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The only Overkill interview you ever need to read

Taking Over [1987]

Prior to the recording of Taking Over, Overkill toured Europe with Anthrax(the Metal Hammer Road Show) and the U.S. with Slayer. MTV invited the band to come on the air, and played the “In Union We Stand” video on a semi-regular basis.

It was kind of a wall of sound. We became a bigger band. We started getting a plan. The whole thrash genre had taken form and individuality was coming in. There was, for sure, a Bay Area sound that had taken shape. There was a Slayer sound. And I think we were developing our own wall of sound. I’d taken vocal lessons and came into the studio and lost my voice again. That was something new for me; I realized I had to learn how to sing properly. So that was part of Taking Over for me. I was taught to sing — or I at least touched on the beginnings of those techniques.

I always looked at what I did with regard to vocals as being not just a singer, but a part of this band. Part of the effect. It was my job to create, as you call it, “grit,” or as I see it, that explosiveness when the vocals happen.

It was a scene born unto itself. Twenty bands that knew each other and what the others were doing. It wasn’t instantaneous, like today. You couldn’t just log on and see what the new Testament single was going to be. You had to wait to get it through Megaforce. But Exodus would come to town and we’d hang out. We were excited about what they were doing. I’d like to tell you that every band was original, but there was a certain degree of borrowing that happened in order to allow that sound to come to fruition.

Tours ensued with Helloween in Europe and, in the U.S., with Megadeth, whose infamously debauched first line-up was coming to pieces.

They were coming off the rails and they were a really exciting band because they were coming off the rails. There was something really charming about that explosiveness. You know, I remember standing in Philedelphia and Dave saying to the audience, “You’ve just witnessed the last performance of Megadeth.” And this was 1987! I think there was a great camaraderie between the bands. Even with Dave and Junior, there still is. They’re great guys and great friends. I still think of that tour fondly, one of my favorites.

Under the Influence [1988]

Original drummer Rat Skates is replaced by virtuoso Sid Falck for this “fan favorite” album, which is perhaps the band’s most “traditional” thrash album.

We lost Rat Skates at the end of the Megadeth tour. We got out to Long Beach and played the show and he packed his bags and left. We’re sitting there in our RV, you know, and the lighting guy we had was like living with a pirate and he said, “It’s no time to be crying, boys!” and bought us a case of beer and two bottles of Crown and we drove back across the country. I remember sitting with D.D. and realizing this wasn’t going to be the end of it.

Sid Falck had been involved with Paul Di’Anno, and prior to that, he’d been in bands in Denmark. We’d had open auditions and forty kids showed up in leather outfits. And we’re sitting there in jeans and T-shirts, like, “What’s up with these guys, I guess they’re trying to make an impression.” Sid was suggested to us. He was untapped, and hadn’t reached his full potential yet. We saw it right away.

Sid was a unique drummer. He wasn’t really cut from the scene and wasn’t aware of what thrash drummers were doing, which was the cool thing about him.

Under the Influence is not one of my favorite records, though — it’s in the bottom. Some outside influences started coming in. What we had accomplished on Taking Over, we were losing on Under the Influence. I can only see that in hindsight, but when I think about the record, it just never comes across as a truly original piece of work. But Sid added to it, and he progressed with every record.

Years of Decay [1989]

Career-defining fourth album produced by the legendary Terry Date and featuring the songs “Elimination,” the video for which was in regular rotation on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. The album also features “Skullkrushers,” a nine-minute groove dirge unlike anything heard on a thrash record. It marks the first of many record Overkill would make at Carriage House Studios.

We couldn’t measure our position then — where we stood in the scene. It was telephone calls and print ads in magazines. We had to wait to get the sales figures and all that. But, yeah, creatively we really came into our own on that record. Bobby Gustafson was a big part of that record, and D.D., of course. I’d become better at what I was doing, writing melodies. Ideas were flowing and we brought Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera) to produce the record. When I think of that record, I think of it as an end of the first chapter of the band — a great end. Because we walked away from that Under the Influence thing, you know, doing what everybody else was doing, and really came into our own as a band.

Working with Terry was a step up, but the thing about Terry is that as talented as he is, and with the way he could twist knobs on an SSL — you know, you think of this super insane genius thing going on — but Terry was the most relaxed motherfucker on the face of the earth. He made you feel comfortable in the first two minutes. And after that, every time you walked into the studio you felt comfortable. And he got great results out of us.

My kid was five at the time, 1989, and I used to love talking to him. He liked it when I talked like Sylvester the Cat, slurring the S sounds. I’d say, “Come on son, let’s go get a mouse… all the other cats have a mouse,” you know? And I get into the studio, and I’m doing the song “Elimination,” and I can’t understand why I sound like shit. We’re listening back and I’m getting all uptight about it, saying, “I just don’t get it, the demos sounded good.” So Terry solos my voice and three minutes later we’re laughing so hard because every vocal in the fucking song sound like Sylvester the fucking Cat singing. Now, in front of anyone else I might have been embarrassed, but we just cracked a couple of beers and laughed. My point being that, to be able to make that kind of mistake in front of such a high-level producer and to feel relaxed about it says a lot about what kind of a dude Terry is.

It was fun working at Carriage House. We could drive there and get him. We’re married guys and could get home after if we needed to. It was secluded and it had the equipment we liked: an SSL board, state of the art at the time, an edgier board. It didn’t round out the sound like the Neves did. I liked to make it sound like professional, like we knew what we were doing, but that wasn’t always the case. I remember Sid Falck counting the cases of beer we’d gone through in the first two weeks. You know, it felt great. We were making this powerful thing, but we were still living like juvenile delinquents.

I don’t talk money — it’s my Jersey genes. But we had apartments, enough to get by. I wasn’t driving a Ferrari. I think I had a 1985 Renault Alliance because it was car of the year. D.D. bought the same car and it broke down two weeks later. “Car of the year, my ass,” he said, and I said, “Hey, I got mine for $3,000.”

During Under The Influence era, we’d started off at L’Amour’s in Brooklyn, and then we got sent to the Uptown Ritz on 54th street. By ’89 we’d sold out 54th street, the biggest rock club in New York. So, yeah, we felt like we were making a noise that was bigger than just our inner circle.

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