BOBBY 'BLITZ' ELLSWORTH On OVERKILL's 'Realism': 'There's A Purity To What We Do'

May 19, 2019

Prior to OVERKILL's April 30 performance in Detroit, Michigan, vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth spoke with Chuck Marshall of Metal Wani. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On how American and European metal crowds differ:

Bobby: "There's obviously differences in culture, but the world's become much smaller through Internet and commerce. You're in contact overseas instantaneously since email and now through a variety of different apps. The Europeans dress like the Americans, and the Americans dress like the Europeans. There's less difference now than what I saw when we had originally started. But even if there are differences in culture, food, religion, whatever it may be, as soon as the first note's played, the commonality comes out in the people... This specific music is a language understood by all, and all speak it back the same way to the band."

On the health of the modern thrash scene:

Bobby: "As far as excitement goes, the excitement is still there. I run into some of the old timers sometimes — they go, 'Oh, it's not like the good old days.' I'm like, 'You're missing out, bro. Fucking pay attention'... I think the main difference is that in the '80s, [thrash] was being created from day to day. I think that that was kind of the cool vibe about the entire scene. There was no template to go by — it was really taking the energy of punk and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and the [BLACK] SABBATHs and the [JUDAS] PRIESTs, and kind of mixing it up into a bag in different parts of the world and different parts of the U.S., and all coming up with kind of similar results that turned into what thrash metal is, whether it be KREATOR in Germany or the EXODUS guys out on the West Coast or OVERKILL in New York. The cool thing was the template was being created simultaneously, and we were getting similar results. I think the biggest difference is that the excitement back then was because who knew what was next. Now, we kind of know what's next, but we're still enjoying it."

On new drummer Jason Bittner (SHADOWS FALL, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM):

Bobby: "We call him 'Smash.' [Laughs]... First and foremost, we are very comfortable with him on a personal level. You tour as long as I have, you don't want to be surrounded by douchebags. It's the first rule I have — I like doing this because for most of my career, I've been able to tour with people I like, and Jason is one of those people. We knew he was a ball-buster; we knew what his talents were; we knew we liked his personality... I think by playing with him for a year before we even recorded a note with him gave us the opportunity to make that change of chemistry seamless, which is really the key. You don't want to force it — you want it to seem natural. I think that what he's brought to us is a higher level of abilities. I think his consistency is unmatched of any drummer that's ever been in this band. He plays every song exactly the same night after night, but can go off on tangents [and] do things differently and bring the back in, just to make it more interesting for himself, the band and the audience. I think Jason gets all thumbs-up."

On the band's enduring appeal:

Bobby: "I think it's realism. We like doing this. In as much as I say Jason's a ball-buster, in my book, it gets a thumbs-up, because I like that my day is not filled with anxiety. It's calm. I like being here. It's like a middle-aged boys' party... There's a purity in what we do. That excitement, from having a good day and no anxiety, that excitement is let go on the stage. From a personal level, I've always thought my most important show is the next one, not what happened a week ago or the biggest one I ever did or will ever do. My most important show [is] tonight. I think people pick that up."

On whether he ever feels nervous before performing:

Bobby: "Sure. The whole thing about the live theater is that we have plenty of experience, but there's still the possibility of failure, and the possibility of failure is what gives it the edge."

On performing live:

Bobby: "We like to think of ourselves as being relevant in the current day — that it's not about what we were, but what we are. That becomes, I think, the motivation for doing these live shows: 'Can we still do it?' When you're picking the songs, we're going to pick three or four new ones to throw in there. It's not all about 'The Years Of Decay' and 'Horrorscope' for us — it's about 'The Wings Of War'. There's some classic ones that should always be in there, because they're crowd favorites. The rest of it is selfish shit, where we just go, 'Okay, the second half of the set, let's do what we want.'"

On touring less aggressively nowadays:

Bobby: "One of the things about the energy that the band has is appearing like a well-oiled machine... We do old-guy metal tours now. We do 17 shows so nobody has to go home and get on a fuckin' IV to rehydrate themselves, but we can give all the energy in those 17 shows. I think that that's the real important thing — to be that well-oiled machine."

OVERKILL's nineteenth studio album, "The Wings Of War", was released on February 22 via Nuclear Blast.

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