If you grew up a metal fan from Jersey, two bands should be at the top of your “Favorite Jersey Bands” list. I’m talking about Overkill and Symphony X. Overkill was always at the top of the heap when you threw out names like Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer or even Nuclear Assault. Symphony X, on the other hand, was always a bit more progressive and technical, but singer Russell Allen’s screams always made you squeeze your nuts because they were so high. He was always in Halford range. He’s taken some time off from Adrenaline Mob to hit the road with his old bandmates in Symphony X.
The two bands kicked off their first-ever co-headlining tour together in September, which will culminate with a L’Amours Reunion show at Terminal 5 in NYC this Saturday night (10/17) with my brother and legendary L’Amours deejay, Alex Kayne, who will be releasing a book called Rock Capital Of Brooklyn: The History Of L’Amour, The World’s Most Famous Heavy Metal Nightclub, accompanied by a slew of photos from legendary photographer, Frank White.
But back to Overkill, the band just released a box set called Historikill: 1995–2007, which features the band’s back catalog within those years. In 2014, Overkill also released their most successful CD to date in White Devil Armory. It seems to me Overkill is back!
Singer Bobby Blitz called me from the other side of the country to talk about the tour, the new box set and their upcoming show at Terminal 5 in NYC. Here’s what he had to say:
You guys are currently on tour with fellow Jersey boys, Symphony X. Is this the first time that Overkill has ever toured with them?
Yeah, it is, but we have a long relationship. They actually rehearsed at my partner D.D.’s [Verni, bassist] studio for over a decade. We would be recording in one room and these guys would be rehearsing in another room. So, the relationship is longer standing than just, “Hey, it would be great to have two Jersey bands tour!” We actually have a deep friendship between both bands.
You and Russell Allen might have two of the most recognizable voices in thrash and heavy metal. Are fans of Overkill and Symphony X really taking to this tour? How have the crowds been?
You know, there’s a different balance here. I think that that’s really what the attractive nature of this is. Is that sure…you mentioned it…thrash and heavy metal, but the idea of going out here is not always to convert it, but to be able to take a chance and bring some Overkill and Symphony X and vice versa. I think that’s what we’re getting. I mean, so many years into this, now to do a thrash tour is a hell of a lot of fun because we’re cut from the same cloth as those kinds of people, but there’s also common elements here. We all come from that heavy metal gene. You know, everyone’s got a little bit of that Judas Priest in them somewhere and I think that’s probably the best way to describe this. So I think there’s a pretty neutral satisfaction all the way around from both sets of fans.
Do you feel you are winning over some new fans, namely kids, with each show?
It’s funny because it’s not even this music that has obviously transcended a generation that’s not thrash and/or just heavy metal or the progressive type of metal these guys play. But I think that heavy metal in general is just something that is really hard to dispose of. I think that once it gets in your blood, it becomes part of the fabric.
There was a story the other night that our light guy was saying and he said when Symphony went off, there was a kid behind him when we went on that said, “Boo! Bring back Symphony X!” And by the end of the show, during the encore the same kid is chanting, “Overkill! Overkill!” So I think the proof is in the pudding right there that there was at least one person that was won over and I think that obviously that there is a much larger degree than that.
Overkill just released a box set called Historikill: 1995–2007, which is comprised of your whole back catalog. With the state of CDs the way it is today, do you feel Overkill fans will still go out there and buy the box set? Or can they download the whole box set as well?
Well, sure. There’s collectors who are gonna go get it, but I think that the real idea of this box set is when you’re talking about that 10-year period, it was more, like I said before, metal didn’t go away. It was still a darker era for metal. It was a dirty word and it was pounded into the ground by flannel shirts from the great Northwest. People like myself and other people within this genre, we’re always very comfortable in the underground because that’s where we started. It’s almost like going home again.
So, when we talked about the vibe of the music earlier and generations coming and younger kids, this box set is like an instant catch-up course. I mean, this is showing that there is 10 releases in a 10-year period where still solid metal releases happened. And to me, one of my proudest eras in the band because it wasn’t the easiest thing to do at that time. It was much harder because it wasn’t the flavor of the day, as grunge kind of pushed it to the side.
On a personal note, Overkill always had that Jersey boy tenacity of nose to the grindstone pushed through the wall. Who cares what the other people think? I think that’s what Historikill had. So, quite honestly, a pretty valuable piece of real estate.
