INTERVIEW: Bobby Blitz – Overkill

Photo Credit: Hakon Grav
Photo Credit: Hakon Grav

With thrash metal legends OVERKILL ready to release Historikill, a 1995-2007 box set of the bands career, Distorted Sounds Jessica sat and had a chat with front-man, Bobby Blitz.

Hi Bobby! I’m going to be interviewing you today for Distorted Sound magazine about your new release, Historikill. First thing is first though, how are you today?

Bobby Blitz: Pretty good, we have an American holiday today, it’s Labour Day, it’s the unofficial end of summer! It’s a day full of motorcycle riding, fast cards, barbeques, family, friends, so it’s actually a really cool holiday. We have what’s called Memorial Day at the end of May which is the unofficial start and Labour Day is the unofficial end, so it’s actually a pretty big party, family kind of a day.

That sounds great, over in England we don’t have anything like that!

Bobby: Yeah, well, it’s still early so we’re going to be taking it off in the next couple of hours, going to go see some family, probably ride motorcycles’ and have lots of laughs so yeah, things are good! And we’re getting ready for the road, for the release, so no complaints from New Jersey!

What sparked the idea for Historikill? It’s such an extensive box set.

Bobby Well, D.D. and I started managing the band after the Atlantic era, so this is 94-95 and we took over the management and putting around deals and we realised that from that first 8 year period we were with a management, we had learned a lot. Thrash and metal in general starting in the states, started being crushed by the grunge scene out of the north west and we were cutting these deals with the smaller labels, we were off Atlantic Records at this point and we were starting to license them because I think we were starting to value what we were doing, five records, six records, seven records etc. and we said we had been doing it a long time, let’s get our stuff back! Having recently signed with Nuclear Blast, we were talking about it with the Nuclear guys after our worldwide deal with them, saying to them, we have this great collection of stuff that we were chained to rights too, from the dark days of metal and well metal is now popular again with younger fans, the older ones were always there and it was popular in the 80’s and early 90’s but we have this whole section when there was still great releases still happening but a lot of the newer people were just unaware of. I think that was a great way to kick off the deal and show that there was still relevance within the scene even though it was Underground that was that 12 year period from ’95 to 2007.

Do you think this is going to be able to help introduce younger fans of thrash to some of the history that you as a band went through? Being one of the most successful bands in the genre.

Bobby: I think for sure, I think you can get that dose by picking up the boxset. You can get stuff like From the Underground and Below which is my favourite record OVERKILL ever did, it was released in ’97, one of the most cohesive pieces of work that we ever did. In my opinion it’s overlooked to some degree on the popularity of the genre. Obviously we were still touring and there was a bunch of bands from the ‘90s who went home and lived in their mom and dad’s basement. We said, to hell with this, this is what we like doing, we have nothing to lose and it wasn’t about popularity, it was about doing something we loved. I think that now, let’s say it can be re-experienced if you were not introduced to it as it was happening, as a relevant release in ’95, ’97, 2000 etc.

Do you think it makes a nice reminiscence for you guys though as well?

Bobby: Well, I’ll tell you something, it’s a body of work and it’s not the full body of work but for sure, it’s a body or a chapter that had less sunlight on it. To do it, to release this, history is a great thing but I think the thing about OVERKILL that is the most important thing is relevance in the present day. I think what you’re seeing here is the relevance in those days as if they were present, so I think that it is kind of cool to be able to hold onto something that’s historical and see how the band has developed but still also say, you know something this was current for ’97, this was current for 2002. I think it’s a great way to explore the fact that we’ve kept our principles in tact or a third year period of doing these twelve years again.

Do you agree that this will help people be introduced into the older side of thrash?

Bobby: No doubt, there’s this resurgence, a rebirth come to this century or a little bit after with a lot of younger bands using the blueprint that was developed in the ‘80s by the thrash scene that was developing then and a lot of these young bands have used that blueprint. I think that it almost becomes a forgotten era, the Historikill era because in 1994 there was a crowded room, so many different kinds of metal and thrash bands that were out there performing but by ’97 that room had shrunk to next to nothing, it was being stomped out by a depressive type of a grunge approach to things. If grunge were heroin, we were speed. It was just an unpopular genre of music on a whole but there was still people who loved it. I think that we were on Atlantic Records in 1990, we were on Spitfire Records in 1999 and we show people that we were comfortable in the underground. There’s a great lesson in there that is about tenacity, about staying to your principles, about pushing forward and I think Historikill can show that in these releases for that time period.

During that time of when you said grunge was taking over, did it dishearten you or did you just not let it phase you at all?

Bobby: There’s other principles than just being relevant, some of those principles are just that we have a great workout. There’s something about this area that I grew up in where guys from this area can understand what the other guys thinking because we have the same values instilled in us by our parents and by our grand-parents and it just gets transferred on. Something about New Jersey, us not giving a fuck just works sometimes. To hell with what other people think, we gotta get the job done and there’s something to be said about that. I was sitting with D.D. Verni in the ‘90s and it was in the Historkill era and I think it was from around From the Underground and Below and Necroshine and we’re in Europe, we’re on tour and we’re having coffee one morning, I said, what do you think about the next record? And he said we’re not going to reinvent the fucking wheel are we? I said no, we’re not going to reinvent the wheel and he looked at me and said Blitz, there is nothing more dangerous than two guys from Jersey who have nothing to lose. I thought to myself, this guy understands and that’s why I think those records have relevance. We didn’t care about that popularity, we cared about going through walls because that’s what we did best.

