Intervju med Bobby Blitz i Overkill.
I veckan spelade Overkill i Stockholm efter att ha härjat runt en hel del i Finland. Jag slog mig ned med Bobby för ett litet snack om bl a planer på ny platta, en eventuell bok, hans hälsoproblem och Keith Richards.
Jag önskar att jag hade kunnat lägga upp hans skratt på sidan. Skrattet är högt, kraftigt och hjärtligt och påminner faktiskt en hel del om David Lee Roth.
How´s the tour been going?
Bobby: We´ve been, obviously, to Sweden prior. We´ve done a show in Helsinki and we´ve been to Sweden Rock and done shows in Denmark and Oslo, but nothing like this, going over to do 17 shows and 12 of them in Scandinavia. It was a unique opportunity and it arose from kind of a partnering. We were self managed since ´95, enjoying it and no complaint. I think one of the reasons we were able to do this even through the lean years is that the management really wanted to do it because the management was us. (laughs) We partnered up with some guys at Foo King (King Foo Entertainment), their American arm and one of their first suggestions was “We want you to get out on the road and we want you to do something in Scandinavia! It´s one of the markets now where you should have presence.”. Because it was the first request they made, we thought it over and said “Let´s just do it!”. Regardless of result it´s good to land on their shores and do our thing and doing our thing is the most important to us. Presenting ourselves in our way as opposed to being an opening act or opposed to being on a festival stage and so far so good. Good people and how can you not love it here? That´s what we keep saying to each other.
It´s been more than a year since your last album (The electric age). Any plans for a new album? Are you working on it?
Bobby: Yeah, there are six songs waiting to be recorded and I´ll have them by the end of May to begin finishing. We work in a process. It starts with the riffs and those riffs get stretched out and arranged and changed and they go through that process. Then DD will be sitting with Dave and Ron for guitars and drums and they´ll start demoing that stuff and there will be a metamorphoses and it will spread out and I´ll come in a couple of days and check out what´s going on. Then I get them and get some privacy for probably 90 days or so, but I keep the guys abreast of what the ideas are. We also have the luxury of time and that´s because DD owns his studio, so if he starts demoing in May, then we don´t have to deliver it until December. If we were young men, we would fuck that up. (laughs) I you´re young guys, go in, record and get the fuck out! Don´t over think it. Get the energy on tape. But I think with the experience that we have, this really helps and it´s come across on the last couple of records, that we haven´t over thought them. We just used that time. What we do in between is that we´re touring. We might have the drum tracks and some guitars, but not finished yet and then a tour comes up. We just announced the Overkill/Kreator tour in the US and then we´ll come back and finish the record. That´s kinda cool, because I think on the last two records, they have that kinda live pop to them, that live energy. I think it´s because on the last two we stopped recording and said “Let´s go to south America!”. I mean, you can´t just say “Let´s go!”, but you know… (laughs) We did the European festivals during the “Ironbound” record and I think that really helped bring that X factor element into those records.
Do you feel the music making was more honest when you started out? These days you have Pro Tools and autotune and so on to fix everything.
Bobby: It´s funny. I can see exactly where this question is coming from because I´m talking to a guy with a tape recorder. (laughs) I think… if you learned under those circumstances, to play, you had to take that with you and I think that´s one of the beauties, that the old bands all had to know how to play, so Pro Tools means a lot less to people like us. You take the principals of what you´ve learned. I think for newer bands it´s more of a in purist danger. I think for older bands, it doesn´t really make a difference. I just think it gives you more of that luxury of time. I mean, there´s not a chance I´d let a guy in the studio, an engineer, say “It´s ok. I´ll autotune it.”. (laughs) He´ll hear back “If I can´t sing the note, we´re not gonna record the note.”. (laughs) With that being said, I think that purity still exist even though the technology is there. For a band like Overkill, it´s a blend. What we use the technology for, is great organization. Everything is at your fingertips, organized, and you can do multiple tracks but still we play those tracks. We don´t computer generate the tracks.
Going into the situation where you have to write new stuff, is that always as exciting or do you sometimes go “Man, I have to do this again?”?
