INTERVIEW: Bobby Blitz – Overkill

For OVERKILL, the US thrash veterans have enjoyed a long lasting career at the summit of heavy metal. Continuously successful studio records and widespread touring has built the band a fine reputation in the global heavy metal community. Now, 2017 sees the delivery of album number 18, The Grinding Wheel, as the band maintain to keep the momentum firing on all cylinders. Prior to the album’s release (read our review here) we caught up with frontman Bobby Blitz to talk all about the band’s latest album, their involvement with the charity Rock Against Dystrophy and performing on a cruise ship.

Hey Bobby, it’s great to hear from you again – how are you?

Bobby: Doing well, it’s kind of tense worldwide which is kind of exciting because it’s all at one time. Usually it’s between the US and Europe but this time it’s a gigantic push, so we’re excited about it!

This is your first studio album release with Nuclear Blast worldwide – how has it been going for you so far?

Bobby: An absolute fist fight continuously with these fucking guys. These guys are very simple to deal with on all levels, you know they liked our product, they liked our music, these are in tune with their higher principles and they usually get good results. We keep going back to them and saying we need more for this and they come up with it, they know the contract says we need more for that and they come up with it. I think that they believe in bands and they’ll process that it’s about, sure they have quantity in regards to bands but they want quality releases and we shape and share lighting in category to that and get some pretty good results, whether it be videos, whether it be promotions, whether it be the product itself.

Oh, I can tell that this time around there has been so much promotion in regards to the album. The album release date was delayed and there was speculation it was down to miscommunication with Nuclear Blast – can you tell me more about that?

Bobby: I don’t think there was a miscommunication from either end, it was really an intermediary, someone who was in between the band and the label and we were working on the record which is what we like to do, just kind of sink into it. Now obviously we have a management who would give the band, myself and D.D., things but we had no negotiations for us and then we meet delivery date, agreed to a delivery date and then said “I never did that!” So we were halfway through the mixes and he said where’s the product and he said they have two more weeks and so we just backed off a bit and said that we’ll have to be late. So that’s the bottom line of it, I’ve said it in interviews, I blame them 51% and we’ll take 49% away.

It was also your chance to work with Andy Sneap, what was that like?

Bobby: We’ve wanted him on board for quite some time now as far back as I can his name was thrown about the room on the tour bus while everyone is kinda relaxing with a beer, you’re always doing it while you’ve got a guitar in your hand or writing and you think through normal conversation he had come up since 2010. So we starting pursuing him right after the Iron Bound record and just couldn’t quite match up with schedules so I think that was the issue. This time we are way ahead of the game and I had run into him a few times prior socially and he came to see us play in Birmingham last April, and this was the first time I had spent a lot of time with him. I think the first thing was how are you doing and the second thing was a joke, which really makes me comfortable because if somebody is in that type of mindset and you’re getting along with that person it makes the communication easy and relaxed. It’s really the way I personally like working with anyone, is that you can have a few laughs and this is all okay because you know his track record, you know it isn’t laughs for the sake of laughs, it’s going to be an easy process. One time we said more organic drums, thicker guitar, something that resonates and has some weight to it and I think the results came out in the final product. He did something which was great production for us.

The Grinding Wheel is a straight up OVERKILL record, something you never stray from and thankfully so – but this one feels a lot more diverse in terms of influential undertones from Hardcore to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, can you tell me a bit more about that?

Bobby: This was all done with regard to us and the production and I think we started noticing the differences and the influences, showing their faces early on in the song writing development. Like obviously the song The Long Road cracked on from 1982 British heavy metal and Red, White & Blue had that hardcore type feel to it, we’d even mock titled Red, White & Blue as Hardcore, before it actually had a working title it was just Hardcore so we knew what we were talking about. There would be Goddamn Trouble was folky, folky riffs, so we were seeing all of this stuff early on and I think what really happened is these guys started developing songs and I was developing my end simultaneously and I could see it pushing them a little bit further  in a direction so I kind of took that and I think the diversity shows. I think the key to the record is once you add the energy it really puts the OVERKILL stamp on it so you have folk, rock ‘n’ roll, hardcore and traditional classic metal but it still sounds like an OVERKILL record and I think that was the key where the writing passion comes through.

Can I just say as well, as always, your vocals are spot on but you’ve bought a lot more melody to the table and it’s outstanding and the diversity comes across. Now, there’s already been talk that The Grinding Wheel is one of your greatest releases, would you be inclined to agree or disagree?

