by Deb Rao
– Senior Columnist —
Hardrock Haven recently caught up with Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth in Las Vegas. In this exclusive interview Bobby discusses the Dark Roots of Thrash Tour, Overkill’s latest release the Electric Age and for the first time discusses Hurricane Sandy and why he is proud to hail from Jersey.
HRH: Bobby, welcome to downtown Las Vegas.
Bobby: It’s the place to be I hear. This is Bobby Blitz from Overkill.
HRH: Well its Super bowl Sunday. Did you watch the Super bowl? Did you want the Ravens or the 49ers to win?
Bobby: These are probably two of the teams I hate the most. I am not a big Ray Lewis guy. I am a New York Giants fan. The 49ers even through the ’80s and ’90s were a pain and in the ass for The Giants. I have always been an anti-49 guy and anti-Raven guy.
HRH: I am totally anti-Raven because they beat my beloved Patriots.
Bobby: The cool thing was the game was way intense. I did watch and watched how it turned around.
HRH: Did you like the halftime with Beyonce?
Bobby: She got nice thighs. (Laughter)
HRH: And she sang this time no lip-synching. Let’s begin by discussing the tour. You are currently on the Dark Roots of Thrash Tour with Testament. You are on a one off tonight in Vegas with just Overkill playing. Tell us how the tour has been going so far?
Bobby: Well this is the fifth night for us. Everything has been good. We had two sell outs. LA was sold out. It was fantastic. It is a good package. I think that is what people appreciate about it. This time in music history is that people put packages together. It is really more about the value. That is one of the reasons we took this tour. Quite simply these guys offered us a tour. They didn’t just say you be will just support. The came our way with a bunch of stage aid and let us put on an Overkill show. That is why we took it. The Testament record is good. It is a really good record. Officially we are partial to ours but two older bands coming out with two really great releases and touring together.
HRH: Are you finding a whole new generation of fans this time around? After 30 years in the business you guys started it all.
Bobby: You do see younger kids coming. I think that is attributed to the fact that there are younger bands playing this kind of thrash. We are a thrash band and we have been pigeon holed that way. We work within certain perimeters. The perimeters are really are own limitations. I think the idea is when we are pigeon holed as a thrash band, there seems to be younger bands coming out playing thrash. Getting record deals, and making noise. But younger fans actually dig hearing the older stuff. They say where did this come from. Where did Warbringer come from? Actually they were cut from Anthrax, or Exodus, or Testament or Overkill. Those kinds of influences. It is a unique experience for a younger fan to be able to see where the base of the new music is.
HRH: And you can sing. You have an awesome voice that is also melodic sometimes. It is not the typical rah rah you hear from thrash music. What was goal when you went in to the studio to record Electric Age? How does it differ from Ironbound?
HRH: Someone once said that I stuck a knife through an electrical socket and I screamed in key. Our philosophies are truly based on if it not broken doesn’t try to fix it. It is really about being comfortable. One of the things that I noticed in the Ironbound record was that we broke up pieces of the Ironbound record. It was the only time since 1984 that we didn’t have a deal inked when we started recording. Now there were people negotiating with us when we were recording but we decided to do the record anyway and see what happens. We didn’t have to deliver or have them hear the record; we inked the deal prior to it being done. But in the meantime, it gave us the luxury of time. What I mean by that was let’s not be in a hurry with this. We’re doing it in D.D.’s studio so it’s in the family. We weren’t booking one or two months in the studio. What we were doing was putting together the best piece of shit we can. In the interim when we finished drum tracks we would go on the road. We did some festivals, long weekends in the States. Then we are back in the studio. Then we are back out on the road again for the vocals. I really think that one of the elements that worked for us was that the last two records between start to finish there was shows. I’m in Greece one night and three days later I’m back in Jersey cutting vocals. If a person tries to fake energy, you can tell it is fake. It is the real deal, and you are still hopped up from the plane flight and the last show, it’s the real deal. I think for the last two records this has been the X Factor for us. We didn’t plan it this way it just worked out very well for us.
HRH: You also got to play in London during the Olympics in 2012.
