Thrash metal legends Overkill unleashed their 17th album last month and ZT decided to fire some questions at vocalist Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth.
Ever-present since the birth of thrash, Overkill have been one of the genre’s most consistent groups. Releasing 17 albums across 34 years of activity is a highly impressive work rate, but of course not every record is going to be appreciated in the same way. Though metal fans will forever bang on about the 80s being the genre’s golden period, Overkill wouldn’t still be going if they just released turd after turd however.
Their latest endeavour, White Devil Armory unsurprisingly follows the old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Another all-out thrash attack, if you like Overkill you won’t be disappointed. In fact technically this is their most successful album commercially as it reached #31 on the US Billboard 200.
With that in mind we tried (and partially failed) to ask vocalist Blitz a few questions he hasn’t been asked a thousand times before in his 30 odd years as a musician.
ZT: How pleased are you with how White Devil Armory turned out?
Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth (vocals): Sure we are. We worked again with Greg Reely, second time the charm. Once you have history, there is no ‘getting to know each other’. It is work from the get-go, the relative production/mix goal is already established from the first encounter, this time it’s about making it better. The execution and performances by the boys were also tighter on White Devil Armory, therefore giving us the luxury of mixing with totally solid tracks. A fucking pleasure I tell you, a fucking pleasure!
Apparently it received your highest ever chart position on the Billboard 200 after over 30 years as a band. Why do you think that is and was that ever something you aimed/hoped to achieve? Well personally I wanted #One.I knew from the work being done by our labels we would advance, but the number is relative to the time we live in. Am I proud? Damn right I’m proud. I’ve always felt Overkill is a band with ‘connection’, connection to the people who listen and support us. The charting at a higher position reflects that, and that my friend is where my pride lies.
Did you do much differently or have any different inspirations for this album as opposed to your previous 16?
Not too much, we have a working formula. No fucking spiritual visions, no ‘struck by lightning’, no re-inventing the wheel, discovering fire and all that happy-creative horseshit. We have a work ethic that is carved in stone….fucking simple, see the opportunity, squeeze the shit out of it….job well done boys!
How do you still find lyrics to write about and come up with new riffs having written so much music already? Man, I write tongue in cheek, love the sarcastic-humour based approach. I use collected emotion and abstract presentation. I keep my eyes open and feet moving. All this means to some degree I am still learning about myself, those around me and finding a crooked smile to reflect it all. With that as my angel, I will always write…..with or without Overkill.
Is it any easier or harder now than it was in the early years? The question is too broad, some things are easier, some a bit tougher. Experience is a great tool and it helps one sift though the time wasting bullshit quite quickly. The downside is, when you know it is time wasting bullshit, one must come up with a clever alternative, a different route. I think this is where it can be tougher, to always try at least in theory to challenge oneself, to make it better at least in theory. All in all, easier.
And how do you maintain the passion and energy to keep playing live so often? Damn good dope, none of the street shit, we go right to the pharmacist. And in this case the ‘live’ is the drug. Man when your eyes start to bug out of your head, heart racing, sweating like an April shower, you know something inside is calling. If you answer that call, the passion is holding its hand. In short, personally….it gets me high, higher, highest. Skullman and I start on stage right, every show, every-motherfucking show there is a fist bump, as he screams: “This is what we do!” I reply with: “give ‘em the cold steel boys!” Just fucking madness.
Of all the thrash bands that were there in the beginning you seem to have been one of the most consistent that are still going. Why do you think that is? Well maybe this answer is contained a little in the last one. We had never had to spend time figuring out who we were, that came to us quite quickly. Also, I think there is a certain freedom in ‘not giving a shit’. You can say ‘I don’t give a shit’ but that my friend is a dead give away to caring what other people think. If the actions of those in question are that of the freedom of not caring, you have yourself a genuine band of motherfuckers, and nothing trumps a genuine band of motherfuckers, not even four Aces, no matter how BIG those Aces are. It’s all about belief.
What’s it like playing on bills with younger thrash bands that were inspired by you? I like the competition, it should be a young man’s game but for some reason, based on experience most likely, the old dogs still bark loudest. But the younger guys bring an uncontrolled chaos to the party, and I like it. Don’t get me wrong, I want to bury them when we are on stage but I do love the youthful madness.
What future plans do Overkill have? Oh for God’s sake….I mean really? Ok, somewhere, out there, in the future…we will retire, fade away like the smoke from a burning cigarette into a black night…..but let’s not hope that is too soon.
And finally, why should a new metal fan listen to White Devil Armory?
Because I said so, that’s why. And I’m fucking in charge today. So don’t piss me off and do the right thing or I’m coming……and you’ll never know when.