OVERKILL frontman Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth recently spoke with Jack Antonio of the "Do You Know Jack?" podcast. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the group's consistency:
Bobby: "Everything is moving forward as it should. We're in the routine — write, mix, release, tour... It's always worked for us, so why fix it? Even when metal was a dirty word in many parts of the world in the '90s, we were still able to keep that routine or schedule up and tour well. I think that if it's not broken, don't fix it."
On surviving grunge:
Bobby: "I always think of that era as the one I'm the most proud of. We took on management ourselves; we found record deals; we found agents that would book us; we found festivals. Did it make us what we were? Maybe not, but the point was that maybe we were already that, and that's why we had the ability to weather that storm. We always understood that this was a business, but it was a business we loved, and to be able to do what we loved, we had to keep a positive cash flow. If you're a young band, you can have all the aspirations and dreams of purity, but if nobody's paying you, eventually you're going to be driving a UPS truck. It's just that simple, and you won't be able to do what you love except for on the weekends with your friends coming to see you. I think we understood those principles, and that's what got us through that era... It motivated us. There's no two ways about it. Somebody from Seattle called all the metal bands and said, 'Sorry — your careers are over. Don't bother showing up for work tomorrow.' We just let the phone keep ringing. [Laughs]... We learned that we had to understand that it had to feed itself if we wanted to feed off of it, and do what we continue to love doing."
On new album "The Wings Of War":
Bobby: "Sure, it's OVERKILL at the end of the day, but I think the beauty of it is that we notice the nuances from the inside, whatever those changes may be — in this case, part of that change being [new drummer] — Jason Bittner. This is one of the most surgically precise drummers we've ever had in this band, who hits quite hard, and we knew that that would change the chemistry. I think we embraced it. It's not the prototypical OVERKILL record, but for sure, by the end of the day, [it] has the identifiable OVERKILL stamp on it."
On the fact that Bittner toured extensively with the band prior to recording the new album:
Bobby: "It's priceless to be able to know the guy who's going to be steering the ship from a live perspective before writing. That's just the way it is. It's the drummer's band, and the rest of us are just hanging on and following him, playing with him. I knew three songs in [at Bittner's first show with OVERKILL] in the Ukraine, a year before he had recorded one track for the band, that the band had changed. The question posed to us is, do you embrace that change and become part of it, or do you force it in another direction? I think in this case, we embraced that chance, and again, [the result was] a surgically precise, brutal display in the drum corridor on 'The Wings Of War'... You don't want a drunk doctor working on your heart — you want somebody who knows what he's doing, making precise cuts. The idea with him is that he's schooled. He's probably the most trained musician we've ever had in the band — outwardly trained, with regard to a degree in what he does. I think he brings a different flavor to the band. Us not being trained outwardly but being self-taught musicians, he brings in that other element, and we feel it. This could be the most brutal drum record we've ever had. That being said, he created so much space with that precision that it gave guys like Dave Linsk or myself the opportunity to instill melody, so you have brutality and you have melody creating kind of a third entity. These are part of the differences that we saw as a band with regard to writing, recording and performing these songs for 'The Wings Of War'."
On album opener "Last Man Standing":
Bobby: "We were trying to figure out the first single. I was sitting around with D.D. Verni. We were getting ready to do trailers for it, and he goes, 'The fucking opener is Thrash 101.' [Laughs] It does show that all things are well in our house. It may be Thrash 101, but it's Thrash 101 with that new chemistry We've never knocked politely on the door. We love our opening songs. We write specifically an opener for every record, not, like, try to choose it later on. We say, 'This is the opener,' because it kicks the door in. It's a punch in the face. We've just raided your refrigerator; we've turned the stereo up. This is one of the principles of the band — hit hard when you have the chance to hit."
On OVERKILL's momentum in recent years:
Bobby: "I think with us, I'm not going to say resurgence, but the resurgence of the scene started happening back in the first decade of the millennium — 2008, 2009, 2010. We were ready for it at that point, because we never went home and lived in our parents' basements, chain-smoked and wondered why nobody appreciated our genius. We worked through those darker times, so as the scene got healthy, we were in a position to release 'Ironbound'. We'd been touring and recording all this time, and when 'Ironbound' came out, we happened to catch kind of lightning in a bottle for ourselves. You always go in with that intent, but there was a healthy scene now with lightning in a bottle."
OVERKILL's nineteenth studio album, "The Wings Of War" was released on February 22 via Nuclear Blast.