Filmmaker and former OVERKILL drummer Rat Skates recently sat down for a chat with Metal Asylum in New Jersey about his latest DVD release, "Born in the Basement". He talks in depth about how he started OVERKILL and includes in the film many pictures and classic footage of the band in its beginning stages, explains why he left, and talks about his work on the much-anticipated "Get Thrashed: The Story Of Thrash Metal" documentary.
Metal Asylum: So what is the understanding as to why you are no longer in OVERKILL?
Rat: OVERKILL was my band. I left it to everyone else to do whatever it was that they wanted with it. The bass player, D.D., and I went to the same high school and we had a band together, it was a punk rock band. Too bad you haven't seen "Born in the Basement" yet because all of this is explained. We got really heavy into JUDAS PRIEST and the heavy metal thing. I ran an ad in the paper that was answered by a guitar player from up state New York and his friend was Ellsworth (OVERKILL singer Blitz). He brought Blitz along, who was a bass player first and ended up being the vocalist later. So it (OVERKILL) was something I put together with D.D. supporting me. I left because of my dissatisfaction with the road and the business, which eventually resulted in me abusing alcohol. I left everything to my bandmates. I didn't take anything, didn't sign my way out of it contractually, which was my mistake. I said, "These are my friends" and "I just can't do this anymore, guys." It has had a punishing effect on my life it really did and it's hard to talk about. I thought if these guys want to continue with OVERKILL, I'm not gonna stop them. After that things obviously changed quite a bit.
Metal Asylum: On your MySpace page you have several of these really vintage OVERKILL promo shots with the band in theatrical makeup pre-"Feel the Fire". So my question is do you have any rights to any OVERKILL product?
Rat: Well. "Born in the Basement" really explains what was happening at that time growing up in the '80s trying to develop a band. I drew the OVERKILL logo, it's mine. I have the original artwork, but let them continue to do whatever they wanted. "Take the green logo and use the songs, it's OK." Do I have rights? See, when you are younger, and for me this was in the '80s, you also have to consider that you are excited about playing and doing what you are doing, you don't really think about the future. I didn't look at the whole picture from a long-term business point of view. At least not as deeply as I should have and that is true for a lot of musicians. So instead of me worrying about signing a contract when I left to make sure I was going to get this and that, I just said, "Hey, these guys are my friends. I established this band and put it on the map. There's no animosity, they'll take care of me." If anything, they were upset because they lost the manager and a writer. I was the guy who made most of these random parts come together into songs, and I had put everything else together that we needed. So, I was the guy who was managing the band up until we got signed and then its like they had to pick up the pieces. So at the time I felt these are my friends; they will take care of me and I will leave it at that.
Metal Asylum: How long have you been working on "Born in the Basement" and does it include any live footage of OVERKILL from those early years when you wore makeup?
Rat: There is an enormous amount of stuff that people have not seen because it's mine. Through all of the years of trying to get OVERKILL signed and recognized, I was doing most of the work, and D.D. did some things too. At the time, my girlfriend, who is now my wife, was our photographer and took those pictures. I have so many pictures people have never seen it's crazy! A lot of it is in "Born in the Basement" and it shows OVERKILL's development from when we wore makeup, which a lot of people have never seen. We were a very heavy theatrical band. There are pictures when Danny Spitz (ANTHRAX) was in the band and people are like, "Wow, that's OVERKILL," but it's great. We were young and we didn't give a shit, we were just going for it. Just like SLAYER, when they went through their makeup "Show No Mercy" / "Haunting the Chapel" period.
Metal Asylum: Well when I saw those old pictures of OVERKILL, and one in particular from 1983 with the skulls and spider webs, I immediately thought it was like MTLEY CRE meets W.A.S.P.
Rat: Totally absolutely. Here's the funny thing about that and this is totally true. In 1981 when we were thinking about and trying out this stuff, it was D.D. and I who had the vision. The other guys in the band just kind of went along with it and we actually lost some members because of the theatrics. To this day, I still enjoy the theatrical aspect of it and I look back fondly at those pictures. So in '81 we had this whole presentation with the skulls, spider webs and chains, all this Halloween store horror stuff. I am looking through an edition of Kerrang! magazine and I see a picture of this new band out of L.A. called MTLEY CRE. In the picture I see the same exact thing we are doing the skulls, spider webs, makeup, but they were a little different. At the time they looked a lot like we did but they had a lot more colors and animal patterns in their clothes; we were strictly about the black clothes. W.A.S.P. also did the same thing but they were even more over the top with the saw blades and stuff. Then when the SLAYER record "Show No Mercy" came out, it was like a MISFITS spin-off like we were doing, but SLAYER's music was much heavier. What happened, and this is a fact not my opinion, whatever movement is happening at the time, happens as a group. See, when we were doing this theatrical thing, thrash metal wasn't actually a word yet, it didn't have its place as a labeled genre of metal until like 1985. METALLICA always being the leaders and at the forefront of the movement, had the tight black stretch pants with the high-top Nike sneakers. So everyone in thrash followed that trend. Now it's different, everyone wears shorts on stage. So, the music industry kind of moves in waves or trends. The early '80s were a real interesting time for OVERKILL.
Read the entire interview at www.metalasylum.net.
Watch the "Born in The Basement" trailer below.