Overkill will be releasing their eighteenth studio album, The Grinding Wheel, on February 10th via Nuclear Blast. Unlike their previous three records, the new material sees the band bring a more diverse attack to the listener, but they still manage to keep the Overkill sound we’ve all come to love. I recently got to speak with Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth all about the creation of the new record, among other things, and you can enjoy the interview below!
Metal Mark: Hey Bobby, it’s always a pleasure talking to you! How’s everything going in your world?
Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth: Mark, my Southern friend (laughs). Good to hear from you too. Everything is going awesome man. We got a killer new record coming out next month, starting up the touring schedule soon, ya know getting everything back in motion, so we are excited as hell right now.
MM: Hell yes. I’ve been blasting The Grinding Wheel all day, and I absolutely love it. Unlike the last few releases, this is a more diverse and epic attack, but it comes off amazing man.
Blitz: Thanks man. I’m glad you’re digging it, because we are too. A lot of people that have heard it have said it’s our “epic” album, and I think the diversity of the songs is why they say that. We really threw everything that we love about heavy metal into each song. Whether it was thrash, or punk rock, or New Way Of British Heavy Metal, it’s all there, and each song is its own monster I think. I think it’s cool to hear the punk rock feel in tracks like ‘Goddamn Trouble’ and ‘Let’s All Go To Hades’, then hear the thrash in ‘Mean, Green, Killing Machine’, then hear the groove in ‘Our Finest Hour’, and also the “epicness” in ‘The Grinding Wheel’ at the end. It makes for an exciting listen for any metal fan, so we are super proud of it.
MM: Was the original mindset for this album to bring that diversity back, or did it just happen that way?
Blitz: I think we are just sick and twisted individuals (laughs). We got in the attic, and found some old shirts and records, and wanted to be cool again (laughs). In all seriousness though, we knew what we accomplished with the last three records, but it was different when we were writing this new stuff. We were just jamming in the studio, and all these other influences came out, and it just worked. It’s like when you hear a song for the first time, and you’re just like “holy shit this rules.” That’s what happened. It was not planned at all, but I think once fans hear it all together, they’ll understand, because it’s still heavy metal after all. We’re not doing a pop record here (laughs).
MM: I agree. Even with the diversity, it’s still an Overkill record, and fans will hear that.
Blitz: We are who we are man. We’ve always been Overkill, and we will always be Overkill. There is no identity crisis with this band. How sad would it be for us to try and find a new sound? We are in our fucking fifties man (laughs). If we don’t know who we by now, we are fucked (laughs). So yea, there’s definitely more diversity, but the thrash element is there as always, so fans won’t be freaking out. At least I hope not (laughs).
MM: After the response to the ‘Our Finest Hour’ single, I think fans are pleased. That might just be one of my favorite Overkill songs ever.
Blitz: Wow, thanks man. Yea with all of the diversity talk, we wanted to make sure fans knew we were still who we are, so we released that song to them. It’s just a ripper that could have easily been on the last three records, but it fit well with the new material as well. I can’t wait to play that live, because I think the pit will be chaotic for that one.
MM: After working with several people in the industry over the years, you guys finally got to work with the legendary Andy Sneap, and you can really hear his influence on some of the material. How was it working with him?
Blitz: Andy rules man. People have asked me how he affected the sound, and I’m like just press play (laughs). He’s just a beast. He brought his organizational skills and objectivity, but allowed us total freedom as well. Whatever we wanted, he was open to it. We really wanted more organic drums on this record, more power from the guitars, and he executed it perfectly. Once he saw where we were going, he locked in, and I think he’s the x factor on this record. The record definitely would have been good, but Andy made it great.
MM: Being your eighteenth album, you guys have a mindset of what you want, and working with a new guy on mixing can sometimes be difficult. It sounds like it went flawlessly though.
Blitz: It really did. I don’t even think we argued over something one time. We aren’t assholes, even though we are from Jersey, so if we had an opinion, he would listen, and that went both ways. It was an awesome partnership, and like I said, he really made this record something special.
MM: I think you can hear him in songs like ‘Long Road’, because it’s just an epic ride for the listener, and something we really haven’t heard from you guys yet, but it still rules.
