För några år sedan mötte jag Bobby Blitz och DD Verni på Vampire Lounge i Stockholm för att lyssna på deras då senaste alster och även göra en intervju. Det bjöds på öl och mackor och jag fick ett trevligt samtal med DD.
Samma år mötte jag Bobby Blitz som hastigast på Sweden Rock, men först nu fick jag möjligheten att snacka med New Jerseys mest pratglade sångare.
Självfallet blev det prat om nya "The electric age", men även om bl a politik, girls and beer, maskoten Chaly och hur det var när det hela började.
Hey, how are you?
Are you calling from New Jersey?
BB: Yeah, I´m in my office. A home office obviously. DD and I manage the band so this home office has been existing now for 20 years. It´s pretty interesting. It´s got a little studio in it and a whole bunch of Overkill paraphernalia. My wife made me take down the naked pictures of girls. (laughs) Nah, she´s nuts. She couldn´t even care less. (laughs) It´s actually Overkill and hockey in here. I´m a big hockey fan.
Cool! How´s New Jersey these days?
BB: We had our warmest day on record yesterday. We were at 70 degrees yesterday which is about 21 degrees Celsius, which is really outstanding. It looks like it´s an early spring and they´re calling this the winter that never was. Zero snow where normally we have a minimum over the course of the entire winter, we usually get about two meters, where I am in north western Jersey. A bit of mountains and there´s skiing and lakes and more outdoors, but there´s been no snow. Normally I´m on a snow plow, on a 4x4 snow plow 10-15 times, but not this year.
There you go. First off, what´s an “Electric rattlesnake”?
BB: Well, you know… When I was looking for a title for this, it was just something that made me smile. (laughs) The best thing about the rules in music is that there is no rules and I always thought that Overkill had, is not always the norm when it comes to titles and topics or even approach in thrash. So does it fit? Of course it fits, since there´s no rules. “The electric rattlesnake” is quite easily that… I like symbolism and if you look at it there´s the serpent that´s being sinful and that kinda makes me smile a little bit. (laughs)
“The electric age” then, is that a reflection of the times we live in now?
BB: I think it´s more a reflection of the times that we collectively have lived in, with regards to this music. I really only have come up with this more so in hindsight when I started thinking how the title fits the album and I think there´s always been an electricity here. One of the things that Overkill has always done is being able to generate electricity or energy and I think that one of the things that´s been positive over these 25 plus years, is that the people that are attracted to this energy, generate more energy back and that´s kinda where it feeds off of. I think it´s kinda a subliminal title with regard to a career or a life, but not necessarily mine or ours, but our collectively.
How long did you work on this album?
BB: You know, we´re always working on stuff. We´re very blue collar. Nobody sits down and pines over how we´re not being treated like pampered superstars. We´re happy with our tools on and off. DD collects the riffs and I think if you´re a riff collector, you never let one go by. I mean the guy´s always has some kinda recording device on him and he´s either always humming into it or playing acoustic guitar into it or collecting a riff at a soundcheck or on the bus. That started as soon as “Ironbound” was released and we were on the road, he started collecting these things, but the actual assembly started in June 2011. That´s when the demos started happening. Songs started developing from riffs into full songs, so from a period of June 2011 until we delivered in January 2012, this was the assembly process.
How do you usually write songs? Is it mainly you and DD?
BB: Primarily. He starts them and I finish them. It goes through a metamorphous at the centre. You know, Dave Linsk is the longest standing guitar player in this band and he´s got great input. He´s got almost the exact studio as DD has, in Florida. So DD is in Jersey and Dave´s in Florida and they can exchange ideas via web, wavefile, but we also have to be in that room I think. We´re a combination of what was and what is. What was is, in a room I remember a boom box and somebody hitting record and the tape started rolling and that´s how we started getting ideas. Now it´s a little bit more advanced than that, but we have to be able to be in that room and sweat. But then afterwards we use that technology to trade ideas back and forth. I have a small home studio where I download the idea to my computer and boom, it´s off to these two guys. I think we´re a good balance between old and new.
It´s pretty fascinating. I´ve talked to a lot of bands and a lot of them have members scattered all over the world or all over the country and these days you don´t need to be in the same place to record, which is really cool.
BB: It´s interesting, but I feel that if it was only the internet it would be sterilized and this is only my own opinion, one of the things we talked about earlier was the electricity vibe. Electricity has to happen from close contact. What we do, even over these last few records while we´re recording, is that we break up that recording with live performances. We´ll record and demo it in June, but boom we´re down in Mexico doing three shows and then back into the studio and then we´re over in Europe doing some festivals and then back. I think that really adds to that live feel that we wanna capture on the record, because live is excitement and how do you make that happen with regard to the technology and the internet while writing songs. You have to be in a room together, so I think we need that balance. I don´t know for all, but for us I think it would sterilize it.
