Overkill Planning Around 100 Shows for 2019
Overkill recently put out The Wings of War, their 19th studio album. The New Jersey thrashers are known for their proficiency and consistency, especially with Bobby Blitz' age-defying voice as he nears 60-years-old.
The singer was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program discussing what keeps the band fresh after this long, the injection of schooled drummer Jason Bittner and what else is in store for this year and beyond. Check out the chat below.
Metal has evolved and changed since the first Overkill album was released. How much do you pay attention to the way metal has evolved in terms of inspiring your creativity?
One of the beauties is that as time ticks and things do change — whether it be that of the industry and how the industry is perceived, how people get their music, how promotion is done - there still is a thread in there that it's still done for the right reasons. Those reasons are the excitement or for purity. To last in the metal community for as long as I have or you for that matter is that you have to love it. So as everything changes around it, I think the basic element or instinct to why it's done is the same, and that's the love of it and it's purity. Although I think we've adapted, we still do it for the same reasons.
Having studied in Berklee College of Music, Jason Bittner brings a bit of a different musical approach to Overkill. Musically, what changed with his playing as your foundation?
I feel like I should start calling him "The Professor." [laughs] Jason is the most "schooled" drummer that we've had in this band. Obviously it's gonna change the chemistry and there's two ways of looking at that: you can either embrace that change or that you can push against that change.
I think we became part of it. We had the luxury of touring with him for a year prior to recording with him, so the change now is full. We've embraced it and we've all moved in that direction. If I had to describe him from my own personal opinion, he plays with kind of a surgical brutality. That his schooling is not for lack of feel and the feel is that brutality. The schooling is that surgical [aspect] that I mentioned, so it's a great combination of let's say over the top, brutal metal with the virtuoso musicianship added to it. I think it's bringing us a new chemistry that is worth checking out.
Prolific is an understatement when it comes to describing the Overkill catalog. Clearly, you enjoy the process of making albums. What made making this one so much fun for you?
When it first started coming together, when I first started hearing original riffs on this, it really brought me back to really classic heavy metal. As the songs developed, I think they went to different directions. The energy started being added to it — new chemistry. We mentioned Jason in the last answer.
So it almost felt as if it were almost taking something old, polishing it up, putting a new coat of paint on it and presenting it as new. It’s kind of a rebirth of let’s say the original reasons of why we did this so there were no influences of why we did this but I think with a valid, contemporary, today kind of feel in regards to the final result.
Let's talk about Welcome to the Garden State. It's a multi-part documentary you've been releasing online. What's most interesting to you about the other band members' perspective of Overkill and its history?
One of the things we have always done as a band is we have thought locally but acted globally. You may not be living here right now. It’s the old saying you take your girl out of the Garden State but [laughs] or boy for that matter...
That has been our best foot forward. [New Jersey] first and foremost is a proud state but when comparing us to the other members of the band, I think we have the same backgrounds. I think that is why it works for us — we see things the same way.
I have been doing so many interviews lately, especially with the European interviews and South American interviews, they have asked me to describe what is so special about this. I would say to them if you came and visited me and I was doing a task and you said, "That is not how we do it in South America," I would say, "Well your'e not in South America now, are you? You’re in New Jersey [laughs]."
But I think that we all have the long-standing relationships in this that we get each other and that is why it works for us.
Overkill songs tend to originate with guitar riffs. How does a sound of a riff create a word association in your mind that eventually becomes lyrics?
For me I have to live with that riff for a while and see how it develops. For instance, there is a song on the record called "Head of a Pin." The title comes from the middle ages. It is about theologists arguing about how many angels can actually dance on the head of a pin. They finally realized a century later that they were wasting their time because it really didn’t matter.
So the point being is that when the riff develops, I marry it to a thought that I have. In this case, it was married to a thought that all of that extra stuff doesn’t matter in regards to, let's say, action versus reaction in this song. So my action or my reaction was back to the action of the riff. So it always takes me a little bit of time to marry the two but, once I can discard what is not necessary, what is on the head of a pin, I can usually zero in on what I would like to do.
Aggressive music can be a healthy outlet for people to exercise hostility and frustration whether you're just listening or actually performing it. Now at this point in your life, how important is Overkill to your well being?
Wow, that is a deep question here. I think it's more than just a career at this point. We have to say that it's a life. This is the thing I've personally done the most in my life. The people I know for long-standing relationships — DD Verni, Dave Linsk — these are decade-long relationships. So it is important in my life because it's actually part of my fiber. It's not something that I'm chasing, it's something that I've already ingested and have made part of me. So I think that, if it lacked or it wasn't there, or I didn't get my daily dose of vitamin HM Heavy Metal, I don't think I'd be the same person. So, I think it's what has made me what I am and I always have had a good feeling that I've done it with people who desire the same high.
Bobby there's gonna be touring this year, I'm sure, is that going to go straight into next year? What are your plans?
My plan is to finish the video, have a sandwich. [laughs] We're booked - we're looking at this point approximately oh, I suppose 100 shows between now and November. Beyond that - we're cutting it right now in November and seeing what our options are for 2020, but touring is the next faction of this rolling machine.
Thanks to Bobby Blitz for the interview. Grab your copy of Overkill's new album here and follow the band on Facebook. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
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