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OVERKILL (BOBBY “BLITZ” ELLSWORTH)

AT WACKEN 2005 STEFFI MAHSMANN HAD THE CHANCE TO CATCH UP WITH A REAL “THRASH HERO”: BOBBY “BLITZ” ELLSWORTH OF OVERKILL-FAME. READ HIS INTERESTING STATEMENTS WHICH ARE ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY A NICE SENSE OF HUMOUR… BOBBY, YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO PLAY THE EARTHSHAKER FEST A FEW WEEKS AGO, BUT THE SHOW WAS CANCELLED. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SPECULATING ABOUT THE REASON; DID IT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE ORGANIZATION OR ANY OF THE BANDS THAT WERE ALSO PLAYING THERE? No, we had a lot of cancellations and it was the cancellations around the festival that made the whole trip unaffordable to us. We couldn’t come over for just one show. So it was just that simple. I mean, it’s always economics. When we don’t show up it’s usually economics. I’M ASKING THAT BECAUSE THERE WAS A RUMOUR OUT THERE THAT IT HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH, LET’S CALL IT “PERSONAL DISLIKES”, ABOUT CERTAIN BANDS PLAYING THERE – NAMELY MANOWAR. No, no, just money. I don’t ever do shows that I have to pay for at the end. And there was four or five shows that were cancelled around it, just probably due to some mismanagement by the booking agency. But that was the only reason it didn’t happen. We would have like to have done it, but not pay for it. (laughs) SPEAKING OF TOURING SCHEDULES: I REALIZED THAT YOU USUALLY DO 17, 18 SHOWS ON A STRING WITH NOT ONE DAY-OFF IN BETWEEN. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF FIT THERE? I think, first of all, if you just do them in that type of succession, one after another, it becomes kind of a routine. And I think, that’s the best way it could happen to us. We get more trouble on days-off than we do on show days, quite obviously. So the point is, if you do 18-20 in a row it works out for us, because every night you know we have to be at a certain time. With regard to being fit – I think that’s what helps to keep us kind of fit, is that we’re doing them in that succession or in that frequency. I think the longest we did was 43 shows in 42 days once. So actually there was one day we had done two. So it was pretty intense. Yeah, that was cool. (laughs) SOUNDS VERY INTENSE… Six weeks! THAT’S PLAYING CLUBS AND SMALLER VENUES. BUT SINCE WE’RE HERE AT WACKEN: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE TO YOU BETWEEN PLAYING CLUB SHOWS AND FESTIVAL SHOWS? I think, on a headline-tour, of course, I’m used to clubs. But doing festivals is really exciting. I’m meeting the metal-minds, there is a lot of friends that I get to see…. (looks at his arm) I just got bitten by a German mosquito. Right on my tattoo. Oh, I got him – look at this, it’s a dead body… Uhhhhm, but I do like seeing all the people. Like, when it’s a festival they all kind of gather; the ones I’ve met over the years, old friends, new friends, etc. But doing a show I’d rather be in a mid-size, club-size venue. That would be my personal choice. YOU’VE BEEN DOING YOUR THING THROUGHOUT THE PAST TWENTY YEARS, WITH NO COMPROMISES WHATSOEVER. YOU CHANGED IN YOUR OWN WAYS, BUT NOT TO THAT DEGREE THAT YOU WOULDN’T RECOGNIZE THE MUSIC AS OVERKILL ANYMORE. REGARDING THE “REST” OF THE METAL SCENE: DO YOU HAVE A FEELING, THAT IT KIND OF IMPROVED WITH THE SO-CALLED “NEW WAVE OF AMERICAN HEAVY METAL”. HAS IT CHANGED IN AMERICA? Well, I think America is more susceptive to this new wave of European metal. Right now you see more European bands touring the States, let’s say on the Overkill level. You know, with regard to the scene itself, it’s quite obviously very over-saturated. There’s so many bands and there is so many festivals, and, and, and, that it’s really like a huge economic force. I really think, the problem is there’s only certain people that make money in that whole thing. People come to the festivals, pay, and by the time it filters out to the band there is very little left. And I think that’s due to over-saturation. If you want to play, they have so many choices that they can go see, that bands aren’t making the money that they should be making. But do I think it’s better? I don’t necessarily know. I think a lot of is repetitive. I think some of the newer bands have good things to offer, original ideas. But I’ve heard a lot of metal that I hear in 2005, I heard that twenty years ago from bands that call themselves new bands, when they are really just rehashing things. I don’t know, I have mixed emotions about it. You know, it’s always gonna be around, I think, because of it’s impact on people. And, you know, that’s it’s most important asset; it’s the way it makes people feel. Yeah, I suppose it’s good. It’s good to be here. You know, just for a personal aspect, to do this for twenty years. I mean, this is a great thing, so… HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED YOURSELF TO BE A LEGEND? A lesbian? (laughs) Yeah, I’m