Overkill singer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth tells the best stories. Whether he's sharing a story about his career, the New York Mets or singing his lyrics in one of his thrashtacular songs, Ellsworth knows how to fire up his audience. With Overkill's brand new album, The Electric Age, a successful chocolate shop and a cautiously optimistic attitude about his beloved Mets, Ellsworth is a busy man. But never too busy to make time for the Aquarian, the paper that helped he and bassist D.D. Verni connect back in the '80s. The conversation is below.
Let's talk chocolate first…
My wife and I own a chocolate retail outlet in Nyack, New York, just outside of the Aquarian's reach. It's close to the Bergen County line. It's primarily imports. My wife is Dutch. I was about to open a studio and I thought, “She is not going to want to sit in a studio.” She had done her legwork on this and had always been in service industry with her parents. We went that route. I've bailed [out] the Lamb Of God guys a few times on Valentine's Day when they need some chocolates. It's cool. Music and life changes. This is viable too. People who like the band also come get the high-end Belgian chocolates. We opened the store in 2004. We had one in Jersey for a while and one in Nyack. They were great niche businesses that had nothing to do with the recession. The business model is recession-proof. You are not jockeying for position by saving people 10 cents. If people want Belgian chocolate, they get it. We closed the Jersey one. Nyack is a great walking town and like a Greenwich Village. Chocolaterie is the name and quite simply, it means “chocolate shop.”
So you've been thrashing since the ‘80s. What keeps you in the metal game after all these years, especially with your successful side business?
We've worked on a schedule, since 1985. You do it this long, you obviously love it. It's brought me, my wife, chocolate [and] getting to go on tour to all sorts of places. I find it funny. We're releasing our 15th record, we're going on [our] 15th world tour and there were still places I have not been. There are still some uncharted territories. There are still places to go. It's the same electric vibe with The Electric Age. It's not overexposed and it's not polluted. It's pure. It still gives back what we put into it.
Seems like a good enough reason since making music is still fresh for you and you still have territories to hit.
I've got a great partner D.D.—we're both Jersey guys. We have the same background. No matter how much I travel, the most comfortable place is Jersey, since I feel like I am understood. I can wink or nod, people know what I mean. But as for me and D.D., we have this 30-year relationship, business and professional. Every aspect of the band goes across our desks; tour posters, t-shirt designs, the deals, contracts. We are a self-managed band, so we have a larger stake. It's not just the love of the music, even though that is the ultimate motivation. But we have this business, with the same model, the same background. It grew and it's growing.
Pick one song on The Electric Age and put us inside the song with you, be it writing or recording story.
"Electric Rattlesnake" is getting the most attention based on the fact that our European label, Nuclear Blast, and our U.S. label, eOne, wanted to release it as a leaked single. When I wrote the song, I was looking at the fireplace, listening to it on the iPod, thinking what a killer riff this is, putting the chorus down on scratch paper and the phone rang. I had to bail out. I think it got thrown into the fireplace (laughs). Under normal circumstances, this would be a disaster. But how I feel about success and songwriting is this: If you can remember it, then you have something that is special. I was able to go into my basement and hammer it out. What attracted me to it was the neckbreaking pace on the front end, but still had a bluesy vibe. Then it broke into half-time and quarter-time. I thought, “It's every aspect of the band in six minutes and 15 seconds” (laughs).
What else is on the docket for Overkill in 2012?
You know, we have such a blue collar work ethic. This is about getting it done. We work on that clock. It works for us. It's a U.S. tour followed by European festivals, European touring, North American festivals [and] an Asian tour. This is what we will do for the next year but we keep it in balance. We'll do a 30-day pop out, come home for six weeks. We do it in balance and that keeps us going. I tell ya something, it's not the worst life. I am smoking Cuban cigars and rolling dice, like the middle-aged boys club (laughs). That's what we like doing.
Okay, so I've gotta ask. How are you feeling about the 2012 Mets?
Oh, yikes. With the mismanagement of deals and the Madoff thing, it was a house of cards and it came down. I will take my old man out to Citi Field early on and then think, “It's not going to be a bad year.” But between now and the end of our first tour, I will be wholeheartedly rooting for the New Jersey Devils. I'll tell you a story. My dad turned 75 in 2005. I had been doing side work and benefit performances for people and a New York Met was a big metal fan. He always said, “If you ever need anything…” So once, I said, “Hey man, I want your box for my dad's 75th.” Years before, after dropping out of Manhattan College, my dad asked, “Is this about art or free beer and girls?” I thought, “I gotta lie to my old man and said, 'It's about art, pop.’” So on his 75th birthday, we're in the box, it's beautiful and we're at Shea, and he said “I knew this Overkill thing would work out” and I said, “It was about beer and girls 25 years ago.”
That type of longevity is not an accident!
You know, I've got another story for you. I also met D.D. when I was in D.O.A., a punk band. He was in an original band called The Lubricunts. We both had ads in the Aquarian with the same words! That's how we met, through your mag!
You can catch Overkill at The Trocadero Theatre in Philly on April 20 and at the Best Buy Theater on May 12. Their new album, The Electric Age, is available now. For more information, go to wreckingcrew.com.