Alive and Breathing
CoC talks to Bobby Ellsworth of Overkill
by: Adrian Bromley
I think it is safe to say that Overkill lead singer Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth talks more than me -– which is quite impressive. Like his rapid-fire screams on stage, his offstage chattering is pretty much the same: loud and expressive. And much like the last four times I have talked to Ellsworth, he has a sure lot on his plate to talk about this time: the band's new album _Killbox 13_, working with producer Colin Richardson and his near death experience from a stroke last summer.

Let the gabbing begin...

"The process of making record after record is very similar, and obviously we have a formula that works for us, but what it comes down to is if you [the fans] like the record or not", starts Ellsworth about the creative process. "We've always put everything of what we had into each album. We hold what we do with very high esteem and we always work extra hard to get the best out of each recording. We have been very lucky to have been doing this over two decades now. When it comes to the process sometimes you get different results, but it is also relatively predictable of where an Overkill album is going to fall. What you don't know is how far from the mark it will hit."

I think it is safe to say the album was pretty close to what people wanted with an Overkill album in 2003.

"True. I love this record. I'm always the guy who says the record is too new and I don't want to talk about it. The thing that makes this record stand out is the cohesiveness of it all. There is just this fucking vibe that is going on. If any particular song was missing, say "Struck Down", this album would feel a lot lighter and that is the way I feel about it. I have always said that Overkill has never abandoned their past and I think this record is the truest definition of that. We [the band is rounded out by bassist D.D. Verni, drummer Tim Mallare and guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer -- Adrian] are in a position to blend together the present with the roads we have walked on prior but still by doing so it just helps us reinvent things or make it seem fresher."

And no doubt bringing producer Colin Richardson (Fear Factory, Machine Head) in as producer for _Killbox 13_ helped shake things up as well too, right?

"Yeah, it was great to work with him and have him grab the reins of this record from the beginning", notes the singer. "We have a lot of respect for Colin and he has a great understanding between the guitars and drums on a record and that is what makes a metal record. No matter what metal album he has worked on, and there have been many, you can always hear this sound and connection. It has been ten years since we worked with a producer and for some guy to tell us we could do things better, I was thinking to myself, 'Who the fuck are you? I'll knock you right out of that chair you limey fuck!'", he says, laughing. "But you know what? It worked! I have a lot of respect for the man -– plus he is a nut. He is stage diving off the console in the studio and he just got so wrapped up in this project. It is almost as if he wrote the songs and we are performing them. You gotta love that commitment and that is just another rediscovered element that has made this record that of a higher level."

For some reason, I hear (no pun intended) a lot of _I Hear Black_ in this album. Because you said before that the album takes from the past and brings into the future to some degree, when you play back this album, do you hear different eras of the band?

Ellsworth agrees and offers up, "I hear many similarities with records from the past but again that is from the standpoint of reinvention. I hear sometimes a little bit of _Taking Over_ on "Unholy". I most certainly hear _I Hear Black_ on "Crystal Clear", as well as _Necroshine_ on "Devil by the Tail" and a _Years of Decay_ / "Elimination" feel on "Damned". I mean that is just a few of my thoughts, but you can really go through the new album and see and hear a definitive blend of what Overkill sounds like. This band has had a lot of personalities and that has always carried over into Overkill's music."

And thankfully -– unlike some of metal's other veteran acts -– none of the modern sounds of today's music has seeped its way into Overkill's music over the years.

"Exactly. First and foremost, the music we create is all about Overkill. I don't care what kind of music Fred Durst is putting out or what Korn are doing right now. Bands like Audioslave, Metallica and Testament are doing what they want and have no say in how we go about doing stuff. I run my band as a business and we do things our way only, and by having that philosophy we don't end up polluting the pool. We are able to swim in our pool and do what we want and don't let those others in it. To some degree that might have stifled us in the past at certain times, but the other side of the coin is that we are still having this conversation. There has to be some validity in what I am saying. Maybe James [Hetfield; Metallica] is laughing at me all the way to the bank, but I am counting my success in days."

And while Ellsworth (and the band) has had to take on the music industry over the past few years, he alone has also had to deal with a lot of other serious issues plaguing his health over the last few years -- one notable incident was a stroke he had last year while on tour in Nuremberg, Germany. After all that you have been through and to have carried on, you are indeed a trooper. It is a miracle, when you think about it.

"It is either tenacity or stupidity", comes the bellowing laugh from the frontman. "We'll never know really what it is that has kept myself or the band around this long, but we go on. The thing that makes it all worth it right now is that this album is very full of life. Events in your life are what make you who you are. Everybody has their crosses to bear and I had mine happen in public while I was onstage, when I am twitching and foaming at the mouth. That would have looked great had we captured that for the DVD!", he adds humorously.

"The next day after the incident the president of Spitfire called me while I was in the hospital and I apologized, saying, 'I'm sorry we didn't have a camera there. They said my eyes were all rolled back into my head and I was twitching crazy onstage'", he says, laughing hysterically.

He finishes off, "What you see is what you get with myself and Overkill. We've known each other for sometime now, Adrian, and it doesn't mean I am going to be Mr. Happy and Joyful next time you see me, but quite obviously I have my principles, which I hold very dear to myself, and I live by these fucking things. It is isn't about throwing out all the bullshit and when the chips are down to just pack it up. Hopefully someday on my gravestone it will say, 'They finally got me to lay down for good'", he laughs. "The thing about all that has happened to me is all that I am faced with these choices: can I live in the problem or can I live through the problem? These are the only two choices I have always faced and I have chosen to live through them. It is just the Overkill way."

(article submitted 30/4/2003)

12/9/1999 A Bromley Overkill: Classic Covers From Overkill
3/14/1999 J Webb Overkill: Still Killing
12/31/2007 J Ulrey 7 Overkill - Immortalis
3/8/2005 J Smit 6 Overkill - Relixiv
4/11/2003 A McKay 9.5 Overkill - Wrecking Everything: An Evening in Asbury Park
3/26/2003 A McKay 8 Overkill - Wrecking Everything - Live
12/9/1999 A Bromley 6 Overkill - Coverkill
3/14/1999 A Bromley 9.5 Overkill - Necroshine
11/17/1997 A Bromley 8 Overkill - From The Underground And Below
8/12/1995 A Bromley 9 Overkill - Wrecking Your Neck Live: Overkill 1985-95
6/9/1996 E Crvich Overkill / Life of Agony Overkilling the Masses
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