OVERKILL Frontman: 'We're A Self-Managed Band, So We Own The Low Points'

Sonic Excess recently conducted an interview with vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth of New Jersey thrash metal veterans OVERKILL. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.

Sonic Excess: Why three years in between releases? OVERKILL has had a consistent schedule...tour, release, tour. Seems like you guys took a much-needed break.

Blitz: Well, you know, we released "Immortalis" the end of 07, the last physical release in November of that year, or in October of that year. And this is released in January, so it's really more like two years and a few months for this one. Which is a little bit longer for us. We usually run on an 18-to-20-month cycle, but we were between labels, and we did a lot of touring for "Immortalis". We ended our touring in April of this year, some "off" shows in Mexico, and some festivals over the summer. But the idea was, if the touring is there then keep doing it, because it lends itself, that whole vibe, to the record. When you come off the road and you start to write and record, the cool thing about it is you really bring the road into the studio.

Sonic Excess: I want to ask you about your opinion on the new thrash revival movement that's going on right now. A lot of teenagers in bands are basically paying tribute to bands like OVERKILL.

Blitz: I think it's outstanding. You know, eventually, there's going to have to be a step to the left, and you're starting to see it now with many of them. Where they have incorporated their own originality into what was their root. I remember starting and being influenced by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and you become an arm of that. But, eventually, you have to bring in an original end. What's your contribution to this? And you start to see that in bands like WARBRINGER, MUNICIPAL WASTE and GAMA BOMB. It's kinda a cool vibe, as far as I'm concerned, and a unique time in music history. Especially for metal, because you can see both ends of it. I mean, if you're twenty-year-olds in a thrash band and your band is MUNICIPAL WASTE, you see where that came from by going out to see MEGADETH or going out to see SLAYER, etc.

Sonic Excess: This is OVERKILL's twenty-fifth anniversary of the first release, "Feel the Fire". Are you guys doing anything special for that anniversary? Putting out a DVD?

Blitz: We're planning it right now. In the process of talking about it, obviously, but we don't want to do a full tour. We think that for sure we'll highlight some of the songs on the American tour, as well as "Ironbound" material, but I think we'll also do a couple of special shows. One in the U.S., one in Europe, and with that, we'll film it. We'll film both of them and try to mingle them in the editing room.

Sonic Excess: Any plan on playing "Feel the Fire" in its entirety?

Blitz: It's been talked about. It's been talked about for a few years right now, but we don't know if we're going to do that. When it comes to talking about the future, our problem is that we live in the day. So, obviously, you have to plan things for this, but the other side of it is that really the news for us is more about this release than it is about the next phase.

Sonic Excess: Now, after twenty-five years, what is the one career highlight that sticks out in your head the most when you're reflecting back on OVERKILL's career?

Blitz: One career highlight was obviously being signed, as far back as 1984. That's a wild experience and unforgettable. I think that over the years, what's happened is that you become almost addicted to the high, and the high for me has always been on the stage. I'm always trying to chase that high. It's almost like a power-junkie. It always happens, and it always gives and gives. So, to some degree, you always want more and more of it. I think that becomes really motivational with regard to how it's presented then, and how it is still presented now, with regard to that energy and chasing that high.

Sonic Excess: Are there any low points you can think of, or want to disclose to us?

Blitz: Well, we're a self-managed band, so we own the low points. When you're self-managed, there's no blame to pass. (laughs) You're either the successful one, or you're the one to blame for not being a success. Taking that into account, I suppose any of the decisions that we have made, with regard to some of the record labels we had that didn't support us correctly, and promotional tours that we did, that would also be our responsibility. But I do feel that all of these steps are necessary. It all brings us to "Ironbound" in 2010. That's based on success or failure, or a combination of both. I'm really all about looking at the package and learning from everything. If you get too old to learn anything, then it's really over. Then, it becomes going through the motions. And I think one of the things this band has proved over and over again, love us or hate us, we're about learning from those mistakes and moving forward regardless of what the popular climate is at any particular time.

Sonic Excess: In another twenty-five years, what would you like OVERKILL's lasting legacy to be? How would you like to be remembered?

Blitz: They did it their own way, wrote their own rules, and wrote their own book on it. I think that, to a large degree, that's the way it's been, which makes it pure. I mean the motivation of this was pure motivation from the beginning. When I look at "Ironbound" right now and I compare it to the days when we released "Feel the Fire", we were writing the songs as an unsigned band. They were developing in rehearsal halls and gigs we were doing. When I look at "Ironbound", its twenty-five years later writing songs, and we were between deals. When this new record was written, it was done without ink on paper. It was done so BECAUSE. So I think that when a band thinks in those terms, I can only come up with this in hindsight, we did not do it because of what it was worth or what we could get, it was done because it was necessary to do. That's the motivation you wrote songs with twenty-five years ago, or we did. That's the way people write songs that are unsigned today. Now obviously, we had confidence in the fact that we would get a deal, but I think that the true shining moment of this is doing it without a deal and having the results come out.

Sonic Excess: When you guys recorded "Ironbound", did you have that same fire you had when you first went into the studio?

Blitz: I mean, it still burns obviously. [Drummer Ron] Lipnicki's our newest member. He's been on tour with on "Ironbound" and "Immortalis". Raw, unbridled, the best pair of hands and feet as a drummer we've ever had, in my opinion. And his energy brings everybody up. He stokes that fire. In my opinion, he also throws gasoline on it. So I think everyone else rises to that level of commitment, or youthful energy. That's also up to the listener. You put it in and press play. When recorded and written, it was done with, I think, a lot of inspiration from Ron's playing.

Sonic Excess: OVERKILL has had various lineup changes over the years with the exception of you and D.D. [Verni, bass], but it seems between Dave, Derek, Ron, OVERKILL has been solid for the past decade.

Blitz: Dave Linsk is the longest-standing guitar player in this band. One of the things he brings to the party is he's never afraid to progress. He's a guitar player's guitar player. He wants to always get better. When he joined this band, I thought he was a great guitar player. His work on "Ironbound" puts him in, I think, a whole different class. He can do it all and he can do it really, really well. The idea of this record when we were mixing it was let's make some bruises on some bodies. Let's make it a re-invention of what we are. And then Dave took the next step, almost to add a progressive element on his progression with regard to his instrument. I think it's really evident. He's the one that makes this record that much more interesting.

Read the entire interview from Sonic Excess.

"Bring Me The Night" audio stream:

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