Overkill – Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth Interview22nd September 2015
Before the release of the 14 disc boxset HISTORIKILL I managed to sit & have a chat with Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth before the release of the boxset & the UK tour announcement.
Hi Bobby & thanks for taking my call. You probably wont remember we met around 25 years ago outside the London Astoria. I showed you where Shades Records (RIP) & gave you a quick tour around.
Fucking hell that was you!!! Holy shit. I wanted to see it. It was fairly close what I remember. Memories eh? That would’ve been 1991. The Horrorscope tour.
Yeah it was. Wow your memories good.
I take notes (laughs) I would hate to go through this 30 year period & not remember. A lot of it is engraved in stone in my head.
I must talk to you about the Historikill boxset that you have coming out (which will be released on October 16th via Nuclear Blast). What was the idea behind this retrospective?
Well, we started to manage the band back in the 90’s during the darker days of thrash metal & possibly metal as a whole. We took over the business side of things, D.D (Verni, bas player) & myself & we started cutting deals back then. We went from Atlantic records to smaller labels & we started licensing our stuff which worked out pretty good for us as here we are 20 years later & we have retained the rights to what I said was those darker days.
We thought it would be a good kick off with Nuclear Blast to release a boxset to show that between the years of 1995 – 2005 for instance that it wasn’t as dark as it may have appeared from the outside there was still some good stuff going on in the community. Obviously those who were connected to the underground metal scene knew that this was still going on.
In 2005 we saw an influx of younger bands & metal heads that didn’t really have that opportunity. So I think that now with the boxset & a worldwide deal with Nuclear Blast it gives people the chance to experience that decade in one pop with regards to Overkill.
You’ve only gone as far back as Wrecking Your Neck. There’s a fair few albums missing.
Feel the Fire (1985)
Taking Over (1987)
Under The Influence (1988)
The Years of Decay (1989)
I Hear Black (1993)
Is there a reason why?
Everything before Wrecking Your Neck was involved with Atlantic Records & it’s murder trying to get stuff out of those people.
I remember being on the label & walking in & being told that deliveries were on the 5th floor (laughs)
I think where you’re dealing with corporations & not individuals is where the unavailability comes in. So they keep the property as active, all the product from the late 80’s to the early 90’s they hold onto for grim death so it’s not easily obtainable shall we say. We would’ve liked to get hold of them.
It’s not as if they’re going to re-release them any time soon & they’ve not really been available for years.
Every now & then because they own the master tapes they will license them out to some small label that has a partnership with them & maybe they’ll press a 1000 copies & sell them but I think they try & hold onto things as much as possible. They’re not in the business of giving up what they own.
That’s really actually quite sad & must make your life really difficult.epspecially when you want to give something back to the fans & even to new ones aswell?
Metal back then was a bit of a dirty word & then it was crushed by the grunge scene in America. I don’t know if we had foresight or just tenacity but we weren’t going to go home, live in mum & dads basement , we’re going to keep doing this shit. So we retained the rights to these albums which is quite a success even without those early records.
Despite the set backs you’ve had quite a long & illustrious career.
I wouldn’t say it was a career, more kinda life. ALthough I can’t get the wife to call me “Blitz” although everyone else does (laughs)
Things have been good for us in this illustrious time that we’ve spent here & the proof is in the pudding. It’s a healthy scene again & we’re happy to be considered contributors on a higher level.
Personally speaking I think because you’ve continued to produce albums for the past 10 years & battled away that things have gone full circle & bands from back in the day are coming back together & touring. I’ll mention Mordred for instance who have gotten back together & are touring. Infact Overkill took them out on the Years Of Decay run.
Yeay I saw that. It’s cool What I remember most about that show with Mordred at the Astoria, it was a great show but it’s more important for me to go, it’s 2015 & we’re still kicking ass & taking names .We’re not really a nostalgic band.
You proved that with the last album White Devil Armoury.
It was good stuff for a good scene. Even the last trilogy of records for us have been accepted on a wider level which is probably a character trait of that healthy scene.
Overkill has had a bit of a revolving door with regards to members & this line up has been pretty solid for the last 10 years.
Yeah, the last member to join was Ron Lipnicki (drums) & I attribute a lot of our recent success to his addition. You can’t put a saddle on a wild horse, a wild horse is meant to be wild & I think he has that mentality. It doesn’t matter what you say to Ron, it matters how he reacts. He reads the situation perfectly for keeping this line up intact, making it fun for us to play & adding that extra bit of energy that makes this band noticeable.
Obviously yourself & D.D VErni have been the core members.
Yeah. It’s never been written down. Our rules are there are no rules. We always put the men before the band & that way the band takes care of itself & I think that’s why we gel together.
When I think of D.D & knowing him since 1981, it’s unique to know a person that long let alone have a decent relationship with that person but first & foremost a friendship with somebody for that amount of time & I’m putting Derek(Tailor guitar), Dave (Linsk guitar), Ron & D.D before the band then it’s not this painful, painstaking, weight carrying task.
