Overkill at Wacken with DD. Verni - 04/08/2007

Since forming in 1980, OVERKILL has put out over 20 albums. Despite various lineup changes, the band has never gone on hiatus and has continued to stay true to the metal genre it helped create. With Megaforce Records and their management company led by Jonny and Marsha Zazula, who were responsible for the early careers of such bands as Metallica, Anthrax and Ministry, among many others. Overkill released three albums on Megaforce Records before making the jump to Atlantic Records where a string of critically lauded albums, including 1991's quintessential "Horroscope", solidified Overkill as one of the best metal bands of all time. In the past few years, the band has released such gems as ‘Killbox 13’ (2003) and ‘ReliXIV’ (2005). 


Recently the band signed to Bodog Music and they has set an October 9 release date for the new album from the legendary thrash metal band Overkill, entitled ‘Immortalis’. The group's collaboration with Bodog reunites Overkill with Jonny and Marsha Zazula, previous owners of Megaforce Records, the label responsible for putting metal on the map and bringing Overkill's New Jersey thrash metal to the world.

The upcoming album and corresponding East Coast tour will feature Overkill's latest lineup, which along with Ellsworth, includes original bassist D.D. Verni, guitarists Derek "The Skull" Tailer and Dave Linsk, as well as the newest member to join the band, drummer Ron Lipnicki.



At the Wacken Open Air festival some months ago we had te change to talk to Overkill’s original bassist D.D. Verni, so here we go. “Your latest album ´Immortalis´ is due to be released in October, so we´d like to ask you a couple of questions about it!”


How did you launch into writing material for ´Immortalis´?

I finished up the music for it last June. I was done writing it a long time ago! At the time we were singed with another label and we were getting ready to go into the studio, we thought we were going to release the new album in January 2006. But then we went on the Gigantour with Megadeth and when we did that we had some other interest from other labels, it just took a long time to get it all sorted out. When we write we don’t think, "the record should be like this", we just kind of do it what feels good at the time. Each record is sort of a snap shot of what we’re thinking or feeling at that time. sometimes when you get your label people involved they´re like, "there should be at least one song on it that should be a radio song and  a ballad". But we don’t write like that, we just do what feels natural. After the last touring cycle maybe this record is a bit more thrash, a bit more old school faster thrash metal. That is probably because we were on the Megadeth tour. We were with those guys and feeling it and we just kind of leaned that way, we didn’t think of it beforehand we just did the tour and got the feeling.


How do you guys come to a musical agreement when you write a record?

We have an art writing process where I do the music. Me and Blitz we don’t even discuss who´s going to write what! I just do whatever I feel like and he does whatever he feels like and when all this is done we get together and say this is too long, this is too short, little things here and there. The music will give him a certain kind of feeling and that´s what he´ll write about.


After all these records is it hard to write something original or would you say with all the experience you have it comes naturally now?

Well, it´s still hard because we have this huge back catalogue and we want to stay true to the kind of music we make. We´re not going to start making reggae songs or whatever so it´s hard to think of new ways to do stuff. But the writing process itself I’d say is easier because I own a recording studio now. This makes life easier as there´s no time pressure and you have access to everything you need. We can experiment a little bit more so that part is easier but thinking up new things is definitely challenging. It is more relaxed when you have your own studio because there is less tension and you think you have all the time in the world but at the end there’s always someone like a record company knocking at your door saying "we’ve got to have that record now!" The good thing is when you have your own place you don’t have to work so many days in a row. You can just take the weekend off and hang out and come back. I think if we were younger that would probably be a bad thing because we would just spend these days partying but now we would spend these days resting.


What´s the reason why you guys have lasted so long?

I think the reason why we’ve been around for all these years is because Bobby and I have a pretty good work ethic. I know some bands haven’t released a record for three years and then they´re like, "oh my god we need to come up with something!" but we’re used to working, we think of the band as our job. Some guys are electricians and we’re in a band. We treat it like it’s our business, we love it but that’s how we look at it.


Is there a special ingredient for an Overkill song?

Yeah, energy mostly. I like many different kinds of songs and I also like slower songs, so sometimes I’ll experiment with that with overkill. I don’t know if the kids love them as much as I do, they seem to like the more energetic ones. We try to create a balance. We want in your face tracks, more grooving songs and something you can sing along to. For some bands it’s a shame that they can´t have fun on stage, its all business for them. We get to have fun, we figure you should all just grab a beer, grab your partner and sing along!


How did you end up signing with Bodog?

