Ex-OVERKILL guitarist Bobby Gustafson, who is currently living in Florida and playing in a new death/thrash metal group called RESPONSE NEGATIVE, recently gave a lengthy interview to Metal-Rules.com in which he explained his side of the circumstances that led to his departure from OVERKILL and offered an update on his subsequent music-related activities, including his work with SLAYER drummer Dave Lombardo in an early incarnation of GRIP INC., then called simply GRIP.
The following are some of the highlights of that interview:
On his split from OVERKILL:
Bobby Gustafson: "I was not asked to leave the band. It wasn't something where they came out and said, 'Hey, you're fired!' It was more of a verbal fight between me and [bassist] D.D. [Verni] about doing a show where they wanted to do it strictly for money and I didn't want to do it because we had just sold out Studio 54 in New York, our biggest show, and they wanted to do a Halloween show that was kind of goofy. They wanted to charge full price, which at that time was about $15 or $20. I said that it wasn't right and that we should either not do the show or keep it half price because it's not a real OVERKILL show.
"One thing led to another and I hadn't talked to D.D. for two weeks, so I knew that something was up. I later found out that he was doing stuff behind my back with the management, trying to get me out of the band pretty much. They called me in and we had a discussion and it was like, 'They want this, they want that,' and they started putting judgments on my music as far as what we were writing next time and I said, 'Hey, I just wrote four albums worth of stuff that nobody ever said anything!' By that time I had found out what was going on behind my back and that he was trying to get me kicked out, and I got really upset. When [singer] Blitz [Ellsworth] came back from his honeymoon I said, 'Hey, I'm not playing with this guy anymore, so the decision is yours.' Actually, D.D. was kicked out of the band first and he sort of came back. I said, 'Look, I'm not playing with him,' and Blitz said, 'Well, I've been with him longer, and I kind of want to stay with him.' I was like, 'OK, I'm gone.' That was it.
"I think what happened was that when their guitar players [left] over the years, a lot of it had to do with money. I've kept in contact with a few people who know those guys as well and they said that they just didn't pay those guys anything and made it so they couldn't stay around. With me, since I'm the only one that people asked about, they have to make it seem like they threw me out. If that gives them a pair of balls between them to say that, then so be it. I didn't care because I wasn't in the business anymore. I kind of gave up and said, 'The hell with it!.' Now that I'm back, at least my side can be told. You can believe what you want, but I think the more that they've said it, people tend to believe it, but just because a lie is told 100 times doesn't make it true."
On his current relationship with his former bandmates:
Bobby Gustafson: "I haven't spoken to D.D. since I left. I've spoken to Blitz a few times over the years and it was pleasant, but uncomfortable. Just recently, since they've never given me any royalties or anything from any of the albums that have been out, I just found out that the first album recouped like three years ago. Actually, Misty from the new Megaforce Records gave me the heads-up on that. I tried to see what was going on and tracking down money that was owed to me, and our first drummer Rat [Skates], because he had no idea, so I'm basically watching out for him. I think that stirred things up because those guys don't like to give up money at all. So now, even my relationship with Blitz has turned sour.
"When I left the band, I really only kept my royalties and my publishing, and I haven't gotten any of that yet. All of the money basically goes to them and they're not giving it up. I asked Blitz on the phone if he knew that the first album had recouped and he said he didn't know, but I already had heard from Megaforce that it had. He was sending my money to them, and I'm trying to get it back. Now it really turns into a mess because those guys were just all about money and that was what the fight was over 13 years ago."
On his collaboration with SLAYER drummer Dave Lombardo in an early incarnation of GRIP INC.:
Bobby Gustafson: "Yeah, it started out and I was playing locally in New York in late 1991. Billy Milano got in touch with me because he wanted me to join PRO-PAIN, but I didn't want to do it. I kept in touch with him though and he wanted me to do the next M.O.D. album with him, so I said 'OK'. From there we went to San Francisco to play with Perry Strickland from VIO-LENCE, and that didn't work out and Billy left, but I stayed. Somehow I hooked up with Dave's manager by staying there. It really was just gonna be another band, not [another version of my previous band] I4NI, it was going to be GRIP. Dave was down in L.A. and I was in San Francisco. He had his own ideas for guitar parts and stuff, and I just didn't think that it was that great, and it wasn't worth my time to drive seven hours down there to sit around with them and just waste my time because it just wasn't going anywhere. As far as playing goes, he's still a great drummer, but I just couldn't deal with him on a personal level. He was very paranoid about everything that I said. I think it was probably because of the drugs that he was doing at the time, and I was just not into that. He took the name GRIP, which I came up with and changed it into GRIP INC. because he thought I was going to sue him, which at that point I really didn't care. I just left. GRIP had nothing to do with I4NI and I left before that really got started. None of the music that I did with him was even on [GRIP INC.'s] first album . . . Actually it was much better than what we were doing. Really, the first couple of songs were guitar riffs that he came up with. I don't think anything that we did made it on the album. It was better than I expected. To this day though, I don't regret that one bit. I probably wouldn't have lasted to long. Just trying to deal with him and his wife, it wouldn't have worked out."
According to Gustafson, RESPONSE NEGATIVE are in the process of submitting demos to Megaforce Records with a view toward recording their debut album in August. An early 2004 release is expected.
To read Gustafson's entire interview with Metal-Rules.com, click here.