Which CD in the box set is your favorite? My favorite Overkill CD of all time was always Taking Over because “Wrecking Crew” was on it.
Out of the box set, I would have to say From The Underground And Below. It was released in ’97. It was band produced, but then we brought in Colin Richardson of Fear Factory and Machine Head fame. And I think when he mixed the record, he kind of really reinvented our sound. He almost updated it to a more modern era without compromising that integrity we talked about. When I hear that record, I want to hear that whole record, start to finish. And when I was a kid and I put on Judas Priest’s Unleashed In The East or Sad Wings Of Destiny, they were cohesive records. Black Sabbath’s Volume 4; you wanted to hear it start to finish and I think that’s one of the qualities From The Underground And Below has.
You released White Devil Armory last year and chart-wise the CD was probably Overkill’s most successful to date. Is it safe to say this was a refreshing rebirth of Overkill?
I just think it’s a great testimony to the health of the scene. You know, you’ve mentioned the word kid a few times in this interview. It means there’s a new influx in here that kind of breathed a youthful life into it. So, I don’t necessarily think it was reborn, but for sure the scene is, and it’s a great reflection of the scene at this point.
I read online that you guys are writing album number 18 while you’re on the road?
Yeah, we’re just collecting ideas at this point. There’s not any physical recording. It’s just a working them out at soundcheck sort of thing. I travel with a recorder because when we’re together, it’s not really about talking about the record. It’s really kind of doing it so we’re at an action as opposed to a blueprint or a plan. So, I have had a pen or a pencil. We’ve been playing our ideas at soundcheck. So that’s kind of the way we start. We have both our feet in the deep end but for sure both feet are in the water right now.
On Oct. 17, Overkill and Symphony X hit Terminal 5 in NYC, which is basically a homecoming show for both bands. What can expect to hear from Overkill’s set list? Any surprises?
We do a mixed bag of tricks. We like laying down some of the new stuff and the reason is because we haven’t played it 35,000 times. It’s more fun to play a song that you’ve played a hundred times than 22,000 times. So we’ll have a mixed bag of the classics. We like to throw in some unusual stuff that we haven’t done; throw them back and resurrect them. So you’re going to feel the new and it’s going to be motored by the old.
What’s Bobby Blitz’s song to perform live?
Right now, it’s a song off of White Devil [Armory] called “Bitter Pill.” We’ve done a video for it. It’s one of those things I’ve always liked about this band is that it has different tools in this arsenal. We have the crunch, we have the speed, we even have some blues and some old Sabbath-type feel. And I think this song incorporates all of that. That’s why it’s kind of exciting because it’s really a retrospect of what we do as a band with regards of those tools.
One of the last times that I saw you, you were rehearsing with Dan Lorenzo in The Cursed up at a studio in North Jersey. Are there any other side projects when you’re not performing with Overkill?
D.D. has The Bronx Casket Company. Dave [Linsk] has an extreme thrash band called SpeedKill/Hate. I always talk to Dan about doing another Cursed record because it was a fun kind of rock ‘n’ roll project and I’ve always liked working with him. But the main focus at this point is doing what we do and this is really kind of secondary stuff. I remember telling me one winter, “Just stay in the house” because the winter was so icy and I like riding bikes and I like being outside and just couldn’t do it. Then she said, “Why don’t you get a hobby like music?” I was like, “Oh, what a great idea! I better call Dan Lorenzo!” (laughs)
One last question, what’s Bobby Blitz listening to musically these days?
Oh, gosh! I’m still caught up in some of the older bands that have new releases. I thought the last Accept record was really good. I even liked the Judas Priest record. I picked up the Lamb Of God record. This is the metallic-end of things that I like. But sometimes I search as far as one of the last records I bought was from a guy named John Pizzarelli. I went to high school with this dude. His father was Bucky Pizzarelli, a great jazz guitar player. And the record is called Goodnight Mr. Sinatra. It’s jazz versions of Hoboken Frank’s greatest hits!
Catch Overkill and Symphony X live at Terminal 5 on October 17 for L’Amours Reunion Night, where the book Rock Capital Of Brooklyn: The History Of L’Amour, The World’s Most Famous Heavy Metal Nightclub will be presented. For more info on Overkill visit, wreckingcrew.com, and for more on Symphony X, visit symphonyx.com.