kind of a lesbian in a man’s body. (laughs out loud) BUT YOU KNOW, WHAT I MEAN. YOU EVOLVED INTO SOMETHING LIKE LEMMY; SOMETHING LIKE AN ICON IN METAL. HAVE YOU EVER REGARDED YOURSELF THAT WAY? EVEN THE PEOPLE HERE IN THE PRESS TENT SEEM TO BRING THAT UP TO YOU CONSTANTLY… No, I don’t think so. I mean, I’m the only fuckin’ guy in here without a black t-shirt on. How could I think like I’m a legend? (laughs) Or even part of this whole fucking scene?? (laughs even harder) You can pick out the guys in Overkill: they don’t give a fuck! That’s really what it’s about for us. It’s never about reaching any state of iconic status. It’s pretty simple for us: it’s something we enjoy doing, we protect what we do. I’m sure, I’ve given you this answer in the past: if you put everything you can into today, tomorrow takes care of itself. So it’s really… to have that as a philosophy you can’t be an icon or a legend in the same sense. I mean, it’s really more about the work that we do as opposed to the way people think of us. You know, if you don’t like me, I really don’t care. I have other things to do! (laughs) Like: “Oh… Jeez,. they hate me!” If it all goes away tomorrow, it’s ok. It’s been a good ride. And that’s really what it’s about. So, i think, the idea for me is to put as much as I can into the opportunity I have. And that opportunity happens to be Wacken next. So, if I take that philosophy into Wacken, I think that after Wacken will take care of itself. Fuck this legend shit! (laughs) And I’m not a lesbian! WITH 14 ALBUMS IN BACK-HAND: DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR SONG OR ALBUM WHICH YOU TOTALLY DESPISE AND WHICH YOU WOULD NEVER PLAY LIVE? That’s a good question. There is some songs I really dislike. Hmmm… let’s see. I dislike some of the stuff of “I hear black”, because I never thought it came to full fruition. I thought it needed more development time. A couple songs of “bloodletting”, even though I love the feel of the record, I really think it needed more time to develop. There is nothing on the “Killbox” record I dislike. On this last record I’m trying to think… Hmm.., really my least favourite song on this record is the opener. And that’s really unusual for me. But that’s due to my input in the song, not necessarily the way the whole song came out. I thought, I could have done a better job on it. RIGHT, I JUST WANTED TO SAY.. USUALLY THE FIRST SONG ON AN ALBUM IS A VERY STRONG ONE, SO PEOPLE GET AN IDEA OF THE ALBUM. That’s my feeling. It’s just that I, you know, it’s not that I didn’t work on it. It’s that I wanted different results from it. And I didn’t realize that until after I heard it mixed. I really thought it was something else. But that’s just in my opinion. DD loves that song. So, I mean, this is a democracy. It’s not really something that we keep it off the record or keep it from being the opener. Musically I think the song is just about perfect. I’m really more talking sort of about my end of it. THE VOCAL PERFORMANCE IN GENERAL? Yeah, maybe. Maybe the format, maybe just the melody is just a little bit mmmmhmm… SPEAKING ABOUT ANOTHER SONG FROM “RELIQ 14″: “OLD SCHOOL” DEFINITELY HAS A MORE HARDCORE/ PUNKROCK VIBE THAN YOUR SONGS USUALLY HAVE. COULD YOU IMAGINE BRINGING OUT A WHOLE ALBUM WITH PUNK/ HARDCORE COVER VERSIONS LIKE SLAYER DID A FEW YEARS AGO? Oh, we’ve done “Coverkill” in ’99. And “Coverkill” had some Pistols on it, it had some Ramones and some Dead Boys. You know, we’ve always had that kind of infusing to us. I think, a little of that attitude. And I think maybe that’s where our “I don’t give a fuck”-attitude comes from. And I’m not saying that we’re punks., I’m saying more sort of that it’s sort of part of what we’re about. That it’s really more sort of about the music than about that iconic level or legendary level that people may ask us about. Twenty years doesn’t really mean anything. What means more is August 5th 2005. But I don’t see us doing a whole cover record of punk tunes. You know, every now and then it shows it’s face in some of our music as far back as songs as “hello from the gutter” with just a little bit of a punk feel. But now “Old school” is just something that was just full-blown punk. Just for fun. And we did it at Rock Hard (editor’s note: festival), it’s been in the set since we’ve been out on this. And it’s been accepted really well on a large level. And that’s important to. So… RIGHT, PEOPLE SEEM TO LOVE THAT SONG. WHEN I SAW YOU AT A CLUB SHOW FOUR WEEKS AGO THAT WAS PROBABLY THE SONG WHICH GOT THE BIGGEST REACTION FROM THE CROWD FROM YOUR NEWER TUNES.. I think so. I mean, it’s a sing-a-long fun song. You know, Overkill is a bunch of different personalities and I think we have a bunch of different faces and different emotions, you know. We’re not singular, we’re not just black, we’re different shades of grey. And I think that that’s the fun part about being in a band. You can kind of explore and present things in a different light