Bobby Ellsworth, October 25, 2005

 

Written by: Jason Perlman

 

When this band started in the 1980s playing very edgy music, did you see it lasting two decades later?
No, I never could understand this. This is unforeseeable, but I suppose when I look in hindsight it comes down to philosophy and principals. I‘ve always held it in high regard, it’s always live for the moment or car pe diem. It’s really about screaming long days that turned into decades. It’s really quite unique in the music industry or musical world but it’s worked for us so it’s really about attitude or philosophy that it happened in hindsight.

After doing this music thing for so long, which do you prefer; live or writing? And when writing, do you find yourself thinking about how it translates live?
Live is quite obviously not thinking and just playing. Studio work has a lot of pre thought that goes into it before you press the record button. And that’s the writing and the direction and letting songs develop on their own, at their own pace and then all of a sudden you have something that is either cohesive or not cohesive. But I think live is the risk and that’s the beauty of it. But switching modes, probably writing is the most interesting thing to do, but they’re most certainly two different animals. So my take on it is that I try to write with the live and studio worlds separated. But, I’m usually not the originator of a song, it usually comes from D.D. (Verni). I see where that goes as it develops and then I put my two cents in. If we were house builders, I kind of put the roof on. So to some degree, my task is to finish what’s already been started so probably to some degree easier for me than some of the other guys.

(Laughing) So you don’t have total control of everything? You don’t say it’s got to be like this to work?
Of course not, I’m the President. Just joking. Not usually, because most of the song writing goes through D.D. or myself, And you have to understand that under normal circumstances that you might have a point but under our circumstances there’s a 25 year relationship. I guess it’s kind of a weird song writing marriage but the idea is we’re really one songwriter split into two different people. He has his end of it and I have my end of it and somewhere in the middle we come together. In a 25-year-old period, there has not been a fight between DeeDee and myself. Disagreements of course, brutal honesty; yes. But never anything to detract from the goal. And the goal is the final product. So it’s really about what’s best for the final product and that’s kind of unique unto itself. It’s probably one of the reasons for the longevity that we talked about earlier. It’s a natural thing for him to send me a riff and me to watch that riff grow and me have my input, have that riff turn into a song and you get something like, "Old School" which is totally from left field or you get something like, "A Pound of Flesh" that is yesterday or you get something which is contemporary Overkill, and it’s like, "Wow, what just happened to this fucking thing?" So, it’s really kind of exciting over this amount of time having our song writing relationship the way it is and to see how we have grown.

 

When Overkill started, and when I got into the band first, it was all about angst and emotional breakout. I know I find myself listening to more mellow music with my age, has it been hard to keep Overkill so raw and angry?
Well, your change is your problem, don’t make it mine (laughing). I think that’s a pretty good answer. Emotion is emotion, there is a high value in this because when it crashed upon the scene in the early 80's, and I’m gonna say the album that did that was probably (Metallica’s) Kill Em All. And it was an area where no man has gone before. Very much Star Trek like, it gave people a different point of view. Of course music is about emotion, but it was never specifically about this emotion. Maybe punk touched on it but punk touched on it from a non-caring point of view where this looked at emotion from an odd, abstract point of view and how it affects and what it does to us and that was that aggressive angst or anger. I think that sure, in time, that lessens or becomes mellowed. Or let’s say the sharper edges are therefore sanded down from youth, but I still think that these emotions exist in every man or woman from the time personality develops till probably death to some degree. In our case, in the early days we did not pick and choose our battles. It was all a battle. It was throwing punches and screaming from the top of the mountain how this inspired us or how this had to be heard. I think now we pick and choose our battles, meaning that that emotion or aggression still exists and it’s very well documented through record to record. And this (Relix IV) becomes 55 minutes of a collection of the sixteen months between the two studio records. So it becomes honest but it’s really about picking and choosing. So, when you look at those early days, it’s about chaos and about exposing something new musically that really, you had to take notice of it. Whether you loved or hated it, you still had to notice it. Now, it’s about developing that into an art form and focusing on those emotions in a full sense, but still in an artist’s sense. So I think it still works for us. I think it is still about expression and about the value that we held to this music back then but much more so in a controlled chaos than opposed to just chaos.

 

You mentioned Metallica earlier and now, they are seen as almost a pop band with the success they have received. Do you think the metal of the 80s is now acceptable?
Well, quite obviously it’s not accepted on all levels. Metallica redefined and reinvented what punk is. I mean let’s call a spade a spade here, it’s just really that simple. I’m not really concerned about what goes on in another man’s house. I’m much more concerned about what goes on in my house. What goes on here is still at a great high level of un-acceptance. I applaud them for their success yet on the other side, I know only the house that I lived in so it’s the way the presentation happens for Overkill. You know I was asked once what I did for living and it was something through my son and he didn’t know what to tell his friends. So I told him to say I alienate the masses. But to reveal myself, ourselves, to a select few that see a value in this to turn from just explosion and chaos into an actual art form and I think that is where it is value wise. So, the difference between us and a band that has gone on to redefine pop which is going to be remembered musically forever, that redefinition of it, to be able to instill this type of music into the pop culture, will never be forgotten. Where as we may be through time, but ours is a journey that never strayed from it’s original value or principle.

So, now you have Relix IV out, almost a shot at how the band is aging.
It’s actually called relics we just dropped the X in there to make it a little different and to really confuse the journalists. I think that’s part of our key longevity too. Sure, our music is taken seriously but to a very large degree to be around for 20 years and to quote the fucking record name as relics, you know what you are. I think its always that straight forward approach to things. But there is a not taking of the individuals that seriously, but taking the music seriously. And let’s say that’s what brings us to maybe, maybe not that redefinition of what culture is about with regards to music, but still happy in the world that Overkill has created for themselves.

 

How much did you plan Relix IV and how much did the record write itself. Are you surprised at how any of it came out?
I am surprised. I’d like to say that I let the record form itself, you know, what’s my initial reaction to something? For instance, like a song like "A Pound of Flesh," is more cut from that time you were wearing that black T-shirt and being rebellious and probably lends itself to taking you back there to some degree. But a song like "Love" is quite different for Overkill, regardless of it’s aggressive nature. A song like "Old School," these songs really start forming themselves. I get an initial reaction to the action of hearing the demo, put down my initial thoughts and then from there kind of let it do it’s own thing. It kinda leads me around so when the final product comes up like Relics, it’s like, "Oh, my God. It’s like doing the best of without doing the best of." We have the contemporary new millennium Overkill over here, we have something cut from where we began, or our rooted history. We have that intermediary groove that came about in the 90's and something new for us like "Old School" or let’s say "Love." So I am surprised when it finishes that there never was an intent to do this. But I suppose I look back on all the elements I had to work with that were given to me by the guys and I can see how it happened. But it always is a surprise for me at the end. It’s never complete control when it comes to writing. I think the song actually dictates what the song is going to be.