Overkill interview with Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth: From the Vault

Below is a cleaned-up interview that originally appeared in archive ‘zine issue #1 way back in 1991. Enjoy!

In June of 1990 I went to the Trocadero in Philadelphia, PA, to interview Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. We sat down in one of the backstage areas to talk about Overkill before the opening band, local thrashers Dominance, played. Overkill was touring The Years of Decay. After chatting a little, we started up.

D.U.: First off, Bobby, when did you tour with Slayer?

We did [Slayer albums] Reign in Blood and we also did South of Heaven with them. That was our first tour, actually, ’87. Feel the Fire [the first Overkill record] was when they were doing Reign in Blood.

Are there some venues that won’t let you play because you were with Slayer when clubs were trashed?

Uh, it doesn’t affect us that much. I mean, there’s always a place to play in every city. If it’s gonna make money, somebody’s gonna go, “I’ll take the show.” Y’know, that’s basically money.

Why did Sid Falck leave Paul DiAnno’s Battlezone [before joining Overkill on drums] in the first place? Was it because that didn’t go very far?

That was one of the reasons he left. Actually, it was more of a drug orientated kind of a thing, and road partyin’ and, y’know, do it ‘til you’re six feet under kind of a thing. And he didn’t want that, and this band is drug free. Well, we definitely drink beers. There’s no other foreign substances that are manufactured by people in basements that go in our bodies, or grown in Columbia, you might say. I mean, we have our vices. There’s no halos over heads, but at the same time, our priorities are more the music instead of doin’ it for the drugs. It’s just not for us.

I’m not sayin’ it’s not for everybody. It definitely is for some people, but this band is an energy-based band, and I would never put anything in me that is gonna stop that energy, you know what I’m sayin’? Or hinder the energy, y’know? I feel it’s always been a rip off, people who like to mix substance abuse with music. Because you’re not seeing that person; you’re seeing them in an altered state.

I read once that you said that just because you play this type of music, it doesn’t mean you’re Satanic.

Yeah.

Do you feel that Satanic bands are stupid, and they should use their lyrics to say something?

Well, this band has come around to that way of thinking, through four records, that with a recording contract, you should have something to say, because you do influence people. Um, I would never take away anybody’s right to express themselves any way that they feel necessary, whether that is from a Satanic point of view or not. I think creativity should be left up to the individual and not dictated by even my feelings on it. My feelings only pretty much govern what I do, you know what I’m sayin’? But it doesn’t necessarily apply to anyone else. The band in the next room, if they want to write something about Satan, or come from that angle, they have more than the rights in the world to do it, and I’ll back those rights that they have. But it just doesn’t jive with me. I just don’t like it.

“I speak out very adamantly about it at every fuckin’ show. You are the future of this fuckin’ country!”

There’s a censorship movement happening, I think.

Most definitely! In Florida, there’s been bills passed. They dropped Overkill records from the shelves in the major chains ‘cause they didn’t wanna deal with it down there. They sell ‘em in the mom and pop stores, but I think you have to be 18 or older to buy them. It’s kinda ridiculous. If you’re not educated to know what’s in the fuckin’ record, then it shouldn’t be on your fuckin’ shelf anyway, plain and simple. I mean, there’s some stuff out there that offends me, but I’m not gonna take the right away of somebody to create that stuff.

I become very involved in it. I speak out very adamantly about it at every fuckin’ show. You are the future of this fuckin’ country! It’s like, you have to speak up if you want this stopped.

When Under the Influence came out, I listened to it and thought it was different.

Mm-hmm. It’s more of an upbeat record for us.

Yeah, and then The Years of Decay comes out, and it’s really sick.

Well, one of the things about the band that I like to bring out in interviews is that we’re not really contained in any one particular thing. The band likes to do different things, and what we like to do with a record is sort of, uh, represent the mood that we feel at the particular time of writing that record, OK? Everyone was pretty much down when we were writing this record, you know what I’m sayin’? Very dark, y’know? We kinda felt backs to the wall, and that there was a lot of things out there that we shoulda talked about, and that’s what we did. So that’s what The Years of Decay represents. It’s really kind of a cool record.

Taking Over was more like blood and guts.

Yeah, and “go for it.” I mean, there’s some really good messages on Taking Over, but they’re not as blatant as the messages on The Years of Decay. It’s done right now lyrically, for me, in a more direct sense than it was. I don’t do this because of any pressures we receive, because we still receive the pressures about it. So basically, fuck them.

Like the P.M.R.C.

Right. But the people that understand the stuff that we’re talkin’ about, I mean, it’s a good thing, y’know?

When bands have several albums out and get bigger, they sometimes tone down their lyrics and say they’re progressing lyrically.

I look at it for our point of view, you always wanna talk about what’s on your mind. Um, and if you can put that in the sense of lyrics, I don’t think necessarily just because it’s blood and guts, it makes it heavier. I think something like “Skullkrusher,” being kind of an experience I had with substance abuse, you know what I’m sayin’? And I stepped out of context, I said, “This definitely ain’t for me. I’m not gonna do this anymore. This is fuckin’ bullshit. I’m gonna get my skull crushed!” is basically what it came down to. And I think that’s really a heavy topic, you know? I think it has a lot more impact than talking about something like “Blood and Iron” off the first record or “Powersurge” off the second record. Because it’s real and at least you’ll be in that position someday where you might have to deal with it. What’re you gonna do? You never know.

There wasn’t an “Overkill IV” on the new one.

Yeah. “E.vil N.ever D.ies.” That’s an “Overkill.” It’s just sort of hidden in the title. It was kind of a fantasy story that was in Shakespeare when I first read it. Some of the quotes are right from King Lear and Hamlet and stuff. I went to college for, like, six years. That just became a story, and basically “E.vil N.ever D.ies” talks about the ideals and standards that this band has always had for itself, and that we would only continue to do it if our standards were met by ourselves, and they were, so evil never died. It’s just a play on words.

Do you think the music’s more technical now than on, say, Feel the Fire?

I guess it’s more complex just through time, but we never really set out to do that. It’s just that I think it’s gotten better. But it’s not complex to the point it loses the core of the power. I think you can get so complex, you don’t know what the fuck’s going’ on, you know. We don’t wanna do that; we like to have that powerful core in the center of the music.

So you’re going to stay in the direction you’re going?

See, I dunno what the fuck the next record’s gonna be. I know it’s not gonna be like, uh, Melissa Etheridge, you know what I’m sayin’? Or the Janet Jackson record. I don’t know.

Are you going to put backmasking on the next record?

I don’t think so. [laughs] [Like] on the first one? Rat Skates did it. “There’s no message here. You’re going to run your needle, asshole!”

Read more old-school content in our From the Vault section.

Band photo: from The Years of Decay

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