The Ozzfest Meets Knotfest Interviews with Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth of Overkill
Overkill recently announced the arrival of their 18th magnum opus entitled The Grinding Wheel, being unleased worldwide on February 10, 2017 via Nuclear Blast Records. While awaiting news of the album, the mighty Overkill has kept themselves busy, including playing a one-off stop at Ozzfest Meets Knotfest. Presenting an epic thrash metal extravaganza that had the fans moshing about in the stifling heat, Overkill remains a raging sonic assault force hellbent on pummeling your senses! Right after their devastating performance, we caught up with front man Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth to find out more about the upcoming Overkill album, a chance encounter with Ozzy Osbourne, their New York punk rock influences. and a whole lot more! Read on…
How did your set at Knotfest go and are you a fan of Slipknot?
The set, it’s always too short for me. I’m a 90-minute guy, you know, 75 to 90. That’s my comfort zone. I always like to present myself on a stage that Overkill’s prepared, that somebody else is prepared for Overkill. With regard to Slipknot, am I fan? Not specifically so but I am a fan of the fact they got a set of nuts to put on something like this. Because we all have the same strand of DNA in ourselves which goes back as far as we could count with the original American rock and roll. And it’s great to see American rock and roll metal bands doing great like them and I applaud them for it.
The new single Our Finest Hour, is there any story behind the lyrics to that song?
It’s about friendship. It’s very simple; it’s about commitment to another. It’s about walking someone through their darkest times no matter how fucked up it seems. The lyrics come across as two felons going to take somebody out and if one’s nervous and the other one says, don’t worry about it, I’ll walk you right through it. Stay low; keep your finger on the trigger. But, an abstract way of looking at friendship. When you hear the song, I think you get a little bit more about this; it was a unique way of writing. I love writing abstract as opposed to putting it “this is my life” as opposed to “this is a story.”
Any story or concept behind The Grinding Wheel, the upcoming album title?
I think this is a band that has been in the foxholes for a 30 year period. You know, who’s your foxhole buddy, you know. Who do you pick when they’re coming in? I picked D.D. Verni, I pick Dave Linsk, I pick the thrash metal guys. I’ve known through all these years. We’re egg throwers, we don’t leave, we’ll fight until the last guy. That’s to grind it out, to be able to grind through things, I think that’s the mettle of a man, the mettle of a person to be able to say I’ve lived through it. Not I survived through it, I lived through it. And I have stories to tell and I have memories that make me stronger. That’s about a grinding wheel; it’s kind of a never ending thought in your head. Always making something better. I think that’s the basic idea behind the title of the record.
Since we’re at Ozzfest, I was wondering, has Black Sabbath heard or commented on your cover of Never Say Die from Coverkill?
How were they yesterday? Killer right?
They were awesome.
It’s like a piece of history. I mean I was a paperboy 14 years old, man. I got my first paperboy paycheck, it was like $8 and you can join the Columbia Record House. I bought everything from Black Sabbath that was out. Masters of Reality was the newest one, so I had the first three. I’ve been a fan since way back since I was a formable young man, put on the wrong path by these (albums). They haven’t commented on anything we’ve done on Coverkill but I can tell you a great Ozzy story.
We were out in Los Angeles at a place called the Enterprise Studio in 1988 with Michael Wagner, and he was mixing our record called Under The Influence. We were dirt poor at the time, but the record company was putting in for the high-end studio and the high-end producer. Ozzy was working across the hall on the first record with Zakk. I had $15 a day to live on and I walked down to this deli and I picked up a tuna fish hero, and I picked up two bud tall boys and they wouldn’t let me bring them into the studio, I had to sit in the lounge. I’m sitting out there and I see this person laying on the couch and he has all these newspapers on him with little gold ballet slippers. I’m eating my sandwich, reading the newspaper and drinking a beer and the papers fly all over the place and he grabs me by the neck and he goes, I can’t sleep since I stopped drinking! And I went, ahhhhh! [laughs] I threw the beer and I lost it, and I said, I can only afford two a day! [laughs] That was my experience with Mr. Osborne.
