Overkill are without a doubt one of the most consistent and best Power Metal acts of our time. The band started their long career playing it heavy and never caved into the trends of the market as others did. This is one band that knows what they do well and they keep doing it. Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth has been there from the beginning and is still the frontman along with longtime bandmate D.D. Verni. I got the chance, which quite frankly I had wanted for a very long time, to talk to Bobby about the new album 'Killbox 13' and everything else Overkill. Hope you enjoy!
Heavy Metal Resource: Hi Bobby! Hey, I appreciate the time to interview. I am a longtime fan that goes back to the early days of Overkill, actually the 'Taking Over' era. It has actually been that long ago since I was able to catch you guys live with Megadeth.
Bobby Ellsworth: Yeah, it was the 'Peace Sells' tour.
HMR: I believe the Necros were there as well.
BE: Yeah, unbelievable.
HMR: Anyway, me and my group of friends felt that you guys stole the show that night.
BE: That was a great lineup for that tour. I remember that one.
HMR: Anyway, let's get to the interview. I wanted to start off by looking at the new album 'Killbox 13'. I believe it's been out since the 25th of March. How has it been recieved so far?
BE: Really good so far. Just need to see in a couple of months if the public picks up on it as positive as it was by the press. The press really seems to like it so far.
HMR: Do you keep an eye on sites like Amazon.com?
BE: Oh, sure. I think they get translated into Soundscan.
HMR: Okay, Amazon actually has a place for fans to review the album on the product page and the reviews on the album were pretty good. I think everyone was pretty happy with the album. It really is a good album and deserving of the credit fans are giving it. One thing about the album that I felt was worth pointing out was the tempo. It is not quite as heavy as say 'Bloodletting' or 'Necroshine'. As a matter of fact I felt the tempo was a little closer to 'I Hear Black'. Not to say that the songs are the same. It is also important to mention that there are some really heavy tracks on the album.
BE: You know, Overkill has always been a blend of what was and what is. I think on this record it is more of what was then what is. It's a blend of our past and our present. I think one of the distinct changes is the guitar playing. I don't think the intensity level is down. I think that it appears that way because of the way the songs are written. They are more hook laden. This record really is grass roots of a metal record across the board. It has more hook on it than 'Bloodletting' or 'Necroshine', but that is just my opinion. What we do is put as much as we can in. We don't forget where we come from. We keep the same standard we have for every record. The record just takes its own direction when we are writing it.
HMR: You know, there really are different kinds of heavy. When I look back for example, the track 'Horrorscope' from the same titled album has a very heavy vibe to it and also is very heavy sounding without being tempo heavy. Some people think it has to be a blast beat session with harsh vocals such as the hardcore scene to put the heavy in metal and that isn't necessarily the right point.
BE: That is interchangable heavy metal. That becomes the flavor of the day. I don't think that this has ever been a band to lean itself towards that. I think that we have different characteristics about ourselves. Quite obviously I am not one of those type of vocalists and never have been. I have kind of a higher scratchy, squeaky voice. Somebody told me one time that I sound like Mickey Mouse with razor blades. The point is that we are not going to push ourselves in that direction because it is happening. We have always been able to eliminate popularity from the equation or for at least a good portion of our career. I think that when we eliminate that we are not locked into what is happening now. We can walk into the studio and say we don't give a shit what everybody else is doing, let's just make a record. I think you can get a real honest interpretation of what Overkill is about opposed to what the scene is about.
HMR: That is something I really compliment Overkill on time and time again is the consistency through the years. I know that I may sound like a scratched record, but it really is true. You were saying that as a band you are not looking for the flavor of the day, but some bands that have been around for a while seem to be.
BE: Well, we do what we love. If I concern myself what is happening in other people's houses, I am not looking at my own house. We're looking at our own house. I take that back to my feeling in many cases, but not all, but many cases when it comes to what flavor is this new metal, everybody is concerned about what is happening in someone else's living room. Nobody wants to get a leg up. Everybody else wants to be the first one there, but arrive at the same time. You'll have a dozen bands that have singers that are interchangable. What the fuck about this is original anymore? I think this is my criticism of it as opposed to anything else.
HMR: Looking at 'Killbox 13', what would you say are it's strong points?
BE: One of the things I would say is the performance of Dave Linsk. Dave kind of brought the guitar back for us on this record in a real natural way, not overplayed. The guitar had kind of taken a little vacation, not the rhythm guitars but the lead guitar. I think he has really found a place for it in Overkill 2003. He pretty much reinvented it. I think it is one of the things that really make the record interesting. It almost appears like a new element even though it has been there in our past. That is one of the more unique qualities on it. I do think also with that thrown in that it's kind of a reinvention of our past. There's cuts like 'Struck Down' or 'Unholy' or 'I Rise' that could have almost appeared as if they were from an era when you saw us with Megadeth and the Necros. It's the idea of Dave's guitar added to it, the production we used with Collin Richardson almost lends itself to a feeling that there is a reinvention. I also feel that one of the unique things about the record is that each song plays off of the next song. They kind of lean into each other. There are probably 5 or 6 personalities of songwriting that we have, each one being unique, but each one being distinct to Overkill, that you know it's us, that they all kind of play off each other. You would notice if one of these songs was missing, it wouldn't feel complete.
