OVERKILL's BOBBY 'BLITZ' ELLSWORTH On Differences Between East Coast And West Coast Thrash Scenes
October 23, 2015
In the three-minute clip below, vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth of New Jersey thrash metal veterans OVERKILL talks about the differences between the San Francisco Bay Area thrash scene and the East Coast thrash scene of the 1980s.
Said Blitz: "I'll start with what's different from us, and that would be the Bay Area sound. And I think that they got a stamp. And I think that to be a Bay Area band and be a successful Bay Area band, you needed to have similarities to each other and a lot of the same qualities and same approach to things. And that was kind of a local thinking, because, I mean, this wasn't something that was worldwide yet. And that local thinking from the Bay Area became worldwide, and probably the quintessential metal band, METALLICA, coming out of there, taking that Bay Area sound, I think a lot of other people wanted… not wanted, but showed, because of their locale, that they were from that same area. Most metalheads say, 'Oh, that's a Bay Area sound.' You already know what it is. I think on the other side of the country, where we were from, we didn't have that. We didn't have a local thinking. Our local thinking was day-to-day battles. It was about getting that show, knocking them down, hopefully getting another one after that. If you succeed on Saturday, probably you'll succeed on Sunday, if you use the same formula, and we were growing through that, but, I think, in my opinion, developing different musical personalities. We came from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, much like the Bay Area did, but we..."
He continued: "I remember going to college in Manhattan, and the coolest thing about it was that the punk scene had exploded. You could be walking down the street and see Dee Dee Ramone, or you could see Debbie Harry, or you could see the NEW YORK DOLLS, but then at night you could see them play. And I think that we came from that kind of the 'DEAD BOYS meets the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal,' but also 'THE HEARTBREAKERS meet the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.' I think that that's really the difference between the two coasts, or the two larger areas of population in the States — they had their thing, and it was theirs, and we had a whole bunch of different shit that we kind of puzzled together to give ANTHRAX or CARNIVORE or TYPE O NEGATIVE or BIOHAZARD or OVERKILL a different configuration of how we put ourselves together."
In a 2010 interview with Metal Asylum, EXODUS guitarist Gary Holt was asked if he feels the "Big Four" should have been expanded and considered the "Big Seven", including EXODUS, TESTAMENT and OVERKILL.
"Well, I think it should be the 'Big Five' with EXODUS, because we were there at the start of thrash metal with METALLICA in the real early '80s," he said. "Same thing with MEGADETH because [Dave] Mustaine was a part of METALLICA's birth and he also created MEGADETH. And SLAYER are SLAYER. ANTHRAX are also great and old friends, but if you listen to those first few records, they have definitely changed. TESTAMENT has every right to be part of the thrash metal legends, but it just came down to timing because they came later. And OVERKILL have been their since the beginning also. But I don't get hung up on that shit, because I know how it all started and I know where I was when the shit got created. We [EXODUS] certainly deserve to be part of the founding fathers, but you know who often gets excluded are the Germans — KREATOR, DESTRUCTION and SODOM. Everybody looks to America and forgets those guys. KREATOR, DESTRUCTION and SODOM all released records in the early '80s."
He continued: "Really, the "Big Four" is solely based on sales and the ones who sold the most. But if you compare records, I will put EXODUS' last few albums up against anybody's shit. SLAYER is always awesome; the last TESTAMENT album [at the time of the interview], 'The Formation of Damnation', was great; the new MEGADETH [2009's 'Endgame'] is one of their best; METALLICA are still finding their feet again, and their last album, 'Death Magnetic', was a step in the right direction. The new OVERKILL, 'Ironbound', is one of their best records ever; it's so good. And KREATOR, DESTRUCTION, and SODOM still make great new music. What I think it boils down to is the bands who've been doing this the longest still can do it the best. METALLICA are still a mighty force live, but they lost their way for quite a while. But then again I've never had to deal with the horrible problem of having millions of dollars. [Laughs] Maybe if I had that kind of money, it would distract my hunger for doing this kind of shit, too. But, unfortunately for me, I have to keep kickin' people in the teeth, I don't have the funds to go art-shopping. My version of fine art is a new edition of Hustler magazine. [Laughs]"