OVERKILL – Feeling the Fire in Oberhausen

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In 1986, a fresh new East Coast thrash band called played near Oberhausen, Germany. At the time,  they said they’d come back and 30 years later they did.  Packing the Turbinenhalle 2 with wall to wall screaming Skullkrushers they played their early ‘90s thrash statement Horrorscope and debut record Feel The Fire back to back, start to finish.

The idea hatched as a one-time loud gift to the fans, giving live performances of obscure tunes and stuff not played in years and possibly never again.  Vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth talks astrology and fire, “Both records are instrumental to the present day, stepping stones to 2018.  I don’t see us doing that again back to back.”

There was one main reason they played Horrorscope first, “I think it’s more intricate, that’s the only reason,” Blitz states.  “I’m sure we discussed it.  There were songs that came in and out of our set.”

Blitz laughs about the label reaction to Frankenstein, “The joke is, when we delivered that song they said I never sounded better.”

The DVD name and spelling were fan club created and executed. “The opening song was Coma and our fans in Germany called Skullkrushers handed out approximately 2000 cards two foot by one foot with on it and Oberhausen crossed out with Overhausen.  It was cool that they done that.”

The idea was hatched at a festival in Belgium.  After a band discussion it was decided to do two records back to back and the DVD developed into a finished product with a very hands on approach.  “We approved the video edits and the production you see,” Blitz says.  “We chose the production you see on stage, the amount of lights, where they were placed, the backtrack, the merchandise.  This was completely hands on from start to finish.”

During the show Blitz mentioned their first live recording on VHS back in the day, “U.S. Speed Metal Attack, that was filmed about 15 minutes from the venue in ’86 [in Bochum} on that tour with us, Anthrax and Agent Steele.  It was our first time doing film.”

East Coast DJ Eddie Trunk commentates throughout the DVD. “Eddie’s been a great friend of ours, he was our A&R guy back on Megaforce Records back on Under The Influence in ’88,” Blitz remembers.  “I used to pop in and do interviews with him. We’ve been friends forever.  He and D.D. go to New York Giants games together.  He’s always been honest and loves the band.”

Live Young Die Free will only be performed once, “Probably for now and the future yes,” Blitz predicts.  “I really like that song, it’s just that, to do it live.  To put something in there that’s obscure.  We’d have to play for three hours to get something like that in there and neglect our current stuff.  We’ll still consider using it but I don’t see that song coming back in the set.  Still one of my favorites.”

He doesn’t want to do other albums in their entirety, “I’d rather not, I think we’ve always been a band trustworthy in how we present ourselves.  We don’t air our dirty laundry in public and we’re in this to win this.”

Anyone that’s seen live knows they like to give the crowd a good-natured ball-busting, “I’m sure you’ve seen us live and the ball-busting I do on stage is only something you can do with friends.  I’m happy to be in front of them.  I bust their balls but they bust mine back.  I think that’s a very honest representation.  We still have contemporary value and do what people want to hear.”  Fans keep coming back because they know what to expect.

Blitz says they’ve always given their best at every show, making every night feel special.  “On a personal note, I’ve never felt this band has ripped anybody off on a performance.  We’ve always given it the respect it deserves.  We’re not about mailing it in, we’re about moving up our reputation and giving it hell.”

Blitz talks about their Spinal Tap moment on stage doing Kill at Command, “Dude, it was an absolute nuclear meltdown.  There were five of us up there playing five different songs.  I think it was Eddie who clearly… I’m not blaming him because he had the biggest weight to carry.  We had to brush up on this stuff but he had to learn two records in a short amount of time.  There wasn’t a ton of time to get Eddie ready.  He started that song, everyone jumped in but were in some other world.  We really should’ve included the footage where we were laughing our asses off up there.  It was a moment in time for sure.”  They had the foresight to record both versions so you’ll hear vocals when Blitz momentarily isn’t singing.

The crowd was very understanding, “You’re playing in front of your friends.  As long as you don’t mail in a performance they’re not gonna judge you.  We soldiered through it.  That was one of the things the crowd really liked as it made it more memorable.”

They didn’t play Elimination but had to play their closer. “It’s always been in the set,” Blitz confirms, though circumstances have prevented them from playing it before.  “We’ve been shut down by fire marshals and such.  We had to do Fuck You which says, now the show is over.”

The show was sold out, 2,000 strong, with a dedicated showing of German metal brethren.  “It was full for sure, there were guest list tickets.  The guys from Kreator came down, it was in their neighborhood.  A couple guys from Sodom were there.  Some family from the States flew over for it.”

He’s seen some memorable things in the crowd over the years, “Guys with prosthetic limbs take them off and hold them over their head.  You see a lot of crazy shit.  It shoots fire in you, becoming historical almost instantaneously.”

Some Overkill shows are all ages literally, “One of the weirdest things I’ve seen, we were on the West Coast and I said, there’s gotta be at least six to eight kids in here under four,” Blitz recalls.  “On parents’ shoulders with ear plugs and homemade Overkill shirts on.  It was one of the strangest things.  We’re playing with kids out there.  I remember, a mother put her daughter on stage and this toddler’s literally sitting in front of the monitors.  At the end of the song when the crowd stopping cheering I leaned down and said, don’t put her in front of Derek, she said why, I said Derek’s a baby kicker.  He’s not though”

There’s a period of time when he winds down after a show, “Just let the world come back in my eyes and ears, because I was high, not by drugs but by adrenaline.  Now I have to get back to normal life. Some of these things shoot by and I remember them later.”

He’s pro personal choice when it comes to cell phone use during shows, “I’m a freedom guy, do whatever you want.  When I go to a show and somebody’s obstructing my view, I go somewhere else.  I can’t multi-task.  For me to watch a show and film it wouldn’t be right for me personally.  I don’t like infringing on other’s rights.  It doesn’t distract me when I’m on stage.”

He doesn’t consider them workaholics though a strong work ethic was engrained by family history and lineage instilling shared generational values in them.  “If you find something you like doing, keep doing it because it’ll make you happy.  That’s a very simple principle.”

New material is on the way, “It’s always happening,” Blitz says.  “We’re already in production.  I was sitting here scratching out lyrics and vocal lines.  I’m working on 11 songs right now.  We’re working out parts.”

His writing process is unique to him. “This morning I started scratching out lyrics, rarely do lyrics come to me immediately but when they do, they’re good.  When I write, my head is so far ahead it almost looks like [hieroglyphics].  Jason’s joined the band, he’s a ball baster and doesn’t take shit in the band.  I like guys that like to have a good time hitting the skins.  What’s he gonna bring to it?”

He still has his album favorites, though they change, “When I start writing, I go over the last stuff we did quickly.  I don’t wanna repeat myself or rip myself off.  I really got into the Ironbound record.  Still a big fan of the Underground though.”

After all this time Blitz is still happy to be here, making music and wrecking necks, “I look forward to the release of Overhausen and again, we’ll see what Jason can do and this new phase of Overkill.”


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