OVERKILL - TAKING OVER
Photos courtesy of Metal Force, Billy Hale and Blood Metal Donors.
Episode 123 continues its Classic Albums series, this time around we focus on Overkill’s Taking Over. This episode will contain comments by Overkill frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, and former guitarist Bobby Gustafson. You will also be able to read Q&A interviews from the band’s original drummer Rat Skates, and former guitarist Joe Comeau below.
producer, and The Rods drummer Carl Canedy, Testament’s Gene Hoglan, Dangerous Toys’ Jason McMaster, Justin Christian and Bill Bodily of Toxik, fellow New Jersey native Alan Tecchio, Stu Marshall of Death Dealer, Tom Potter of Gundriver, Guitar World’s Dave Reffett, Count William Jannusch of Witchcross and Ravensthorn, and Mick Michaels, James Pera and Sean Nelligan of Corners Of Sanctuary.
Here is the Q&A with Rat Skates
How did you first meet Blitz and D.D.?
Verni was in my high school. I found Ellsworth by running an ad
in “The Aquarian” newspaper; it was answered by our founding guitarist “Riff Thunder”, who brought Ellsworth along. Watch my film “Born in the Basement” to discover the untold story. You can still get the DVD FREE at https://ratskates.com/Free/
You tried a bunch of different guitarists, but no one really stuck until Bobby Gustafson, what made him stand out from the rest?
He was into Maiden and all the NWOBHM bands; he played well and was open minded to the direction Verni and I had in mind.
Taking Over has tracks that are still played on metal radio, and the band is still playing live, could you ever have foreseen that tracks off of the album would have that sort of staying power?
No, absolutely not; the reason being is that we were breaking new ground and part of a new movement that was evolving so fast that I really didn’t have much of a chance to think about anything except where we were AT; not where we might end up.
What are your memories about recording with Alex Perialas?
GREAT memories…lots of crazy times…lots of beer. He was – and still is – the real deal, and my friend! He was a rebel and not afraid to take chances. Technically, he knew his shit. Broadly, he knew the metal scene, and above all he always gave us 110%.
In recent years musicians have come out and complained about how he produced certain albums, do you have an issue with how he produced Taking Over?
Great question! I have always had an issue with the album production. BUT, Alex was not THE producer; it was a co-effort between him and the band. The regrets I have are not with anything Alex did, it’s what the band did.
I was really impressed at the way Terry Date produced the Metal Church album, it was really heavy and each instrument was crystal clear. THAT is the production I was pushing for. BUT, naively thinking we could sonically out-do Master of Puppets (which was EVERYONE’S frame of reference), we layered WAY too many guitar tracks, eating up a lot of “bandwidth”, and hence, the drums got completely buried, and it ended up one big wanna-bee-Metalli-mess. (But, something positive DID eventually come out of it for Overkill; after I left, they used Terry Date to produce their next record and got a great sound).
During Overkill’s ’87 Taking Over time period, there was not just a blatantly obvious Metallica influence amongst certain members, but an embarrassing attempt to copy them. That lasted only about a year until the thrash fans saw through it; big white high top and peg-leg Metalli-pants intoxicated the musicians and saturated the scene. Thrash became predictable and burnt out faster than it arrived. This was one of the reasons I said “see-ya!” Innovative songwriting could be the only thing anchoring a band’s longevity; it would HAVE to carry the bands past that arc of irrational exuberance and keep them relevant. And, it really only did for Metallica, although good songwriting is what mostly carried the other 3 of The Big 4, but not 5 though…
What are some of your fondest memories of touring behind the album?
Personally? Depression, frustration, confusion, drinking and sleeping too much. But on a band level, we had literally taught Helloween about how to conduct a live performance in Europe. In the states, Megadeth had to really step up their game with us opening…we were on fire. We had arrived.
Did you have any favorite tracks off of the album to play live?
I loved to play ‘em all…didn’t matter; just loved to play.
Shortly after you departed from the band, do you have any contact with your former bandmates?
Shortly after, yes. Today, they still choose to avoid me.
You have transitioned into being a filmmaker and producer, has been in Overkill helped you in any manner with film?
