Just before the release of OVERKILL’S insane live album Live In Overhausen I got a chance to sit down with the one, the only, Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. This was a lot of fun because we video chatted and when you get to see the face while hearing Blitz’s contagious laugh it’s always a good time. Plus he gave us some insight into when we can possibly expect new OVERKILL music. Take a look:
Amps: First up, my buddy Joe back home in Long Island broke his OVERKILL live cherry back in 2015. He wanted me to ask, as far as the classic muscle cars, are you holding one now? Are you moving any?
Blitz: Well, I haven’t moved one in a while, but I still have the Corvette. It’s a ’74 with a 350 in it, racing cam. I have a ’67 Chevelle sitting outside. It’s a tribute, meaning it was originally a Malibu that came with a 350, but now has a big block 396 in it. It’s repainted, new interior, new suspension, disc brakes. It’s something you can drive around, and it’s a lot of fun.
Amps: You still riding Harleys?
Blitz: Oh yeah, I go for a ride every day above 50 degrees that it’s not raining. It’s a great head-clearing thing for me. After work I take it anywhere from 30-50 miles. It’s a ’93 Softail that’s been worked on. They come out of the factory with 52 horsepower, I think. Mine’s up to 78, and it’s a necksnapper.
Amps: The idea behind this double live album Live In Overhausen, when did you decide to do this?
Blitz: We were in Belgium in 2015 at Alcatraz Hard Rock & Metal Festival, and we knew we had this on the contract, the DVD. it was a real simple conversation. Three or four of us sitting in the dressing room and we knew we had a couple of record anniversaries coming up. We said, ” Maybe we oughta do one of the full records. Why not? Everybody else does that.” And then somebody else goes, “If everybody else does it, then we should do TWO!” (laughs). And that was the end of the conversation. It just started blossoming into this thing. In pre-production or on tour we had never done an entire record. We just did variations of the set. It took about a year to get together. And it was cool to have it in the area where we were first filmed 30 years ago.
Amps: How is it possible that these live versions sound even better than the studio ones? Like they have more teeth.
Blitz: That’s a good point, but it’s two different animals, two separate entities, you know? The Horrorscope album was recorded in a studio under a microscope, or what a microscope could have been for 1990. You’re trying to make the best recording possible. Here you’re trying to do the best show possible, plus it’s with different personnel. It’s songs that were written in 1990 and the early 80’s, but presented in 2016. That’s really the charm of it. It’s this version of OVERKILL that you know, for instance, playing The Grinding Wheel cuts or, Ironbound, or From the Underground and Below, but they’re doing this older stuff. That’s the real tickler for me. I always loved the way this lineup plays the old stuff. So yeah, this lineup has teeth.
Amps: I was at the Metal Alliance gig in September of last year. I think the renditions of “In Union We Stand” and “Hello From the Gutter” were the two best I’ve ever heard from you guys.
Blitz: Thank you. That was a cool club (One Centre Square) because from upstairs I watched HAVOK and CROWBAR and it sounded a little noisy up there. So I wondered how it would sound for us. But then I went downstairs and I was like, “Wow! This is pretty tight!” It’s a nice little venue.
Amps: That place was probably 70% New Jersey that night, too! All the Jersey plates in the parking area, plus I wound up hanging out with a table of Jersey guys doing shots and screaming every word to the songs! Jersey took over PA that night for sure!
Blitz: (Laughs) good! It was so cool that the place had that old school Jersey vibe to it. I was saying to my wife, “There’s enough Jersey guys here to have the Easton cops sitting on the bridges handing out ‘douchebag’ tickets on the way home!!” (both of us laughing) What was fun about it too is that it was the last show of the tour. It’s not like you wanna stop touring, but at the same time you wanna go home, you know? There’s a push and pull with regard to touring. You love the live shows because that’s where you get your adrenaline, but after three or four weeks you wanna go home. You miss the family. It was so great that all our families could be there for that last night. And it’s reckless abandon; you can’t fuck these songs up in front of your family (laughs)!! There’s that little bit of extra effort that throws it over the top when your family is in the crowd.
Amps: For the live DVD/CD did you do one full album one night and the other the next? Or did you do both records start to finish two nights in a row.
