Overkill släppte nyligen sitt 17:de album, “White devil armory”, och Rocksverige kunde givetvis inte tacka nej till att ringa upp den karismatiske sångaren. Mellan sina David Lee Roth-liknade skratt berättade han bl a om svåra tider, nya albumet och vad det är som gör att Overkill låter som Overkill. Dessutom visade det sig att senaste albumet inte är deras bästa.
No, it´s not, but it´s the most exciting. If you don´t have that boyish or girlish excitement about it… I think what´s makes this stuff valuable, is having that fucking excitement about it. I can´t say it´s the best because I can´t be that dishonest, but I can say that I´m fucking excited! You´ve got a whole bunch of guys in their 50´s walking around with hard-ons! It´s better than Viagra! (laughs)
Where did you get the title “White devil armory” from?
Bobby: Very simple, imagery! DD (Verni) was enamored with the word armory, to the point where I would open my e-mails in the morning and he was going “I was up last night googling pictures…!” He was sending me picture after picture of different armories around the world. I said that I liked the word, but I wanted to go somewhere else with it and started adding color and numbers etc. Adjectives prior to the word, after the word, the words in the centre… I scratched down “white devil” on the back of a telephone bill in my office, added armory to it and what happened was that instantaneous imagery, like a movie playing through my head. Then I googled it a hundred times, just to make sure I wasn´t stealing something. (laughs) I think it´s a cool way to start a good thread for the whole record!
Was there a song with that title at any point during the recordings?
Bobby: No, there wasn´t! Even the song “Armorist”, which opens the record, came afterwards and that´s what I mean by the thread. I mean, the song had been started and it was musically completed prior to that, but the lyrics became added as “White devil armory” became the thread that we were going to use. I don´t think I write with regard to anything but emotion, but I try to make those emotions to do a short story that to some degree are linked. I´m not talking concept, but I´m talking about the armorist, singular, and eventually by the time you get to the song “In the name”, it´s not singular, but a group of individuals. Somewhere in there, if there´s any kind of a meaning, it´s probably the subconscious meaning of “I´m more powerful with a group, than I am alone”.
Is there anything about Barrack Obama on the album? Last time we talked, you made it clear you´re not a fan of his.
Bobby: You know, I try to stay away from the political thing, but I think that if you twist things far enough along, you can look into the song “King of the rat bastards” and be able to find the correlation… I honestly write inspiration as opposed to specifics. Especially when it comes to politics. I don´t think I´m as qualified as some people think. I think the idea about a band like Overkill, and one of the reasons we´ve succeeded for this period of time, is that we kind of are the departure from that shit. It´s more like “Let me get away from my problems, feel my emotions, let them explode, sweat a little, breathe hard and say that was fucking great!”
The song “Another day to day” made me instantly think of your health scares?
Bobby. I´ve had a few issues come up. I cancelled a show in Hamburg and ended up in the hospital with borderline pneumonia and all this shit. I remember sitting in the German hospital, trying to recover from this and this guy came in and told me I had six months! I sat up all night and remember going through my computer, “Who do I owe money to?, Who owes me?” My wife was on vacation and I didn´t wanna ruin her vacation with it, but it was a fucking awful 12 hours. I wasn´t really expecting that and I never expected it to come as news to me in broken English. In any case, the next day the woman who was in charge came in and said “What are you talking about? No, you have to change your habits or in 6 months you´ll be in another hospital again” and I was like “Fuck!” and I had already scratched down “Another day to die”. (laughs) So I suppose I got my wish. (laughs) But what are you gonna do? Right at that moment I stopped smoking tobacco. Actually that night, I didn´t care. I went out on the balcony and I was smoking and wondered if there was a liquor store so I could get a few beers up here too. (laughs)
It really makes you think, right?
Bobby: Bulletproof, I think is one of the characteristics that you need to be in a band. I´ve had some health issues in the past. If this had happened at home, I never would´ve told anyone, but it happened on the road. I still thought I lived a healthy lifestyle and to some degree I am. To be able to do this at my age, I just turned 55, and I don´t think of myself as someone who is unhealthy. I think of myself as bulletproof still to this day. I live by the philosophy, a person told me this, “It´s not about my problems, it´s about getting through my problems!”. I think that´s pretty simple, because if you can see through the problems, I think they always have that brighter spring day on the other side of it.
You always look so fit. How do you stay in shape?
Bobby: I do more of the cardio thing now. I´m really into hiking and there´s small mountains all around looking out my window. I climb these mountains twice a week with my 7 year old German Shepherd. We go hunting and we go looking for bear and animals in the forest every week. It just becomes what my body needs. If you hear the record, you don´t hear the clouds or the shadows of age, but you hear more so the youthful exuberance we had in 1985 or 86. Whatever I´m doing, it seems to always work for me.
You mentioned hunting. Do you hunt a lot?
Bobby: No, I don´t hunt! I meant hunting as in looking for. The bear is her (the dog) natural enemy and we have two wolves that live on our property here. Two mothers and two babies from each mom and then there´s one male that shows up every now and then. We see them twice or three times a week. They´re creatures of habit and they´re looking for the barbeque and they are my dog´s natural enemies. She might pick up a scent and I say “Go get them!” and she´ll try to go search them out.
Sounds like a beautiful place! Do you think you would have a different approach to lyric writing, had you lived in New York City?
