OVERKILL Frontman: 'Along The Way, You Must Reinvent Yourself'
February 18, 2017
OVERKILL singer Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth was interviewed on the February 10-12 edition of Full Metal Jackie's nationally syndicated radio show. You can now listen to the chat using the Podbean widget below. A couple of excerpts follow.
Full Metal Jackie: ["The Grinding Wheel" is] your eighteenth studio album. Bobby, what makes each time you record an album stand out as a unique experience?
Blitz: "Well, you know, I think one of the things about us is that we really are opportunists when it comes to this, and we love to have new opportunities come our way, especially when we're the ones who have laid the groundwork for those opportunities, whether it be contracts, et cetera. But then the passion comes in. And so you do all the work prior — you get the contract, you know it's coming — and then you can switch it over to the passion end, which has always been the motivator here. We're real prideful guys. It's not about what we were, it's always about what we can do more from what we were, and make it about what we are. So I think that when an opportunity comes along and we get that chance, we really like to squeeze it and take it to new places. And I think we've done it on this one, too. It's got a great level of excitement for everyone in the band since it's been done."
Full Metal Jackie: It showcases a wide range of what OVERKILL can do. What's your most overlooked musical skill, and why doesn't it come into play more often?
Blitz: "I like that: 'overlooked OVERKILL.' I think you touched something here. This does show diversity; there's more than a one-trick pony here. And I think when I first started hearing D.D. [Verni, bass] presenting the riffs for this record, I heard a lot of traditional heavy metal in it. And it turns into thrash when we start adding the energy factor. You know, when you start pushing the energy button in the studio and everything starts going on ten-plus, that's when it becomes a thrash record. But I'm hearing groove, I'm hearing the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, I'm hearing the punk rock we grew up on, I'm hearing epic vibes, I'm hearing some hardcore. So I think the idea of the record, as it developed, was to have ten individual entities on the record, but then, at the end of the day, through the mix and through the development of the songs, give it the OVERKILL stamp — you know, the brand, right on the forehead."
Full Metal Jackie: Bobby, there's a real-blue collar attitude to OVERKILL. Why is it important for your band to have that working-class ethic?
Blitz: "I had this conversation with a guy when I was a kid. And he said, 'Where are you from?' I said, 'Jersey.' He goes, 'That's where we in New York dump our garbage.' And I said to myself, 'I will get that guy.' [Laughs] 'I will get that Manhattanite. He's probably from Indiana, but I'm gettin' him.' I think it's something — I'm not gonna say only common to our area — but, for sure, in the tri-state area, let's say immigration, or the first immigration hub of the United States of America, and my grandparents were boat people, and my mother being first generation. I think a lot of those ethics were passed on as them being kind of 'new Americans.' And sure, that happens in the current day also. And with newness comes, I think, a desire to succeed, and that desire to succeed was passed down to their offspring, and that would be me. That would be D.D Verni, that would be Dave Polinski [a.k.a. Dave Linsk, guitar], Ron [Lipnicki, drums] and Derek [Tailer, guitar]. So I think that we have that kind of coursing through our veins, that kind of work-hard-and-succeed DNA. And, obviously, that's something that's passed on through family."
Full Metal Jackie: There's this tour coming up with OVERKILL and NILE. OVERKILL [is] an unbelievably good live band. What have you learned about getting that same power to come through on your studio albums?
Blitz: "You know, that's a trick. 'Cause it always hasn't happened, but it has been happening now for a good amount of years. And my trick is to… You know, as we've gotten older, the chaos around it has settled down. Early on, it was just about chaos; we didn't know what we were doing, we were just doing it. But I think now we've kind of gotten to a point where we can think about it. And time becomes our luxury. So what I do is I try to get the riffs as early as possible. I bring something that I can record on of high quality on the road. So if we're out on the road with KREATOR, like we were a few years ago, or SYMPHONY X, or now we're going out on the road with NILE, I'll have something on the bus to record on. Just an idea — throw it down. I demoed an entire record on one tour, just because I wanted to take the stage from the stage to the bus to the recording. So, for me, that was my trick about getting, let's say, that live energy into it. The last memory of OVERKILL being the stage, the first recording on the demo right after that stage. So, it's helped me a lot over these last years."
Full Metal Jackie: OVERKILL has had a really long and productive career that shows no sign of slowing down. What would you have done differently at the beginning if you anticipated this longevity?
Blitz: " [Laughs] Oh, God! At the beginning? [Laughs I can't even remember back that far — oh my God! Well, you know, I don't know, because everything changed. When we first walked into this, or, actually, forced our way into it, it was a different world — it was a world of vinyl and cassettes, and then the CD. So the changes all happened in the world around us. And now technology has brought us down to really digital information and it's a different world. I don't know if anyone could have prepared for the music business from the '80s to 2017, because it was, like, almost [a complete change] from what it was to what it is. But I do think that, along the way, you must reinvent yourself. That's as simple as it is — you have to embrace the technology or get left behind. Then you become the old dog who knows one trick: 'I only know the old way.' But I think one of the keys for us, along the way, is not to change what we learned from the beginning, [but] take it with us and re-adapt and reinvent as we continue the journey. Because we all know here, it's not about getting to the end — it's all about this journey and doing those shows and creating those records and having those experiences along the way. So, let's say, adapt and reinvent throughout that journey."
Full Metal Jackie also hosts "Whiplash", which airs every Sunday night from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the Los Angeles radio station 95.5 KLOS. The show can be heard on the KLOS web site at 955klos.com or you can listen in on the KLOS channel on iHeartRadio.