Artists move from label to label, trying to keep the dream alive. It is a life of neon lights and asphalt pavement. Like a tenacious group of talented vagabonds, they travel the world as modern minstrels. Willing to entertain us for a couple of dollars and a hot meal.
More fortune than fame, the motivation for living a life solely on applause and accolades is hard to comprehend. Perhaps it is the satisfaction of knowing they are delivering something as influential as life itself, an artistic demonstration of what mankind can do.
When I was unable to meet Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth last month during the Overkill – Nile tour, I knew the story wouldn’t end there. I kept in touch with the band’s tour manager until an opportunity arose.
Please enjoy some excepts of my 23 February 2017 interview with Blitz.
David Halbe: Hey man, thanks for giving me some of your time today.
Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth: No problem brother, it’s my pleasure.
Dave: Last time we talked was when White Devil Armory came out. You gave me a really good idea as to how you came up with lyrics and song titles so I decided to concentrate on the lyrics themselves this time around.
Dave: I believe most of the songs on The Grinding Wheel seem to share similar themes, could this record be considered a concept album?
Blitz: You know what, I do and we’ve talked in the past. You know I like to talk about things I know about, things that are personal and close to me. I think on this record we talked a lot about the principals that this band has, just like the last record. You know, we’ve been at this for 35 years and I pay attention to things.
Blitz: So, I think what occurs lyrically for me are two narratives. The grinding wheel is the first narrative, which is something that seems indestructible but the reality is it’s like the second narrative. Which is that all things that are created eventually go away, eventually wear down so I think the overall thought behind that title is sure it can grind through and continue and continue but let’s be realistic about it and say that you had better enjoy it while it’s here because nothing lasts forever.
Dave: Hell yeah, that’s a concept. When we talked about setlists last time, you said: For me in regards to touring, it’s playing those five or six new songs live. I know you’re playing three right now “Mean Green, Killing Machine”, “Goddam Trouble” and “Our Finest Hour” – how have those songs been going over? Will you add to that list now that the new album is out?
Blitz: Well, we have to get into the machine mode. We’re still only like eight days in, I saw you in Chicago?
Blitz: I mean, that was like the third or fourth show. I’m looking at it right now. So if we can get into the machine mode in the next couple of weeks of course then we will add more to the set. You know, I’ve always liked that the band is not a band that rest on what was and we’ll open with a new song. It’s not like we’re opening with something we did a decade ago.
Dave: Hell yeah!
Blitz: The record drops, come out and hit them with the new stuff. That to me is what makes a band valid. It’s necessary to do that if the band itself is exciting. Let’s open with “Deny the Cross”, “Time to Kill” or “Coma” something like that. Maybe something off Iron Bound but we always agree let’s open with a new one because really that’s our best foot forward in 2017.
Dave: I agree.
Blitz: So, I foresee that there will be some other songs coming in and out of the set but it’s going to have to wait until we are well-oiled and have checked out valve gaskets and shit.
Blitz: (Laughs) You know all of that.
Dave: (Laughs) Right on man!
Blitz: Put some spit and shine on there, come heavy, who knows?
Dave: I hear you. So who came up with the video concept for “Goddam Trouble”?
Blitz: That was our director, he took a look at the lyrics and came up with it. Boy, it is something.
Dave: Fuck yeah!
Blitz: In my mind there’s nothing wrong with revisiting the past and I can definitely identify with it. Back in the day it was just me and an old Camaro. (Laughs)
Dave: (Laughs) I know it.
Blitz: I just think it’s something that a lot of people, guys and girls in our community can relate to. Sometimes it just seems like you can’t get out of your own way and that was really the basis of that song. I can’t get out of my own way sometimes and I keep finding myself getting in deeper and deeper you know?
Dave: I do.
Blitz: I just think it was something that turned out to be lyrically relatable to people.
Dave: I agree. Hey, I noticed you guys aren’t playing Wacken this year but you do have a date in Russia in June. Considering the political climate right now, do you have any apprehensions?
Blitz: Well no, we’re taking Mr. Trump with us!
Blitz: (Laughs) Really, it’s going to be wonderful, it’s going to be fantastic!
Dave: That is hilarious but seriously you really don’t give a shit? Metal is metal, you’re there to play a gig, that’s it right?
Blitz: Absolutely, of course. I mean people are people. Politics are always something that we’ve shied away from, you know?
Dave: I do.
Blitz: It’s not something I’ve shied away from personally but for sure professionally. It’s not about that. This is supposed to be a departure from that and I’ve always thought that once you are standing on level ground, even with people with different politics in them, everything becomes commonality.
Dave: Right on.
Blitz: Headbangers got this special unity within them, no matter where you are.
Dave: Fuck yeah, I agree.
Blitz: I can’t wait to get over and play man, no lie.
Dave: That’s awesome. In my mind you are closing in on two significant milestones now and that would be forty years singing and twenty full-length Overkill albums. Are those goals that you’d like to achieve and what do they mean to you?
Blitz: Oh shit, that’s a good question but I think you know me well enough to know that I really relish the moment more than I do with what might be my near future.
Dave: Oh hell, I know that but I also see enough myself to know that you’ve got to realize what a milestone that is, we’re talking a Rolling Stones category here.
Blitz: Yeah, you make a great point but it’s not about being in Overkill for such a long time, it’s just about being able to relish the moment and the moments get strung together so.
Dave: I get it.
Blitz: I mean, I’m sure when it happens I’m gonna have a big smile on my face, you know?
Dave: I know you’re aware of it and that’s what I wanted to know. I know you’re not going to quit so when we get there, we’ll talk about it then.
Blitz: You know the longer I can do this, I mean you just saw the show and you can see that the band still has energy, we’re five guys with wild eyes in our fifties going, we’re gonna kill em’, you know?
Dave: Yep, I hear you.
Blitz: Later on it will be Overkill senior citizens, proud everywhere!
Dave: (Laughs) No way! That’s all I’ve got man, thanks a lot for your time today!
Blitz: No problem Dave, take care.