Bobby ‘Blitz' Ellsworth and Overkill have some new music due February 10th, 2017. The new album is titled ‘The Grinding Machine’ and while very much traditional Overkill the album takes a few surprising turns. Overkill will be touring behind ‘The Grinding Machine’ with Nile and Swallow the Sun. The tour kicks off on 2/14 through 3/11 check the band’s official site for dates. Metal Titans caught up with ‘Blitz' while he was doing press to promote the album and tour.
MetalTitans: On your last North American Tour Overkill co-headlined with Symphony X. This time around you teamed up with Nile who have a loyal and rabid following.
Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth: This one is also ‘eclectic.’ This one is heavier ;the previous tour to that was the Overkill and Kreator tour. I mean at times it’s like speaking to the converted; when you have a little diversity people wonder how it will work. The way I see it is like this; we’re going to have some people seeing us that normally wouldn’t be out to see us.
We’re all a little different on this tour and we can all win here. Nile will be playing in front of some Overkill people and we’ll be playing in front of some Nile people. There’s a little bit of a ‘grey area’ but I think we can all make the most of it. I think there’s some value in time served; we’ve been around for 30+ years and then you have a band like Nile that been around for like 20 years...you’re looking at 50+ years of experience! [laughs] That’s what I mean that it’s a win win. Let’s not forget we also have Swallow the Sun opening the show who bring something to the table as well.
MetalTitans: You’ve been in Portland pretty regularly over the course of the past 4-5 records. One thing that I have noticed during that time is that the Overkill audience ranges from the kids that are in their teens to 20s to 30s to 40s and even in their 50s. That’s amazing. I also think this music keeps you young and feeling youthful.
Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth: I think you struck a nerve right there. What’s my ‘fountain of youth?’ Well it’s ‘The Grinding Wheel!’ To have that excitement and exuberance this many years later; there’s something to be said about this music. I think the whole scene as a whole...the music was valuable enough in the 80s and 90s to have a whole new of younger musicians and fans inject themselves into this scene. These kids want to experience something that they didn’t get a chance to before. Why? Well, because it’s valuable to them.
I really think that’s what gave it legs when we saw the resurgence of thrash in 2006 and 2007. I think when you add experience like Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Kreator and Overkill you get the best of both worlds and people take advantage of that in the most positive of ways.
MetalTitans: There’s something to say about Overkill and the bands you mentioned; while ‘The Big Four’ got more commercial while Overkill didn’t.
Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth: I think it was helpful that we never had anyone to answer to. We didn’t have to answer to our fans or our critics. We just had to be ourselves and I do believe that was enough. I remember have a conversation with [bassist] D.D. [Verni] in the early 90s that sums up everything about this band. We were gearing up to record ‘The Underground and Below.’ I love that record; I remember we were having coffee somewhere. I said “So what do you think?!” D.D. says “About what?!” I said “About the new record? What are we gonna do?!” He says “Well, we’re not gonna reinvent the fucking wheel, are we?!” [laughs] I said “Well no! There’s nothing more dangerous than two guys from [New] Jersey with nothing to lose! We’ve been over since ‘Horrorscope,’ so what’s the fucking difference!” [laughs] D.D. says “You’re 100% correct my friend.” [laughs] We have a record deal but there’s this freedom that we are doing this to satisfy ourselves while we create some havoc and chaos. It’s testimony to what you said “they got softer, we got harder” Maybe we didn’t give a shit? There’s something to be said about that.
MetalTitans: Overkill has a signature sound much like Motorhead, Slayer or AC/DC. Do you view yourself as one of those unique acts that cranks out records and stays true to their sound?
Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth: [pause] These are some bigs shoes to fill. I wouldn’t necessarily say...I’d really like to pay attention to our own house vs. a comparative; who’s shoes are relatively bigger. I do think at the end of the day that we have a ‘brand.’ Overkill is an identifiable entity musically; you will recognize our music whether it’s my voice or D.D.’s bass or the riffs.
One of the freedoms that we have and you’ve heard it on this record; we’re not a ‘one trick pony.’ It sounds like Overkill for sure. “The Grinding Wheel” sounds nothing like “Our Finest Hour” and “Come Heavy” sounds nothing like “Mean, Green, Killing Machine.” Yet they all sound like Overkill songs. All four come from different influences and different craftsmanship. They’re different works of art that are all Overkill. That’s where my pride lies with this record.
We worked with diversity but in ‘comfortable’ diversity. Meaning that we knew these place and have been there before’ we pushed them to zones that were further than before. We took the punk rock a little further, we took the rock ‘n’ roll a little further. We have an ‘epic’ vibe on “The Grinding Wheel,” we have thrash on “Mean, Green, Killing Machine” and we have a ‘groove’ on “Come Heavy.” There’s not 1 or 2 types of songs on this record let’s say there’s like 7! [laughs]
MetalTitans: What’s the significance behind the title of the album?
Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth: Well, I think it speaks volumes about Overkill. We’re one of those ‘foxhole bands.’ [laughs] I mean who would you rather be in a foxhole with other than Overkill?! [laughs] We’re the guys that know how to shoot the guns! [laughs] We’ve done it a lot, we do it for our own sanity and we for our own satisfaction.
We also consider ourselves as part of a community; the whole community is a grind. We are the most accepted music, we’re not the most popular music by the masses. Those of us that love it we feel like this is our religion. I still reach for an old Scorpions record or a Thin Lizzy record. I can’t abandon my [Black] Sabbath records because they are part of me.
MetalTitans: You mentioned Thin Lizzy which is a fantastic band and I feel the creators of power metal with “Emerald.”
Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth: There are five of us that feel the same as you do; as we covered “Emerald” on the extended version of “The Grinding Wheel!” [Laughs] So it will be on the vinyl and the Digipak versions.
We actually added “Emerald” on the European tour on the last tour in November [‘16]. We ended the set with “Emerald.” It was really fun to do and we made it our own. We talked about doing some covers last and we all decided on “Sanctuary” by Iron Maiden but then [guitarist] Dave Linsk kept planting “Emerald” in my ear. That selfish bastard! [laughs] He wanted to show off his prowess! [laughs] He in the middle of the lead he dropped in and played at quadruple speed the Irish national anthem! [laughs] You hear a song like that and you can hear where we came from you can hear where Iron Maiden came from. I’m really happy with the end result; I think we put our stamp on it.