For our 100th Episode of the Ghost Cult Podcast, Keefy interviewed Bobby Blitz (Overkill) and Mark Menghi (Metal Allegiance, also interviewed in podcast #2) about their new band BPMD, and their debut album of covers American Made out now on Napalm Records. We talked to the guys about how the new supergroup, also featuring Mike Portnoy and Phil Demmel came together, why they chose to cover only American bands, how they chose deep cuts over popular songs, how BPMD is different than other bands that come together to create covers, what the music industry might look like after the coronavirus, whether the band will ever perform live or not and more! You can buy American Made at this link and hear our chat right now!
Named after the four members, Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, Mike Portnoy, Mark Menghi, and Phil Demmel, supergroup BPMD is here with their debut release, a covers album by the name of American Made (Napalm Records). As the title suggests, every cut on the record was originally recorded by an American artist, and each revitalised track sounds nothing short of tremendous. Continue reading
There aren’t many bands who can lay claim to sounding better now, with nineteen albums under their belts, than they did at their perceived peak. At least not many who can say it while keeping a straight face anyway. But then again, not every band is OverKill. Continue reading
Overkill have shared a new lyric video and single for their track ‘Last Man Standing’! Their new album The Wings Of War releases on February 22nd via Nuclear Blast. Check it out now! Continue reading
In what is probably the biggest Who’s Who of heavy metal since Jimmy Bain, Vivian Campbell and Ronnie James Dio concocted the idea of Hear’n’Aid back during those halcyon days of hairspray and bulging spandex around 1985, Metal Allegiance continues to add name after name after name to its roster of well-respected contributors. Continue reading
Supergroup Metal Allegiance, featuring David Ellefson (Megadeth), Alex Skolnick (Testament), Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater) and Mark Menghi will release its sophomore album, “Volume II – Power Drunk Majesty”, on September 7 via Nuclear Blast Entertainment. The band released its second single, ‘Voodoo Of The Godsend’, featuring Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Sepultura, Cavalera Conspiracy). A new trailer for the disc in which Cavalera discusses his involvement with the project can be seen below. Continue reading
A rare breed in the Speed/Thrash Metal genre, New Jersey’s Overkill have been plying their trade without interruption for over thirty years. Regardless of any changes in style, or inevitable personnel reshuffles, the band has always remained a constant force on the scene. Continue reading
Overkill will be releasing their eighteenth studio album, The Grinding Wheel, on February 10th via Nuclear Blast. Continue reading
I don’t know if Overkillness is a word? For sure this band very early on knew its identity. When you don’t have an identity crisis, you don’t have to worry about popularity, it’s more about doing what you want to do, and that works better. We grew up in the New York punk scene and then over from the British Isles came NWOBHM and we loved both equally, so we knew what we were. When you know what you are, and are having a good time doing it rather than worrying about who’s talking dirty about me, that’ s never been our approach to things; it becomes five handsome selfish bastards who enjoy each other’s company and would rather roll dice and play heavy metal than worry about our popularity.
On the middle-finger and Fuck You!
The middle finger is an attitude about moving ahead. When I spoke of us as managing the band (in part 1), it created huge opportunities. When other bands had to stop because they didn’t know how to do it different, for us we learned how to turn it into a positive cash flow and keep ourselves going. So there’s this whole other side of the coin about reinventing yourself to adapt to the situation. It was never a discussion about “This is impossible”. It was hard, but not impossible. But in there is our tenacity. This is what we like doing. We didn’t care about popularity. Who gives a fuck?! We work better as a unit. We work better as an explosion. Any discussion was every only about refuelling and going again.
On coming from New Jersey
I think that one of the things that we have in our favour. I’ve always thought this anyway, compared to rest of the States, the area I live in, there’s a fantastic work ethic in New Jersey. We were the people who picked up Manhattan’s garbage. Someone had to do it and we made sure the job was always done. People from Manhattan say “I’d never go to Jersey”, but when you come down to where you get the work done is over in New Jersey, and that’s something we’ve always carried with us. So my point is, we’re always writing. It’s not about sitting down and saying we need to assemble a record and going “I’ll get it to you in six months when I’ve finished driving my Lamborghini on a desert island with these six supermodels”. That’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is we’re knocking down houses, and we’re taking our swords and hammers out and we’re building it up, and that’s when we’re happiest.
On the fans
That is one of my favourite shows of all time that you’ve just mentioned (Dynamo 1999 was the first time I had my chops smacked by Overkill live – ST). On a personal level, because I met my wife at that show and on a professional level because I remember they lit up the porta-toilets by the time we were on. I can see them burning in the distance. I went to DD and said “Now THAT is heavy metal!”.
