Welcome To The Gutter - Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth speaks out.
Over Kill are without doubt the under dogs of Thrash Metal, like the big 4 these guys have stayed true to their selfs without conforming to trends, and they really have got the respect they so rightly deserve. With the band been around since 1980 Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth (vocals) and bassist D.D. Verni remain the nuclearous of the band ever moving forward since the bands debut album 'Feel The Fire' back in 1985. The band have never looked back ever since their debut album and with yet another 14 albums to follow really does say alot about a band like Over Kill. I managed to catch up with Bobby and the boys in London in February 2010 when I put the following questions to Bobby. Here is what he had to say, in the meantime check out their new album 'Iron Bound' on Nuclear Blast, this is 1 hell of a kick ass fucking album, and 1 of their best since 'Horrorscope' in 91. Thanx to Bobby for doing this interview and Adam at N.B. (UK) your true metal warriors!!
Well it's been a year since the last interview Bobby, as always it's nice to meet such an ugly fuck like you haha!! Only joking. In the space of a year a lot has happened to Over Kill, with the new album released on Nuclear Blast. We'll talk about that later. So please could you tell me why you left Boodog records? Also how did the deal with Nuclear Blast?
Hey Jason, nice to meet you're ugly ass too brother haha! Well we left Bodog Records because Johnny Z was fired and we had worked with him back in the 80's with Megaforce Records. He was working with this new label and it seemed like a good choice to be working with such an old friend, the choice was right. That label are mainly into gambling & entertainment company, but they do have some Rock & Roll bands as well as Hip-Hop etc.... When Johnny was sacked in April of 2009 and that was our motivation to get out of that deal. It was like no Johnny then it's no deal! It was about Johnny's involvement with his know how, his understanding of the scene and his history within the scene and our history with him and that was the attraction. Well the deal with Nuclear Blast came about last year as we were on tour with Exodus as you know, and Gary from Exodus has been friends with D.D. and myself for many years since our debut albums were released 'Bonded By Blood' and 'Feel The Fire'. I asked Gary how Nuclear Blast had been treating Exodus and he said 'It is the best thing that has happened to Exodus' and it was the only reason why Exodus could ever have a reunion because of Nuclear Blast and their support. We knew that the Bodog thing was coming to a head & when Nuclear Blast came out to visit us we asked the label manager for his card and then we started talking about working out a deal with Nuclear Blast."
At any point Bobby did you ever consider doing your own label or publishing company like Judas Priest did for 'Jugulator' with Priest Music Ltd?
"Well this new deal is actually a licensing deal, and it is for 3 records and eventually we will get the rights back to 'Iron Bound' but we do own our own publishing company were we employ somebody to collect that royalty for us. (Ed: Have you ever thought of doing your own label some like 'Wrecking Crew' Records?). I think that is becoming the flavour of the day and I don't think at this point we are willing to sacrifice promotion because everything costs dollars, pounds and euros these days and to have a promotional machine behind you like Nuclear Blast is really paying off for us in the long run with regards to quality and the expectance by the public towards 'Iron Bound'. I feel that this record is visible everywhere and there is also special dig packs, box sets and vinyl of this new release. I think when you go into your own label you start to take on those responsibilities that obviously we know exist which keep you away from doing other things like solid touring. If I stared work with 'Wrecking Crew' records how am I suppose to tour with it's release? That would be pretty impossible & to their credit and press that Nuclear Blast have given us and with promotion gave us the chance to chart the German charts at 31. I know Madonna has taken a vocation but that is a pretty high compliment for a band like us which has been around for many years. The compliment does not only go to Over Kill but to Nuclear Blast for diligence in promotion. I do feel like they are the best label we have had in the last few years, but we have worked with some really good labels like Regain but that was just for 1 album."
I have noticed that you haven't stayed with a label for more than 1 album over the past few years, why is it?
"Well we are a self managed band and you have to look where the deal is, so I think that the idea is that we are always looking for something better but that compromises stability but in this case we are here for 3 albums."
Looking back at the last studio album 'Immortalis' is there any songs that stand out for you and why? Any least favourite songs?
"Well I like all the album really, I don't think there was a song that I don't like on that album. I think it was a great step to 'Iron Bound' and I liked working with Randall Blythe (Lamb Of God) on the song 'Skull & Bones' were he did a duet and that song stand out to me. I don't think there is 1 bad song on that record."
Do you still keep in touch with Colin Richardson?
"Yeah from time to time."
Lets talk about the new album, you said it has been released as a digi pack, ltd box set and vinyl , please tell me a little bit about the box set.
"Well the box set comes with a t shirt, which is very ltd which has special art work which we gave Nuclear Blast and we didn't sign a merchandise deal with them, only the record deal but we gave them something they could use for this release."
Like Iron Maiden with Eddy, I guess the skull with bat wings is pretty much your trade mark now, I guess it won't change now right?