Bobby: (laughs) I´m an opportunist. I grew up in the New York, New Jersey area right by Manhattan and there´s a fantastic worth ethic instilled in people in that area and it´s still the area where I´m the most comfortable. I see Stockholm and it´s much more beautiful than many places around where I live. Point being is that I´m attracted to that area because of what it´s taught me and I like to do things. I think everything is an opportunity. I think that philosophy gives me the presence of mind to be able to get another opportunity and that´s really what the goal is here. If I can take today and squeeze it, squeeze the lemon today and I´ve gotten everything out of it, probably I´ll get another lemon tomorrow. It´s a simplistic way of thinking, I know, but it doesn´t afford you repetition. I put notes up all over my office when we´re making a record and there´s notes that say “Don´t repeat yourself!” or I´ll put up phrases I´ve used in the past, so that I stay away from those phrases. It´s a very fine line between style and repetition and my feeling is that I´m still a work in progress, I´m still learning. Once I stop learning, then this will be a pain in the ass. (laughs) But if I still think of myself as a student in some degree, regardless of the experience that I have and that I´m open to new ideas, then this work in progress can really look at that opportunity as a positive moment or a positive peace of time.
When you sit down to write stuff, does it ever happen that you come up with stuff that is not suited for Overkill? Do you ever write stuff thinking it might get used for something else?
Bobby: Yeah, of course. You save everything. Ideas are precious and even bad ideas to some degree. There could be a seed in there that sparks another one. About half a dozen years ago I did a project called The Cursed and The Cursed record was a fun record for me because some of it was Overkill throw away stuff and I like rock and roll and that to me, came across like a rock and roll record. Like a dirty rock and roll record. There were saxophones and layered guitars and the vocal lines were more like ZZ Top meets Clutch. Some of that was Overkill throw aways and when I got together with Dan Lorenzo, we started going through some tapes and we went “Wow, there´s some great stuff here!”. Stuff he had done with other bands and stuff that never came to fruition with Overkill, so I don´t throw them away, but I know when they´re not right.
The new album then? Are you looking at a release later this year or early next year?
Bobby: We talked with Nuclear Blast over here and they wanna drop it on the street on March 7th. If I´m honest, we´re exploiting the situation right now because the fire´s still burning, so you don´t wanna try and reignite a fire, you just wanna throw more wood on top of it so it burns brighter. That´s part of this. We could put ourselves in the position of doing some more touring instantaneously, so we´re already planning a tour from a year from now and we just announce the tour with Overkill and Kreator.
If we go back in time for a while, do you remember the first record you bought?
Bobby: Oh, it was a record club called the Columbia Record House and I got 14 LP´s for one cent, but then I had to buy one per month at the regular price and I still think I owe them money. (laughs) But I know in that package was Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin. I would probably say it was Led Zeppelin IV, I think.
Was there any specific record or band back then, that kinda set off that spark, “This is what I wanna do!”?
Bobby: I was a big Alice Cooper fan back then and I guess this is around “Killer” and “School´s out” and I went on to find out later on, why I like those records so much and that they ot better to me. I picked up a live record called “Rock and roll animal” and it was Lou Reed. It was almost like a metal record and fantastic. It wasn´t like the Velvet Underground stuff. It was really distorted guitars and a loud and nasty and shitty sound. The guys on it were Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner and then I went back and found out that the Alice Cooper guitar players were not the guys in the band, but those studio musicians and that´s why I liked Alice Cooper so much. (laughs)
Ten years from now, most albums will be digital downloads and it just feels that the stuff you just mentioned, fidning out who those guitar players were or who produced that album, that will kinda disappear and you won´t need album covers.
