program. It is not the same E.P. that was included on the European 3 cd set of "Wrecking Your Neck - Live", that’s the Overkill E.P., not "Power In Black". The Overkill E.P. included the songs ‘Rotten To The Core’, ‘The Answer’, ‘Fatal If Swallowed’, and ‘Overkill’.

"Power In Black" was a demo and really only a two sided cassette tape, five songs; ‘Death Rider’ which was included on a Metal Massacre compilation, an unreleased song called ‘The Beast Within”, plus the song ‘Overkill’, ‘Raise The Dead’, and ‘There’s No Tomorrow’.

Official website: www.wreckingcrew.com


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