I do feel that this band has always been an extension of the audience. That’s what makes it accessible. We don’t take shit and we don’t kiss ass, and goddamit don’t cross us, but we have a good heart. We’re not bad asses or wild people, we know our product, and we like the people who listen to our product. Overkill has always had that intangible; when the band is actually fans of the fans it becomes a pretty good fucking relationship. This community that we both walk through is perfect for that, to both be accessible to each other.
On Social Media
I gotta great story… we released something in the states through eOne… I think it was Ironbound… and one of the guys goes to me “Who’s running the Twitter account”? And I said “Oh my god, we don’t even have a Twitter account” and he said “Sure you do and it’s really good!” So he gets in touch with the guy, so I sent him an email that just said “Hi, This is Bobby Blitz from Overkill” and that was it. So now he’s replying with all these apologies about fucking around and using the name and everything, so I said “you’re doing a helluva job and would you like to continue?” and we’ve become great friends since. He’s from Sheffield (UK) and he’d taken it upon himself because he saw a lack of our visibility there, and now he’s been doing so well for us for the last 3 records!
On why the Nuclear Blast albums are just so fucking good…
It’s a good chemistry first of all. This is the longest standing Overkill line-up too, bar none. We like each other. The last new member was Ron and he’s a wild horse. The beauty of the wild horse is you don’t saddle the fucking thing, you let him run free. He actually did Immortalis and if you start looking into that record, which is on the Historikill boxset, you can start seeing the change there, the change which was heading into Ironbound. And the change, I think, is directly related to Ron, you know. I think he added something to our formula, our council, that was missing. And he understood what he needed to do. He came in as the new guy, with all this fucking energy, us old dogs are looking at him going “Holy fuck, we gotta keep up with this young thing!” and it was a positive all round. To this day you cannot get Ron, Derek and Dave off the stage. They walk into a venue at noon and they start playing and they play all the way up to and through the soundcheck and then do the show. And this is the way they live their lives. They like being with each other. We like being with them. Ron’s a great drummer and he’s added to us and I think you get good results from all that.
On perpetuity and why the first seven won’t be re-released
It’s a good question… If you’re going to do a box, why not do it all? We knocked on those doors forever trying to get hold of that stuff. It’s called perpetuity and Atlantic Records owns that stuff forever. They call it “active product” even if they’re not producing any more copies. And they just want it. It’s about possession for them. And I think it’s probably a really good representation of what the music industry was before the download.
I can understand that people download shit because the music industry ripped them off forever. You obviously don’t want your bands to go away, you don’t want them to not be able to afford to do this, but big corporations are such hoarders that’s almost an impossibility to get those albums and get ownership back to release it. We tried, but it’s always been with the same result, which is failure.
On the next album
We always have plans. We meet in dark basements. Somebody lights a cigarette and then you see five faces appear! It’s fucking great!
So, we’re writing. We’re touring the US with Symphony X, still writing when we’re on the road. We’re looking to record some-when around May, but we’re going to do a UK run right before, which will be cool because we get a lot of attention and love from those islands, and we can’t wait to do that just before we record.
On being interviewed
My voice holds up well, you know! I’m trained. I’m a fucking professional! I could talk for two days about this, but you don’t want that!
Nah, it’s cool, I’m enjoying… it’s the typing this up that I’m not looking forward to…
(laughing) It always get boring from the 31st minute! We better end it now (laughs)…
On having the best laugh in metal
WORDS BY STEVE TOVEY
To celebrate the release of the awesome 11 album, 13 CD boxset of HistoriKill (via Nuclear Blast), that details the OverKill musical story from 1995 to 2007, Ghost Cult lit the touch paper, stepped back and let live-wire New Jersey chat-meister Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth do the talking…
On doing it for 35 years…
It’s become quite a ride! I guess I’m in forever now. But isn’t that the beauty of it? It never was a plan. It’s all just happened; finding a great working partner, having a great work ethic and continuously re-inventing ourselves as the world and the music industry crumbled around us. And somewhere in there’s the truth. If you can reinvent and embrace technology and changes, you have the opportunity to keep moving forward.
