INTERVIEW: Bobby Blitz – Overkill

On their UK tour (read our review of the Manchester show here), Jessica Howkins had the chance to sit with OVERKILL’s very own vocalist, Bobby Blitz to talk about the new upcoming record, the release of Historkill and why the past is meant to be remembered but never relived. After the interview, you can also access a couple of stories that Bobby Blitz had mentioned about one of the most influential men in the genre, Lemmy Kilmister.

How are you today?

Bobby Blitz: Good, good! A little hungover but nothing terrible for a middle aged boys club, I mean it’s just a little bit of orange juice and a bit of hair of the dog which should work out but tour so far is good. We’re five dates in now, Birmingham last night was our first time there and we find it really weird that we finally paid tribute to the home of BLACK SABBATH 35 years into your career. It was a decent show, not so big, I don’t think any of our shows in the UK are that big, we have more of a U.S., German and Dutch audience.

Well, that explains why I’ve never been able to see you guys there! Because they are small venues and you are a band of huge longevity and have massive capabilities around you, do you prefer doing more intimate venues?

Bobby Blitz: You know, I never think of it as a choice, do I like small venues? Of course! You get to touch people in smaller venues, do I like big venues? Of course! It feels then that you’ve somewhat succeeded on a larger level so they both have their perks. I have no problem playing anywhere. To some degree I may have ended up as a street performer, find your venue, make your venue. It doesn’t bother me either way, I think small venues can make a great shows but God’s sake, you are standing on a stage like Bloodstock or Wacken and you are playing to 20-80,000 people and it’s fucking amazing, you get a hard on that stays for a week! Either way, it works for me, I don’t have a preference really, I just like playing shows.

Historikill has just been released, how did that go for you?

Bobby Blitz: Pretty decent, it was our idea. We were relatively smart enough when we started managing ourselves to start licensing as opposed to giving away records which is called perpetuity which means that the master tapes would be owned by the labels, so we got all that shit back and when we had signed to Nuclear Blast Worldwide, we took this to them, it’s unique and we said let’s exploit the dark days of metal. It was ’95-2005/7 that wasn’t the happiest days of metal, metal has kind of come around since 2005 again, we work on a clock, so it was kind of cool to show re-releases happening and I always get these questions ‘oh you and your peers, you guys have been around’ and it’s like what are you saying? We’re the guys who have hung around when it wasn’t easy, we didn’t go home and work for mom and dad and live in their basement. We continued to live on the streets and do what we love doing and I think Historikill really shows that, that regardless of metals popularity, there was still bands out there doing good, solid, metallic type releases.

Bobby Blitz and Overkill live @ Sound Control Manchester. Photo Credit: James Weaver
Overkill live @ Sound Control Manchester. Photo Credit: James Weaver

As you said, it was the hard times of metal, do you think the release of Historikill has helped expose that music that might have been overlooked back then?

Bobby Blitz: For us at least, it shows that there is quality stuff like Necroshine and From the Underground and Below. We started working with Colin Richardson on From the Underground and Below and that fucking record is still one of my favourites. It’s one of those records that gets my blood going, it feels cohesive from start to finish, it sounds fucking great and a lot of people don’t know about that record but we continued to tour, we did 100 shows for that one year and maybe another 60 the year that followed, just for that record. I think it shines a good light on that fact that it existed in this genre at a high level.

Do you think OVERKILL will do a tour to support Historikill and show today’s generation what it was really like for you and relive those albums?

Bobby Blitz: I don’t, we’re doing something when we go through Germany where we are going to celebrate Feel the Fire and Horrorscope and I was never a big fan of this shit. I really like living in the day and in the moment as opposed to in the past, I really am most proud about being known for what I am today as opposed to being known for what I did yesterday. We are celebrating those records but the cool thing about it is that we’re doing it with a different band, these guys didn’t play on those records so it actually becomes an interpretation of what that was, so that’s where I can accept going into the past but I would never do a Historkill tour, I don’t think it’s worth it, I love being relevant in 2016. There are no morals as far as I’m concerned, the whole thing is about making it happen today at a higher level.

