Overkill return with yet another killer abum “Grinding The Wheel” which wears it’s influences on it’s sleeves proudly. 35 years on and the band show no signs of wear and tear musically, we speak to Bobby Blitz about the longevity of Overkill and why they are able to continue to create great albums to this day.
Bobby: Andrew how are you sir?
Andrew: Hey Bobby how’s it going?
Bobby: I’m doing alright, keeping my act together for an old man in the heavy metal scene!
Andrew: [laughs] And how’s things with the band at the moment? Getting ready for the album release obviously?
Bobby: Well it’s business as usual which honestly is a good thing after all these years. I think pride is again our biggest sin but also our biggest motivator, we’re proud of the record and getting excited about debuting it on the road as well as releasing it.
Andrew: I was just listening to a preview of the album and it’s great stuff as always, you guys have really nailed it on this one. Tell me a little about the process for this album, at what point did you start writing and recording this album over the last couple of years?
Bobby: We started back in the Kennedy administration I think, it was the early 60’s.
Bobby: [laughs] I’ll tell you something, as we’ve gotten older and things have come our way and we’ve understood the process. D.D. Verni (Bass) is collecting riffs as soon as the last record has come to fruition and that fruition is when it’s released so he’s kind of that guy who likes writing riffs and constantly collects. We have this luxury of having a couple of studios at our disposal, D.D. has one, Dave Linsk (lead guitar). They’re identical, they match up with everything so it gives us the opportunity to work on material pretty close to continuously and I think if we were young bucks doing that, we would fuck it up because there’s too much time to think about it. But with the experience we have, that really helps so it was really developed since “White Devil Armory” was released but officially we started demoing it around the beginning of the year a year ago from right now in January 2016. And it took from that January all the way to September to complete the mix and the recording and writing etc, so about a 9 month or 8 month process.
Andrew: And from what I understand the album title “The Grinding Wheel” kinda fits with the whole vibe of the band these days because you guys have been around for a seriously long time now. The Grinding Wheel I guess references the longevity of Overkill.
Bobby: Yeah I think there was a couple of narratives in there. I like to talk tongue in cheek too and say that all machines wear out after a certain amount of time so enjoy it while it still exists, I think that’s the reality of it. But for sure the narrative of the slow but sure process over decades in really an unpolluted genre, this was something that was never touched by the commercial finger of destruction you might say. So I think we’ve had that purity to develop in and let’s say hone our craft over 3 decades and grind through it, so it’s a good narrative that’s depicted in that also.
Andrew: What’s the motivator that keeps you guys going? Why keep doing what you do after all these years?
Bobby: Well I owe D.D. a lot of fucking money so I’m locked in [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] That’s a good motivator!
Bobby: I have no choice, he keeps sending these guys up here with bent noses, you know what I mean? But in any case I think the motivation is again pride and also we’re to some degree opportunists. I remember my Uncle used to say to me – he was a first generation Irishman, my grandparents were off the boat – and he would say to me, ‘Work hard and keep your fucking mouth shut’, and I think there’s something to be said about that. I think we have that type of a work ethic, you might say, that we are happier with the tools on than the tools off. So the motivation is a feeling of fulfillment and being able to do this for this amount of time but also that pride of being relevant in the current day. Not being remembered for what we were but being recognised for let’s say what we are.
Andrew: When I listen to this album I hear a lot of references to some of the old school metal stuff like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden and even a bit of punk stuff as well. Was that an intentional effort to be doing that kind of thing or did that sort of just came along as you were writing the songs?
Bobby: Well they develop on their own and I’m adamant in saying that because it’s really about you know, the riff starts and somebody might say, ‘Well I got this riff that kinda reminds me of Sabbath’. And it doesn’t mean that the song is going to go on a Sabbath direction but you hear it before you talk about it and I think that’s the key, you let the song develop on itself. But I agree with you, I hear that New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, I hear that Sabbath-esque groove, I hear punk rock on “Goddamn Trouble” and “Let’s All Go To Hades”, I hear thrash, I hear epic, I hear hardcore, rock n roll. And that’s kind of to me I suppose the crown for this record is that each song has an individuality about it but they’re not repeats of what proceeds or follows so I think it’s kind of cool that all of the influences came out and gave it a multi-dimensional vibe with an Overkill brand on top of it.
