Latest release: White Devil Armory (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.wreckingcrew.com
From his New Jersey kitchen bench, stirring cheese sauce and cooking pasta, Overkill vocalist Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth had a chat to LOUD regarding the band’s new album White Devil Armory – due for release mid-July – as well as why Overkill, now well into veteran status, continue to re-energise. Suffice to say, Blitz loves to talk. He is from Jersey after all!
Blitz, thanks for the time. I had a chance to have a listen to the upcoming album this morning – another stellar release. How did you feel the album recording process went, and the end product?
The process is the process. What we like to do is make wild music for people who like wild fast songs. We work on action and reaction as opposed to polluting the pure. I mean, who wants to overlook a punch in a nose. At the end of the day it’s still a punch in the nose, we keep it simple. (laughs)
Can you tell us about some of the tracks. Any hidden messages in there we should know about, political or otherwise?
Very little, I mean I’m tongue in cheek, I wouldn’t put out my political aspersions to compromise the other boys in the band. In the end we’re a band and it’s only a front man’s idea so we do it together. I’ll throw an occasional Obama reference in there though. I heard a great quote the other day, ‘Give a baby what it wants when it wants it and you sow the seeds of socialism’ (laughs). Instead of being a political lyricist, which I’m not, I more so like writing short stories. For instance ‘Amorist’, (a track of the new album) is a story about a single man but in the end he realises that loyalty and group is more powerful than the single man. So sure, I write with meaning but it’s simpler in its delivery.
You’ve just recorded two music videos for the tracks ‘Bitter Pill’ and ‘Armorist’, how did that go?
Yea, we did them both with Kevin J.Custer our friend behind the lens who we have a great relationship with. This is our fourth video with him. We recorded in New Jersey in some old factories with some fantastic tongue in groove stuff and wheels hanging about.
And will these videos come out together or staggered?
We’re going to be dropping them right on the fucking top of each other so you don’t even know what you’re looking at (laughs). No, it’s kind of nice being this far into our careers where we get the opportunity to even do two videos. I think what we’ll do is release ‘Amorist’ as the single with the music video and then once we hit the road, ‘Bitter Pill’ will come out.
The album release has some cool pre-orders deal including merch and extra tracks. I guess the days of the standard CDrelease are long over. Do you, personally have a hand in this kind of stuff?
To some degree I do, we’re kind of self-managed. D.D (Verni) and I still make decisions regarding digipacks, extra tracks, etc. If it’s got an Overkill name on it, they’ll be a minimum of two guys from the band who have seen it, usually all five. I think for a band who have been around as long as us, we’ve evolved with the industry. We first got into this on independent label, Megaforce and before we knew it we were on Atlantic Records and you’re talking about the difference between ham sandwiches and poured beer and imported beer and caviar, which nobody fucking likes anyway. It was huge difference. Now we’ve at least been able to understand the time change and keep the interest in the band with these extras.
What can we expect to see on these ‘extra’ tracks?
There’s a cool track where it’s kind of a Ramones meets New York Dolls meets Sham 69. The other track we did with another Jersey guy, who has made a great name for himself and always been a great singer in former TT Quick and Accept singer, Mark Tornillo. We did a cover of a Nazareth song called ‘Miss Misery’. It’s like real old school rock sound with a couple of Jersey guys rocking out in tandem.
It seems the band is super consistent these days, churning out a quality album every two years. Is it a contractual thing or is the band at a stage where everything is just gelling?
D.D’s wife said something the other night, “Who’d of thought after all these years that D.D and you (Blitz) would still be doing this”, and I said, “Well not me”. She said, “You’re the same people, you have the Jersey love.” My parents were kind of white collar but always had that blue collar ethic, you had to work for everything you wanted. The reality was we were respected and we knew from the beginning if we had a business that we loved we were determined not to let it go and I think that’s how Overkill works. It’s a real blue collar ethic.
It seems thrash metal has undergone a kind of resurgence in the past few years with older bands like Overkill, Testament, Kreator enjoying some increased fanfare, is that a fair comment?
I think so. There’s a great resurgence from the young guys, I mean what about 4Arm from Down Under? I mean we had a great tour with them and Testament before Danny (Tomb) left their band. I mean they have the same type of mentality we had at the beginning. I’m talking to Danny and it’s like I’m talking to D.D, 20 years ago. They have that same bloodline for that thing. Young bands come in and they start making noise and they bring in younger fans. Bands like 4Arm, Warbringer or Havok, they come from those past bands like Exodus, Testament and Overkill.