Bobby: I think this is probably the last stand, heavy metal. The people that support this scene like to pocess things and hold something in their hands and that´s not necessarily an iPhone with music on. That can be a secondary source. When I was a kid I wanted to play airguitar to an Alice Cooper record and we wanted to make albums and we had that opportunity. You see that opportunity coming back for collectors, so I can´t be a 100% sure that that´s the way it goes, because the beauty of download is that you´re instantaneously exposed to other things. A kid today with 500 songs on his iPad or his iPhone who´s throwing those songs away, still replace them with other things and eventually that kid founds out who he is. Kids will never fucking change! They´re exactly the same. They wanna be cool and they wanna have friends, but they just have other things now to fuck with and I think that if those other things are really just tools to finding out who you are, I don´t necessarily know that that possession goes away. Maybe LP´s do come back for instance, for guys who go “Hey, I found out that when I was a kid I love Justin Bieber and now I´m a purist and listen to 200 mg vinyl recordings of Pavarotti.”. (laughs)
You´ve had a couple of health scares (cancer, stroke, Pneumonia). Going through the stuff you´ve gone through, does it give you another take on life?
Bobby: Sure. It never scared me. We just had to cancel half of the Testament tour and I had Pneumonia and six of the other guys got it after I did. Does it change things? I suppose. The way it changed it for me is that it reminds you how fragile the whole thing is and your moments is something that should be really celebrated as opposed to wasted. Somewhere along the lines of the health scares that I´ve had, the first one taught me how to deal with the second one and the first one I remember sitting there and actually being a little bit frightened about it. “It looks like at its worse, I´m not gonna be around. What would be a little bit better is that I can´t do Overkill and what would be great is if I can be around and do Overkill, because that´s what makes me happy.”. I thought to myself “I can live in this or I can live through this, it´s one way or the other.”. I chose to live through it and I think it prepared me for other things that have followed. You actually put value on smaller things. You don´t live with a stick up your ass anymore, thinking that the world owes you a living. (laughs)
A final thing. Last time I talked to you, when “The electric age” was being released, I asked you about the possibility of ever writing a book and you said that you had sat down with someone and talked about it. Has that changed? Any plans at all of doing something like that?
Bobby: It was brought up again to me and I probably gave this answer when we talked, if this was over, maybe I would. I wouldn´t wanna write about my life necessarily. Somebody told me once that the talent I have is not necessarily Overkill, but it´s how I present myself and present the band and that I can tell a great story. This is how it was brought up to me again after we had spoken, you can tell a great story and it´s not necessarily about you, it´s about how it´s presented. I thought to myself that that would be interesting, but still, this has to be kinda done. I still think of myself as a person who´s fighting to get this done, who´s competitive. A person writing a book is in a position talking about what they´ve done and not what they´re doing and I´m still kinda talking about what I´m doing. That´s why I think there´s value in “The electric age”, there´s value in “Ironbound”. It´s a great chemistry. This is not hard work and I don´t consider it as such. A book would e fun. I write all these stories about the guys in the band and the crew and they´re all short stories, two or three pages and they become characters and superheroes and their girlfriends are involved. Derek has a son that has CP, but he´s the sixth member of the band. He loves being with us. There´s only a few things he can say and one of them is “Hi!” and one of them is “Hello!” and he loves women. This kid to us is like a superhero. He always says the nicest thing to me and that´s always “Hi!” and whenever he sees me he says “Hi!, Hi!, Hi!, Hi!” and goes on forever. He doesn´t know how good he´s making me feel with all these “His”, so these stories I´ve written. I was thinking of probably putting those together. Kinda like an out there profile based on how I viewed all this funny shit when we´re out on the road. I´ve got about 75 pages.
Do you read other artist autobiographies?
Bobby: Sometimes, like Ace Frehley´s. The ones that interest me. Sometimes I read a chapter and it´s just not for me. I read the Ozzy book, but I really didn´t enjoy it that much. I love to read about Keith Richards and I can read about Keith over and over again. What his actual account was and how he viewed that account afterwards is just bizarre. I love some of his quotes. I even have the book “What would Keith Richards do?”. A funny story was that we were coming through Australia and I was smoking. I usually say to the light guys “Hey listen! My bag´s as heavy as yours. I´m running out of here to have a Marlboro because it´s a 13 hour flight.” and customs grabs me and they open up my small bag and the guy goes “Well, well, well, What would Keith Richards do? Do you have anything else in common with this famous rock and roller?”. I said “Well, I´m in a band.” And he goes “Anything else?” and I said “Are you profiling me?” and he goes “Yes!”. I reach down and shook his hand and said “It´s about time somebody checked me for drugs!”. (laughs)