Blitz: I absolutely love that track. When I first heard Dave Linsk throw the lead over the music, I was absolutely blown away. It made my job easier, because there was no need for vocals over a lot of that song. It’s musically intact as is. Sometimes you can fuck shit up by putting vocals over something, just because you think they are supposed be there, but with that song, it didn’t need much from me. I hope it makes it into the set list, so I can just stand by and watch them play it live. It would be amazing to see in front of a crowd.
MM: I think every song would sound amazing live. This record is that strong. Do you have a personal favorite, or does it change day to day?
Blitz: That’s always a tough question for me, because I love them all. If we didn’t love them all, we wouldn’t release them (laughs). I think right now ‘Come Heavy’ has to be my favorite, just because of its diversity. You can hear all our influences, but the real beauty of the track is that there’s no chorus in it. There was no need for one, and I thought that was super cool. The vocal hooks are actually the verses, and I think for us, to be able to put together a song like that, without a chorus, is really special. I don’t remember many bands that have done it before, but once you hear it, you understand why.
MM: I love whenever we talk around an album’s release, but your excitement level is always at the highest level. You seem to love it more and more each and every day, and I think it’s admirable as hell.
Blitz: Well if I didn’t enjoy it anymore, I wouldn’t do it (laughs). It’s as simple as that. This band gives me eternal satisfaction, and I think that’s why people like you pick up on it so easily. This is my life. This is all I’ve ever known, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. You can see our passion for our music every time we hit the stage, and you can hear it in all of our records. We leave it all out there, no matter what. We always have, and as long as I’m breathing, we always will.
MM: Throughout your career, you’ve seen the scene change, but as you said, Overkill has and always will be Overkill. Last year we had incredible releases from thrash icons like Metallica, Testament, Death Angel and Megadeth. This year the new Kreator is already creating buzz, along with your record. Does hearing these new releases from your peers light a fire inside of you to create something extra special.
Blitz: I’d be lying if I’d say no. It does. Honestly, that new Kreator is the album of the year so far for me. Of course now that I’ve said that, I have to text Mille now to vote for us (laughs). But yea, I think it’s awesome. The scene is as healthy as ever, so to be a part of it with our peers makes it more special.
Does it make me want to do better? Hell yes it does. As with anything in life, I go in it to win. Plain and simple. I never want to lose. It’s my motivation. I love these bands we grew up with all of my heart ya know, but once I hit that stage, I want to bury them (laughs). I want people to remember us. I think it’s a healthy competition for sure between the bands, and the fans reap the benefits from it. We continue to push each other, and the fans get the best records and live shows possible. It’s a win, win.
MM: I love that, even after over thirty years in the scene, you still have that motivation and drive in you. It shows in your music, and especially in your live show.
Blitz: To think that this is our eighteenth album is bizarre, but then you think about when we started, and it’s not that strange. We like to put out records frequently, and after decades and decades, they add up. The special thing for me is that we still bring that energy on record and on stage. Once the energy and passion is gone, we are done. As of now, we are flying on all cylinders, so fans better get ready for it.
MM: So we can expect eighteen more records in the future? (laughs)
Blitz: Don’t push it kid (laughs). We may be flying on all cylinders, but we’re not oblivious to our age (laughs). We are almost senior citizens here (laughs). It’s all good though. Who knows. Like I said, as long as the energy and passion is still there on record, and on stage, Overkill will be around.
MM: Speaking of that stage, you guys are hitting the road with Nile very soon, and I’m sure touring is the main focus for 2017. What other aspirations do you have for this upcoming year?
Blitz: I really want to hit places that we haven’t been yet. It’s crazy to think that there are places we still haven’t travelled to in our career, but there are. We want to try and get to India, South Africa, Iceland, places like that. I love to travel, and experience new things, so there are bucket list spots that I want to hit this year. It’s easier said then done, but that’s one of my main goals.
As for the band, it’s business as usual. I know that sounds kind of secretive, but that’s what we’ve always done. We will be touring. We will be bringing this new material to anyone and everyone possible, and we will be bringing our high energy every night on stage. That’s just what we do, and I can’t wait to get this touring cycle started. Get ready fuckers!