Is there a kind of rivalry there?
I’m like, ‘Hey, back up a second, and let me show you how this things done sonny (laughs)’. I think what you get is great competition. It’s really healthy. I mean I don’t want Danny (4Arm) walking on that stage and making me look like a jackass and I told him that. I said, ‘You’re a nice guy but when I get up there, I’m going to bury you (laughs).’ So I’m in it to win it.
What about at home, away from the recording studio or stage what would Bobby Blitz listen to? Any guilty pleasures in music?
I was bought up on melodies. Someone once asked me, who was my greatest musical influence and I said my mother because I knew her voice before I began speaking. I mean my grandparents had 13 children so if you can imagine the multiplication when you have 13 aunts and uncles and everyone brings them around your house and there’s like 40 people gathered around the fireplace, kids crapping on the rug, singing ‘Danny Boy’ in perfect harmony (laughs). That was the way we grew up, the family would sing. My point is melody, for me I enjoy everything from Frank Sinatra, I like to see people open their mouths.
Overkill have been playing for over three decades now, I guess the passion must still be strong going from the quality of albums being released, but just how long does Overkill have left? Does the enjoyment wane on occasions or is it as strong as ever?
I have the opportunity to write really great short stories. The shit that’s inside me, whether that’s engines burning or tears or aggression, all my emotions. My wife says to me, I’m such a nicer person every time I finish a record. I punish myself literally. I would have it no other way because I know no other way. I love it.
And how is the voice these days? I read a little while back that you’d given up the smokes?
I’m about a year and a half off the smokes and the evidence is there. I never had moments where tobacco got in the way of my presentation but one of the things I discovered was that I got more air, I can go a little higher, I can go a little lower, it’s kind of fun. I learnt a few things by dropping the cigarettes and it’s really helped with the end product on White Devil Armory.
So when can we expect an Australian tour?
I hope, I mean we always knock on the door, we’ve had one experience there. It’s a matter of timing. It was memorable experience last time and we’re always willing to work with people. I mean, we’d have to mortgage our homes to get there but we’re talking to people, we really want to incorporate an Australian tour and then maybe hop over to Christchurch and New Zealand at some stage.
On touring, it seems to be the in thing these days to play an old iconic album in its entirety. Could we ever see Overkill play Years of Decay or Horrorscope in its entirety at some stage?
Maybe by the time we need Viagra (laughs). I preach and believe in the fact that our relevance is in today and not in yesterday. I want LOUD readers to know about Overkill in 2014, I don’t give a fuck about what happened before this, as far as I’m concerned, that’s just a trail of bodies. The reality is going back in time and playing those albums, sure I’d do it, of course I would, but that would be the beginning of the end for us. We’d become kind of nostalgic and I’ll fight ‘till my dying day to try and not to be that shit. Sure, we’ll play some old songs, I enjoy playing them, but the idea of playing a whole album? I’m not really interested.
Is there a favourite song you enjoy performing live?
I can tell you ones I don’t (laughs). The song ‘Rotten to the Core’ from Feel the Fire. It’s that cut when chaos was king and there were no rules. We didn’t know what we were doing and we didn’t care. The people listening didn’t know what they were hearing and they didn’t care, that’s the whole charm. In reality though I think I’ve done it 8000 fucking times. To some degree it sounds like my god damn alarm clock in the morning. I mean I wake up and I’m twitching and I’m thinking to myself, oh shit, I’m off time and this is the thing. I like singing all the new stuff. If I’ve done ‘Rotten to the Core’ 8000 times, and I’m not grabbing a number, eight fucking thousand, I wanna play the new shit. I’ve never played ‘Pig’, or ‘Amorist’. I want them in the set. It’s that little bit of mystery, I love that fucking vibe, it gets me high.
Lastly, I have to ask: What’s your thoughts on the whole Avenged Sevenfold copying the Overkill logo of skull and bat wings? Have they actually apologised as yet?
Who? (laughs… loudly). Hey listen man, (still laughing) at the end of the day something will taste like iron and something will taste like aluminium (still laughing). I love the fact that flattery is probably one the best form of compliments and I’ll go no farther than that.