Usually for an album like this, do you go into the studio with ten songs already done or do you end up picking from 15 songs? How does it usually work?
BB: Well, I usually walk in, clear my throat and spit in the glass and say “Let´s get this going!”. (laughs) It´s a very simple process. We´ve always been, to some degree, focused. I think that ten songs is enough. We´re on a regular consistent clock when it comes to releasing. Some of those records are timed very well. It´s something that the scene emulates or eats or wants, so ten songs is plenty. It´s always been our process so that we can focus on them. Really what we´re doing is that we´re exploiting the motivation that we have. To sit there and focus on more, I think would be unnecessary. It´s always been our process to look at the ten and dissect those as opposed to saying “Oh, we have ten and five maybes.”.
Seeing how Nuclear Blast loves all these different versions of an album, are there gonna be different bonus tracks and stuff like that?
BB: No we didn´t do that. Nuclear is a great label and we dig them and they´re fans of the music that we play, but we still like to play by our own rules. We have recorded other things in the past, but they´re cover songs. I remember for “Ironbound” we actually covered kind of a metal country version of Johnny Cash´s “Man in black”, but we never released it and they keep asking us for it, but maybe when it´s ready. (laughs)
Cool! I know you also shot a video recently. I´m thinking, videos these days gotta be mainly for YouTube, right? There are no other channels for it.
BB: Absolutely! But isn´t that what we talked about earlier with regard how bands write songs these days? It´s really all about the internet, isn´t it. I´m sitting here thinking to myself some days, “I don´t need cable TV or satellite. I can watch what I wanna watch on the internet and then I can at least choose to do so.”. I think that´s what it´s about is that people can now choose to watch it when they want to watch it. It becomes even a more personal type of promotion with these videos because it´s not jammed down your throat with regard to advertising. You actually have to log on or go to that site if I wanna see Overkill´s “Electric rattlesnake” to see what they came up with. I think it´s a unique time right now when it comes to video and probably much more personal than it´s been in the past. It´s about choice.
Touring wise then and Sweden? Any plans for Scandinavia and Europe?
BB: We just… I´m on my computer and I can´t find the dates right now. If you just… I don´t think we´ve booked anything in Sweden as of yet. There will be two European tours. We´re I Scandinavia for Tuska in Finland and obviously these German shows. Hold on here…
You´re doing Wacken, right?
BB: Yeah, we´re doing Wacken and the other one is in Portugal. Right now I have Germany, the UK, Italy, Switzerland, but nothing in Scandinavia yet. But we´ve had some good success there over the last few years. We´ve done Gävle and Sweden Rock and a couple of headliners. It´s been good success.
Let´s just go back in time. What was it like when you started out? You started out fairly young, singing and playing. What was the scene like when you started out?
BB: Well you know, for this part of the scene it was just about being creative. There was no high expectations or goals. It was really about instantaneous gratification and making it up as you went along. We were punk rock fans and fans of the NWOBHM and we did covers of both type of genres and from there… I´m not saying we invented some thrash, I´m saying that we were kinda there from the beginning and that was how our version of it came about. We were listening to Angel Witch and Diamond Head, but we were also listening The Ramones and The Dead Boys and the Sex Psitols and somewhere in between there became this genre. Obviously it was quite different. This was pre Al Gore, pre global warming and pre internet. (laughs) We were running around putting up flyers on telephone poles and in windows and on the windshield wipers on cars and promoting by word of mouth what we were about and trying to gain a following out of it. But again there was no rules. It was really just chaotic, because nobody knew what to expect or what the next move was and I really think that the next move was made by Metallica. The stamp of this genre was obviously, in my opinion anyway, created by those guys and then there was a lot of us who were doing similar things. To this day I´m very proud of the fact that we never… the west coast Bay area sound was fantastic, but we never really bought into it. It still remained that kind of punk rock, NWOBHM riffing type thing and I guess that was our contribution to it back then and to some degree to this day. We´ve kinda kept that rooted feel throughout our career. The original characteristics.
Right. But prior to Overkill, had you done any recordings?
BB: No, I did no recordings. I played in cover bands and I was in the university and in high school and my father used to like to say “Ah, it´s girls and free beer!”. (laughs) And you wanna hear something funny? I dropped out of the university, so I didn´t start necessarily with Overkill in my late teens, I started in my twenties. I dropped out of the university and my father said “Is this still about girls and free beer?” and I said “No, we´re pursuing our artistic career here.” And it was about 25 years later and this sports figure in New York, who was a big thrash fan, gave us tickets for my father´s birthday, to his personal box at the Stadium. Sitting next to my father and he looked at me and said “I knew this Overkill thing would fucking work out one of these days!” and then I looked at him and I said, “Dad, when I dropped out of the university, it WAS about girls and free beer.”. (laughs) I think dad always knows. (laughs)
Definitely. That´s a good story. Have you ever had any regrets dropping out of the university, even though things worked out?
