Overkill Vocalist Talks Upcoming Record ‘Grinding Wheel’

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Formed in 1980, Overkill are one of the first as well as one of the most successful East Coast thrash bands. To this day, the band releases albums that still get as much acclaim as their heyday in the 80’s/early 90’s era of metal.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Overkill’s Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, who discussed the band’s recent activity and upcoming plans, revealing the band’s eighteenth studio album as being titled Grinding Wheel.

Overkill are one of the many bands set to play this year’s Rock Carnival; this is a fest that will play from September 30th to October 2nd in Lakewood, New Jersey and contains other greats such as Clutch, Alice Cooper and Monster Magnet.

Any bands you excited to play with at Rock Carnival?

It’s a pretty good fest to show our best side in our home state. Twisted Sister for sure. We have been fans of them since the very early days. I remember seeing them in clubs before we were even signed. I think when a band shows value for this many decades, the excitement is still there. It’s not the same old dog and pony show. I’m also excited to see Alice Cooper Friday night.

It’s been a while since you put out your last album White Devil Armory. Any plans for a follow up? 

Funny you ask that, because when you called I was just adjusting the lyrics for our upcoming album. The album will be called Grinding Wheel. We are inches from completion at this point. Just a few more guitar leads need to be done and a few more backing vocals need to be done. The majority of the tracks are finished. We are looking for a first week of November release. This will give us a chance to debut some of these tracks at the Rock Carnival.

I’m guessing this is why you haven’t toured much in the summer.

I always thought it was bad to tour in the summertime. We like prefer to get on festivals during that time. This also makes it the best time to write. One of the things I like doing is playing shows to break up the recording. Overkill is known for its live performances and we like to infuse that in our studio recordings. I will the only way to really pull that off is is to play some shows here and there and then record when me get home. It always works best when they are festivals for us to jump on. The European festivals are just off the hook. There are like, fucking 80,000 people at these fests, and it is overwhelming. Your heart doesn’t stop beating fast until you get off the plane to Newark.

How will this new album compare to the previous one?

At the end of the day Overkill is Overkill. Our trademark is that we are always recognizable on every release. For the three decades we have been around we were always Overkill. So sure it is a metal record and like always it will have sort of a thrash vibe to it with some melody in it. It’s always best to try to make it better or at least think in your mind that it is going to be better. That becomes the challenge. I think that is what keeps the band rolling. A lot of bands are known for what they have done, but I feel being known for where you are and what you are doing is where true value lies. I feel we accomplished that on the last few albums.

I have noticed that you guys have went in a more groove metal direction on the album I Hear Black and than went back to thrash years later on Ironbound

I think the groove has always been in us, we just decided to embrace it more in the 90’s. We had songs like “Skullcrusher” which predate I Hear Black that had a lot of groove to it. I’d say our record Horrorscope was an absolute groove record. “Thanx for Nothin”, the title track and “Nice Day for a Funeral’ were very groovy songs. I think what ended up happening was we tapped into a different side of the band. I think Overkill is made up of several different aspects. We are punky, thrashy and have some groove. Even Ironbound has some groove, I think it is just presented differently. That was more of an upbeat record as opposed to the darker sound we had in the 90’s. I do agree with you, though. I think we did focus more on groove during that decade.

I’ve seen some reviews call I Hear Black a doom record. 

We had changed songwriters for the Horrorscope record. When we got to I Hear Black, the new guys wanted to write songs. My idea of what a band should be is that everyone should be able to write songs. When you have a bunch of different people writing, all of their input has to come to one final goal. We had all these different visions of what the record would be like. I think looking back at that record, I find it really cool, ’cause it was so different from what we did before it. I’d say the record after that, W.F.O, was a balls out thrash record. It had some groove on it, but it was a thrash album for sure.

What are your thoughts on the metal scene now compared to how it was when Overkill started?

I think the metal scene is a healthy place to be. Back in the old days, you had to pound the pavement to get noticed. That seems to not be the case now with the internet and social media. This stuff takes up more than 50 percent of people’s days. You can get to promote your music while watching a Mets game! It is still about getting people at your shows, just a different approach. I do think the whole making deals with someone in person and shaking hands is more exciting than just sitting on your computer and saying “This is my new single”. It doesn’t take a set of nuts to do that. I do feel when we made our first contract back when we started, it helped shape our character. Shows are a great place to socialize everywhere and it is great to see how us and all these other old bands are still loved today.

Edited by Doug McCausland