The word „metal“ always reminds me of the 80s. We were honored and had the opportunity to do an interview with a former Overkill guitarist, the legendary Bobby Gustafson, one of the driving creative forces within Overkill and East Coast Thrash metal scene. And btw, Happy birthday to The Years of Decay (released on October 13th 1989).
Agoraphobic News: What are your biggest musical influences ?
Bobby Gustafson: I'd say as far as bands go my favorite growing up was Black Sabbath. Priest ,Maiden , AC DC.
Agoraphobic News: Can you share the story about Feel the Fire album cover to the fans?
Bobby Gustafson: We wanted to do a real picture for the cover. It's a real fire behind us but we were to close to the flames and we had to run away. So we needed to take more money from Megaforce and try it again. This time we stayed further away and it worked. Still my favorite cover.
Agoraphobic News: In 1986 Overkill was on tour with Anthrax and Agent Steel in Europe when the Chernobyl incident happened. Can you recall that moment?
Bobby Gustafson: I do. It was very scary for the entire world. No one knew what to think about what could be the result. Of course we have to do our first European tour right after. Thx Russia. I think Charlie from Anthrax was the most afraid. He brought canned food from home.
Agoraphobic News: I guess that the Chernobyl explosion influenced millions of people, including thrash metal bands. But was there any other historical event that had a great impact on Overkill's music?
Bobby Gustafson: We didn't touch to much on world events. I always thought the lyrics should have more substance instead of fantasy. But that was Blitz. Never connected on that level. Closest to anything would be Elimination I think it touched on Aids in some way.
Agoraphobic News: According to Bobby Blitz, Overkill was the first American band to play in Poland. Isn't it ironic that even though the Polish communist government invited you guys to play in their country, you and DD were arrested and charged of espionage for taking photos at a local train station?
Bobby Gustafson: Yea. That was a very scary situation. We ran out to take quick pictures and get rid of their money which was nothing out of the country. So while taking pictures they threw us in a holding cell. I think it was more of the cops giving us a shake down for money. The lady from the magazine said they want money to let us go so we gave it up quick as we could.
Agoraphobic News: What riff are you most proud of?
Bobby Gustafson: I love them all for one reason or another. But Skullkrusher,Evil never dies or some thing saime like Elimination. Drunken wisdom, is heavy, Wrecking Crew.
Agoraphobic News: The band had problems releasing the Fuck You EP. Was PMRC involved, or Atlantic just thought the title was inappropriate?
Bobby Gustafson: It wasn't much of a problem. It was released as is then they started to want it covered up mostly for the stores. It's probably tame compared to today. But it's defiantly one of a kind cover.
Agoraphobic News: Under the Influence has oddly-timed riffs here and there. But what’s the most striking about that record is the cool looking comic-art based album cover. Who drew it?
Bobby Gustafson: I think after Taking Over cover which Rat wanted went so bad we decided to try art. They found two guys Fasner and Larson and I had an idea. Thought it would be cool to blow kids heads off but they tamed that down. It's cool but not real heavy looking now.
Agoraphobic News: Overkill's original drummer left the band in 1987. How important was Rat Scates for Overkill? I’ve read in an old interview that Overkill auditioned 65 drummers afterwards... I don’t know if that’s true, but Rat Skates seems like quite an irreplacable guy.
Bobby Gustafson: It was more like 20. He did a lot early on. Not as much as he said in his video but our two most solid recordings came after with Sid. So I’d say very replaceable.
Agoraphobic News: I've read on Wikipedia that Nothing to Die for has never been played live. Is that true? I mean, if I had a dime everytime I played that devil's chord riff, I'd be a millionaire...
Bobby Gustafson: I think we did once or twice. But it just didn't go over live like it did on the album. Some songs work out that way
Agoraphobic News: The Years of Decay album was probably Overkill's finest. Some of the fans may not know that the whole album was written by you. How did you get over your departure from the band? I mean, it was you who pulled the strings in a very critical moment for Overkill’s career, but in the end you didn’t reap what you have sewn.
Bobby Gustafson: I said goodbye and good luck. You can tell quite quickly the main man was gone. But they let it go down the way it did so reap what you sow was more on them.
Agoraphobic News: Playing with spiders / Skullcrusher is the only song on that record in C tuning. What was the idea behind it?
Bobby Gustafson: Yes absolutely. Sabbath changed tuning first but SkullKrusher I think start a whole bunch of bands tuning down. You really didn't hear it much in 1989. Now everyone plays lower.
Agoraphobic News: Do you like Horrorscope album?
Bobby Gustafson: I mean, despite the line up change, that record is standing shoulder to shoulder with The Years of Decay...The only reason that is close to Years of Decay is because he had 6 years to write his album after me. I was turning out our albums every 6 months. After all his riffs were used up they really didn't do as well.
Agoraphobic News: In 1987 you declined Dave Mustaine's proposal to join Megadeth. Does that have something to do with you playing explorer and drinking beer with James Hetfield? (haha)
Bobby Gustafson: That's for you to figure out.
Agoraphobic News: What is your favorite Overkill song from Overkill I-IV series?
Bobby Gustafson: Evil Never Dies probably.
Agoraphobic News: How come that Evil Never Dies is the 4th in a row, but you guys didn't name it like that?
Bobby Gustafson: Because I wanted to end what people were expecting to be there. So E N D. Was just something I noticed after I had the title. Very freaky.
Agoraphobic News: Have you ever considered a possibility of making a documentary of your own like RatSkates did? Or perhaps releasing an autobiography?
Bobby Gustafson: I did but I just don't think it would be that interesting. I have great stories and things I've done but who cares. Very pretentious.
Agoraphobic News: Are you working on some musical project right now?
Bobby Gustafson: Yes I am coming out with a cd of my first 5 Satans Taint songs with 5 new ones. Before they were only downloads. I hope to do more charity work with the Hail Mary project some say. And I have a few things that are in the works that I can't talk about yet. Keep in touch and you will find out.