My wife calls it the middle-aged boys club (laughs) She’ll ring & ask me where I am, am I drinking cognac, smoking cuban cigars & losing all my money to Dave Linsk & of course the answers YES (laughs) & there lies the beauty of our relationships that it has been intact for a 10 year period. We’re 4 guys that get along & enjoy hanging out together & we discuss everything from home repairs, chicks, card games & what we do with the business. So life is not a hard road to travel it’s a much easier road to travel.
We touched on touring briefly, so I must ask the inevitable question, what has been the most fun tour?
I’m a big Motorhead fan as many of us are I remember when the band first started gaining notoriety we would get the opportunity to meet & tour with people that we idolised. I remember imparticually a tour through the U.S that was Slayer, Motorhead & Overkill. Talk about a 3 pronged attack it was just awesome. I was really nervous about meeting Motorhead as I’d had experience of meeting people who I liked & then not liking them anymore for one reason or another & I met Motorhead & hoped that wouldn’t happen & they were welcoming, really nice & were just there to tear it up & do what they do best. I think because of that meeting back in the 80’s every time we do shows with them & we toured with them back in 2007 & they were the most fun tours I have ever had. Just hanging out with Phil (Campbell), Mickey (Dee) & then back in the day Phil (Taylor), dropping by Lemmys dressing room & listening to his Rock n Roll demos & having a drink. These guys were just the epitome of Rock n Roll, metal & it was a great experiance .
When was the last time you were starstruck?
About 6 years ago I was a judge at a tattoo contest called “The Greatest Tattoo Show On Earth” & Gene Simmons was the guest judge which I was absolutely amazed by. We recorded an album called Coverkill which featured us doing Deuce by Kiss. Because we’re Jersey boys Kiss was a big deal to us. I remember meeting Gene & then telling the wife that I wish I’d never met him (laughs). I was starstruck & I handed him the Coverkill record & he was like “Thanks a lot, take it easy, see ya” (laughs) so I guess he was busy. Honesty will get you in trouble huh? (laughs)
D.D Verni said to me one time, “There’s nothing more dangerous in the thrash metal scene than 2 guys who have nothing to lose”. I said “What are you talking about” & he goes “I’m talking about you & me” (laughs) So you know, I just tell it how it is. I never got into this to kiss ass it’s just something I love doing.
That’s always been a good thing with Overkill. There’s never been any bullshit. It’s always been a case of if you don’t like us, fuck you we do what we do because WE like it.
I think part of it was as the scene was developing, we were born in the North East of the States, We’re Jersey guys & there’s something about Jersey guys that we don’t air our dirty laundry in public, keep everything close to the chest & don’t let anyone know what ya doing. But when you get the opportunity to, punch them in the fucking face & I think with that type of principle & that sort of upbringing it’s served us well over these years. What you see & what you hear from us is what you get. Our secrets are our own & not the worlds.
I did this interview with a guy in Eastern Europe, & they’re really serious there not like the UK or Germany that have a great sense of humor but the Eastern Europeans seem to be a bit more serious. He asked me where I was from so I reply “New Jersey” & he’s like “New Jersey that’s cool. What can you tell me about the Sopranos?” I didn’t say anything it was just dead air, & he asks me again if I could tell him anything about The Sopranos. SO I replied that I wasnt at liberty to discuss that & this guy thought I was being 100% serious (laughs)
While we’re on the subject, what’s been the worst question you’ve been asked in an interview?
I got into an argument with a guy who was also from New Jersey & we were doing the promo for White Devil Armory. The guy was a DJ & he’s recording the interview for broadcast. He said to me that he liked to do interviews differently & he liked to discuss sports etc. So I’m like OK but we obviously have a record to promote. But he turns round & says that he wants to talk about drug abuse & my violent past. He’s saying that it’s no secret that I have a couple of felonies & he just keeps going. I’m like look dude, there is no drug abuse, there is no violent past. If you want to talk to me about sports, different businesses etc then that’s cool but what you’re asking me doesn’t exist. He then keeps going & brings up some incident that of course i had nothing to do with. I gave the guy time to turn the interview around, he didn’t so I hung up the phone.
So I guess that was the worst question “Tell me about your violent past?” which obviously doesn’t exist.
The only thing I can think of that’s been widely reported is your illnesses. Especially the stroke on stage which must have been fucking scary.
I don’t think that would’ve been reported if that wasn’t in the public eye. That I would’ve kept close to the chest ya know but it happened on stage in Germany.
In my case I still think of myself as bullet proof. When I look back & think about it now it didn’t hurt. I’ve done more damage falling down a flight of stairs than what the stroke did to me. It’s what they called a TIA ( a transient ischaemic attack) which is more like a lights off, lights on kinda thing. It’s a genetic thing. My mum who is still alive has it & she’s not had a stroke in 15 years but that’s where I got the gene from. It wasn’t a life style thing as I was stone cold sober at that time. I was sober between 1995 & 2005 so there was nothing in my system apart from nicotine & caffeine. When this happened I kinda remember the whole experience, apart from falling it wasn’t painful it was kinda euphoric to some degree. I don’t look at it any other way than just a bump in the road.