So, you’re heading into the studio early next month to record your 18th album, but your first with Nuclear Blast, are you excited for a bit of change?

Bobby Blitz: Well, I like the fact that they all have black t-shirts! I like the fact that I’m talking to someone in a MOTӦRHEAD shirt, I know that the person understands my way of thinking or we understand each other and I think that you get that with Nuclear Blast, so I am excited about that. I love the fact that they never stick their nose in, we wouldn’t listen anyway but that’s the point, when you’re dealing with fans of the music that you’re creating, you’re starting in the positive, you’re not starting at zero, you’re starting at +1 so, yeah I’m excited and I still get the nervous feelings and the shit all over my office that tries to inspire me. I have motorcycle helmets and fan club stuff and little notes that say don’t repeat yourself and don’t use the word fire! I’m really prepared and I’m really excited that we’re going to be recording our 18th record.

I’m aware that you have already got 11 tracks demoed, what angle are you taking with this new record?

Bobby Blitz: It’s funny because I will think it is so different and I’ll be all ‘Oh my God, this is so different, what the fuck did he come up with this time, he’s a fucking genius’ but then you know at the end of the day it’s going to be another fucking OVERKILL record. That’s the beauty of it because when you’re going into it, you’re thinking to yourself that it’s so unique and so different and you notice every little new change but as the record develops, you lean on what you know best and I think that’s kind of the beauty of this genre, we all understand each other. We don’t really need a whole bunch of change to make each other happy here so, it’s going to be an OVERKILL record anyway and that to me is still a great thing 18 records later.

Bobby Blitz Live 2016
Bobby Blitz live @ Sound Control Manchester. Photo Credit: James Weaver

Do you think that that’s been the key to some of your success, knowing what your best at and sticking to it?

Bobby Blitz: I don’t know if we did it purposely, I mean I kind of think that there is no identity crisis, we’re a little bit insane and very hard workers and when you put that into this heavy metal genre, you shake it up and you get the result of OVERKILL but, I don’t think we ever sat there and said we was going to stick to this, you just kind of lean on it because it’s what you know and it’s what you like to do best. Just as we was talking about the Historikill record, a lot of people went home and went ‘Why is nobody recognising this guy is a fucking genius?’ but some people said ‘Fuck it, we’ll scale down, we will still tour and we’ll still make records’. What OVERKILL really means is pushing through things so, when this record happens it will be an OVERKILL record and it won’t be stick to it, it will all be natural.

Will some shows be experiencing some of the new tracks?

Bobby Blitz: Oh no! The best thing about being from New Jersey is that we keep our secrets, if you get a guy from New Jersey and California in the same room, you will know everything about the Californian within five minutes, the Jersey guys are always making you wonder. It’s the best thing we do, we 100% keep our secrets.

You take them to your graves then!

Bobby: It’s important, it’s a thing our parents taught us. It was like ‘You keep your fucking mouth shut when you’re supposed to!’

Going back to Historikill, you take your history and achievements very seriously but you don’t want to relive it, but is there anything that you would have changed about OVERKILL during those eras, given the chance?

Bobby Blitz: No, it’s the era that I’m most proud of and the band when I think in terms of history and thinking about it is different in terms of reliving it. I’m most proud because it was the hardest time, it wasn’t easy. We made a living doing this from 1985 onwards and that to me is fucking amazing, to be able to write your own music and put your own map on the table and follow that path. We managed the band, we made all the decisions, D.D. and myself, everything you see with regard to OVERKILL has gone across my desk and his. We’ve done it for 35 years amicably and we don’t fight, we don’t call each other names, we don’t do that, we disagree of course but that’s the way partnerships happen but the idea is that the disagreement always brings a greater end because one will say this and another will say that and somewhere in between that lies a great truth. I don’t think I would go back and want to do it but it is the proudest era I have because we made something happen, we spun gold from straw and it was to me something that makes me smile inside, I always smile inside saying ‘Ah they all quit!’ but there was the Big Four and then there was OVERKILL. That’s really what happened during that era, and a few other bands of course but guys was taking record money and not doing records and not touring or this and that, we would find a way to make it happen whether we liked it or not. That’s probably my biggest sin, my pride.

