For the third time, The Maestro gets to sit and chat with the man who inspired Amps and Green Screens, the one…the only…Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. A new album looms large in The Grinding Wheel (February 10 on Nuclear Blast Records), and with that comes one monster of a tour that also happens to be kicking off in Philly so we had a lot to talk about. As always Blitz was gracious, had me laughing a lot, and put up with my obsessive fangirling (which I kept to a minimum this time, I promise!) Have a look:
Amps: Soooooo, what’s new? How ya doin’?
Blitz: I’m good. The fact that there’s a new record coming out has value and should keep me out of trouble for at least fifteen months (laughs)!
Amps: You start the tour here in Philly on February 14. I am SO excited!! What a package, OVERKILL and NILE!!
Blitz: Oh, that’ll work out then. You get show number one. It’s gonna be a concrete buster for sure. There’s some diversity because you have us, NILE, and AMORPHIS and SWALLOW THE SUN for some shows. It should be just awesome.
Amps: Here’s the thing I noticed with The Grinding Wheel…it’s the same OVERKILL we know and love, but it’s different. It’s a lot groovier this time around as opposed to hitting us over the head from start to finish. You threw some curveballs in there.
Blitz: Well, we were hitting the fastball for sure last three records, as long as we’re using baseball references. But I think there’s more things in our shed and our attic that we dusted off this time around. There’s punk rock in “Goddamn Trouble” but there’s thrash energy across the board. So I think that once we noticed we had something diverse in our hands we really started pushing it further so we could create something that would distinguish itself, and that we could put the OVERKILL brand on.
Amps: One of the ones that really stood out for me was “Come Heavy.”
Blitz: One of my favorite tunes on the record and not just because of the groove. The thing that attracts me to a tune like that is the simplicity of the high hat with the vocals. The fact that the song has no chorus and is just a hook in itself is so cool. It has nothing to do with a chorus coming in and out.
Amps: As far as album closers go, “The Grinding Wheel” is just fantastic, too.
Blitz: You know sometimes we get into that whole epic thing, and when something comes out I hope it comes out natural. It’s something special that has a great epic vibe, and when I first got the song it was like a collection of different riffs in sections. Obviously when we started adding parts and subtracting parts and it started clicking together, and I finished the last vocals, I was like, “I see it now.” And it’s cool how all these separate entities came together into an epic song.
Amps: You also chose to bookend the album with two heavy-hitting seven-minute plus tracks that keep it heavy but they aren’t 100 mph.
Blitz: To us it was obvious that “Mean Green Killing Machine” was track one and that “Grinding” would be ten. Everything else was gonna be up for grabs depending how they turned out.
But those bookends absolutely had to go where they did. Sequencing albums is a lost art in the modern day, and I think that’s what we wanted. If you listen to old BLACK SABBATH records the sequencing is so important, and we feel the same way.
Amps: 2016 saw killer albums from the Thrash Masters in MEGADETH, ANTHRAX, METALLICA, TESTAMENT, and now this year it’s OVERKILL and KREATOR leading the charge. You’re really showing the young bucks how it’s done, man.
Blitz: Well there’s a great competitive nature in this music, you know? There’s something to be said for experience and by all accounts we shouldn’t even be here. This is a young man’s game but I think that guys like me and you see the value in it and it has transcended generations. The old guys, we’re doing some of our best work to date in the modern era because it’s appreciated, but also because it’s competitive. So I think you want that competition.
Amps: You’re on the road in less than a month. What do you do to get yourself ready for the madness? Do you fast, gargle with gasoline, what?
Blitz: I’m gonna go get a Heineken after I talk to you (laughs)! There’s none of that nonsense. Being healthy is such a part of me now that I don’t look at this as work, I see it as a vacation. I’ve always been in decent shape, I eat, but I don’t eat shit, and I’m usually in the gym three days a week. The other days I’m running around with my dog, so it’s not like I have to do anything out of the ordinary. I’m just getting excited, that’s all.
Amps: And no health issues? You’re all good?
Blitz: Yeah, yeah. I’ve been good for a couple of years now. I stopped smoking almost five years ago, and it’s obviously helped my vocals on the last few records. Just stopping smoking made me feel so much better. I’m singing mellow, I’m singing thrashy, I’m singing rock and roll, and it’s a lot of fun. But as far as general health goes, I’m fine. I look at it this way, life is fragile, so enjoy it while you have the opportunity to do so. Which isn’t to say I won’t feel like shit two weeks from now, but for now I’m great (laughing)!
Amps: When The Grinding Wheel hits the masses, what do you hope the listener takes away from it after they listen start to finish?
Blitz: I really hope that what comes out of their mouth is “Holy shit!” (both of us laugh) And that can be translated into various types of emotions. I think that you want that “Holy shit” because of the emotion, that chord it strikes in the fan, and the presentation, and that satisfaction is worth more than riffs, lyrics, and drum beats. It’s about really striking that chord with the listener.
Amps: With so many albums to choose from now, is putting a setlist together a nightmare, or no?
Blitz: You know, I think it’s a combination of “Give them what they want” and “selfish persepective.” The selfish perspective is that we’ve been riding this wave since Ironbound so we want to have a song from that, a song from The Electric Age, a song from White Devil Armory, and of course three or four new cuts, so we’re already up to like seven or eight cuts already from these records.
The give them what they want is the classic OVERKILL like “Elimination”, “Fuck You” but we can also mix some stuff around. There’s always gonna be something, one or two in there that’s unexpected. We’ve done stuff off of The Years of Decay like “Who Tends the Fire” and “Playing With Spiders/Skullkrusher”, so you throw this stuff out there to make somebody’s jaw drop and they say, “I never expected them to play that song!” So that’s the combination.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the OVERKILL fans out there in the world?
Blitz: Ah jeez, how ’bout, “THANKS!“?? (We bust out laughing) for Chrissakes you’ve kept me out of prison!
As always, it was a blast speaking with Blitz. I swear, you could be having the worst day of your life and 15 minutes with him will have you laughing your ass off and totally turn it around. Pick up The Grinding Wheel wherever it is you maniacs buy your music on February 10 and I hope to see some of you in Philly on February 14. Let’s rage in tr00 OVERKILL fashion!!