OVERKILL - New Album Details, Blitz’ Halloween Memories Revealed In Exclusive BraveWords Interview

November 13, 2013, 3 years ago

By Mark Gromen

overkill feature

“It’s Halloween…tonight!” Outside the Trocadero, Asian kids in costumes are going door-to-door, collecting treats from the restaurants and stores in the non-residential two block radius known as Chinatown, even though Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and other establishments all intermix. In an upstairs, backstage dressing room, OVERKILL singer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and I renew a friendship that’s closing in on thirty years. “You and I did this, probably in this venue, 25, 28 years ago,” he recalls, later in our conversation. “When you start think of it in those terms, that it's taken decades and generations have passes through, it's not a bad place to be.”

That place includes having a recording contract, in an era when fewer and fewer people are buying physical product. The next OVERKILL release is close to a reality. “Delivery (to the record company) should be before Christmas,” confirms Ellsworth. So we’re pretty far into it. What’s helped me, for the last few records is that there’s some revitalized energy. That, I attribute to Ron (Lipnicki, drummer) and a resurgence of this type of music. At this point we have everything written and recorded, except the vocals. I’m finishing some of the songs on this tour. Everything has something written for it, but there are adjustments. It’s a matter of, the longer you live with it, the better the results you get. I also feel that being out on the road is a blessing at this time, because you have that live feeling going on. This is an exciting tour. You’ve got two thrash bands. That’s competitive and that’s going to bleed into the music I’m writing at this point. We’re touring, then it will probably take me two weeks (to record my parts) when I get home. The hardest thing for me is trying not to repeat myself. I think that’s absolutely a fucking impossibility as a thrash band. I read an article once that had a quote after it, saying how many times can you use the word ‘pain’ and ‘death’? (cackles) It’s probably a more difficult album for me to write, from that perspective, because I try to challenge myself and not fall into that whole thing. With regards to the music, one of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s more of a heavy metal record than the last record. To me, the last one came across as more of a thrash record, maybe a two-dimensional record. This one has more moods and nuances, so let’s say maybe a three-dimensional record. It will be out early March: Nuclear Blast overseas and in the States, E-one.”

Like the proverbial, post-apocalyptic cockroaches, OVERKILL has always survived. Some fans wonder why other bands get prestigious opening slots, yet the New Jersey boys always have to play the Lone Rangers, going it alone. Inside the band, the perception is a little different. “For all the years we've been touring, we always like to present ourselves in our own world. OVERKILL has always thought about being bigger, being the best and you can only do that by headlining. If you believe that, you can accomplish that, at least in fleeting moments (he laughs). Our thinking has changed in the last few years. The package is necessary. Being out with KREATOR, this is co-headlining, which is a fair deal. I don't think there's a lot of separation with a whole pack of bands that are out there, whether it be the TESTAMENTs and the OEVR KILLs, or the FLOTSAMs and the OVERKILLs or KREATOR and OVERKILL. It gives people two big worlds.”

After three decades, Blitz and Co. don’t see the viability of going out on the undercard, just to possibly gain new fans. “The reality is that we know who we are. It's real simple, people like our product and I don't think we're going to break out to the masses. Is it nice to think that? Sure, but it's more like playing the lottery, the chances of that are liking winning Powerball. Do you take that chance? Of course. Is it disappointing to be where we are here? Absolutely not! This is no longer a career, or 'I'm in a band'. This has been my whole life!”

That said, they will play ProgPower USA next year. Scary, but the majority of that audience will not have seen the band before. So do they approach the show: try to win new converts, or simply “educate” them, by blowing their heads off? “It's all guns blazing,” reassures the singer. “We know who we are, how many dimensions we have and where we excel and succeed. Whether that catches on to the people at ProgPower, that's up to them. Our agent said they asked for us. They wanted something else to round (roster) off, a token thrash band. I think it does round it out. We did (Inferno festival) in Oslo, Norway, which is a death fest, all white face paint. Us and Destruction were the token thrash bands on there. It worked out pretty well because it wasn't always the same approach to the music. You become the standout band based on your presentation. (We) won't do anything special. We'll link up some other dates around it. We felt the billing was unique for us to be on. We have to approach it, like we do everything, is business as usual. If you start over thinking it, you ruin the reason you were asked to be on it in the first place. We're not going to start thinking progressively (he laughs). We're Neanderthal, but charming (cackles)!”

Speaking of bloodbaths and things that go bump in the night, given the date (October 31), our discussion turns to Halloween, now and memories from childhood. His wife owns/operates a high end chocolate business. So does a holiday, where people give away penny-ante treats, have any impact? “When getting into the chocolate business, I assumed that Halloween would be one of our days and found out very quickly that it has nothing to do with us! No one wants to spend $40 a pound. The cool thing about Halloween, from a business perspective is that there are adult parties. John & Mary are having a party, inviting 25 friends over and we'll serve them with some high end chocolates. That now exposes the shop (whether they are regular customers or not) to the holidays that follow: Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

In our era, we'd grab a pillow case as soon as you got home from school and trick or treat throughout the neighborhood, alone or with a couple of friends (but no adult supervision), until after dark, when there was finally no one left to give out candy. “It was one of my favorite holidays as a kid,” says Blitz. “First you get to step outside yourself and then you get to run it your own way. It's not something your parents are running for you. You choose what you're going to costume yourself as. Maybe you'd get some help from your Mom. YOU map out your area, with friends. Maybe we should hit the apartments, because then you can ring four doors at once, which gets us four times the loot! It had nothing to do with the parents. It was exciting because you got to run it yourself. It was all about you.” That's completely changed. Now, kids are chained to their parents and when the adults have had enough, everyone heads home together. “The world has changed. Or the perception of the world has changed,” Blitz counters. “It freaks me out. If Facebook and all that stuff existed back then... I stay away from that shit now. You have to keep me away from that stuff. I'm not interested. I don't want you to know how many times I use the toilet and I don't what you to see pictures of my niece. That shit creeps me out! I come from the era where you don't share that information with anyone who could be sharing it with someone else. It's feigned importance. No one gives a fuck that you're going down (the store) to pick up bread and eggs. Oh, you picked (your kids) up from dance class, aren't you a great person.”

So was there a particularly lame costume you remember being saddled with, or maybe one that was aces. When someone says Halloween memories, what do you envision? “I never had any of the store bought costumes. We always made them ourselves. I did a pretty bad Gene Simmons one year, awful make-up. That's the one I remember the most. There was a whole list of things. I knew I was a ghoul once. I remember having bloody clothes on, cuts all over my face, latex masks. I was a hobo, with the sack (on a stick).” We joke about how “prophetic” that was, his current vocation travels the world, with few possessions and even less money.

No matter, the happy wanderer wouldn’t have it any other way. “We don’t care what you say…”

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