On I Hear Black and W.F.O (both Atlantic), the last albums before HistoriKill
I can’t tell you what I was thinking back then, but I can tell you for sure there was no record company pressure to change sound; that never existed for us. I think what happened is DD and I wrote Horrorscope, and that was the quintessential thrash record for us. We started understanding groove but without losing our identity. We had 2 new members, Merrit Gant and Rob Cannavino, for Horrorscope, whereas prior to that we had Bobby Gustafson writing. After Horrorscope, the two new guys said to us “If you want us in the band, we have to write music” and DD said, “OK, I’ll give that a shot”. But he had a hard time writing with these younger guys, who were thinking more in terms of what was happening at the time, the grunge, the rock scene. For sure there’s thrash on there, but the thrash numbers are DD’s songs.. So, we had a mix of the new meets the old, but we didn’t see the direction the record was going in until it was done. And still to this day I like I Hear Black, it’s just probably the one album that’s a departure from our path.
It’s multi-faceted to do this for so long – it’s not just sitting in the basement playing guitar, chain smoking and wondering why people don’t appreciate my genius! It’s obviously a business too. You’re in a band because you want to be in a band; you want to run through walls, knock through them, make some noise, with some people that you respect, admire and, to some degree love. But the other side is a business. And we started taking that over right post-W.F.O. and we became a self-managed band. We were forced into the underground a little more so by the grunge scene, so, and I don’t know if it’s genius or not, but we realised that licensing would be our future and we started licencing and taking a little less money so as not to let the labels own those records in perpetuity.
On “The Dark Days Of Metal”
When we started hooking up with Nuclear Blast, who are guys in fucking Exodus T-shirts, they know what’s fucking going on, so we said, “Hey, if we do worldwide with you, would you be interested in a package?” We wanted to call it “The Dark Days of Metal”. And they said absolutely. And these were the albums that got the least amount of light shined upon them. I don’t know if we knew it was smart move about the licensing, but it turned out to be, so we had this whole block of a period of time when metal was less popular where now we can introduce it to this whole new audience of whippersnappers that exists now who are wearing the uniform of white hi-tops and patches on denim jackets. They can know there was some solid releases in the late 90’s because we decided to not go home and work for Mommy and Daddy.
On Knowing Where He’s Been
It’s a great opportunity to even have the HistoriKill stuff and to introduce new people to it. It’s not so much for the people who were there at the time, but for those who are now fans who want that 11 CD history of us that only time can give you. To be relevant in 2015, I have know where I’ve come from to know where I am, and HistoriKill is part of that for sure.
On the standout moments of HistoriKill
As you can tell, I’m pretty good with remembering our past. One of my favourite records is From the Underground and Below. We had Colin Richardson come in and mix it. He was state of the art, in demand at the time. I remember picking him up at the airport, then we went to the studio in Conneticut. He was listening with the engineer, and we could see him through the glass. So, I see him listening to ‘Long Time Dyin’ and he’s doing the Pete Townshend guitar wheel while he’s standing on a fucking chair!
I said to DD “We’ve either made the best decision of our lives, or we’re fucked!” …and he helped turn that record into a gem for me. It’s one of my favourite Overkill records of all time. It’s cohesive. When I was a kid, when I put on Volume 4 (Vertigo), I never took the needle off until the record was done. That to me is a gauge of success. And it’s the way I think of Underground; a cohesive whole.
I remember going through some personal issue shit at the time of Necroshine that was like a 1, 2 to the stomach and then a 1, 2 to the jaw and I honestly didn’t think I was going to get off the canvas. I was waiting to get some results on some tests and it was a coin toss at the time how it’d go. In any case, I have a great relationship with DD and he was in touch continuously. I remember he called me when I was waiting for results, and he goes “Hey man, you need me to write you a cheque? You need me to come up, you need me to hold your hand or you need me take care of your family, tell me what you need, I’ll do it” but I knew what I needed was to get my mind off this shit. So I said “DD, I could use a song.” And he sat and did it, and three days later I had the rough musical demo to ‘Necroshine’ in my mailbox. I then remember writing it over this two week waiting period and I’ll never forget the song. It got me through the other side. I might be an abstract lyricist, and not tell you what this song or that song is about, but that song got me through that period and to this point in my life. It was a jumping off point because it gave me the opportunity to understand it’s not about the problem, it’s about getting through the fucking problem at all costs. It was a great lesson, but also a song that will remain the top Overkill song I ever wrote. It was life changing for me.
On his Health
It’s good. I mean, I walk around with that attitude that I’m bullet proof. Obviously I’ve caught a few shells here and there though! But I still think of myself as bullet proof, and that’s the way you should present yourself. You get one shot at this. I’m not going to sit here and worry about touring, or this or that… it’s just due diligence and fucking move forward man. I’m doing well and looking forward to getting on it all again!
WORDS BY STEVE TOVEY