We were actually going to sign with someone else first. Johnny Z and his wife discovered Metallica, Anthrax, Testament and us, all those thrash bands from the 80´s. They retired but they got a little bit itchy and they wanted to get back into it. Bodog is a huge company and they wanted to do a metal and rock division of what they are doing, they wanted someone who knew this kind of music to do this for them so they talked to Johnny and Marsha. Their first thought was to work with the bands that they knew and that they had worked with. So they came to one of our shows in Manhattan and they hadn’t seen us for a lot of years and they were blown away! They were like, "what, is it 1990 all over in here again?!" So they said why don’t we do something together and we started talking about different ideas. We were just comfortable with that seeing as we had known them for many years, like family. Negotiations went on for a long time so that’s why it took longer and longer to get the record out but we’re excited now we committed to a period of about five years and two or three records. It’s nice that they’re so excited. They only called us about two weeks ago to see if we wanted to do this show for the fans and do some press. Just a fun thing, so that’s why we were on the small stage. It was insane how many people were there, there was room for about 10.000 and there was almost 30.000 there. The other bands were already booked here so it wouldn’t have been fair to bump them off the main stage..


Can you tell us something about the lyrics on `Immortalis´?

I never understand what Bobby´s writing about! I read them and sometimes he tells me and sometimes he’s not even sure himself. Sometimes he’ll just write about a feeling, it may mean one thing to him but to someone else it can feel totally different. It’s never what I thought it was. I’m not all that concerned with lyrics, if they are interesting and/or fun to sing along to, that’s ok.


How important is it that people actually pay attention to the lyrics then?

We’ll it is important in a way, the worst thing would be to have like a Manowar album, that’s kind of silly to me.. Don’t get me wrong I love Manowar, they are fun and everything but the lyric thing is kind of silly. You want them to be interesting, they have to make the song better.


Have you had any feedback on ´Immortalis´ yet?

Blitz and I are overwhelmed, the press really liked it. Thrash and speedmetal seems to be having a bit of a resurgence over here and because the album is a bit more thrashy we got some great reviews here. Germany has been so good to us, for two decades now we’ve been coming here to do shows. Sometimes it’s frustrating because they never want us to change but they’ve stuck with us through everything and they know that in our core this is what we do. German people more than any territory in the world like that and respect that.

So how would you describe a typical Overkill fan?

Even though we’re playing for 30.000 people we try to treat the show like it’s a BBQ. If we could get out there and pass beers to everyone we would, that’s why a lot of times we laugh on stage or we’ll stop in the middle of the song if something funny happens. Us and the crowd being together, that’s our personality in the band and that goes into our music and our shows. The people that like us probably feel the same kind of energy, they kind of have the same philosophy. With some bands because of what they do their fans are really sort of angry and it’s funny because when you meet the guys theyre really nice.


Is there anything about ´Immortalis´you´d liked to have changed in retrospective?

It’s probably too new, ask me in a year. There’s always things that you would have liked to have done differently, I can’t imagine writing an album and not wanting to change a single thing afterwards. Right now it’s so fresh, we really love the artwork and everything. The production came out great and. I know we recorded a bunch of stuff here at Wacken and I think they are going to include some of that stuff as a bonus on the disc so right now it couldn’t be better.


Can you explain the implications of the title ´Immortalis´?

We couldn’t find a title for this album and it was getting later and later. We were talking to Johnny z and we were telling him that we were looking for a Latin word or phrase and the next day he said, "what about ´Immortalis´, cause it means immortal in Latin and it kind of applies to you guys.." In an interview it was once said that Overkill are the cockroaches of metal, you can stamp on them  but you can’t kill them. And it was also the last day, we really needed a title! So when it came we all said, let’s do it. No title track on this album, but you know, we did Overkill and then we did Overkill II and then Overkill III and then we kind of stopped. But on this album there’s another Overkill. We just kind of picked up where the other one left off, I don’t really know why, it just kind of happened. But for people who are fans of the first three albums it’s good. When we were recording the song we said to each other, "hey this sounds kind of like the other ones!" and then Blitz started doing the lyrics for it and it was a fun thing because it just took us right back. A lot of times there´s retrospective things that come out but me and Blitz are also really interested in what is happening today.


Do you think times have changed in a big way?

Some bands kind of get caught up in their own history. We’re proud that we’ve been around for twenty years and we’ve done all these things but we just want to say this is what’s going on now. You know the Pantera song "Yesterday don’t mean shit"? It doesn’t! But we are proud of the history we built. I guess we were just lucky  that we have partners in the band like me and Bobby who have a very similar work ethic and very similar ideas on music and even more so on how the band should be run and what we want to do. Me and him have been on the same track for almost thirty years and most of the time we agree on things. We have a routine. Things have changed so much, when we were 25 years old we were crazy people, having fun drinking and just going nuts an now we’re 35 years old and we have kids and it’s just all different, but in a good way.




Do you have a personal favourite on ´Immortalis´?