Blitz: (Pauses, then looks at me very slyly) You know us better than that (laughs). You know the answer to that! After Horrorscope I said, “Thank you, we’ll be right back!” Then we came back out and did Feel the Fire. We did the whole thing in succession just as you see and hear it. It was a long night but we finished the one album, toweled down, had a drink, then went back out. I don’t think there was more than ten minutes between the two.
Amps: With albums like KISS Alive II and priest…live! I love it when my favorite bands put this kind of stuff out. When done right it’s a souvenir if you were there and it shows what you missed if you weren’t. I think this one does that in spades.
Blitz: Well you know something, you’re a fuckin’ dues-paying member. The records are great but the live show is a culmination of why you ARE a dues-paying member. You’re In the club, you get it! This is no hobby for you. You live this stuff, and I know you do, so that gets ME excited to talk to you! So I totally understand what you mean as far as the energy goes because I’m in that same club with you.
Amps: Can you tell me if you’ve done anything with regards to a new record?
Blitz: We’re getting Jason (Bittner, drums) acclimated into recording with us, he’s a total pro. And we’re ten songs deep right now, eleven with the extra track. But we’re always working; it’s not this amazing feat or anything. This is how it works for us.
We just did pre-production last month and now we’re looking to start recording drums this summer. We’re shooting for a February 2019 release. We like to work on a clock. If we have a schedule in front of us we don’t toil over the songs so much.
Amps: Well, you’ve pretty much always dropped an album every two years since From the Underground and Below. You’ve mentioned that you consider Underground to be one of your favorite OVERKILL records. It’s mine, for sure. You still feel that way?
Blitz: Sure, sure. It’s cohesive, and it’s got a great production on it. And it really feels like each song supports each other. That record to me was never about picking a track from, it’s about hearing the whole thing in its entirety. When you were a kid, these were the kinds of records you liked, right? When you put on The Number of the Beast you went start to finish. Stained Class is another one. You NEED that 45 minutes to soak it all in uninterrupted.
Amps: What do you think of Firepower from JUDAS PRIEST?
Blitz: I think it’s a great record from them. I really love Andy Sneap’s production on it. It’s very identifiable in my head. And I think by no means was this some mailed in retirement community attempt at a heavy metal record. Those guys went in there and fuckin’ tore it up! They have the balls to go in there and do something that is 100% PRIEST, but is still contemporary and still tears shit up. You can tell they really put their all into it, and that’s admirable for a band of such iconic status.
Amps: I’ve said this before, but you sound like a goddamn 25-year old kid singing these tunes, and when you’re talking to the crowd your excitement is infectious.
Blitz: Grandpa’s gonna kick your ass, right (laughs)?? Kicking cigarettes about six years ago really helped. To be in my 50’s and be like, “Wow, I can actually sing melodically and with more teeth, I can actually hit those high notes.” I’m reveling in the fact that since I dropped those Marlboros I’ve gotten better. I’m quite happy with the results I’m getting vocally and especially with the results on this record.
Amps: I’ve mentioned my son Mini-Amps to you before. You should know that he is an even bigger fan of The Grinding Wheel than me! He goes fuckin’ ballistic every time a track from it hits his headphones! He’s also loves Ironbound and The Electric Age. I can’t wait for him to hear this live record!
Blitz: Hey, we’d love to meet him. That’s great he’s such a fan!
Amps: What do you want to say to all your fans out there in OVERKILL-Land?
Blitz: It’s pretty amazing to be even having these chats this far into our career, you know? It’s obviously not due necessarily to the tenacity or the talent of the band alone. Without your support this just doesn’t exist. And I think Live in Overhausen is a testimony and a small sampling of our German audience that it has a helluva lot to do with those who love it as much as we do.
Amps: This was our fifth interview, and I hope these never get old for you because they never EVER get old for me. Thank you from the bottom of my cold, black heart!
Blitz: Damian, it’s always a pleasure, you know that. And say hi to your buddy Joe in NY for us!
If there is a Mount Rushmore for the Nicest People in Metal, you can bet your ass Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth is on it. The sheer joy he expresses when talking about all things OVERKILL is great, Live In Overhausen kicks all kinds of ass, and here’s to another 30 years of Thrash Metal from the boys, yeah??
LIVE IMAGES: MIKE SIEVILA PHOTOGRAPHY