Jay Rollins talks to Bobby Blitz about the state of metal, new bands, and wanting to tour with Judas Priest.
A band that embodies Motörhead’s work ethic and Judas Priest esc showmanship, Overkill has stood amongst the heaviest with continuous releases and relentless touring. Just a few weeks back the guys released their 19th studio album, the auditory assault The Wings of War out on Nuclear Blast. In celebration of yet another vicious release Overkill has embarked on a world tour aimed at getting every rocker headbanging. Whether he is feelin’ the fire, sayin’ hello from the gutter while under the influence, or basking in his necroshine, just remember evil never dies so Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth will be the last man standing.
Metalheads Forever are fortunate to once again to have Bobby Blitz of Overkill with us. Thanks for joining me.
Good times, good to be on Metalheads Forever.
We spoke with you just before the release of The Wings of War and when you were discussing how this was your 19th album you mentioned that the scene is healthy right now. Overkill has released new material every two years or so, through the thick and the thin. Do you feel different creatively when you are recording and the scene is strong, versus when there isn’t as much interest in metal overall?
Well that’s a good question, you know I’ve never posed that to myself. I don’t think so – you always go in with the same goal and that’s to succeed at a high level. Now whether that happens or not is something else, but I do think that these records are for sure reflective of that healthy scene, these last five or six records are reflective of that healthy scene. Now when I think back on it because you just asked me that question, I suppose it is a little bit easier, because you’re walking with a spring in your step as opposed to thinking that it’s not a healthy scene. Thinking in terms of people are hungry for more metal at this particular point in time.
Absolutely and it just seems as though a few of your colleagues like Testament who have kind of did the long haul, they took a bit of a hiatus where Overkill has just stayed with it from beginning to end, but all of you seem to have a bit of a revigoration and have been putting out great content. But now in the last five or six years the great albums that have been coming out it’s almost like a new dawning of metal.
Yeah, it’s for sure kind of a redo of the spirit and the excitement of the beginning. I think probably the difference is at the beginning there really was no template to go by it was really just being created from day to day. But I think more so in the modern era you know what works; experience plays into this especially from the older bands like ourselves and Testament who you mentioned.
A recent trend has been for bands to comprise new albums out of primarily old riffs, but Overkill keeps evolving by writing new material every time. Does writing fresh for each release also help you out as a lyricist?
I think so, I think it helps me to repeat myself less. I mean there’s a fine line between let’s say style and repetition, but you know when the riffs come across as new. And we’re always trying to obviously challenge ourselves to not be repetitive but still put an Overkill stamp on it. I think it gives me the opportunity to go to different places as a lyricist or with vocal lines. You know I noticed on this record, like you said we had talked recently, that by adding Jason to it, it gave us the opportunity to add melody to go different places.
I’ve mentally grouped “Head of a Pin” and “A Mother’s Prayer” into lyrical counterparts, I just have a habit of doing that with albums and art in general, whether the artist intended it or not. With “Head of a Pin’s” being my favourite song. Is there a song or two on this album that you think is particularly provoking or striking lyrically?
Lyrically? You know “Head of a Pin” is probably the one that’s most personal to me. You know I try, I want to say, cleanse myself of what’s happened over the past two years when I’m doing lyrics. Obviously not every song, I mean many of them are based on principles that the band has or principles that I have personally that I think that people can relate to, especially in the scene. “Head of a Pin” was about an issue that I was having, and one of the ways that I can usually figure out those issues is to write them down and then make a lyric out of it, and when I recognize it that way it usually gives me the opportunity to dispose of it. This was just quite simply about something that I felt could never be undone that became undone, and I didn’t know why until I actually wrote it out. So lyrically provoking sure, but it was based on let’s say prior experience.
Awesome. Bobby, you’ve also talked about how new bands are lacking creativity, in music style and sometimes even logo design. Besides Warbringer and Havok who else is catching your ear with a unique twist on metal?
We’re taking out a band, Act of Defiance, we’re taking out a band called Mothership which I think is pretty interesting. I’ve heard recently a band in Germany called Dustbowl which seems to have an old school vibe and a really fresh kind of aggressive approach. Let’s say the modern day meets the old, so it keeps the integrity of the old school in tact but also at the same time has that fresh approach to it, and I was actually exposed to them because they were looking to do a tour with us.
Nice and its important for the veterans of the scene to be keeping an ear to the underground and what’s fresh and what’s new because it helps the bands in the underground who are really working hard to distinguish themselves and get recognition, I mean a slot opening up for Overkill could be a changing opportunity for many bands.
Well you know I think so, and I think even in our position you have to pay attention to what’s out there with regard to what’s new because you know eventually it is the future. What it is today, is the future, and eventually that future will be here.
The Killfest portion of The Wings of War World Tour had support from Destruction, as well as Flotsam and Jetsam and in a few weeks you embark across the USA with Death Angel. A band of your stature has options, you can do your own headlining tours, take premium supporting slots, or do festivals. But if you could open for any band, who would it be for?
Oh jeez, I suppose Judas Priest! I’m a big fan of the band I still think that they’re still viable. I know that they very much have a formula, like ourselves, with different results with that formula. They’ve really kind of ruled that metal world for a forty year – fifty year – period at this point. I had a chance to tour with Halford back in the early 2000s, I think it was 2002 during our record Bloodletting, and he was doing a solo record called Resurrection, so that was the closest I came but I would love to tour with Priest.
Oh man, since you mention Bloodletting that was actually a big album in my life. The time period that I came across it and started listening to it was between Grade 10 and 11 and I just fell in love with it. And that was one of my big introductions to Overkill. I actually then went back through the discography and developed my love that way.
It’s funny what gets you goin’, you know it’s kinda like you can come on board even at The Wings of War and then go backwards. That’s kinda cool that it still kinda holds that integrity through these decades and I think that it’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of.
Before I let you go, I grew up headbanging to Overkill and getting stoned while watching Kevin Smith movies. So, I have to ask, since you are both New Jersey diehards, is there any connection between Overkill and Kevin Smith?
There is none, we did “Welcome to the Garden State” we probably should have thrown him in there and Frank Sinatra, but there is no contact.
Man I would love to see him do one of your music videos, when I think of New Jersey I think Overkill and Kevin Smith, that’s what I think of. I spent a lot of time in Halifax, so I’m on the East Coast of Canada, and I always like paying attention to the Jersey scene. Anything East Coast is kind of close to home you know what I mean?
I’m picturing you sitting there with a bong watching Clerks.
Oh yeah, 100%. I’m not even supposed to be here today man, someone else was supposed to do this interview! No not really ha.
Ha ha ha ha.
I greatly appreciate your time.
Thanks so much for your time, I appreciate it.
Cheers brother, I hope I can see you on tour sometime maybe opening up for Priest.
I hope so too.
MHF Magazine/Jay Rollins