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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews


Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview with Overkill's Blitz Ellsworth From 2003
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at

One thing I want to find out right off the bat is how you are doing physically? You had a stroke last year, are you pretty much over that?
(quizzically) What the hell are you talking about?
MSJ: Uhhhhhhh....
(bursts out laughing) I just like doing that to people! The beauty of the stroke is that I'm able to forget anything I want to, and nobody ever questions it! I had something called a TGI, a mild stroke or what they call "focal seizure". It just kind of wiped me out and knocked me down. It was right in the middle of a show, which was kinda cool. It was very unpainful when it went down. I've been quoted as saying, if I have to go, put me in the "stroke" line and not the "heart attack" line. It was like a combo of Quaaludes and tequila. I remember that from the past...I haven't drank in 8 years. It's like being numbed out everywhere. Not a bad experience, and the rehab was relatively quick. I was on my motorcycle about 3 weeks afterwards. I could only make left turns, which was a problem. (laughter) So it's all good!
MSJ: Was it a kind of wake-up call for you?
No, not really! It's not a stroke due to lifestyle. I'm an in-shape person, I work out, I don't have hard arteries. I do smoke sometimes. I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I get a lot of sleep. There's not really a hell of a lot to change! (laughter) I quit the drinking and drugs in the beginning of 1995.
MSJ: You can't do too much about your genes...
You know what it is? It's not one of those things that I was predisposed to. It's probably more because I DON'T drink and I have thicker blood than other people. It was just a very small bloodclot. I could have had it for years but it just got bigger and then...POW! It's not really an issue now and nobody's telling me it will happen again. Being I'm not predisposed towards it, nobody's saying I should change anything in my life. Every doctor you talk to wants you to put down the Marlboros. The other side of the story is, they told me that I don't have a hard artery in my body, your blood flows good and it doesn't even look like you smoke. That's probably due to all the positive things in my life.
MSJ: I am glad to hear it because you're going to be cranking out metal for many years to come...
And it's been many already! (laughter)
MSJ: Did you ever imagine that Overkill would last so long and that it would touch so many people?
(vaguely) What the hell are we talking about? (laughs uproariously)
MSJ: Who the hell are you?
Oh God, I have so much fun with the emails! They say things like "Jesus, I heard you had a problem, is there anything I can do, blah blah blah?" and then I send back "Who the f*** are you? How'd you get my email?!" And it's from my sister!!!(more laughter) Getting back to your question, I didn't really have the foresight to see that this would happen but in hindsight, I can see why it did. This band has always had a very simple philosophy. It's about putting your best foot forward all the time. It's not about thinking so deeply into the future. It's about looking more at what we're doing today as opposed to five or ten years down the road. It wasn't about that. It's really about enjoying the moment. I think it's obvious when you listen to our music. I don't think I actually have to sit here and tell you this, I think you can hear Overkill enjoying the moment when you press play on "Killbox 13". It's quite obviously something we love to do and something we do well.
MSJ: It's funny you should say this because in my review of the album, I say that one of the things you can pick up on right away is that the band is really into what they're doing and they're not going through the motions.
Well, let me tell you, Mike. It was a long time ago and we didn't go through some identity crisis. We eliminated "popularity" from the equation. It has nothing to do with popularity. We realized that we would be able to do what we love doing for the people who love to hear it for a longer period of time if we weren't disposable. And being disposable is about being popular. Obviously, if you are popular today, you won't be popular tomorrow. We have a disposable society when it comes to music, when it comes to baby diapers, when it comes to human life. So I think our standards, our values, our ethics are really quite simple. If we paid attention to what happened in our own house and put everything we had into it, it would be quite easy to obtain longevity. This, of course, is in hindsight, but it did work for us. I don't think a lot of bands do it that way. It's more like "keeping up with the Joneses" and that's dictated by the record companies.
MSJ: Was there any one particular record or period in your history when you realized this, when you knew you were comfortable with what Overkill was
I think "Horrorscope" was a good milestone for us. That was released in 91. I think that prior to 1991, we were chaotic and post-91, we were still chaotic but it was controlled chaos. We became more in charge of where we were going with it. Knowing how to get the impact through the songwriting, knowing how to produce, knowing how to attain what we wanted as far as sound. We were much more in control of ourselves and to control that chaos is very powerful. So I think that was the point in our career that started a new chapter for the band.
MSJ: I'm gonna play the devil's advocate here. What would your response be to someone who says the band doesn't really grow any?
You dirty son of a b'....(laughter)
MSJ: Who the hell are you? What are we doing on the phone? (laughter)
Well, I think quite obviously the band does grow. It may not grow according to what certain people's expectations of growth are. Some people, when they think of growth, they are almost thinking of abandonment! (laughter) This band has always kept a core center and expanded around that center. Our first real release was "Feel The Fire" on Megaforce Records in 1985. If you put "Feel The Fire" on and then you put "Killbox 13" on and you can't tell that there's been a change or an evolution, you need to see a doctor and get a Miracle-Ear! Our evolution has never been by leaps and bounds. It's been slow and it's been constant.