Do you think that now as you said, metal has come around again, we have a strong structure to keep it going even longer than before?

Bobby Blitz: It never really goes away, it did go to the underground though. I think that a lot of bands couldn’t accept the fact that the record deals was going to be smaller, the gigs was going to be smaller and therefore the pay was going to be smaller. I think it runs on a clock, I think it won’t go away again and I don’t know if I will be around or alive to witness it coming back again but what I think that’s really great is that is shows the value that transcends generations, there’s grandma’s and grandpa’s and moms and dads and children that listen to this stuff so you’re looking at three generations at this particular time since thrash started and it’s hard to dispose of. It’s sure healthy right now but where does it go from here? I think the health is really due to an influx of youth, the guys I’m taking pictures with out there, some of them are 19, 20 and that’s where they say ‘Can you believe that we have the opportunity to experience something that started 35 years ago’ and they hold it as value and that to me is where the whole thing works.

NOTE: After this interview, Bobby Blitz kindly sat and spoke to me for over an hour and Distorted Sound are delighted to give you a couple of his best stories to do with our greatly missed iconic metal musician Lemmy Kilmister.

Bobby Blitz on Lemmy:

I was always really happy that I had the opportunity to know Lemmy and the boys as more than an acquaintance, as a handshake friend, somebody you could sit down with and because you meet guys in the industry and being a fan, I’m disappointed a lot of the times, it’s like ‘What a fucking dick’ but Lemmy on the other hand was what you saw was what you got. He was a pure gentleman who loved conversation and to me I was thanking God that there was somebody out there who was that sort of inspiring person.

I love the fact that he thought he was born to lose because when you have nothing to lose when you’re born to lose, that was the beauty of it.

‘Is that my old friend Bobby Blitz’s voice I hear out there?’ and I’m like ‘Fuck! How great is that, 20 years later after I first met the man.’

The name of the band, we didn’t think about the Cold War, we were MOTӦRHEAD Fans. We were doing half of the Ace of Spades record as a cover band and we were doing Bomber and We Are the Road Crew but we were also an IRON MAIDEN and SAXON punk cover band. We were kind of born from that new wave of British heavy metal meets American punk rock, that’s what OVERKILL really is. We were extreme MOTӦRHEAD fans and this was what is was all about so, I think about being kids it was something really special in 1988 when we got the opportunity to tour with these guys and that was with Würzel and Philthy Animal and Phil Campbell, it was after Eddie had left. I just remember being nervous to meet somebody that was to some degree iconic to me but somebody that accepted me as an absolute equal from the first hello. If you’re already in the game, you was elevated to his status and he always made you feel that way, I loved the fact that he was an absolute gentleman, he had as dirty mouth as I do but reality is, is that he was this good-hearted man. I didn’t have him over for barbeques like everybody else did but I do have this great story from Berlin and Lemmy wanted to talk to me and I went up to his dressing room and he said ‘I want you to sing Overkill with me tonight’ and I know the song, we had it in our set for a long time, we would do Fuck You and break into Overkill right in the middle of it and I was so out of my mind, so what did I do? I write on my arm the first word of each verse so I didn’t fuck it up cause if I had the cheat note, I had the first word and the rest I would roll in, I didn’t want the nerves to come in. He catches me during the song and screamed ‘YOU HAVE THOSE FUCKING CHEAT NOTES!’ and I got so embarrassed that I dove into the audience of 6,000 MOTӦRHEAD fans and I’m swimming across the top of them and then all of a sudden I see him over the top of the audience with his bass screaming ‘CHEAT NOTES’.

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Jessica Howkins

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