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Overkill

Interviewed by Mike Korn

Interview with Bobby Blitz of Overkill from 2017

MSJ:
I notice you’re rocking a moustache now. You’ve got a very suave, continental look!
I did it just for you. (laughs) It just showed up one day. I grew it out for a month, and my wife was coming back from Europe and I was like, "I better do something with this." It was sticking out in every direction, so I just trimmed it down to this.
MSJ:
With so many Overkill albums out now….I think Grinding Wheel is what, the 18th?

Correct.

MSJ:
It has to be hell putting together a good set list. Do you have a method to it?

There is no method. It’s just primarily a feel. I think that one of the things that we like to do is play the newer tunes. What I mean by newer is not just The Grinding Wheel, but the last few records like Ironbound, White Devil Armory, The Electric Age. We want to get something from those records in there, too, so that this whole new era can be represented. So, I think that what we do is grab some of the new one…I think we’ve got three off the one, one from all the others that recently came out and then fill the rest with whatever we see fit. There are some classics that will always be there…”Rotten To the Core,"  “Elimination," but, hey man, let’s go back to Horrorscope.  Let’s grab a couple from that. Let’s go back to Feel the Fire. So it’s really just a mish-mash. I don’t think you can ever please anybody when you’ve got 18 records. We’re not even playing 18 songs in an hour and a half. We do 15 or 16 in about 90 minutes.

MSJ:
You’ve hop-scotched to a lot of different labels over the years. Do you think Nuclear Blast will be your final destination?

Well, you know, I can hear the bell tolling. I can hear it off in the distance saying time is running out on us. I’m a realist and I think I always have been. I think it’s one of the reasons I can really enjoy this. I’m a realist about it and I don’t have these gigantic, unobtainable expectations. But I can tell you this. I like working with them because of their excited commitment. It’s one thing to be committed to a business partner. That can be contractual. But when you have personal excited commitment that is a part of how we do business, that to me is saying that we’re in the right spot. This morning we just got the record’s first week numbers from Germany and we charted at the highest position we ever had. We were number 10 on the German Billboard or the equivalent of it. We got congratulation letters from everybody at Nuclear Blast that we ever dealt with, including Markus, the owner. If you’re dealing with that kind of commitment and that kind of mentality, you’re probably in the right place.

MSJ:
They are really close to being the world’s major label for heavy metal. Them, Century Media, maybe Metal Blade…

Yup, no doubt, no doubt. They are really something special in this day and age.

MSJ:
I just saw your new video for the song “God***n Trouble," which seems to be a story about urban riff raff. A little bit autobiographical, is it?

Well, you know, we really don’t have much to do in regard to how a director or screenwriter is going to see that. We talked about it loosely with Kevin Custer, and my feeling was that it just reminded me of what it used to be.  I remember doing our part, the performance part, and the rest of it was not done yet. None of the storyboard was worked out.  I know we wanted to involve cops. We wanted a metalhead character involved. It’s gonna tell that story of the early days, kind of a punky youth thing. Kevin asked, "you got anybody in mind?" I looked around the room and there was a guy who was shooting the performance with us who had long hair and a moustache and work boots on. I said, "this guy here would be perfect!" (laughs) That was my contribution to the video! So I don’t think we were trying to portray anything. We wanted to deliver a great performance and we wanted Kevin to have the artistic freedom to say, "OK, this is how we interpret the lyrics and this is the storyboard for the video."

MSJ:
That kind of answers the other question I had, which was how much input you had on the video.

It’s one of the things especially about video, because we want to be involved in the creation of it, but I think there has to be trust. Kevin has done some great videos for us all the way back to Ironbound. He did “Electric Rattlesnake." He did “Bring Me The Night." He did “Bitter Pill” and “Armorist” from the last record. Now he’s done two for this record. You've got to give him his leeway. You know, "you do this because you like doing it. What’s your ideas?" As opposed to just our ideas.

MSJ:
Your new album ends in kind of a curious way with “The Wheel” and then “The Grinding Wheel." What’s the difference between the two and why was it set up like that?
Lyrically, it became an opportunity for me. Everything’s kind of filled with phonetics but as “The Grinding Wheel” started coming together, I realized I was writing a song about grinding through and always being dependable with regard to a person’s work, but simultaneously wearing down. And I thought that was maybe a unique way of presenting the band. That’s the title track, and I started that first. Then I started working on “The Wheel,” or at least my lyrical contribution to it. DD had a bunch of the music written and Dave added to it, and I thought, "what a heavy song." They’re almost like contrasts to each other, “The Grinding Wheel” and “The Wheel”. I started using the same character, and I just add him before “The Grinding Wheel." And all it is is him and you sitting down together, and all he says is "I’d love to sit down and quit the war but I gotta get back to work!" (laughs)  "I’d love to have a drink and talk about the good times with you, but I gotta get back to work." And then he goes back to work in “The Grinding Wheel." Even though there was no concept through the album, it was a unique opportunity to pair the two and have more of an in-depth meaning than to say "oh, it’s just some abstract idea." It’s the same character speaking in both songs.
MSJ:

“The Grinding Wheel” is maybe the most epic song that Overkill has done, with the choir and the big build-up, would you agree with that?

