Six bands are slated for an all-metal match at the Battle of San Bernardino at the San Manuel Amphitheater sure to have fans screaming and moshing under the stars.
Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Anthrax, Testament, Sabaton and Overkill are expected to showcase why each band has earned legendary status during the outdoor music celebration Sept. 13.
Thrash metal band Overkill (www.wreckingcrew.com) has been in the scene since 1980 and has remained consistent with its 16 or so albums, despite numerous lineup and label changes. The band currently consists of original founders, vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni, joined by guitarist Dave Linsk, rhythm guitarist Derek “The Skull” Tailer and drummer Ron Lipnicki. All of the players traveled from their homes in New Jersey, except Linsk who resides in Florida, for the San Bernardino concert.
“I think of myself listening to the first record, there's something there, but it's really about uncontrolled chaos back in the ‘80s when we started,” Ellsworth said. “Now we really know what we want. We actually have a formula and we try to get that chaotic feel coming out of the speakers, but it's more of a controlled chaos.”
Verni is still the main writer for Overkill, creating the starting riff for each song. Then each member adds his part and the piece is readied for Ellsworth's lyrics.
“It really goes through a process, starting with D.D. and ending with myself, almost blue collar,” Ellsworth said. “We're building houses. He starts with the foundation and I put the roof on it and between that foundation and roof, a lot of other stuff happens that the other guys are involved in.”
Overkill has been writing material for a new album set for release in March 2014. The band doesn't plan on any big changes, rather it feels that it best pleases its fans by remaining true to its sound.
“I think Overkill is Overkill and that's the beauty of us,”. Ellsworth said. “We're a thrash metal band, a heavy metal band with speed influences, but we've never had an identity crisis and we're not really looking to go other places.”
Still, Ellsworth isn't sure how to credit Overkill's success.
“Is it tenacity or nose to the grindstone, or consistency or just stupidity? I really don't know. And why try to figure that out?” he said. “I'm still living in that world, which is something I could never have dreamed of when I was a kid — and I started doing this when I was a kid.”
Even though he doesn't care to admit it, Ellsworth, like Overkill, is also a survivor. In 1998 he had surgery for an aggressive form of nose cancer and beat it. In 2002, he suffered a minor stroke on stage, and in 2013, the band dropped out of the “Dark Roots of Thrash” tour when Ellsworth had double pneumonia.
“Regards to those bumps in the road, that's it; they've just been bumps in the road,” Ellsworth said. “If they didn't happen when I was on stage, I would have never told anybody, nobody would have known.
“I think what keeps me going is loving what we do and also looking at these incidents in my life as just incidents, not necessarily life changing moments. It was more about how do we get around this problem and keep doing what we like to do. If you put that all together it's about attitude.”
Ellsworth played clarinet in school and also plays bass guitar, but voice has always been primary in his life. When he was growing up, his Irish mother and her nine sisters would sing harmony at family gatherings. Ellsworth's earliest memories are not of learning to walk or talk, but of his mother's voice.
Ellsworth relishes writing, recording and touring at the same time.
“I've always looked at this as trying to accumulate as much energy as I can and using that energy behind the mic whether it's live or in the studio, so when you come off the road, tired or not, you're pretty energy-filled..” Ellsworth said. “I get great results recording right off the road.”
Ellsworth has a home near the Appalachian Trail that he shares with his wife. His 6-year-old German shepard Dakota shows up in his office with her squeaky toy at the same time each day to tell him its time to go out for a walk.
Spending time in nature “kept me grounded and it reminds me that there's a lot more to life than just Overkill no matter how important Overkill is to my life,” Ellsworth said.
After the Battle of San Bernardino, Overkill plan sot continue working on its album and then tour with Kreator from the end of October through November, with a stop at the City National Grove of Anaheim on Nov. 15.
“Things are looking good for us,” he said. “The horizon's still bright.
Battle of San Bernardino
Featuring: Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Anthrax, Testament, Sabaton and Overkill
When: 3 p.m. Friday
Where: San Manuel Amphitheater, 2575 Glen Helen Parkway, San Bernardino
Information: 909-880-6500, www.livenation.com