Forty years and eighteen albums and all THRASH METAL! It’s hard to believe that Overkill’s Feel the Fire hit stores in 1985, and The Grinding Wheel, the latest release, was February 2017. There are not too many bands in any genre who have worked as long and as hard as this band. They have paid their dues a hundred times over and proven themselves as legends of the metal world. Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth, vocalist/songwriter/frontman, is the heart and soul of Overkill and an enigma within himself, and I caught up with him to see what the band are up to ahead of their Australian tour next month.
Can you talk us through what Overkill have been up to since the release of The Grinding Wheel?
“It’s pretty much, we work on a clock like a gear you know, and so we have had the album out for a year and so we have been touring across Europe, the US twice and Japan and then obviously down under next month. So it is a regular cycle that we constantly work through and that is where we are at currently.”
After forty years of playing live in Overkill, what does it feel like to still be playing?
“When you say forty I don’t like it, it still feels like yesterday. You know it is the drug, the live feeling and the stage, and being in front of people. The studio is important but that is not really what makes it for me. We still have the energy and we are competitive and we make it happen at a high level. You know if things started to fall off and we were not on the ball I might give it away, but I love playing and I chase that feeling.”
Now the last time you were in Australia in 2010, which was your first time ever playing here, it was extremely intense and over the top. What do you remember of the tour?
“You know the first time you are in a place it is an extra high and so this stands out, so I remember the beers and also remember going to seeing animals and all of the tourist stuff. The shows were fantastic and people were just as excited as we were. Now for the second time through we are kind of like friends so it is kind of like being with your cousins and it is great. You know the Australian thing for us is natural and it fits with who we are culturally so it is comfortable.”
Has there been opportunities for you to come back before this year? Audiences have been waiting for you to return for some time.
“There is always talk and it gets in the mix but it needs to work financially. You know it needs to work with us on a certain level and this is part of our New Jersey upbringing, and the business side of the project is important, it has to be. We actually started talking from 2011 and we just had to have things lining up. We are happy to be coming back and happy to be working with the guys that looked after us last time.”
What material are we going to hear on the tour and do you showcase much of The Grinding Wheel currently in the set?
“We are realists, twenty five percent of the set are the classic songs and people need to hear them and you know those songs. For the other seventy five percent we are selfish bastards and play what we want to play! We are in the band and we love to play certain songs for us. You know the most recent material needs to play live, but it is new to the stage so we will cut four songs from the Grinding Wheel and they have to pay their dues to stay in the set long term. That’s just how it has got to be!”
Focussing now a The Grinding Wheel, how do you keep material fresh after all of this time? Do you guys still write the same way you did in 1985?
“I think the idea is that you can hear how much we still enjoy this when you press play. This is serious to us and we are all second and third generation Americans and we were instilled with great values and we know that opportunities need to be made and taken advantage of it. We are not just mailing it in, we are up front and intense and always trying to better what we have done before and this keeps it fresh. It is an intent and a mentality, even before you write a track.”
Bobby are you active in the scene in 2018, what bands do you listen to?
“I’m writing right now so I try not to listen too much, and this is so I am not influenced too much. There are a number of younger bands that are great and I keep my finger on the pulse and this genre is a young man’s game but I don’t listen to it specifically but there are bands that I definitely like.”
Who are your influences vocally?
“To be honest, I have always aspired to be a better singer. I come from a singing background in the family and my Mum is still alive and she sings. I guess it is the classic metal singers such as Halford and Gillan they got me started in metal. I am always trying to improve myself as a singer and on the latest album I have been able to stretch my vocal chords both up and down and this is what drives me and influences me. To do things better and where possible a little differently.”
It’s been a while since Overkill released a live album, is there any chance of a release of the current tour? I’d love to hear a new live album representing the band currently.
“We did record in Germany a year ago two early albums in their entirety for their anniversaries. This is slated for release in May this year but I’ll keep the rest under wraps at this stage. So look out for it!”
Finally Bobby, do you have a final message for your Australian fans ahead of the tour next month?
“Hold on to your hats folks cause we are coming to get you!”
No matter what way you look at it, Bobby Ellsworth is a metal legend and his legacy is firmly set! It was a pleasure to talk with him again and he is an artist who is always happy to have a chat and someone who has so much charisma. For those who saw Overkill in 2010, they can attest to just how powerful and intense the band were, so whether you were there last time, or thinking about check the band out for the first time, I can assure that they won’t disappoint. Please head to the link below to purchase tickets.
Overkill – 2018 Australian Tour
Wednesday 28th February – Adelaide – Fowlers Live
Thursday 1st March – Brisbane – The Zoo
Friday 2nd March – Melbourne – 170 Russell
Saturday 3rd March – Sydney – Factory Theatre
Sunday 4th March – Perth – Rosemount Hotel