PlanetMosh’s Miley Stevens caught up with Overkill’s Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth at the Leeds date of their anniversary tour.
M: So I understand this tour is celebrating 25 years of Horrorscope and 30 years of Feel the Fire. I just wanted to ask what an anniversary tour is like compared to a regular album tour, and what you’re expecting from it?
B: That’s a pretty unique question actually, because I really don’t like anniversaries – I’d really rather live in the current day. The biggest pride I have with regards to Overkill is we’ve remained relevant in the day. We’re not some nostalgic act. We’re releasing music which is contemporary for this genre today. But with regard to the anniversary, I think one of the cool things is that it’s not the same band that recorded those records, so you really have a different take on it. You have an – interpreted – celebration, Dave Linsk is probably the best guitar player we’ve ever had in this band. I mean, just technically…this guy has his guitar on from when he wakes up in the morning until he goes to bed at night. So to have this dude playing Feel the Fire and Horrorscope – and interpreting it his way, that’s when my excitement comes out – to be able to see this version of the band recreate something in the modern day.
M: So they’re injecting a new energy in it, whilst still in-keeping with the original?
B: Yeah, it’s keeping its integrity but at the same time, you’re not telling people how to play it. You’re in a band because you like the way they interpret things. So for me, it’s really exciting to see guys interpret stuff that I knew to be different way back when we wrote it. The new energy that comes into it is what keeps it interesting for me. I’m selfish. [laughs]
M: You’re allowed to be! You formed 35 years ago, in 1981. How does it feel to know that you’re still massively popular? Many of your fans weren’t even born back then. Take me – I’m 22 and a huge fan of yours.
B: [laughs] You see, it was a plan…we were going around the world and getting people pregnant so we would have fans. [laughs] Not just people…women, I guess. It’s unique but I think that it speaks volumes with regards to the value of this music – it transcends generations; you know? This was – I’m not going to say we created it – but we were there when it was being created. It was just kind of spontaneously combusting around us, and people in San Francisco and in Germany…Kreator’s doing something here, and the Exodus and Metallica guys are doing something over there and we’re over here with Anthrax…it’s all happening at one time so it was kind of cool that there were no rules to it. In hindsight I can say “wow, how fucking valuable is it that it actually touches someone who’s 22 now, as opposed to 56 like me. That’s a weird happenstance with regard to…anything. It stands the test of time – shit doesn’t stand the test of time. Shakespeare stands the test of time – why does Overkill? It doesn’t make any sense! [laughs]
M: At the same time, you are one of the pioneers, sure – you’ve got the Bay Area, and Germany and Europe and stuff. Nobody really – aside from you – who are one of the forefathers of thrash metal, shall we say – is from the same area as you. You’re that solid pillar from New Jersey that truly sticks out.
B: It’s called ‘The Great State of New Jersey’ and the state expression is ‘go fuck yourself’ [laughs] and if you put that together, you can understand where thrash metal is coming from.
M: After so many years on the road, what are your best and worst experiences?
B: Well, Overkill has given me everything in life, it’s not just a job, or career – it’s a life. I manage it with DD, so everything that you see with regards to Overkill comes across either my or his desk. There is a great amount of fucking pride in that – you’re representing yourself the way that you want to be represented. You say no when you mean no, and yes when you mean yes. There’s a huge amount of satisfaction in that, and I think that that’s probably one of the greatest prides I have – in that I’ve been able to kind of just – with the help of my partner – do my own thing. Not just for a period of time, but for my entire life. My whole adult life – this is what I’ve done, and there’s ups and downs, but I’m totally a firm believer that the mistakes and the bad times are necessary in order to highlight the good times that followed. I think that there’s a great work ethic that our parents have, New Jersey is the birthplace of hard work in America. The immigrants came over from Europe and they couldn’t afford to live in New York or Manhattan, so they lived in Jersey [laughs] they were the ones that picked up the garbage, and they still are. So all of these things have happened: I met my wife through Overkill, I grew a business through Overkill – but all of these shit things have happened too: I remember in ’97, this girl came on the bus, she put her hands on my face and looked me dead in the eyes and said “you’re sick” and I said “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and she explained to me she was a witch. I don’t really believe in that kinda stuff but she said she was like “it’s okay, I’m a good witch” and I’m all like “What, like in the wizard of Oz?” [laughs]… Anyway, she says “you’re sick, you need to be taken care of”. Anyway, I went home and I had cancer, and there was no fucking heads up. Nothing was visible – there was nothing. It started as a little dot on my nose – that’s why it looks like I got shot in the face. [laughs] I actually like scars, I’m not making small of it, but it was a little dot. That was an awful thing, but really, it was a good thing that she gave me that heads up. So again, with the bullshit, there’s always a really positive thing that comes out of it. I’d really rather look at it that way than the negative way. We were gonna do a live DVD – because my face was all fucked up for like a year, and we were going to use my face for it and call it “You should see the other guy.” [laughs]
M: What advice would you have for young thrash bands starting out. Taking into consideration that the times were different when you started – there was either the cinema or a gig as entertainment, nothing like the internet or other distractions?
B: Well, to some degree, it’s steal the good stuff. I don’t wanna sound like I have all this dignity – if something catches your ear and you think “what a fucking great riff that is!” you always have to be open. I probably think that the thing that is the most consequential when you’re starting out is stick with your fucking idea. Don’t be swayed by popular opinion. If you believe in that idea, people will eventually come round to your way of thinking – your genius. If you totally committed to that idea, eventually someone’s going to turn round and say “wow, that’s fucking great, man” so I really think it’s about sticking to your guns… and stealing the good stuff.
M: What can fans expect from tonight, with it being an anniversary gig?
B: There’s definitely going to be a lot of Feel the Fire, and a lot of Horrorscope, and that’s primarily based on the fact that Eddie [the drummer] – we’re going to record this in two weeks, and we wanna make sure we’re ready. That’s why you saw all that stuff in the sound check. It will be a lot of that, but there’s also some of Electric Rattlesnake, Armorist…Elimination – it’s a real mix. We’re smart enough to know that it’s part of our repertoire. But yeah, it’s primarily stuff off of those two records peppered with ‘Classic Kills’.
You can read the review of the gig that night in Leeds here