Michelle LaRose talks to Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth for Caustic Truths! Magazine
Photographs by Michelle LaRose
Overkill has entered its third decade of knock down drag out in your face no holds barred metal. They have just finished up Gigantour with Megadeth and are heading straight into the studio to record their fifteenth album.
We were able to sit with Bobby Ellsworth just as Gigantour was winding down to find out about the new album, side projects and Gigantour itself.
Bobby: We’re in the process of having about ninety percent of the music being done and about thirty percent of the vocals being done. The recording starts, lets say November one is our target date. We’re looking for a release in the first quarter of next year… spring. So it’s happening again. We’ve always worked in a cycle and that’s; release, tour, tour, tour, tour, tour, write and in this case, a little touring in the middle of writing with Gigantour, then record and release. We’ve worked in that cycle since ’85.
CT: So it’d be fair to say we can see you guys on a headline tour this time next year.
Bobby: I would hope so. We haven’t been in Florida in quite some time. It’s obviously not for want of doing it; it’s up to the promoters. If they want to pay for the show, that’s fine with us. We’ll always come. But the other side of it is, if they don’t we don’t. We don’t come. It’s just that simple. I think our one principle is that we don’t go home and write checks at the end of the tour and say, “Oh that was fun!” It cost us ‘X’ amount. That’s not how it works. We hope that Gigantour is opening some of those doors for us again. It’ll actually ‘up’ the value of the band in certain markets. I know that’s the boring business side of things but the up side of the business side is that it does open other doors and hopefully Florida’s one of those doors.
CT: Gigantour must open up a new fan base for you. People that come to see Megadeth or one of the other bands leave being an Overkill fan.
Bobby: That’s the idea of this, exposing ourselves to people who would not normally see us. At the same time, because the band has had a twenty-plus year history there are people that can incite that little riot that we get going when we play. That’s really what the idea is. Overkill is really a word of action not necessarily a word of passiveness. When we get those people that know the band, who have followed us for that twenty years, they can get the people around them moving and banging their heads and saying, “This is a lot different than I expected.” That’s always a great testimony to what we do, is to say, “Hey! We weren’t what you thought… We’re this.” And you had the chance to see us. So hey, it’s good to be on stage.
CT: You said the new album is already being worked out. Do you have a barrage of song you need to cut back to twelve or so or do you have a set number of songs ready to track?
Bobby: Our whole career as we’ve done things has always been ten, ten, ten, ten, ten. That’s what we work on. There are other ideas but it gets knocked down to ten prior to recording. The idea for us is about focus. We work a certain way and that’s to keep the focus on making the feel of a record as opposed to lets say ten or twelve individual tracks. It’s really about the record itself.
Bobby: Yeah, of course. There’s something that also makes it fun. Part of the fun is the risk that you take in this. If there’s risk there’s more at stake. If there’s more at stake, I think you put more into it. So the idea from our perspective, again doing it for two decades, is that you have to learn something along the way. One of those things is learning how to present ourselves even right down to production.
CT: You have another project called The Cursed. Can you tell us about The Cursed?
Bobby: It’s Dan Lorenzo from Hades and myself. Dan also played in a band called Non-Fiction, a big riff monster. I think it’s really about rock and roll. It’s really a side project. There’s metal in there of course. It even goes as far as swing. It is really quite different for me to be involved in after being in Overkill for two decades. I’m having a lot of fun with it. It was just a garage band that actually ended up getting signed.
CT: Do you think Overkill fans would like The Cursed?
Bobby: I don’t know! I suppose to some degree there has to be similarities. When a person does vocals there’s style, there’s identifiable qualities to that voice. I’m sure that shines to some degree within it. I try to really stay away from what my norm is with Overkill and move in another direction. The direction being everything being an octave lower than I do in Overkill. So it’s a lot of fun for me to do because it is that different.
CT: The Cursed will be releasing their debut album in 2007. Can you tell us about that?