Bobby: I think that´s a good point! I lived in the city for a while and I went to the university in the city. I wasn´t writing lyrics at these times, but for sure, I think I´d have a different outlook on things. When we were younger and did what we did, it was all about chaos and there were no rules. I think as time went on, we decided or we developed or morphed into something and you need to be relaxed to be able to do what you´re doing and to be able to follow the rules you´ve created for yourself. I think this is a good place for me to be in, to do this stuff now. It´s only about that stuff now and when I wanna get away from it, I´m not walking out onto a street in Stockholm or New York City, I´m walking down our driveway to a lake and everything gets left behind.
How would you say today´s Overkill holds up to Overkill in the 80´s when it all started out?
Bobby: I remember talking to DD about “White devil armory” and he asked what I wanted and I said “I want it to drip with experience!” and he said that it was unusal thing coming from a group about chaos and I said “Yes we were, but we went from uncontrolled to controlled chaos and there´s something to be said about experience from controlled chaos. I think that´s a huge difference. In 1985 we were making the rules for ourselves as the minutes passed or the days passed or each project passed. In 2014 we know what we wanna do and that´s why there´s not a lot of talking, you kinda nod and wink at the other guys and they know what you´re thinking. There´s a beautiful thing in non verbal communication. To come up with a result like we have with this record without a lot of communication that´s going back and forth and just a mutual understanding between five guys, is something that is much different than the 80´s. In the 80´s we had to talk everything over and discuss and discuss to the point where our faces were blue because we weren´t breathing, we were just talking.
Was it simpler or harder back then?
Bobby: It was fun! You were in a band and it didn´t matter that someone was studying to become a doctor or a lawyer or a nurse or a politician or whatever they were going to be! It didn´t matter, because you were in a band and that was more important than any of that shit.
Is it a must to stay true to the Overkill sound?
Bobby: Of course it is, but again, it´s nothing that´s spoken of. The Overkill sound is a natural expression of ourselves. Are we artists? No! We really kinda live in a box and I don´t think an artist really works in a box? We create songs and we have much more of a blue collar work ethic to this as opposed to saying that the mind is limitless so we can do what we want, because it´s just not true! I sing that way, DD writes this way, Dave plays that way, Ron does this and I think that when you put all that together, you get something that is creative, that is fantastic and does stay true to itself. But it´s not like we read the ten commandments of Overkill before we go in (the studio). I think that´s probably the beauty of it, the purity and this what we do and we do it well and we´re not afraid to learn about ourselves. You put all of that together and you get an Overkill record.
This is your 17th album. Do you ever think about how many more albums you´ve got in yourself or du you just keep on going?
Bobby: I think the key to, and I can only speak for myself and not the other guys, progress or the next situation, is to not think about it. From where I stand, I´m a lot more short sighted than my partner DD is, he´s a lot more long sighted and he plans things. I take opportunities and I always think in the terms of one opportunity to the next. For instance, talking to you is an opportunity and if I make the most of it, I´ll probably get another opportunity. If you take that philosophy and DD´s long sighted philosophy, somewhere in there it gives us the legs for the longevity to have done 17 records and enjoyed them. Shit, even when times were lean we were enjoying them! We were saying “Hey, we´re still in a band!” and for a guy who´s 40 or 45 and still in a band, that´s fucking great! We must have something special and the key for me is to not be long sighted and be more of an opportunist and day to day person.
What would you say has been a high point of your career and a low point of your career?
Bobby: The low point is obviously the health issues. I remember back in ´99 when I was going through cancer screening all that crap and you have to wait. You didn´t go in and they say “Oh, you have cancer! We´re gonna fix you and you´ll go home at 4 o´clock and be better.” That´s just not the way it is, you have to wait. It´s a cross to bear. My first thought wasn´t about death, it was more about “Shit, I won´t be able to do Overkill anymore!”, but at the same time it was something in there that said “If that´s what I´m thinking and it´s worth so much to me…”, so I remember I called DD and he said “What do you need? Do you want me to come up?” and I said “Do you know what I need? I need a song! You´ve got anything laying around? I´d really like to work on some stuff if you have it, instead of just sitting around here waiting?” About three days later, I got some really rough demos and I wrote the song “Necroshine”. I think somewhere in there it became the lowest point and the highest point simultaneously. It became a vehicle to walk through the problems and to actually understand that it wasn´t about me anymore, it was about not being the most important and it was out of my hands and I had to accept it.
You recorded “Miss Misery” by Nazareth as a bonus track for the new album. Was there any other cover songs you were thinking about?
Bobby: I got Mark Tornillo (Accept, TT Quick) to duet with me on that one. Mark sent me the track and he did a great fucking job on it! The other one we did and we didn´t do it for the record, is actual another vocal duet, but it´s DD and myself singing and trading off verses on “Man in black” by Johnny Cash. We did it country and didn´t we didn´t heavy metal it at all. It´s just electric and acoustic guitars and it´s a real cool cover and we´ll probably save it and release it later in the year.
Finally, is the latest album always the best album?
Bobby: No, it´s not, but it´s the most exciting. If you don´t have that boyish or girlish excitement about it… I think what´s makes this stuff valuable, is having that fucking excitement about it. I can´t say it´s the best because I can´t be that dishonest, but I can say that I´m fucking excited! You´ve got a whole bunch of guys in their 50´s walking around with hard-ons! It´s better than Viagra! (laughs)
Av: Niclas Müller-Hansen