About Me

Intwerview with BPMD

Who would think that in 2020, four guys that make Metal the best, would release an incredible and brilliant album like the 70’s? If you like the sound of that time and American bands that were important in that decade, you will certainly like this album. Take note: June 12th, via Napalm Records. This is the release date for "American Made". Mark Menghi (Metal Allegiance) and Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill) spoke with Metal Imperium. The story, the bands, the obstacles and more, were a pretext for this interview.
Thank you, gentlemen !!!

M.I. -  Hi there, guys. I hope you are great, safe and sound. We’re going through some crazy times. What have you been doing?

Bobby: I’m in New Jersey, New York, right now. Things are ok, obviously some changes, but I’m still working. Still writing music, riding the motorcycle. What about you, in Portugal?

M.I. -  I’m doing great. Things are getting better, but when the malls open, there will be an increase of cases. So, let’s see how the situation will go. What about you, Mark?

Mark: I’m good. I’m in New York. I’m in the middle of the hot spot. There’s a lot of craziness going on, right now, with this Covid. I’m healthy, my family is healthy. So, it’s a good thing. 

M.I. -  Gentlemen, do tell us the story of the birth of this band, please?

Mark: Sure. Basically, it started last Summer. The idea came from last Summer, when I was listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, at my backyard and my younger son, suggested that we played that song, that played on the radio (“Saturday Night Special”). I started thinking about: “How I would play the song, if I would be able do this?” I started hearing these guitar parts, drum parts, melodies, etc. I picked up the phone and called Ellsworth. I called him and said: “Hey man! What do you think about us playing a song and doing songs like this?” and that’s where he came up with the idea:” Yeah! I want to do them! An American band.” And the rest is History!

M.I. -  The band name BPMD has the initial of all of the band members… how did you decide the order of the letters? By importance?

Bobby: (laughs). By age (laughs). Raquel, we wanted to do the presentation of the record, much like the 70’s. Which bands use initials? Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), for instance. So, we wanted that presentation, on the artwork, to have something to do with the 70’s. That’s why that band name was chosen. It was simple. I think it shows commitment as a band, but also shows, let’s say, our commitment as individuals. So, in my opinion, it was a good choice.   

M.I. -  You are very talented musicians. What was the feeling of working with each other?

Mark: It was fun. I mean, we had a lot of fun. That’s why this exists, because it’s four guys having fun. No expectations. We’re paying tribute to musicians that inspired us and Bobby says it’s the best. It’s the reason why we’re doing what we do. It’s just having fun and pay tribute.

M.I. -   This is a revisit to your youth and it’s amazing. Why did you choose these bands and not others? What type of sound, lyrics and meaning were you looking for?

Bobby: When we put this together, it was general rules, that we talked about. We said: “For this record, it as to be American! It as to be the 1970’s! Each have to pick two songs! When we put the band together, everybody gets two choices and the band was put very soon after! I think within two days, we have a full band!” So, everyone had two choices. And one of the other rules, was: “Whatever choices were made, the rest of us have to play them!” so, it was kind of a game, that we would play inside this. It gave us the opportunity no to have it one- or two-men’s idea, but all of ours. This made everyone have equal excitement. Say for instance, in Phil Demmel case, he always wanted to cover “Tattoo Vampire” and this gave him the opportunity to do that. So, the rest of us, had to be on board with it. And I think, looking specifically for what the lyric content was or what the band was going to be, because, sure, we could have chosen Kiss, the iconic band of the 70’s, but we chosen deeper cuts from bands, that had huge impact on the American music scene of the 1970’s. It really, in many cases, became the bridge to what Heavy Metal was in the 80’s. I think it just naturally worked out that we got deeper cuts of the bands that had greater influential to some of the original underground, of what American music was.

M.I. -  How did the recordings go? Was it difficult to do this album? What obstacles did you have to face? I know that you recorded no more than a song or two per day.

Mark: No! It was actually really easy! We all got together at Mike’s house. He was in Pennsylvania, here at the East coast, in the States. The four of us got together and we arranged the songs, having fun, listening to music together. Mike happened to hit the record button as we were jamming. So, it has that live feeling of energy in it. It was easy. We did all the ten tracks in one day. That’s how easy it was for us.
Mike did all ten songs in one day. I did one to two songs per day, just because I wanted to pay equal attention to each song and I wanted to see and challenge myself to see, if I could do it in one take. if I didn’t do it in one take, I would delete it and would start all over again. That’s how this music was written and recorded back in the 70’s. There was no punching in, punching out, copy paste. That technology didn’t exist. It was all done and recorded via tape and if you wanted to punch in and do it, it had to be for a really good reason. And that’s why I did it.

M.I. -  What was the most challenging song to record? What did you learn from it?