I would think so. Obviously, the outro for sure has an epic vibe to it. I was thinking when the ideas came across, and the guys were working on it, and I threw my opinion into the ring. It doesn’t say to me that it’s a funeral. It doesn’t say that it’s going away. It’s that church bell that you hear ringing in the distance that you hear again. I thought that was kind of a cool way to look at it, that the church bell continues to ring.

MSJ:
I believe the current lineup of Overkill is the longest lasting in the history of the band. Or it’s got to be pretty close.

For sure. But I have to tell you, Ron Lipnicki just left the band.(laughs)

MSJ:
I did not know that, that’s news to me!

We haven’t made an official announcement, but Eddie Garcia has been playing drums on the road with us now for a year. He was our sound guy, and it was an instant slide-over.  Ron was never asked to leave, it was just a personal issue. He’s got an entire other life.  He’s got a family and he doesn’t want to be away as much as we need to be away. He did play on The Grinding Wheel, and we left the door open for him to come back, but Eddie bailed us out instantly. We did Germany with Eddie, all the European tours with Eddie and the festivals. Eddie’s been our go-to guy for a year now. So up that time, yes, it was the longest lineup.

MSJ:

I think on this album you eased up on the speed just a little bit and you emphasized the groove aspect a bit more, would you agree?

I don’t know specifically so because I still hear the energy in it. That’s kind of our brand. You can tell it’s us not necessarily by my voice. It’s a type of energy we use. It’s not DD’s bass, it’s that type of energy we use. I hear traditional heavy metal in “The Long Road” or the center section of “Mean Green Killing Machine." I hear punk rock all over “God***n Trouble” and “Let’s All Go to Hades."  I hear groove in “Come Heavy," the epic stuff you were just talking about. I don’t think it’s a case of more groove and less thrash, but I think for sure it’s a record of diverse influence.

MSJ:

A tour…

It’s for sure a tour! We’ve done all those types of songs throughout our career but for some reason, ten of them showed up on this and have individual identities from each other. I think that the unique thing about it. It’s really a metal record with our brand of energy on top of it.

MSJ:

I think the song “Come Heavy” had that Sabbath, almost Pentagram groove to it.

Dude, I hear Sabbath in there. A couple of spots on the records, the breakdowns, I hear some Iron Maiden. I hear some of that East Coast punk rock that we loved when we were kids.  I hear the blues. It’s all over the map! To me, it’s saying "how great is this, that it’s multi-dimensional instead of uni-dimensional?" It’s pretty cool!

MSJ:

Do you put yourself in a position where you have to top what you’ve done before or do you just let it flow with no regard?

I always think that it’s good to compete against yourself, and I think somewhere even in my subconscious that that urge exists. I’m not going to say I don’t give a s***. I don’t give a s*** what other people are telling me while we’re doing it. I care what four other guys in Overkill are saying to me when we’re doing the record. That’s enough objectivity for me. But I think somewhere in the back of my head I’m competing against whatever the last record was. I’m trying not to repeat it. It’s more of a push from the inside, and we’ll see what happens. We’ll put in some melodic vocals, some harmonies. We’ll put in really melodic guitar parts. We put in question and answer with guitar and vocals.  The drums are more organic. I think these are all the pushes that you think when you’re competing against yourself, "hey, maybe we’re gonna have something that is better." So for sure it’s part of my subconscious from where I sit.

MSJ:

This may be the biggest question of all. Is there anything left for you to accomplish that you haven’t already done?

You know what I always think about, this is the beauty of this band, is that it works well as a team. This is our main accomplishment. You don’t necessarily think of me or think of DD when you think of Overkill. We have just ground through everything for years, and that accomplishment in itself becomes renewed with each opportunity. If you look at The Grinding Wheel, and you compare it to Ironbound, they were both relative to the time they were released. 2010, 2017, like it or hate it, it’s still relevant. It’s got a fresh coat of paint on all of our influences and characteristics. To have the opportunity to do that again in the future, that’s unforeseen at this point. It still kind of feels like there’s another accomplishment to do. You get to number 18,  and all 18 are relevant. You think we can do 19? I’m betting we can! (laughs) That’s what I’m betting but that feels like an accomplishment each time it happens.

MSJ:

I’ve got every record of yours…

Well then, you know. And you know our biggest motivation is our pride. (laughs) When number 19 comes our way as an opportunity, and we’re all still walking the face of this Earth and enjoying what we do, that’s going to be the unconquered territory or what is next to be conquered in our history.

MSJ:

Anything special planned for the Chicago fans tonight?

What do ya mean, like deep dish pizza or something? (laughs)

MSJ:

You’ve played here a ton of times…

We’re early on in this tour, and the principle we have is "get the machine up and get the machine rolling." The way you do that is repetition. This is only the fourth show in. It’s not going to be much different  than last night, except maybe a better performance.

MSJ:

Been pretty good so far?

So far, so good. Full houses so far, which I was kind of surprised at. The Nile guys are bringing something different to the tour.  I’ve been doing this business long enough to realize that all I've got to do is sell a lot of tickets and then a lot of T-shirts! (laughs) How many did you sell? That’s as simple as it is. If I get a number there, I can compare Nile and Overkill to just Overkill. Those guys are worth tickets. They’re actually helping this tour, you know - helping it succeed at the level it has so far.

MSJ:

Got it down to an absolute science.

To some degree, yes.

MSJ:

Any words or messages for the longtime faithful?

Just press "play." (laughs)

 

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