Andrew: Yeah and it’s interesting you say that because when I do hear the songs, as I said I do hear a lot of the old school kind of stuff but also I wouldn’t say different stuff for Overkill but it does seem like each song has it’s own unique identity so I think you are right on point on that.
Bobby: It’s a great feeling of excess to be able to say that this is not what we do, all this is what we do. So I think that’s kind of cool because it still has to sound like us, I mean we know what we are and what’s really a thrash band but metal on good methamphetamines [laughs]. It’s the speed, it’s the energy and I think that we are lucky enough guys when we were young bucks that grew up during the punk scene that exploded in the New York area not far from us and got to walk the hallowed ground and see bands like the Ramones and The Heartbreakers and The Dead Boys. So I think we always took that energy with us and that really becomes our thrash moniker, is that we’ve taken that energy from punk and applied it to metal.
Andrew: What’s your take on today’s thrash metal scene? I mean the genre has gone into a different direction a little bit over the years and it’s sort of come back again in the last 10 years or so, what’s your view on how bands are doing it these days?
Bobby: Oh it’s an influx of youth that’s giving it legs again and god bless them for coming back in and finding value that the old guys that said was great x amount of years ago. And I think from that point on the old guys sit there and say, ‘Hey wait a second, that’s not the way we do this. This is the way it’s supposed to be done’. So it becomes this kind of competitive nature of young versus old but the winners are obviously the people that appreciate this kind of music but it also shows the value of the music. If something can transcend generations, I’m seeing young guys running around looking like I did in the 1980’s, I’m like, ‘I could have saved you half the money, I’ve got all those fucking clothes in the attic. I could of sold them to you’, [laughs]. But I think the main difference is we had no template back then, there were no rules and that was kind of the beauty of it in the 80’s was that the rules were being created and broken simultaneously but now I think the youth if they want to play this stuff, there’s a bible to follow for it.
Andrew: Yeah definitely. Back in those early days was there a competitive nature between all the bands to outdo and maybe outpace themselves as far as speed and aggressiveness and that kind of thing?
Bobby: I hate those bastards, I hated every fucking one of those bands [laughs]. Probably a friendly competition and again there’s nothing wrong with that, I still have that in me. I still play the game to win the game, I don’t play for mediocrity or to go for a tie. I either win or lose and I think that was something that was infused or born into us when you saw the competitive nature, ‘Oh geez look what the Cro-Mags are doing, oh man Biohazard is showing up’. We can’t get slower or less heavy or look at Carnivore turn into Type O-Negative and look what Anthrax is doing, so sure those early days we were very aware of what was happening around us.
Andrew: And what about those bands like Anthrax and Metallica and all them, I mean some of them went away from the thrash thing so what’s your take on them?
Bobby: Oh boy Metallica is back with a bunch of piss and vinegar aren’t they? I was pretty impressed by this latest release, I think there’s something in there that just speaks volumes of 1980’s with a fresh face and I like that whole thing. I honestly miss them, I kept sending them Christmas cards and didn’t get any returns over the years and I think they kinda departed a little bit but I think they’re back strong. And you see Testament is releasing great stuff and the last Megadeth record, Dave (Mustaine) seems to be coursing to the top of his game and the bottom of his game with this last release. So I think it’s a good healthy scene at this particular point and I think even the guys at the top of the food chain are appreciating that and releasing with that type of ferocity also.
Andrew: Yeah it’s good to hear thrash metal is back on top again. You mentioned before about taking these new songs on the road, what have you got as far as tour plans and I remember asking you a couple of years ago about touring Australia, is there any chance we can get you back down here again?
Bobby: Oh man it’s simple with me, it’s just a positive revenue stream [laughs]. It’s as simple as it is, one of the reasons Overkill stayed around is because we’re smart enough to understand. Who bails us out? We bail us out and we’re already making forward motion with this release, would I like to come? Of course, it just has to work out and it has to work out on paper. That’s the prequel to passion is that it has to work out on paper first. So I’m interested, we have our European agent looking into Australia and the Pacific Rim again to see if we can make it happen with one of your local promoters.
Andrew: Awesome, hopefully it can happen as we would love to see you down here and give us some real old school thrash metal that we’ve been missing for the last few years.
Bobby: It’s a great time, I’ll tell you it’s an awesome time.
Andrew: Well congratulations on the new album, fantastic stuff as always and look forward to maybe seeing these songs live some time. Is there any last words for the fans at all?
Bobby: Enjoy it, thank you and have a good day!