Bobby: For me, it was probably one of Phil’s choices: “D.O.A”., by Van Halen. Most of the other songs, I was very aware of them. I had a kind of delivery or presentation, that was influenced by Steven Tyler, influenced by Cactus, kind of a greedy Rock ‘N Roll. But when “D.O.A.” came along, there was only one David Lee Roth to me. This was something that became a more challenging track to me, because it put me in a position to challenge myself, in the way to adapt that presentation, on how my presentation would be.

M.I. -  “The goal with this record was let’s not change them and make them a thrash song, like a vintage thrash song where it’s speed and aggression.". What challenges did you have to face?

Bobby: I think the idea that we talked about earlier, was that presentation was key. Each of us have a go to or a personality of presentation that we use for ourselves, over the years. We had to make this come together and be chemistry, to make the right record. But the key was to use presentation but keep the integrity of the song. So, the goal all the way, for all blown thrash, would have lost some of that original integrity of the songs that we’ve chosen. So, I think that naturally it just came out more, let’s say, in an aggressive Rock ‘N Roll record. And those kinds of results, gave it kind of a natural ambience, regarding what we were trying to succeed with. It was about presentation, reimagining the record and keeping the integrity of the songs, as they were in an original form. 

M.I. -  “American Made” will be released on the 12th June, via one of the major labels, Napalm Records. Did they give you full control of this album?

Mark: We signed the deal when the album was done. When we were recording this, mixing and mastering, we didn’t have a record label and we necessarily, weren’t even looking for, at that point of time. We decided to fund the record ourselves and once the record was finished, we started looking for a label. Yeah! Musically, we had full control. We even had the artwork done, before we had a record label.

M.I. -  Mark Lewis is a good friend, who has worked with you on Metal Allegiance. In what ways did he contribute to this masterpiece?

Mark: I like Mark, because he is no bullshit. If he doesn’t like my bass tone, he’ll tell me. If he doesn’t like my playing, he’ll tell me, and I like that. Working with him on Metal Allegiance, there were times that he would make me go back and rerecord. “You can do this better! You can try this! Try this tone! Try this amp!” He would challenge me. So, I knew when the time came to mix and master this record, he would be the one, not only because he would push the album. He did that, especially when it came to a few of the recording parts, between the four of us. He would go: “I’m not feeling this! Let’s try this!” And he has that modern touch, with his mixing, to make vintage songs sound like today. We modernized them and Mark’s production was perfect. 

M.I. -  You are four talented musicians, who decided to pay tribute to some of the most iconic bands. Did you feel any pressure, while recording this album? How?

Bobby: I didn’t really feel the pressure. Like I said earlier, I grew up in this area. So, this era of the 1970’s, is what introduced me to music or heavier music. For me, it’s something that’s been in my blood. This was again where I became attracted to heavier guitar tones, to blues and rap jams, to what became in some cases, the original Heavy Metal. So, for me, it was an easy transition.

M.I. -  Van Halen’s “D.O.A.” was quite of a challenge, isn’t that right? What were the obstacles?

Mark: For me, I never learned a Van Halen song before. That’s challenge 1. Challenge 2 was how do I honor tribute to Michael Anthony, on the bass part, to keep the integrity. But I put my style into this. It took me a few run-throughs to kind of figure it out how I was going to do. In fact, they’ve even recorded, and I scrapped, we’ve scrapped half of my recording and I went back to it again, just because again, I really wanted to do it the right way.
Bobby: “D.O.A.”, like I’ve spoken earlier, I didn’t have a David Lee Roth presentation. I have more of the presentation of Grand Funk Railroad, Cactus. These were more of the presentations which were natural to me, regarding the phrasing and singing style. When I had to learn David Lee Roth’s stuff, it meant I had to dig in and challenge myself, to make it realistic, not just imagining the song and do it my own way, but to say: “Ok! These guys played great music for this track, “D.O.A.! I have to do it my way, but I still have to keep the integrity of David Lee Roth in there!” So, that was the biggest challenge for me.

M.I. -  Let’s talk about the tracks. “Toys In The Attic” is an Aerosmith’ song. It’s a very difficult track to cover, especially since they have two guitarists. Do tell us the adventure with this song, please.

Bobby: I think that he had really to imagine the fact that there were two guitars and kind of take him somehow of the original track. For the rest of us, there wasn’t an issue with this, because this was more up to the speed that we normally would record in our original themes. For me, it was an easy song to record, but I think for Phil, that was probably the biggest challenge for him. 

M.I. -  In every song, there’s a Ramone vibe. Who had the idea and why add that type of sound?

Mark: I think that the Ramone vibe came from Mike, because everything is up-tempo. All the songs that we recorded and covered, have that up-tempo vibe, specially “Tattoo Vampire”. That has more soul than probably any other song. 

M.I. -  The album is very amazing and mixes America and Rock perfectly. Where did you get the inspiration from and who helped developing it?