Has any of The Dead Boys ever commented on your cover song Sonic Reducer from the first Overkill album?
No they haven’t. We’ve always been big Dead Boys fans. We also did Ain’t Nothing to Do. We used to see Stiv Bators running around Greenwich Village all the time with no shirt on, it was fucking incredible. I think he died in Paris a few years after that, he got hit by a car. Dead Boys haven’t said anything about us. We were just big punk fans. I was at Manhattan College in New York and I could take the 1 train down as far to the village and then walk over to 8th street, then walk down to Saint Marks Place and go to the Mug Club or go to Max’s. Shit like that. We didn’t know them but we were fans of The Ramones and the Dead Boys, The Dolls. For us it was, this is kind of where we came from. Overkill is kind of a unique expression of New York 1977/78 punk meets the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Out of that came some bastard child of three dicks and a fucking bigger fist. That’s kind of us, but we love that stuff. Dead Boys have never said anything.
Cheetah Chrome is still touring.
We covered Sonic Reducer before fucking Pearl Jam did. Are you kidding me? Pearl Jam covered it and it was like, oh my god, how fucking artistic. We were like, go fuck yourselves! Are you out of your fucking mind? You didn’t live this. You’re on the fucking west coast under a tree!
What do you think and D.D. Verni work so well together?
It’s easy. D.D. doesn’t speak any English. He only speaks Spanish and Italian. [laughs] I’d love to leave that answer. I think we don’t get into each other’s problems. Overkill has never had any, we never air our laundry. We’re Jersey guys. We understand you take care of things in the back room, take care of things in the garage. You don’t throw it out for the world to have an opinion about. We’re simple men. We’re not the nicest guys, but we’re simple people. We’re loving, we love the scene and we’re not gonna get walked on. We understand that from each other. When D.D. and I write a record, it’s so unusual. We talk about it for a few days and then after a while, you nod, you wink [laughs] that you understand each other. You come from the same place. We have the same upbringing. He’s also Italian, I’m from an Irish background. This is like, in New Jersey the two most hated groups. [laughs] My grandfather’s era, we knew our grandfathers. We knew them. I think it’s something special what we have between each other – that it doesn’t take a lot of useless banter back and forth. It’s about understanding what the other guy is thinking. I think that’s probably our secret.
Are you involved with any other projects outside of Overkill?
Well sure, I always mess around. I write songs for people. I’m a rock and roll guy. We were talking about The Dead Boys before, they stole everything from fucking Hank Williams for gods sake. Fucking three chord fucking perfection. So I write stuff for other people. I’m involved with something now, I’m doing an entire record with a dude. A lot of guys involved and I get to be the #2 guy, it’s kind of fun. I always keep my chops up, I like messing around. My heart is always in the Thrash. I have this rock and roll thing. These fingers snap. I like old Chevrolets and greasing my hair back. I’ll even roll a pack of cigarettes up in my sleeve and drive out in a Chevelle somewhere because I think I’m living in the fucking 50’s. Maybe that’s my problem.
Will there be a Coverkill 2?
I don’t know but it’ll probably be a good idea. What a great name for a cover record, right?
It really is. And last question – do you have any messages for Overkill fans who are reading this?
Oh geez. Read between the lines. Conversations are great, people should know each other and I hope you got to know me a little bit better in this. I’m not a bad man, but I’m not a good man. I’m somewhere in between. I’m not going to sing my own praises. I am what I am and I know what I am. I hope you know that about yourselves too. I think what makes me a better man is that Overkill is something that I felt and D.D. Verni and every guy who has walked through our doors, it’s something that you can depend on. We will stand there regardless of what happens. We’ve had our bad days, we’ve had our good days and we’ve celebrated all of them with you. I hope you know that about us.
(Interview by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
Overkill on Facebook