I’m guessing that’s why wrapping up your upcoming tour at Terminal Five so special? I believe it’s your first time in your combined history of OVERKILL where you’re playing a show in your home area?

Bobby: We’ve always played the city, normally we do the theatre in New York, we’ve done New York a year and a half ago with Kreator, and we’ve done two nights in a row in a place called Stage 48. We do 2,000 – 2,500 seats in New York on a regular basis, on every touring cycle, so it’s always been kind of special but this is probably, no not probably, this is our biggest show ever in New York, this is a 3,000 seater so it keeps bumping up for us. To try and figure that out would ruin it, why are we doing more tickets? Who cares, let’s just do it! I think that’s why it kind of works for us. There’s something great about not caring, if you care about something else when you’re not caring. I think that’s the key to some of our success and the fact that we have always been able to do pretty sizeable shows in New York and New Jersey.

Will the fans be getting to look forward to hearing a lot more of the older material? Because of the Historikill release or is it going to be a nice mix of the newer stuff as well such as off White Devil Armoury?

Bobby: Our feeling is relevance in the present day is always the most important thing. To be known for what we are is much more important than to be known for what we were. Nothing wrong with history, bring the history, show the history, show the relevance but each step of that history shows how we got to where we are and I think that, that’s really the important thing about this band is that we can release White Devil Armoury and still have it relevant in the present day, it’s irrelevant to the oh it’s the good old days with the boys, it’s a relevant 2015, 2014 release. It will be business as usual for us, we’ve always done some of the older tunes but we will be leaning on our newer release because they show the current day.

Going back to Historikill, what was your favourite record to revisit?

Bobby: Well, I mentioned it in the interview earlier on, From the Underground and Below, for me it was one of our best works and I think it got less attention based on the era. Not just from us but just based on that popularity factor that we’ve been talking about. The reason why I like it so much is that it’s cohesive. When I was a kid, I joined this record club called the Columbia Record House and I was a paper boy and we could get twelve records for a penny and then we’d get another twelve over the year at a regular price. I remember ordering a lot of this hard rock and metal stuff and that was my introduction into it but when I would put the needle down on vinyl back when I was a kid, it was a record that was a record that made me want to listen start to finish, both sides of that vinyl and then that was one of my favourite records. I feel that with From the Underground and Below, it’s that type of a record. Cohesive, it’s necessary to hear from start to finish so it was a great success in my head and I even think that Verni said it’s something great sounding and cohesive in a time when popularity was down in the scene in general.

I definitely agree with you on From the Underground and Below, it’s one of my favourite records of all time!

Bobby: Well that’s really cool! I mean I think one of the things you get with OVERKILL is, I’m not saying it’s only unique to us but I can only speak for us but it’s kind of, what you see and what you hear is what you get. To me, when we was saying about not caring earlier, I’m not caring because I’m a punky nose-picker, I don’t care because I care about other things. If I concern myself or concern ourselves with popularity, then you don’t get records like From the Underground and Below, there is nothing more dangerous than guys who have nothing to lose and when guys have nothing to lose you get great results and I think From the Underground is one of those really good examples of a cohesive record that was put together by guys who did it because they wanted to do it and that’s the charm in it.

Obviously you’re doing your US dates but are there going to be any UK dates in there? I know you have just played Bloodstock Festival over here.

Bobby: I think we walked out at Bloodstock and I said “It’s us, your ugly cousins from the U.S.” and we’re really happy that we were back in the UK and making some noise. There is a great metal fan-base there and the only reason I recognise this is because I’m part of a fan-base too. I think to earn this right you have to love it and I like and love metal and I see that in the UK. What we’ve done is
we’re going to do this U.S. tour, we’re going to do a short South American jaunt and then we just got hold on an island or a few of the islands over there, so we’re going to be coming back to the UK in April. I think there will be three in Britain, two in Ireland this time and a few in Scotland, so it’s specifically for the UK and then we’re going to pop over and do one show in Germany and back to the U.S. to finish up the record, so you’ll see us in 2016.

I’m happy to hear that, I sadly missed you at Bloodstock due to being at home with my family for my birthday!

Bobby: Aw, you have got to admit that that is kind of cute!

Well, I was tempted to take my parents! Looking forward to seeing you guys next year! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to talk to me for Distorted Sound. It’s been an absolute pleasure and honour. I hope the tour and the release of Historikill goes really well for you as well.

Bobby: I’m looking forward to another good year but it is business as usual and I think that it’s probably the key to this. If we can do what we do and do it well and just continue to do what we love doing, it seems that at this point, it works! Yeah, we’ll see you in April, stop by and say hello to us and I’ll look forward to it!

I will do! Thank you again and I hope you enjoy the rest of Labour Day!

Bobby: I will do, I enjoyed the interview, let’s talk soon! Goodbye Jessica!

HistoriKill: 1995 – 2007 is set for release on October 16th via Nuclear Blast Records.