sometimes. So, therefore “Old school”. YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THE MOST DEDICATED METAL HEADS I KNOW. HAVE YOU EVER HAD A MOMENT WHERE YOU HAD TO FORCE YOURSELF TO GO ON STAGE OR WHEN YOU WOULD HAVE LIKED TO TAKE A REST FOR LIKE HALF A YEAR? I tell ya, if I had a motorcycle shop I’d be the same way. I mean, it’s just about life, you know. I remember going… I was in a shop the other day and this women comes up to me – we were having this heat wave -and she goes: “God, it’s so hot outside! Don’t you think so?” And I said: “It’s ok!” She goes: “How could you not complain about it?” And I said: “It’s not my nature to complain!” (laughs) So I really think that, you know, hard work is only perceived more from the outside. What we do on the inside may be just a fuckin’ load of fun that we’re having. So, you know, you may say: “Jesus! These are the hardest-working, most dedicated people in the world!” But quite obviously there is hard things to do, but really the results are easy, and the results are fun, and the results are rewarding. So, you know, in my opinion, what I do is less hard than what you do. What you do may be harder than what I do. I don’t wanna do what you’re doing. (laughs) I wanna do what I am doing. You’ll find something you love. You know, working. You follow me, right? (laughs) So, we’re not working. You know, you get that hour at Wacken, or you get ninety minutes on a headline show – that’s not work! All the work happens before that. That fuckin’ ninety minutes, that’s a blast. WOULD YOU SAY IT’S BETTER THAN SEX? No, I wouldn’t go that far. I mean, Jesus Christ… (laughs) JUST ASKING… Overkill will always be number two. (laughs) You know, what kept me around so long? I’m a good fuck! That’s what it is. (INTERVIEWER SLIGHTLY STARTLED) JEEESUS, BOBBY… I could say that – I’m past 45! (still laughing) 46! Past 45. So, that’s why I can say it. If I was in my twenties, everybody says that in their twenties. If you last this long in the business, you can say it. THAT’S where I’m legendary! (laughs even harder and calms down when he sees the shocked face of the interviewer) Uhm… I’m joking! AT A POINT WHERE EVERYBODY THOUGHT THAT OVERKILL REACHED A STABLE LEVEL LINE-UP-WISE, TIM MALLARE LEFT THE BAND AFTER FOURTEEN YEARS. HAS IT BEEN EASY TO FIND A SUBSTITUTE? DID YOU KNOW RON BEFORE? We kinda smelled it coming but he didn’t give us the idea that it was gonna be at the time it was. I kinda felt it coming, his life was changing, marriage, new business, etc.etc. My feeling on that, when that happens usually a change happens. You know, I wish Tim the best. I wish he didn’t leave like two days before the tour. I wish he gave us a little bit more of a heads-up. But I suppose it was something that was whispering in the back of my head saying, you know, Tim could go and we were already prepared. We told Tim. We said: “We auditioned another guy! Because you’ve cancelled too many shows!” He cancelled a show in New York on Halloween, he cancelled a festival in Spain and then he bailed out on that whole tour. So we said, that’s that! Three strikes, so… But he left. I mean, that was his thing. We would have accepted him back, but it was… he couldn’t commit to a band. So he really made his own decision. If you can’t commit to it, you can’t be here. You know, we want to make this easy. We don’t want it to be hard. Was it a problem for us in hindsight? No, not really! You know, Ron kind of was a seamless replacement. He’s a great drummer, great timing – better timing than Tim – hard hitter. You saw him play. I mean, he’s just up there as if nothing happened. Actually, he makes the band a little better in some instances. So, yeah, I’m a little disappointed Tim left. I mean, I worked with him fourteen years – that guys never even fuckin’ called me! You know, I kinda would’ve liked a call: “Oh, I’m gonna leave the band!”, or something. Nothing! So, in any case: good luck to him. I hope everything works out. And I’m sure he will smooth it over in the future personally. WHEN YOU SPEND FOURTEEN YEARS TOGETHER IN A BAND, HALF OF THE YEAR IN A BUS ON THE ROAD – IN HOW FAR IS IT FRIENDSHIP IN THE BAND? OR WOULD YOU SAY IT’S MORE OF A BUSINESS PARTNER RELATION-SHIP? I ONLY GUESS THIS ALSO HURTS ON A PERSONAL LEVEL… You know, I don’t know. I mean, it’s… I suppose, to some degree it does. But there is another side that kind of rises up under those circumstances. And that emotion is the one that keeps you going regardless of what it is. And – sure – that’s what I’m saying: it’s work sometimes, and sometimes it’s hard. But the result is always fun, the result is always positive. That’s the show! So we work hard to prepare for those situations so we can continue with the shows. So, let’s say, in hindsight it worked out. I’m not really that upset about it. I really feel good that we have a certain result to be able to see problems coming and work around ‘em. Just that simple!

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