Bobby: It’s too new to be put any kind of monarch on it or to say does it deserve the grand prize, it’s too new, I’d love to say it’s the best thing since canned beer but I know I’d be lying. The idea here is that I think that the excitement that the band has for it speaks volumes, we’re really excited about song writing and production and for the final result you know that we’re holding something special. I think if I were to be honest about it though I’d say where does it sit, I just don’t think it’s a fair and honest assessment. What I do know that when we did start hearing these tracks come in was that when we got a drum track in that could have been slow and then started getting all these riffs that were slow I was thinking woah! We have got this traditional heavy metal thing here and then the tempo started changing as the songs started developing and that’s what I was talking about with the development before of the songs and I started seeing we’d become more OVERKILL with that traditional metal and I started writing to slower songs. So, there was a lot of room for development then I was jotting down phonetic vocals on demos that were just out of the ‘80s and ‘90s of traditional metal and that’s kind of a cool extra flavour to it so when you spin it up and add the energy to it sure it became a thrash record but it goes back to the traditionality of the original tempos of the songs.

The Grinding Wheel was released to the goers of 70,000 Tonnes of Metal prior to everyone else – however only Our Finest Hour was the only new song to be played, was the reception of it good?

Bobby: Yeah it seemed to be great. The song has had legs since late October so the song is already known, people know the songs now via the internet so information is instantaneous, we released the single at the end of October, I don’t even know if you could call it a single, but the song at the end of October and by the end of December most people that were into this or wanted to sample it and check it out had heard it. So when we went through Europe even in November we were playing that song live and we were getting good responses with people singing along with it, talking about it so its been getting a good response so far on the road. You have to understand as well that the boat is drunk, it’s like a floating free alcoholics anonymous meeting.

What’s it like actually playing on a boat, I can imagine it to be very different.

Bobby: I’ve always felt that one of the things we’ve had as a band is that we’re edgy and part of being edgy is the excitement that how we do a show and everyone does it differently, we’re not in absolute panic, we could be really relaxed. There’s also stuff that goes through your head, I still think of it as risk and reward, I still think of it as gratification but also the possibility to fail. It’s always been the motivator for me. I think on a boat eating fresh pineapple, sunbathing with your wife who says ‘go on you can go on without me’ it’s a different vibe! It’s not from the tour bus to the stage and back and catching your breath you just say what the fuck just happened, you’re on a cruise it’s a whole different thing. It’s also very unique opportunity and experience because everybody is on the cruise it’s not just you in that room, everybody is in that room.

I’d be terrified, you cannot get me on a boat at all!

Bobby: We played a theatre the second time we were down and it was rough seas and we were down all the way on the second deck and the boat started going back and forth and starting heaving and if you would stand in one spot on the stage and when you realised when you caught your balance you’re on a whole other side of the stage depending on which way the boat was rocking, so it is unique to do that from a physical perspective.

Touring, recording, charity work with Rock Against Dystrophy – it feels like you guys never stop, reckon you will have a bit of time to relax after the album or not?

Bobby: Well, of course we do but one of the great things that we’ve always had we value that the people in the band are comfortable in the band, if you take care of the guys in the band the band will take care of itself. It’s really simple it’s a true definition of a band, somebody’s girlfriend or wife and kids want to come on the road with us to relax, then that’s just the way it’s gonna be, we don’t think of it in other ways, so sure we have those times and part of the touring is part of that. I just mentioned that my wife came on the cruise with me and she perks up like this is great on a cruise, she knows the guy who puts it together, she has friends on the boat, she wants to come on the road, she comes. It depends how you look at the whole thing, we think of it as our little secret of getting around the world and having a life well lived. I never look at it as though we never stop, we’re just having fun and feel like I have some dirty secret here, if somebody catches me they might throw me in jail.

Going back to Rock Against Dystrophy, I’ve noticed that they’re planning on announcing some things soon, will you be taking part in that as I know you’re a big advocate for that?

Bobby: Yeah, it’s run by my friend Turbo, there used to do a thing called Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy and Jerry Lewis was a movie actor, comedian and this had been since the ‘60s and Turbo tuned onto this from early on from about 6 years old and now there are no musical charities that endorse Muscular Dystrophy. Him being inflicted with the condition he started doing this a few years ago and I think we had Mark Tornillo from ACCEPT sing a NAZERTH song with me, he did a track and he matched my vocals to his and he said “If you ever need anything, let me know” and he goes “I need something, I need you to get involved with this charity.” We got involved and it’s just cool because once you meet the guy, we’re good friends. It’s a great opportunity to look back and especially for the guys involved.

Always a pleasure talking with you Bobby, I hope to see you and the rest of OVERKILL very soon, I won’t pry you for a tour though haha!

Bobby: Hey it’s no problem, I enjoy doing them! I think we’re back in the UK at the end of the year, it looks like we’re starting out with something bigger, it’s going to be multiple European dates through all the major metallic markets

How fantastic! Good luck with the release, it’s absolutely brilliant!

The Grinding Wheel is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.

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Jessica Howkins

Co Editor-in-Chief for Distorted Sound Magazine, Music Journalism student.