MSJ: "Killbox 13" seems to be a smorgasbord of the band's history.
It's a great selection of where we've been and where we are.
MSJ: Two songs in particular, "Struck Down" and "Unholy", seem to go back to the beginnings of the band, do you agree?
They almost have that "Taking Over" vibe to them. I think I have to attribute this due to the input of Dave Linsk. This record is Dave's first free hand. Dave did all the guitars on "Bloodletting" but was so overwhelmed because he was the only one who did any guitar on that record. He just plugged in and played. On "Killbox 13", he had a lot of time to interpret these songs and put his input into them. Dave comes from that era and when Dave's guitar work goes into anything...and I think you can hear on the whole "Killbox" record that Dave is all over this can tell the guitars are certainly alive and well, in the overdub and in the lead. It's Dave's interpretation all the way, not D.D.'s and my interpretation of it. By the time you get to the lead on "Unholy", you know that's where it came from, the "Taking Over" era of Overkill. It was kind of cool to see that develop in the studio. It's like he took something that already existed but he reinvented it.
MSJ: It sounds like the addition of Derek Tailer on rhythm guitar took a lot of pressure off of Dave...
MSJ: Overkill has sometimes been a one-guitar band and sometimes a two-guitar band. It sounds like this is the ultimate statement that it is a two-guitar band....
Without a doubt. Even on "Bloodletting", we were going to go into the studio with two guitars but we had a guy named Joe Comeau with us who played guitar who had an opportunity to sing. Joe's always been a singer and it was a big opportunity for him. He wanted to stay in Overkill, too. I said, it's kinda hard to be the singer in another band and a rhythm guitar player over here. What are we gonna do, tour together? (laughter) I appreciated the fact he wanted to stay but we need somebody to concentrate on us. We've never really toured without two guitars. Derek stepped in when "Bloodletting" was finished. He's been with us ever since. We've always been a two-guitar band since 1991.  

MSJ: One thing you did differently on "Killbox 13" is work with producer Colin Richardson. What was it like working with him and will you be working with him again?
We've known Colin from work he's done for us in the past. He mixed "Bloodletting" and "From the Underground And Below" so we had established a good relationship with him. That's first and have to trust the guy. Let me tell you the way this relationship started. It's the way I always remember Colin. We were doing "From the Underground", it was 97. Colin was flown in and taken to the studio. He comes in and shakes my hand. He says "I'm a little bit hungry and I'd like to hear the tracks. Can somebody get me a menu?" Well, we gave him a menu of the tracks and he asked, "Can you give me an hour or so to check it out?". We said, sure, sure, we'll leave. So D.D. and I leave the studio and we're looking back through the glass as we're passing the front. Now, you have to understand, I've known Colin for about 5 minutes. We see that he's got everything on 10, he's standing on a chair and playing air guitar! (laughter) I said to D.D., "Either we've made the biggest mistake of our life or this is going to be a long lasting relationship!" So working on "Killbox" with Colin, there's a huge amount of trust to begin with. There was a lot of fun happening in the studio. It's not all this serious work with wrinkled brow, thinking "hmmm, how are we gonna get around this problem?" What Overkill does, is we go in and we play. In this case, Colin interpreted that playing for us where in the past; we would do it ourselves. The result is "Killbox". For me, it's the most fun project since "Horrorscope". That's based on having less responsibility, having to know that I just had to sing everyday for 6 or 8 hours as opposed to produce and pick out microphones. I'd walk in, have a cup of coffee and say "How are you today, Mr. Richardson?". He'd tell me some dirty joke, I'd be laughing for 10 minutes and then I'd be singing the rest of the time.
MSJ: So you will be working with him again?
Well, I'd like to think so but I don't want to say we're closed to new ideas. We were attracted to Colin due to his work with Machine Head. We thought Colin was the ultimate guitar and drum guy. This is coming from a vocalist, remember...(laughter). Well, not a vocalist, a screamer. That's what makes a metal record, as far as we're's the relationship between the guitars and the drums. Can each be louder than the other and still work in conjunction with each other? That becomes the formula for a great metal record. Not the friggin' can drop those in anywhere later on! (laughter). It has nothin' to do with has to do with Tim Mallare, Dave Linsk and Colin Richardson.
MSJ: I have to say that Colin caught your vocals at their best. You've got those snotty vocals...
Yeah, I take a lot of Human Growth Hormone and it's zapped me back to 17 years old, physically! (laughter). You know, it's not that any of the other elements of the record are less important but they are easier to fit in if the drums and the guitars are having a good relationship. I'm easier to put on top; it's easier for D.D. to hold up the bottom end. Colin did catch me at my snottiest. And I'll tell ya, it's fun doing it with someone whose company you enjoy. I was singing "Damned" and he goes up to me and says, "You can do that better." And I turn to him and say, "Who the f*** are you?"(huge peals of laughter). He says, "I'm Colin, don't you remember?" and I said, "No, I had a stroke!"
MSJ: I think that stroke was the luckiest thing that ever happened to you!
Oh man, I've alleviated myself of so much dead weight! Colin will probably read this interview and go "Son of a b', I knew it!". But of course, we hired Colin for his opinion because we value it, so I sang that bit again and again. And finally he said, that's it. And I guess he did catch me at my snottiest!
MSJ: Let's talk about your lyrics. To me, they seem kind of cryptic, they convey a feeling but don't really seem to be concrete. Do you agree?
No, because I'm writing them. They are as concrete as they can possibly be, to me. I do like to write abstractly, because it's interesting. I do think that if I write, "This is black", you know what I'm saying after one listen. I think if I describe what black means to me and all of the things that go through my head when I'm trying to figure out what black is, it becomes a lot more interesting. And in many cases, it's more identifiable, because people are not just as black and white as we like to think they are. I write from the inside. I use this as a kind of twisted therapy I put myself through. I'm able to expel my own demons, hopes, dreams, fears. In every Overkill record, I have another opportunity to peel away another layer of the onion. On "Killbox", what I've done is weave the seven deadly sins through the record and relate how they apply to me. In some cases, I celebrate them (laughs) and in other cases, they become a downfall for me. Now I don't always write as first person, I write more as different elements of a character. It's an interesting way for me to write because it becomes a huge puzzle but by the time I'm done with the whole thing, it's therapeutic. Writing something like "Until I Die" or "Unholy"...I was actually sweating when I was doing that. The impact this has on me is unforgettable. I do believe that you and I are a lot alike even though I may twist everything around when it comes to lyrics. If you get the meaning of what I'm writing about, it will probably stay with you a hell of a lot longer than just me saying, "this is black". Because you already know what black is.
MSJ: I'll have to go back and listen to the lyrics again now that I know about the "seven deadly sins" angle.
I mention them in every song, even if it's just a couple of words. "Devil by the Tail" is envy, "Crystal Clear" is lust, "Unholy" is greed, "I Rise" is pride. A couple of the songs are strictly personal experiences. "No Lights" is about a very close friend I lost who was an avid motorcycle rider along with myself and I felt the need to close the chapter that way. It's all about getting to the center of the onion for me. I'm not judging anything else but myself and I feel I have the full 100% unequivocal right to do so. And no one can tell me I don't.  