HMR: I wanted to look at the label side of it. Recently you signed with Spitfire Records. I believe the recent live album 'Wrecking Everything-Live' was the first release for them and 'Killbox 13' being the first studio effort. I was wondering what Spitfire brings to you?
BE: I think you have to realize why we moved over. The Sanctuary group with Metal-Is was growing so big at that particular time. I remember we released 'Bloodletting' in 2000 with them and they also released on one day Henry Rollins, Megadeth, and Queensryche. They were becoming the Microsoft of metal. Where was our value there? I think we have become saavy enough to realize that sometimes change is necessary based on how that record label looks at us. Quite obviously Spitfire courted us and gave us the opportunity to do a dvd the same night we recorded 'Wrecking Everything'. I don't know if you have seen it or are familiar with it, but it's something we always wanted to do, to document ourselves live. It's 2 hours of music and has 90 minutes of band history as well. Having that opportunity was one of the reasons we moved over to Spitfire. We knew that doing this dvd, our value would be higher and that they would look at us more closely and pay closer attention to us. That was really the whole idea of the move. So far so good. We're having this conversation and that is part of the proof right there. They are promoting. They are behind it. They are really into the fact that we have ideas, they listen to those ideas and many of them come into play. We wanted to do the dvd and they said yes. That right there is a great testimony.
HMR: To answer your question, I do have the dvd and have actually reviewed it. It was a bit hard to find though. I was wondering how it is doing.
BE: It was actually easier to find on the internet than in stores at first. It has actually kind of caught up with itself now though. It is considered a catalogue peace so it will always be available. It is doing well, not what an album would do, but no dvd's have reached that level. I think we are at 40% of what the normal record would sell. Were probably around 15,000-20,000 sold.
HMR: Well, I had to search it out, but it was worth it. Fans of the band really should pick this up. I hadn't seen you guys in some time, but do feel it is a very good representation of what to expect from Overkill live. Speaking of visual, have you heard of the return of Headbanger's Ball?
BE: I haven't seen it. I have Mtv but not Mtv2. I'm not really a big tv guy anway, I don't even have HBO. I kind of live in the 70's when it comes to that. (laughs) I have heard that is has been back for about 3 weeks now.
HMR: Is Spitfire thinking about some video work with you? Recently they did the Black Label Society video for 'Stillborn'. Did they approach you on doing this as well?
BE: We talked about cutting the dvd up. Using a portion of the dvd as a video. It's already edited and possible to do if we could get airtime. If it is an acceptible quality for Mtv then we could use that.
HMR: Well, I think Mtv definitely needs to mix the show up a bit. Overkill has an influence on the metal scene. It is really gonna bode well for a wider audience. Overkill needs to be seen man! Let's look at touring. What kind of touring have you done or are you going to do?
BE: We are going to do a headline tour starting in July in the U.S. and our European tours that will start in late June.
HMR: Hey, how often do you get out west?
BE: Not very often. We probably haven't been out there in about 8 years.
HMR: You are going to have to get out here for a show.
BE: We're looking forward to it. We have a new agent. We are gonna see what the possibilty of it is. When we get out as far as Texas or St. Louis, maybe take a step further, maybe to Phoenix and up the west coast.
HMR: I'm gonna put you on the spot here. You have a lot of records out there now. What would you say is your favorite Overkill record?
BE: I can't really include the new one, I don't think I can be objective. Probably 'Horrorscope'. That record always has a feeling or a vibe to it that I still get when I listen to it today. If I was getting ready to go out on tour I might brush up on 1 or 2 of the songs we haven't played in a while. Then I'll end up listening to the whole record and say this thing has vibe. It sounds like a lion coming out of a cage.
HMR: Yeah, that album is sweet. That is one thing I noticed on Amazon.com is that is your number 1 fan favorite as far as ratings. The albums I personally dig are the new record, 'Horrorscope', 'Taking Over', and another one that maybe not a lot of people talk about, 'The Killing Kind'. That album just had a vibe. I had a hard time getting that one out of the deck. There was just something about it. I was also wondering what other stuff you listen to.
BE: Mostly metal and rock. I'm really into the Rolling Stones and The Who and stuff like such. I'll break out my Slayer records. Motorhead is always somewhere really close to my cd player. Also, Shadows Fall. I'll also go even as far as Harry Conick Jr. It goes in different directions. The majority though is metal and rock.
HMR: Well, to finish up, any parting thoughts?
BE: It is what it is and hopefully we can bring it to your town. Those are my parting thoughts. (laughs)
HMR: Great, thanks man, I really do appreciate the time.
BE: Thanks Dave!