Bobby: The inspiration was very simple: “Let’s have fun with this!”. It’s sort of worked out that we are having fun and ready to release this record. The time is kind of dark for the world in general, with regard towards the situation. But I think what we did, was remember where we came from. To know where you’re going, you must know where you come from. And while I, originally chose music as for instance, a career or a lifestyle, like the four of us had, this was one of our choices. But the reason we’ve chosen it, was because it was cool, fun. There was no overthinking this. If this idea was presented to me, it was simple. It was either in my head: “Yes or no!”. Obviously, YES! And I think that was the way for the other guys too. Mike Portnoy’s returned to music; Mark Menghi is into the 70’s; Phil is very open-minded to play in so many different things and in many styles. So, the chemistry was already born. For me, it was very simple: “Have fun, do it right, remember where I came from!”. 

M.I. -  Did you do more themes that you excluded? If so, which ones?

Mark: There’s a lot (laughs). There’s a lot of bands I’m sure we would love to cover: Europe, bands from the 60’s, bands from the 80’s. We really set the grand rule, only because it was just a fun challenge or something to challenge us. Yes! There’s a lot of different themes for sure, that we could play and do for the future.

M.I. -  “Toys In The Attic” is the first single, directed by Victor Borachuk, from JupiterReturn, art director and motion design, Natália Tanus e Leonardo Gill. What criterion did you choose for a team, that could help you with the effects, sound, equipment and more?

Mark: Victor is an old friend of mine. He’s great with camera. He knows how to capture video and we were originally supposed to shoot a live video, with the four of us together. Covid hit bands and we couldn’t do it anymore. Then we just started trading idea:” What could we do for a video?”. He’s the one who came up with the video. I said: “That’s cool”. We made some edit and changes, just to see what was more stylistic or not. Victor was fully responsible for what you say.

M.I. -  Do you plan to release another single? Which song?

Mark: “Evil” came up yesterday. That’s the second single with a video and, then, a third single will be released a day or two before the record drops.

M.I. -  Many bands only cover songs in the hope of making them better... what's your opinion on covers? Do you think the original themes have improved?

Bobby: I think that’s up to the individual. When you go into somebody else’s round, which is what we are doing, we didn’t create this. All we did was recreate the presentation of it. It’s not about necessarily making them better, it’s they’re good. We do it because it’s just a fun idea to hear and imagine it by different musicians. That’s as simple as that for me. You pick these songs, because you love them and pay tribute to them. You don’t pick them to make them better. You pick them to celebrate them.

M.I. -  Would you like to do a tour or concert, with the original members, as guests?

Mark: (Laughs). Although Metal Allegiance exists already, I think that we will play together, when everybody is ready and allowed to play. If Billy Gibbons wants to join us on stage, by all means, he’s welcome. It’s just the four of us and that’s what it is.

M.I. -  What is the difference between this band and the bands you usually play in?

Mark: The differences is I don’t have to deal with 38 other band members, so that’s kind of cool. Metal Allegiance has a lot of people. So, that’s one big difference. 
Bobby: For me, primarily my entire life, I’ve done just Overkill. I maybe have stepped out a few times, I started Metal Allegiance and don’t mind just being one of those moving parts, to a very large degree. I’ve spent, Oh God, up to twenty-five years of Overkill, being half of the voice to how it is. In this case, part of the full democracy was regarding to four guys, that we all choose and I think that was fun for me to step out and sit back and have fun and not think as a business but just more something that I can have a great time with.

M.I. -  In these crazy times, the music community is more united than ever. And the proof of that is a benefit show to raise funds for the Old Bridge Militia Foundation, a 100% non-profit 501 C3 charity Foundation, on 30th May, and a fund raise for your crew. Will you stream it live for the fans?

Bobby: That show has been cancelled, by the state of New Jersey. There is no possibility to do that show. Of course, we wanted to do the first BPMD live performance, for something that was more than just ourselves, but to help friends, to give back and to be part of that. So, charities are necessary, and we hope we can reschedule as soon the doors open to live concerts again.

M.I. -  Which are you plans? Personally, and for the band?

Bobby: Right now, I think it’s an interesting time, obviously not just to myself, but for the rest of the world. Also, for those in the music industry. It’s a time of rethinking, reimagining, reinventing. So, what I’m doing right now at home is promoting the BPMD project, looking for ways to get it on the road, writing Overkill material, riding the motorcycle (laughs), working on cars and taking cooking lessons from Mr. Mark Menghi (laughs).
Mark: I do a lot of fishing outside, hanging out with my kids, being at home, playing a lot of bass. Plans for the band: only time will tell, once Covid goes away. It’s hard to tell, what are the plans.

M.I. -  Thanks so much for making this interview a dream come true. Any final words would you like to share with us?

Bobby: Thank you, Rachel. It was wonderful and I think it was a great interview. I hope you enjoy BPMD. Stay safe and OLÁ, PORTUGAL!
Mark: Thank you for the support.

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Raquel Miranda