MSJ: On the song "No Lights", there's a line "If this man falls, who will pick up the flag?" Was that taken from the movie "Glory"?
Yeah, love the movie! "If this man shall fall, who will take the flag?" Awesome movie. Now I put my own little twist in that because the guy I'm talking about in that song, the friend of mine that died, was nicknamed "Who". He was a great friend of mine; everybody called him "Who". He was that kind of guy; he would pick up whoever fell. That line came into my head while writing the song. We've called him "Eddie Who" as long as we've known him.
MSJ: For your own enjoyment, what was the last CD you got?
Well, lemme see, lemme turn right around and look at my stereo. "The Best of Motorhead" 2-CD set, Disc One, "Ace of Spades", "Overkill", "Bomber", "Louie Louie", etc, etc.  

MSJ: You can't go wrong with it.
Hey, there's metal and then there's Motorhead! (laughter)
MSJ: What was the last band you saw for your enjoyment?
Because I wanted to see them?'re not gonna believe this and you're not even gonna know who it is. It was a Dutch guy kind of in the Frank Sinatra vein. It's really strange. I was just in Holland with my wife, who's Dutch, and she picked up tickets for this dude. I knew the songs he did back when we were dating but I never got a chance to see him. She said, "Look, I've got tickets!" and I said, "Holy s***, I wanna go!"
MSJ: Is there a little Sinatra in your vocal style?
Y'think? (laughter) Well, the guy we went to see, his name is Andre Hassess. That's the last concert I went to!
MSJ: Now we have a question we like to end every interview with and with all your years of experiences on the road, you've got a good one...
You're setting me up, I can tell.
MSJ: Yup! What was your Spinal Tap moment?
There's been many of them. I'm standing on a stage in Cleveland. I had this pair of jeans that I loved and they had become destroyed with use. I couldn't say goodbye to them. What I used to do is keep them together with duct tape because the crotch had blown out of them. I remember my buddy had flown in from New Jersey to Cleveland to go on the road with us for a while. When he did, when I saw him in the theater, I jumped up on the monitors. I jumped back and did this scream and the whole place, 1300 people, is hysterical. I didn't realize why but I could feel a draft! (laughter)  

MSJ: Was that ever caught on video?
No, it wasn't. Not that I know of, anyway! Believe it or not, it was while I was doing the song "Hello From the Gutter"! (laughter)
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