"Yeah it has become our trade mark, ever since the debut album. Travis Smith is doing our art work and he is making the skull more abstract but it looks really great!! He is unique with this generated art and he really understands the band and most of the art work for 'Iron Bound' was done prior to us actually asking him, to which he had an idea. I think that is great when somebody has the ideas before approaching the band and have some creative ideas to take things upon themselves to take the step and to say this would be great for the Over Kill art work. Travis is a awesome artist and we love working with him. We have been working with him since the 'Nercoshine' album."
Lets talk about the title for 'Iron Bound', so why the title?
"I think the title relates us to the way we have bound ourselves to the scene and tied to it and it is also a neighborhood in New Jersey called 'The Iron Bound', which is a immigrant neighborhood with Germans, Italians, Polish and it is also a port where so many train tracks come out of in the port of Newark. We always kicked some titles around and I like the song title 'The Green & Black', which sounds very sports team like with the colours of a team. We are like a team, we play and win or loose like a team. If you go out like a team it gives you the more of a opportunity for success based on the fact that you have other to re-lie on san it's not about individuals and it's about the 5 of us and not about the 1. I really do like the title for the album."
When you put the idea's to Travis with the title did he come up with the ideas pretty quick?
"Well Travis has the concept already done before we even gave him the title. It just happened to work together and it was just that simple. He added some some chains to it and and he made it a little more metallic but it was pretty much what you see."
Were the new songs wrote by D.D. and yourself or was it a team effort?
"Well I did everything, I played the guitars, drums and carried D.D. for over 25yrs he would be nothing without me (laughing). The riffs start with D.D. and he plays the guitar riffs and these riffs are collected over a period of time and the last album 'Immortalis' D.D. was collecting riffs on that tour and he doesn't let things slide by and then it is put into skeleton arrangement and from that point on it goes through a process with D.D. and Dave & Ron and myself were it becomes a full song over time. So then I put the roof over the top of the song kind of speak with the lyrics and if I have a great idea for a counter melody which makes a perfect way to extend or I might bring that into rehearsals and ask the band to extend it by 3 or so because this is a great counter melody and Dave might say ok and if you're doing that he will do something to ad to the song. That is how our songs evolve with bits and piece and I like to think that we have musical technology were we can trade MP3's and we also have an old school mentality of been ina room with each other which is very important to us."
Bobby do you actually play any instruments at all?
"Yeah I mess around with the piano and some guitar chords and I can finger guitar notes to create melodies."
From the new album 'Iron Bound' which songs stand out for you?
"Well I do like 'Bring Me The Night' which is a really good 1, I think it has a lot of energy and I also like 'Green & Black' & 'Iron Bound' which is anthemic & energetic (laughing). I think it is anthemic because it holds the qualities that Over Kill has had over the years but it still has a feeling of 'All for one, One for all'."
How did it take to record the latest release? Was it a lengthy process?
"After the riffs and skeleton arrangements we came of the road last March 2009 and and we started to assemble the ideas together in April 2009 and I record all the way up until the mix with Peter Tagtgren (Hypocrisy) with back and forth pieces and I used a different studio from the other guys just for time reasons really. I had the luxury of recording anytime I had an idea I could just pop in. I have a portable studio in my house and D.D. owns a studio where we recorded the album but when I started doing the vocals I did more work away from them and then traded MP3's back and forth.I recorded all the way up until September of 2009 when Peter got the record."
Is there any songs form the current album which you feel could of been better with the music or the vocals?
"I am really satisfied with the whole album to be honest, it really did turn out great!! I had no problem with any of the song writing at all on this new album, I feel it is a real fucking solid album and comes with a lot of energetic power. I feel it was built with ideas and riffs from D.D. and the energy was injected by Ron our drummer."
Do you have another job besides been a musician, do you own enough money to live off Over Kill?
"Well I import chocolates from Europe, and this has been my job since 87 and I really don't have any other business but I really don't like to talk about financial matters, and I wasn't living with mummy when I was doing this (laughing). This has given me the opportunity to start other businesses with properties etc..."
It must be a great feeling to have in the scene for such a long time without changing your direction like most of the big Thrash bands.
"To be honest I don't think that Over Kill has ever ripped anybody off, and that is why we have survived the test of time. We are what we do, we play heavy and powerful music."
The think I like about your band is the sound of D.D.'s bass and your voice, you automatically know it is Over Kill when the to collide, it's like an atom bomb going off.
"Well that's it Jason, after 25yrs of D.D. and myself been together in a relationship this is what we do!! We have put the fucking time into this band, the effort and energy and we work as managers, as performers and as writers & as a business partnership. So it is a unique place to live your live and I think to making and not making a living I think that somebody does that for the people. We do it for the passion, the love and purity and honesty."
So how did you hook up with Peter Tgagtren?
