Steven Rosen of Ultimate-Guitar.com recent;y conducted an interview with vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth of New Jersey thrash metal veterans OVERKILL. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: The band has just reached album number 17 with “The Electric Age”. How do you keep from writing the same song after so many records?
Ellsworth: I think we’ve done so many records and obviously OVERKILL is OVERKILL and it’s not a large scope of music — we’re a thrash band. I think, for me, to make it interesting, there’s a fine line between style and repetition. Obviously, I like to be known for a style; I think there’s a comfort zone with style. But when it comes to repetition, I think if it comes to rehash and recycle, we try or me specifically I try not to do that with melody lines. Words can be part of that style but if I’m gonna rehash something from “Ironbound” or as long ago as “Horrorscope”, I’d rather stay away from that.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: As someone who has been a true flag-waver for thrash metal, how have you seen the music change over the years?
Ellsworth: I think records and bands like EXODUS, TESTAMENT and ourselves are getting great results based on the health of this scene and based on the state of it. This is about young bands that came along and tried to take the flag with kudos to the old school but wanted to do something with it. And I think the older bands came along and said, “No, this is how you do it. This is what you’re supposed to do.” I think everybody kinda got down to bare bones and brass tacks and started releasing records into a healthy scene. Older bands, especially, that increased the health of that scene.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: You produced “The Electric Age” yourself. Was that difficult?
Ellsworth: No, because of the amount of time that’s been put in. The way we do it is a little unique. I mean, the guys will be tracking at D.D.‘s [Verni, bass] studio and I go to another studio. This gives us objectivity from each other. I’m hearing mixed tracks with drum groups/guitar groups-based. I sing to that and bring it down to there. They’ve already moved on with something else. We’re dropping my stuff into the real stuff now so we have objectivity. We’re not hearing it go down and being over-exposed to and I think that works. I also think what works is the fact that so much time has passed so you know when it’s shit. If you listen back you go, “Look guys that’s just not gonna work.” I’ve never sat there over production with regards to the vocals and pined over the word “the”. You know, “Which one has more th in it.” It’s never gonna be like that. I listen and say, “Which has the more attitude? Which is the one that’s one the beat? OK, no-brainer, let’s use track two on that.” So I think it’s more about simplicity; overthinking it with this production is not what it’s about. It’s about organization and the best performances you can get and the best tones. And if everything kind of stays in place and you keep it within those parameters, the production comes relatively easy.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: “Electric Rattlesnake” is the first single and it has some serious shifting in the rhythms and riffs. Were you looking to bring in these different kinds of pieces?
Ellsworth: That one specifically just came out in one shot and that was D.D. Verni. When I heard the first riff and the first three minutes of that song, it was presented to me. This song really never developed within the studio; this developed in D.D.‘s head. The arrangement and everything. Now the other ones that we had more time with were arranged with regard to more input from Dave [Linsk, guitar], D.D. and myself. But I got this one and I was, “Man, this is very unique” ‘cause we’re going neck breaking; we’re going half-time; we’re going quarter-time and back to neck breaking. And I was thinking to myself that the unique part about it is that first of all the guy’s willing to think out of the box. Second of all even though it’s out of the box it contains just about every element that OVERKILL has used to some degree with regard to timing and with regard to speed. I thought it was kind of cool to present that over a six-minute period and say, “Yes, we can show a couple of different photographs or snapshots of what this band is about.” The staccato vocal into a melodic vocal into almost a bluesy feel when it really breaks down into that center. It’s just I think a real cool presentation and a real good piece of work on D.D.‘s part.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Do you have any feelings about your newer songs and which of them might become staples down the road?
Ellsworth: I think off the last record, “Bring Me the Night” and “Ironbound” sorta have that quality to it. With regards to the new ones, we haven’t played any yet, but I was hopeful “Electric Rattlesnake” would. As we talked about it earlier, it’s kind of a ride of contrast with regard to band’s characteristics and I think that’s why it can be a staple. But there’s ones that come in and out that people love off the “Horrorscope” record and occasionally we jump into the “Killbox” record. But those four from the beginning will be those four I think forever. And hopefully we can add a few new ones on this next jaunt we’re doing through the U.S. and Europe.
“Electric Rattlesnake” video: