Overkill’s Bobby Blitz Speaks About ‘The Electric Age,’ Questions His Choices as a Father + More
Loudwire recently had the honor of speaking with one of thrash’s greatest frontmen, Bobby Blitz of Overkill. The wailing legend opened up to us about his family, Overkill’s new album, ‘The Electric Age,’ who truly deserves to be in thrash’s ‘Big 4′ and much more.
Our exclusive interview with Bobby Blitz took place during Overkill’s record release party on March 23 in New York City. After hearing ‘The Electric Age’ in full, (which kicks a serious amount of arse), we conversed with Blitz on the streets of NYC. After posting a portion of the interview where Blitz jokingly confessed to his father that 25 years ago, it was “about girls and free beer,” we’re proud to present to you the fill interview.
Your audience seems to be getting older and younger at the same time. You guys seem to have that Iron Maiden quality where you’re really getting everyone who’s into great metal. What does that feel like after being in the game for so long?
That’s a great compliment and I think it’s amazing too. It’s not about one generation or even two for that matter anymore — sometimes it’s three. I was just signing a record for a kid down there and he goes, “This is my Dad’s.” I said, “How old are you?” he says “24.” I said, “My kid’s 26.” [Laughs] So I think the idea is that the value can transcend generations and I think that’s what this proves. There’s a lot of purity here and I think that’s where it’s attractive to a lot of the younger kids and that’s where the growth comes from, but there’s also a responsibility for the band to be relatively contemporary. It’s not about sittin’ and saying, “Hey weren’t we great in 1990?” I mean who gives a s—t in 2012? So yeah I agree with you.
The new album is ‘The Electric Age.’ How was that process of writing and recording that album. Was it any different than the past stuff?
This one was a little bit. I mean the formula for the exact writing is pretty much the same — it starts with D.D. [Verni] and ends with me — it goes through changes and development in between. Usually we’re under more of a time constraint and what we decided to do this time was use the luxury of time and I think that it worked because of the experience we have or age — however you want to look at that. If I was 25, I would have over thought this situation — if I’m 50 I don’t over think the situation. I just say, “Hey, how can I make this better? How can I make my end better?”
The other thing we did in that process of assembling the record is that we hit the road for as many long weekends and short tours as we could. So instead of recording over a 30 day period, it took us eight months to put the whole thing together. What’s happening is you’re in Lima, Peru on a Tuesday and the following Tuesday you’re back in [the studio] recording the vocals. So you’re bringing in what’s called the ‘X-factor,’ which is standing on the stage. That’s where the excitement happens so I think it worked on this record. This record has got that kind of a power packed — I can’t say live feel — but excitement to it.
Is there something about traveling on the road in particular that inspires you?
It does just on its own. The cool thing about being in a band, for me, is traveling — seeing new places. Somebody recently asked me what my five most influential records were in my life and I said well the first one’s got to be one called ‘Feel the Fire’ by Overkill, because it influenced my life to the point where it took me from being a part time student in a part time band to being in a full time band and on stage in Munich six months later. It’s pretty influential and that’s where the change happened. So yes, inspiration comes from that kind of thing.
I’ve been on the road on and off since ’86 and never — there’s not been a year where I’ve not been on the road during that time. So I know a lot of f—in’ people and seen a lot of things. Some things I’d like to forget. I suppose the inspiration for doing something like ‘The Electric Age’ is because this hunger is not just from the band, this hunger goes beyond that to the people you meet out on the road.
A lot of people regard your previous album, ‘Ironbound,’ as a resurgence for you guys. Were there any notable changes after you made that album in terms of your live shows or the fans or anything like that?
To some degree there is because it afforded us a lot more opportunities based on its success, so it brought us places we actually haven’t been over that two and a half decades of touring. Australia for instance, [the] first time we stood on stage in Lima, in Caracas — different South American cities I hadn’t been to before, different Mexican cities. Not so much in North America or in Europe, but in other parts of the world yes. We got offers in from Malaysia and Indonesia, so this is obviously like a worldwide kind of a movement — I mean not huge — but worldwide. So yeah it did afford us some good opportunities.
You guys are very much one of the pioneers of thrash. What do you think about modern thrash and some of the new thrash bands that have come out recently?
I think some of ‘em are cool. I think they become inspirational to even bands like us. I live in a competitive world; you don’t go up there to lose. [Laughs] I mean that’s the way it is. I always like telling the story about taking Exodus on the road and somebody said, “Wow, what a great tour,” and I said, “What a great game.” I mean you see Gary Holt come off that stage and I’m thinking, “Just give me 90 minutes and I’m gonna do my best.” That’s what that’s about, but if you take Warbringer on the road it’s the same thing, you take Bonded by Blood on the road, it’s the same thing, Gama Bomb, Suicidal Angels…
I think it’s always been a slick move of D.D. and myself to say, “Let’s get some young kids on this.” That’s how you grow. They’re the new fans, the young kids, they want to see where this stuff comes from. They’re going to come to see Bonded, Gama Bomb, Warbringer, Evile etc., and these are bands we’ve taken out and I like competing with them.
There’s the ‘Big 4′ of Thrash and there’s a lot of discussion of who should be in the ‘Big 4.’ Do you think you should be in that category and if not then who should the ‘Little 4′ be, besides you guys?
The Big who? [Laughs] That’s always the best answer, I’m sorry. [Laughs] I’ve used it before obviously. I can’t think in those terms. The success has to be measured at home — not necessarily within what the genre is. There really only is a ‘Big 1′ if you really think about it. There’s the ‘Big 1′ and then there’s the other three that are bigger than the rest, and then there’s the rest of us. Does it bother me? It really doesn’t.
If there’s a ‘Little 4,’ I don’t know… I mean Exodus was there at the beginning and they did some great work; Testament came in right behind us; the Death Angel guys always had a very unique vibe. How about Hirax for God’s sake? Why doesn’t anyone talk about Hirax? I mean, they’re a good band man, and they were in there right at the beginning with the thrash stuff. S—t there’s plenty of us out there and I always appreciate that the question just comes up, because I know that means somebody is already thinking, “Do you think possibly, maybe what I think?” and I say, “Yeah, sure.” I like playing this game.
It’s been since 2005 that you’ve had the lineup you have right now. Is there anything special about this lineup compared to the past ones with making music in the studio?
I think it has to start actually before making music and that the chemistry has to happen. There has to be guys that can laugh with each other. I mean, we’re middle aged cats for God sake. You know the kid in the van is in his forties. [Laugh] Ron’s [Lipnicki] the kid and I think he just turned 40, and that’s kind of unique for trying to get across an energy vibe and this is a young man’s game — I would at least think so. Maybe we’re changing a little of that and so are the other bands. I think the chemistry has to happen prior to making the music. I’ve always had to be comfortable with the people that I’m with.
I tell my wife, “Hey, Europe’s comin’ up, it’s going to be a month. It’s going to be a little bit of work, during the winter it’s going to be a little cold.” She’s like, “You’re going to smoking Cuban cigars and sippin’ fine whiskey and rolling dice at two o’clock in the morning with your best buddies — with your middle aged boys club.” [Laughs]. That’s cool, if you could roll dice at two o’clock in the morning and smoke a Cuban with Dave Linsk going, “You’re not going to bed ‘til I get my money back, man…” [Laughs] It’s a good thing. Then after that you can make music very easily because obviously there’s an understanding on the front end and a respect and a want to spend time with each other.
You mentioned that you have a son that’s 26. Can you give us a timeline of how difficult it was to go on the road during the different stages of his life?
Yeah, that was huge. For myself personally it was the right decision. I don’t know if it was the right decision all the way around and it may be the only thing I’ll ever guess in my life — to know if that was the correct thing to do. On the other side of it he was the kid in California at five and Vancouver, Canada at seven and went to Europe during high school.
That’s been one of the cool things about this band. It hasn’t been close the door and now everything else is forgotten and whatever happens on the road stays on the road. This bus of ours sometimes turns into a nursery school over the years and, “Okay the family’s in the back lounge, okay everybody’s got to be quiet.” The Verni girls will be out there for instance or Dave’s kids or somebody’s cousin and this is the way we’ve been able to keep a balance between both sides. So was it the right decision? Was the development right? I’ll never know, but I think he’s a happy kid and I think he was afforded some pretty decent opportunities at pretty young ages. Hey man when you’re holdin’ a passport when you’re seven, you’re doin’ pretty good! [Laughs]
Overkill’s face-melting new album, ‘The Electric Age’ is now available and the band will embark on a world tour beginning this April.