"Well we just liked his work, we liked the stuff he did with Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir, Destruction stuff and we like the way he hears things and I think he will be the ears of this years generation of Thrash Metal if he is not already. He is also a fucking fan to the core and a fan of music. We knew he was the right guy for the job."
Would you ever consider working with Andy Sneap?
"Yeah I think so, Andy is the ears of this generation and Peter maybe surpass that in time. There is something to be said about hunger, I think that Andy is very hungry and he puts a stamp on upon a record which sounds like a Sneap production whereas Peter in my opinion adapts from band to band and he does not use the same production techniques as he did with Dummi Borgir to what he did with Over Kill. That is no disrespect to Andy Sneap, is he a fucking awesome producer with his talent. I own lots of his productions and I'd love to work with him one day but my opinion to where we were at that time was that Peter would understand the band as a individual and Peter was adaptable with the sound. So we thought that would be a good idea to use Peter as he was very hungry to do the new Over Kill album which could make for good results and this time around it has."
Will you be using Peter for the next album for him to mix the album?
"I can never say never but I can also never say yes. Things change all the time so I would say I am 100% satisfied with the end resu7lts of this new album, we all are."
How well has the new album been getting positive reviews from the press?
"I think so far it has been positive, it's only just come out but so far it's doing well. I really don't take things to heart anymore, even the good reviews and if you take it to heart it will knock you down. I appreciate good reviews but I am more concerned about my own satisfaction and that might make me a selfish bastard because that is beyond that of the band."
Moving on, lets talk about the 1st 2 album 'Feel The Fire' & 'Taking Over' which to me are cult classics, have you at any point ever thought of re-recording those albums with today's technology giving those songs the rightful heaviness they so rightly deserve?
"Yes we have, the debut album 'Feel The Fire' is still a active product and we were going to do it for the 25yrs but shit costs money and I am willing to redo the whole thing but the record label wasn't willing to pay and it has to be correctly and you have to have the support behind you if you really want to do that. It is a unique business right now and the music industry is eating it's self alive so you have to pick your battles. To come out with 'Iron Bound' through Nuclear Blast under these circumstances and these economic conditions and climate is a huge success based upon results. To try to continue getting those results by going backwards in my opinion stops forward momentum and forward momentum has always been one of the characters for Over Kill. To do this correctly I need a good budget and without that I can't do this. At this moment in time that album is still owned by Atlantic Records, so we can't do that album right now, but I have somebody working on getting the rights for us to own that record."
Have you heard of there are any Over Kill tribute CD's out there? If so what do you think of them?
"I always think that tributes and 'Best of'...' are the kiss of death and I really don't care anybody ever does any of our songs. I think that a full tribute album to Over Kill by some shitty label is that I really don't want that. There was a tribute album called 'Hello From The Gutter' a few years ago and I did everything in my power to try and stop that piece of shit getting released, I don't want that fucking record out and it's not about where we where, it's about were we are now. If you live in the past you stay in the past and we were this... No we are this!! I have walked down that road and most of them are successes and some are not, and D.D. and myself have to live with our decisions of failures and I will tell you something, we will never forget any of them."
Do you mean a failure in your previous albums for things to go wrong?
"No I mean making decisions right from wrong with touring, like taking a tour or not taking a tour or a promotional situation. I think of all the records as great steps to where ever you are today. Would I do a few thing different now, yes I would!!"
Do you have any plans to record a new DVD, also do you feel the timing is right for the new one?
"Yes we are under a contract to do a new DVD right now. We have some old footage that has been saved over the years and we will be heading over to Japan and Australia and we would really like to do it somewhere different so let's see what happens."
So how has the tour been going to far with Suicidal Angels, Savage Messiah?
"It has been going pretty good so far, most of the German shows were sold out and a good attendance in France and the Spanish are totally fucking crazy!! Spanish metal fans are some of the best in the world , there over the top!!"
So why is it that you take out 4 bands on the last 2 tours, is it because you are getting too old that you need zimmer frames lol!!
(Lauhging) "Can I beat you up with a big stick Jason? haha!! I think that the competition is what makes a show and I think it is good to have young bands on tour to compete against. I feel that it is necessary to carry a support band and there has to be value with it and Suicidal Angels are really starting to make some noise right now. The Savage Messiah guys we picked based on that they are a UK band so they pulled a few fans into the shows."
Any plans for the next album or is it too early to say about that?
"No not now, it is too far into the future.
Any plans to do another 'The Cursed' album with Dan from Hades?
"I'm not sure about that, that is a bunch of old guys getting together drinking beer and looking at playboy magazines haha!!"
Well it's always a pleasure meeting you Bobby, good luck with the tour and the album sales. Do you have anything to say before we finish off this interview?
"Well your world-wide now Jason, so thank you!! Yeah to our fans thanks for the support, we hope you enjoy the album, come out and check out the shows. We hope to see you in the gutter very soon!"
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