I actually have a handful of them, there’s this one song called "Skull & Bones" that is the first song that we ever had a guest on. It’s this guy Randy who sings with Lamb of God and we got to be good friends with him when we were on the Gigantour in the States. These guys used to come up on stage with us every night and sing "Old School", they loved it! They’d come up with their beers. So we said we should do a song where you can come sing. But his voice is very death metal and the song is not like that at all so when you listen to the song you’ll hear Bobby and then when he starts singing you’ll be like, what the fuck is that! And they go back and forth. Its’s something new that we hadn’t done before, the voices are just so different and it’s really cool, I kind of get a kick out of that. They’re really good guys, some newer bands just don’t have any idea of what came before them but the Lamb of God guys knew everything, theyd been to all our shows when they were kids, they knew every Testament song. They were so into that stuff and they were excited that we were going to be on that tour too so that was really nice.


We´d like to ask you a couple of questions that´ll let our readers get to know you better..


How did you guys get into the music business?

99 percent of the bands will tell you its something they’ve always dreamed about as a kid, you don’t always think of the end result, like we´re going to be at Wacken, you just want to play some gigs. We started like everybody did, we played in the basement, we wrote some songs, you pack your stuff in a stationwagon and play a gig for 25 people and it feels great and then you do flyers and there’s 50 people and you grow. At a certain point we were playing up to 2000 people while we had no record so Johnny Z came down with his label and they signed us. And then we came down here with Anthrax because we were both on the same label, that was our first time in Europe and we grew and grew a little bit more. We had good people around us and so we were able to make good decisions, they put things in place for us. It happened gradually. A lot of bands have been around for a long time but they made bad decisions and they ended up with no money.  Its amazing these days how really young kids become stars and the way they are treated is like they’re adults but they’re children. I didn’t even start playing the bass until I was 17! It’s a whole different world. Back then they signed you in order to build a career, they would sign you for 4 records and hope that you would become more popular with each record. Now they just sign you for one record, if it works they’ll take it from there and if it dies, it dies.



How do you feel about illegal downloading of music?

I don’t know exactly, I guess it’s all kind of unfortunate. It affects the fans, and they’ll get the music any way they can but if you sell less units then the label will be unhappy and they give you less money to make the record. So then the record is less good and the fans will be unhappy so it kind of all works together. In the future I think things will change even more when it comes to the way we buy music, it seems it will change into something even I can’t think of where maybe we won’t be able to buy records anymore and it’ll all be downloads. Or maybe bands won’t even release whole records anymore and just do three songs at a time instead so they can control things more. It’s not so much about the fans as  it is about the labels, they just want to make more profit. It’s trickling away little by little. Recently a major newspaper in the UK put copies of records in one of their issues and the labels went nuts. If it was up to me the fans could just have the music as long as they come to the shows but it doesn’t work that way.


What kind of music do you listen to yourself these days?

I pretty much listen to all kinds of metal and I’m always looking for something new, everywhere I go I listen to new stuff. Someone gave me a Nightwish record and I kind of liked it! But I mostly like the heavier stuff, Machine Head is one of my favourite bands and I like Lamb of God. I pretty much like all the stuff I grew up with like Slayer and Megadeth and other old thrash bands. I’m not so much a fan of powermetal. That’s alittle too light for me I guess, I like it a little more dirty and nasty like Motorhead. Rob Zombie is in my player right now, I like that a lot.


Which album made you think, "this is what I want to do when I grow up!"?

Kiss Alive! That’s the reason, I had posters all over my room all over the place, that’s all I  cared about for a long time. Kids in the seventies, rock ‘n roll metal legends. It was either Kiss or Zeppelin. I was into the explosions and bat wings and catchy songs!


When will you come back for an Overkill tour?

In January/February. The album will come out in October and we’ll be in the States then. We´re going to South America in about two weeks and then we’ll take the holidays off, we have kids and I wouldn’t miss doing the daddy thing.


Thanks for your time!



(Martina Schouten)



Current members :
Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth - Lead vocals

D.D. Verni - Bass

Dave Linsk - Lead guitar

Derek Tailer - Rhythm guitar

Ron Lipnicki - Drums


Former members :

Rat Skates - Drums

Bobby Gustafson - Guitar

Sid Falck - Drums

Rob Cannavino - Guitar

Merritt Gant - Guitar

Tim Mallare - Drums

Joe Comeau - Guitar

Sebastian Marino – Guitar

Albums :

Power In Black (1984)

Overkill EP (1984)

Feel The Fire (1985)

Taking Over (1987)

!!!Fuck You!!! (1987)

Under The Influence (1988)

The Years of Decay (1989)

Horrorscope (1991)

I Hear Black (1993)

W.F.O. (1994)

The Killing Kind (1996)

 !!!Fuck You!!! and Then Some (1996)

From The Underground And Below (1998)

Necroshine (1999)

Coverkill (1999)

Bloodletting (2000)

Killbox (2003)

Unholy (2004)

ReliXIV (2005)

Immortalis (2007)


Live :

Wrecking Your Neck (Live) (1995)

Wrecking Everything (Live) (2002)

Extended Versions (Live) (2004)