Bobby: It’ll be out earlier than the Overkill record probably, January or February. It’s rock and roll. Everything from finger snapping to sax solos! [Laughing] So it’s really, really just a side project. It’s something I just enjoy doing with Dan. We’ve known each other since the Non-Fiction tour with Overkill in ’93. We’ve been good friends. He’s been trying to get me to write with him for years. I said, “You’re really a screwed up individual.” And he said the same thing about me!
Bobby: Then we called it love and made a record.
CT: It seems as though the big tours such as Gigantour, Ozzfest, Warped Tour are becoming more and more popular. Do you think the old standard two band shows are giving way to these mega tours?
Bobby: I don’t necessarily think so. I think that they are events. It’s nice to have an event round a year off. In the case of this [Gigantour], what I think is special about it is that Megadeth is what Megadeth is and it’s that history. Lamb Of God is, I’m not going to say necessarily new, but newer than Megadeth and are very hot with what they’re doing and very popular. The Swedish bands quite obviously have a following. Overkill coming from lets say that ‘Megadeth era’ of birth being the ‘80’s. What I think is special about it is that it’s a tour that doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk. A lot of people say, “We’re going to bring our friends out on the road.” or “We’d love to bring our friends on the road.” Well, Dave Mustaine did and that’s a good thing for Overkill. Again, a lot of people won’t do that. They’ll say it! “Oh we’re going to take you, we’re going to take you.” But hey, Mustaine hooked up with us and gave us a blast from the past and we lobbied for this thing and we got it. We’re happy to be on it. So I think it is a special event but I don’t think it gives way to the two or three band tours.
CT: As you mentioned, you’ve been doing this for over twenty years. What is the key to your longevity?
Bobby: Being a good lay!
CT: He’s laying his way across the country!
Bobby: I walk up on stage and say, “Now pay attention! I fathered half of you! Show a little respect!”
Bobby: I think longevity is about… Overkills philosophy, I don’t know if its as other philosophies go but we obviously plan for things because you have to plan for records and tours. I think we really look at each day as an opportunity. If you take it day by day when those opportunities arrive, you really squeeze the shit out of that opportunity for every drop its worth. You take that attitude into the next day as opposed to thinking of yourself in different terms than what you are then you may miss an opportunity saying, “This opportunity’s not big enough for me to take.” Overkill doesn’t necessarily have that philosophy. Everything’s an opportunity. Everything deserves full attention. Everything deserves as much as we have. Weather we’re playing first on the big stage or closing the second stage on Gigantour, it’s the same show. If it’s a headline show in Cleveland or weather its Gigantour in New Jersey they’re full of Overkill-heads. It’s the same show. It’s day to day. Say I take Friday’s philosophy and cross it into Saturday. It works itself out to days becoming months and months becoming years.
CT: What drives you to succeed in a business that has such impossible odds of succeeding in?
Bobby: I think it’s understanding. We understand what we are. We’ve carved out niche. We understand what that niche is and there’s a great degree of satisfaction. That satisfaction is measured in days as opposed to dollars. It gives us the opportunity to enjoy it. A guy came up to me one day and he goes, “Overkill is still around?” I said [sarcastically], “How’s the day gig?” [Laughing] It’s really simple when you can balance it like so. So it’s a real easy realization of self-satisfaction to be able to say that I’m not behind a desk or not in the cardboard box factory. I’m grateful for where I am. This becomes what the drive and the motivation is. Then again, these opportunities present themselves and you continue to squeeze the living shit out of them. We can give lessons on how to stay young on the stage by just really going for it. When the starting gun goes, we’re off! When they say it’s time to end. We end. The point is that between those two bookends it’s filled with a chaotic frenzy of what we know how to do best.
CT: Thank you Bobby for talking with Caustic Truths! today.
Bobby: Was it better than the Rick Neilson “yes” and “no’s”?
Bobby: Ten inches! 1959! Taurus!