BB: No, I don´t think so. There´s something about practical experience that´s really exciting and you learn as you go along. You afford yourself the opportunity to make mistakes. I think mistakes are huge when it comes to… as long as they´re not devastating or career ending, I think they´re huge to the building process. We talked earlier… you know, I´m talking from my office where I manage the band with DD and he has an office in his home and that´s leaps and bounds from girls and free beer. It´s quite far and this has given me… I´m actually talking to you from the house that Overkill bought for me, that overlooks the lake. The point is that, because I don´t have any regrets because of where it´s brought me and I never knew it would bring me here, but now that I´m here or have been here along that journey, I obviously appreciate that learning experience because it has given me a lot of other personal happiness and success in my life. My wife I met on the road and I´ve started other businesses and all of them to some degree are satisfying, so I don´t have regrets. I´m very lucky and I don´t think it´s for everyone but in retrospect even those mistakes helped kinda build the character or the foundation that I stand on.
Who came up with the original idea for Overkill mascot Chaly?
BB: The name first and foremost… we had a stage manager named Bob and Bob Gustafson was in the band and Bob Blitz was in the band and there was a drum tech named Bob, so instead of calling us all Bob, he used to call us Chaly. He used to go “Hey Chaly singer!”, “Hey Chaly guitar player!” and when it was created I remember it written down on a cocktail napkin or a piece of white paper and it looked like Pop Eye with wings and it was just fucking ridiculous. (laughs) We loved it, because Iron Maiden had a mascot and we should have a fucking mascot, it´s just that simple. This became an identifiable image and we gave it to an artist who made it into what it was originally and we were so happy with the whole thing. But one day we´re standing there on the stage and our stage manager yells to two of the crew guys “Hey, put Chaly up in the back!” and nobody knew what the fuck he was talking about and the drum tech said “What are you talking about?” and he goes “You know, the mascot! Put Chaly up behind the drums!”. (laughs) That´s how it got its name. Everybody was Chaly back then.
Cool! Finally, I read that you´re not an Obama fan. What do you think about the US election?
BB: It´s unique. I can´t say I´m not a fan. I mean, I never rooted for the guy to do not well. You want them to do well regardless of what they´re political affiliation is. We also talked about me working for myself for a 20 year period of time and also my father. My father sat me down when I was about 17 and he goes “You´re gonna be able to vote next year.” And he said to me, “I work for myself and it makes me a republican. They want smaller government and they wanna take less of your money. I f you´re not like so, you probably wanna be a democrat.”. As time went on, I started working for myself and saw that. I really have a distinct view of what republicans and democrats are and I´m really a blend of both. Obviously I wanna help people and I don´t wanna see people do bad. I do think a change is necessary. When a guy stands up and pounds his fist and says “Not one dime will I raise your taxes!” and the first thing he does is do it. (laughs) It´s just not fucking ok. (laughs) I think his attentions are correct, but I think a change is obviously necessary and to some degree I lean myself towards Ron Paul and doing this whole thing like a business.
Have you ever thought about writing a book? Everyone´s putting out their autobiographies these days.
BB: I´ve been asked. I´ve been asked by a pretty good journalist. The guy sat down and I think we were having a couple of Newcastle Brown Ales and he said “I love talking to you because you never fucking stop and all your goddamn stories are great! We could really write an interesting story here and you´re not afraid to name names and you´re not afraid to say if it stinks and you´re not afraid to say you´re not the best but you try the hardest.”. I said “You know, that would be so much fun, but the other side of it is that my feeling about a book is that it´s a staple to say it´s over and from this point on I have nothing current to offer.”. If I feel I have nothing current to offer, I may sit down with this guy and we may open a few more Newcastles. (laughs). But at this point I feel that a record like “The electric age”, though rooted in the past, really has a contemporary value and I think that I´m always more proud of what we are as opposed to what we were. When I get to sit down with people, primarily we´ll talk about the new release, sure we´ll go back and do the historical thing, but that values the band in the present and that to me is probably my proudest badge.
Well, if there ever is a book, I´ll really be looking forward to it.
BB: (laughs) We´ll do all these chapters, the near death experiences, the girls and beer… (laughs)
Yeah, there´s gotta be some good stories there.
BB: I´ll never claim, like Nikki Sixx, that I was dead for six or eight minutes. (laughs) I was sitting there with DD one day and I was looking at the picture of his book going “How can a guy who died for six minutes look this fucking good?”. (laughs)
(laughs) Really good question! It´s been really good talking to you Bobby. It´s a great sounding album and I really hope you come over to Sweden real soon and kick some Swedish ass.
BB: I hope so too. It´s always fun to get to Scandinavia. I still love to travel and I still love the different cultures.
Definitely. Thank you so much and have a great weekend Bobby!
BB: See you on the road Niclas!