Yes, but it’s not specific to Overkill; it’s having experienced the journey of fulfilling my (then) musical dream by stubbornness, vision and hard work. I enjoyed the journey much more than the destination. To this day, the DIY mentality that I used to carry Overkill is still hard wired into me. So I never second guess the scope of what I can do creatively. It’s a great freedom not being a slave to any genre. And because I’m sober, perceptive and open-minded, I can relate to anyone about anything. I carry the flag of objectivity and honesty; THAT is what allows me to make a difference in people’s lives, and hence, to rise above the mediocrity of the herd. I’m very grateful to be doing what I love.
Are you currently working on any film-related projects?
Yes; many…my writing is always manifested in film, TV or spoken word. (See the next question)
Where should people go if they would like to keep up with any project you might be a part of?
Here is the Q&A with former guitarist Joe Comeau
Were you a fan of Overkill before joining the band, if so, what turned you onto them?
Actually, I was! Of course, I have been a true metalhead since I started liking music. Overkill was obviously a part of the East Coast NY Thrash scene I enjoyed.
How did you get involved with the band, did you have to audition, did someone recommend you, etc.?
DD was familiar with my other band RAMROD with Sebastian Marino. We jammed with DD and Tim Mallare after Rob and Merit left…it was a great fit and we joined at the same time.
The album featured during our Classic Albums series is Taking Over, in your opinion what is this albums influence on you, and metal in general?
It is a big part of Overkill’s history…but It didn’t influence me that much as I was more of a fan of The Years of Decay and Horrorscope.
What were some of your favorite tracks to play live off this album?
I’d have to say “Deny the Cross”, “Wrecking Crew” and “In Union We Stand”.
Your era of the band recorded was together roughly four years, what was special about this lineup’s chemistry?
I was actually in the band over 5 years with rehearsals and touring etc. Seb and I had one sort of style together as we had obviously played together since we were teenagers. Our style together is like clockwork and a cacophony of melody with controlled powerful feedback! Then when Dave joined after Seb left, we became really tight together as well and started to gel with our own thing. Both lineups were very powerful.
You recorded four albums with the band, three that featured all original songs, and one that was all covers, do you have a favorite?
I have fond memories of all of them, but I would have to say From the Underground and Below was a highlight and pinnacle.
What are some of your favorite tracks from your era of the band?
“God-Like”, “Burn you Down”, “The Cleansing”, “Long Time Dyin'”, “Genocya”, “F.U.C.T.”, “Necroshine”, “My December”, “Let Us Prey”.
What prompted you to exit the band?
I needed to feel more of a part of ownership of the band I was in and of my giving 100% dedication to…I didn’t want to just be a hired gun as EVERY lineup was and is since Gustason and Rat left. I wanted credit for my writings and contributions. I also wanted to sing again and Annihilator gave me that opportunity.
What are you currently working on?
DuskMachine, Liege Lord and more to announce!
Where should people go to keep up to date everything you have going on?
Thanks for listening and Metal On my friends!
HERE ARE COMMENTS SENT BY OTHERS ABOUT OVERKILL AND TAKING OVER
THE COMMENTS ARE DISPLAYED IN THE ORDER THEY WERE RECEIVED
Jon Leon – I have always admired Overkill. Not a top band for me but they are a great and solid thrash band.
Joel Gausten – Classic New Jersey Thrash. Much respect to this band for staying in the game for 35 years – and counting!
Metal Mike – I listened to this album nonstop while I was attending High School. This is a well-written, intense, heavy record. Overkill was really kicking ass. I was a total fan, (still am). This is my favorite Overkill album. The way the song “Deny The Cross” sounds blew me away.
James J. LaRue – I get the feeling Overkill is probably more popular now with the retro resurgence than when this was released. I loved their logo and album covers as a kid. And I can listen to any of their albums today and not feel like skipping a bunch of songs. A classic for sure.
Will Carroll – Overkill’s best. When I was a kid, (HA,WHEN) there was this house at the end of my block which was a half-way house/religious commune. When I would do my paper route I would always bring a little ghetto blaster with me and blast, SURPRISE, metal and whenever I would pass this house I would shout the lyrics of the opening track “Deny The Cross” at those poor lost souls.