In fact my wife & I had some fun with it. I got home & “she was like What are you doing?” & I replied that I was getting on my bike & she said “you had a stroke 2 weeks ago!” I said “it’s ok, I’ll just make left turns, eventually I’ll make it home” (Laughs) & that’s what happened when I got home from Europe.
So you know, live life. I love riding motorcycles & if I can get on my bike & ride it then life’s going to be great again.
I’ve got no problems from it, I’ve not had one since. My mum takes medication for it & I just didn’t want to take the medication for it because I was in my 40’s at the time & there’s all the side effects from all that shit they pump into your body. So I tried to give up the smokes & tried to preserve myself & if it happens again, it happens. Hopefully I’m not on the bike if it happens or swimming. It’s as simple as that.
It’s given me the opportunity to think that nothings guaranteed, we’re fragile like an egg you know, roll onto the floor & break. But if I was to live my life-like I was going to break I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I do. I’ve always had a lust for, I’m not going to say danger, but things that are exciting. I love 200 mile bike rides. Speeding along at 70 mph, it makes my heart beat faster & I feel like I’m 22 again. There’s nothing wrong with a 56-year-old man getting off after a fast ride with a hard on (laughs) I’m not about to take things easy.
This is life & this is possibly the only one you get. We have a joke around here I shout at the wife that I’ve grabbed the keys & I’m taking off & if I’m not back.. she replies “I know, on your gravestone.. It’s was a nice ride” (laughs)
I think that if you live your life with that kind of approach then you’ll get a huge amount of satisfaction. No-ones going to shed a tear over me when I’m gone. They’ll think of me & go” That son of a bitch went through walls” & that’s the way I’d like to be thought of.
With that in mind. What’s the record you’re most proud of?
I’m always proud of present day but there was something about the Horrorscope record. Back in 1990 we lost a 3rd of our writing team with the parting of Bobby Gustafson (guitarist) & it was upto me & D.D at that point & it was really different. When we were putting that record together our label then was Megaforce & they really weren’t that confident in what we were saying & they wanted to hear it 1st. To some degree that insulted us. It pissed us off & really taught us how to really write a thrash record. D.D & I were sitting around just stewing & the mantra was “let’s just fucking do it & shove it straight up their ass.” & that’s what I think we did with that record.
From the 1st notes of Coma that comes out like a lion from a cage that’s not been fed for a month & that’s what I heard for that record. When we handed those guys the demos we didn’t do any talking & just let the music do the talking. Johnny Zs jaw dropped & said “now that’s what we’re talking about. Boys continue doing what you’re doing”
So I’m pretty proud of that record as it seem like when the chips are down it brought out the best in the song writing team.
I’ll be completely honest Blitz, that is my favourite album
& probably for that reason indirectly, as there’s something on that record that’s intangible. It’s something you feel as opposed to hear. The fact there were 2 pissed off Jersey guys on that record saying “let’s just fucking bury them with this” So I guess sometimes it’s good to have a row. (laughs)
So what’s next for Overkill?
We have an US tour with Symphony X who are another bunch of Jersey boys which will be fun. We get on well with those guys & they’ve been renting a rehearsal space from D.D for many years. We were doing guitars for the Ironbound record in one room & the guys from Symphony X are practising in the room across the hall. We’d get together after & have a drink, shoot the shit about local sports teams etc.
We thought it would be pretty cool to bring out 2 different types of metal bands on the road & a complete touring party that know & get on with each other which will hopefully translate over with the audiences.
After the US leg we head down to South America for a few shows. But in the interim we’re writing for the next record. We always write, it’s the blue-collar work ethic that we have. We don’t sit down & plan it. We’re not artists we’re more contractors if that makes sense.
We’re coming back to the UK in April with Ireland & Scotland dates aswell .
At this point everything is looking really good for Overkill.
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule & I hope to see you on the tour in April.
Cheers, take care.
Overkill have just announced the Killfest UK tour in April.
You can see the ‘Wrecking Crew’ live in the following cities:
April 5th – Birmingham, Rainbow Warehouse
April 6th – Manchester, Sound Control
April 7th – Leeds, Stylus
April 8th – Glasgow, Classic Grand
April 9th – Belfast, Limelight 1
April 10th – Dublin, Academy
April 12th – Bristol, The Fleece
April 13th – London, O2 Islington Academy
Overkill are currently preparing for the release of their first worldwide Nuclear Blast output, an exceptional limited edition box set of 14 CDs entitled: ‘HistoriKill: 1995 – 2007’ which will be released on October 16th. It will include eleven Overkill albums across 13 CDs plus an extra bonus CD (incl. demos, remixes and an unreleased cover song) all in digi sleeves.