Bobby: It wasn’t Olympic sponsored it was Converse sponsored. The Olympics didn’t invite us but Converse was doing a big promotion at the Olympics and they wanted to have a different night every night of music at this old famous club called the 100 Club. You walk in the 100 Club and you see pictures of Jagger and Richards standing onstage with Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. That is how deep its history goes. The idea was anybody who was anybody in the English society all the way up to the Sex Pistols, The Damned; they all played the 100 Club. But every night they did a different genre. They would do R and B. They did the UK Subs for punk night and they did Overkill for the heavy metal night. Converse actually invited us. It was really cool. Because I got free sneakers. I went back in the room and said can I grab a pair for my wife. They treated us great. They gave away the tickets to the people through a lottery. So it wasn’t like you had to buy the show. They said if Overkill will come and represent Converse, we would represent Overkill. The club is actually small; it can’t fit more than 350 people. The highlight for me was that we had the Russian swim team in there. (Laughter) They are all 6 foot tall with shoulders like this and wearing red banging around while we were playing. It was a really cool show and really cool to be involved in something happening in London during the Olympics. That is how that show happened and that is what that show is about.
HRH: Would you say that Electric Age represents the rebirth of the band? You have some different rhythms going on there.
Bobby: One of the things I feel about the Electric Age is that it shows a lot of dimensions. We’re not multi-dimensional. We’re probably three-dimensional. We’re speed, we’re groove and we are aggressive. But that groove can slow down sometimes. The Electric Age, I think that is more two-dimensional. It is more of a speed aggressive time record. I really don’t think that there are many elements on this record that slow down. I think something about The Electric Age that is special is that make no mistake about it is here to take no prisoners. We’re Ironbound, the record prior showed more dimensions of us. Not that one is better than the other, but I think that what we got with The Electric Age is great sounding sonic aggressive approach. Where with Ironbound we had a multi-faceted approach.
HRH: Is there any uncharted territory that you would like to conquer with thirty years in the business?
Bobby: Vegas: (Laughter)
HRH: I know I was saying my prayers I hope Overkill plays here. I miss The Palladium days.
Bobby: I haven’t been here in a while. I know this interview goes everywhere not just Vegas. We are looking forward this year to doing our first Chinese shows. Indonesia and Malaga shows. So the Asian theater is open to this stuff. That is something to make your heart beat a little bit faster. Playing in Communist China for a guy that has done this for 30 years is a killer horizon to look at. That is another feather in your cap that feels good.
HRH: Are you going back to Europe this summer?
Bobby: We are doing a Scandinavian headline. It is going to be Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. We’re dropping into Germany for a show. Iceland show added to it. We are going to Europe about six weeks after this stops. In the middle of April, we will be over there. I think we are up to eight European Festivals. I like to have a good time and festivals are such a quick pop. You play to all these people and it is a big punch. It is like summer vacation.
HRH: Do you feel that your Jersey roots shine on this record?
Bobby: There is a song on this record “Old Wounds New Scars.” The lyrics are “I have a lot of mouth for a Jersey white boy. (Laughter) That was actually pre hurricane Sandy.
HRH: How is everything going down in Jersey after the hurricane?
Bobby: It’s slow. People have a big heart there. Obviously, we felt the presence of Nevada. And other parts of the world. It is a slow rebuild. People need politics to stay organized but it is the most disorganized thing. We have 1/3 of the Northeast population in that Northeast corridor. Which means that we have 1/3 the revenue. So let’s get down there and get those businesses going again. Sign those bills and get those bills through. This is about get us back to work. It’s slow but at the same time there is a great spirit. My favorite story is I was kid that grew up in Jersey. My Dad still has beach property on the ocean. You sit on my Dad’s deck you are looking at the waves crashing. We weathered it ok. About 2 miles south of us is Seaside Heights. It is a huge attraction. There is a boardwalk, amusement park. On the piers there is the amusement park. On the north pier it was destroyed. The roller coaster fell into the ocean. That is the roller coaster we all rode as kids. Here’s what made me proud. So it is sitting in the ocean and about six weeks ago some bastard in a wet suit and an American flag swam out there and climbed the whole thing and planted the American flag on top and waited for the cops. I said to myself,” Now that is why I am proud of where I live.” To the cops credit when he did finally climb down and when they arrested him and the cops all applauded. I thought it was a great statement to get this rolling. We don’t have all day here. There was loss of life but minimal. It wasn’t something that we have to bow our head every time we talk about it. We are really talking about people lives and possessions. And a family of four whose has lost everything. There are a lot of hard working people in that state. They provide a lot of taxes to that state and a lot of people. They want to work and they should have the right to do that with the help of the government. There are a lot of people with a lot of tenacity. You come from the Northeast you how it is.
HRH: Thank you Bobby for this extensive interview.
Bobby: Always fun Debby.