Ex-Overkill Axeman Bobby Gustafson
Returns To Metal With New Band RESPONSE NEGATIVE
Interview By EvilG
Transcription by Waspman
the late 80's, one of my favorite thrash metal bands was Overkill. Their
album THE YEARS OF DECAY got a LOT of "airplay" on my home stereo
back then. One
of the main things I liked about the band was the guitar playing of Bobby
Gustafson. When Bobby left the band in 1990, I was disappointed. Skip
ahead to about 1996-97. I was at that time in the early stages with Metal
Rules. I did a "Where Are They Now?" page for Bobby since I hadn't
heard much from him in ages. That didn't lead to any great scoop on what
he'd been up to. Oddly enough it was a recent interview I did with Bobby
"Blitz" Ellsworth, Gustafson's former band mate in Overkill, that lead to
this interview taking place. Shortly after the Overkill interview went
live, I was contacted by Jim, the drummer from a Florida band called Response
Negative. This was an entirely new band to me. Jim e-mailed to let me know
that they had recently recruited Bobby Gustafson
into their ranks. Thanks to that contact, an interview was set up and I was
thrilled to finally hear the other side of the story regarding Overkill
and to find out what Bobby had been up to for the past 13 years!
I guess the first question is that a lot of people, myself included,
want to know about your departure from Overkill. In 1990 you were asked to
leave Overkill by Bobby and D.D., and we’ve all heard their side of the
story and I’ve never read or heard yours, so if you don’t mind, I wouldn’t
mind hearing what your side is and what happened there.
Yeah, I don’t mind. We can just start by saying that I was not asked to
leave the band. It wasn’t something where they came out and said, “Hey,
you’re fired!”. It was more of a verbal fight between me and D.D. about
doing a show where they wanted to do it strictly for money and I didn’t
want to do it because we had just sold out Studio 54 in New York, our
biggest show, and they wanted to do a Halloween show that was kind of
goofy. They wanted to charge full price, which at that time was about $15
or $20. I said that it wasn’t right and that we should either not do the
show or keep it half price because it’s not a real Overkill show.
One thing led to another and I hadn’t talked to D.D. for two weeks, so
I knew that something was up. I later found out that he was doing stuff
behind my back with the management, trying to get me out of the band
pretty much. They called me in and we had a discussion and it was like
“They want this, they want that”, and they started putting judgments on my
music as far as what we were writing next time and I said, “Hey, I just
wrote four albums worth of stuff that nobody ever said anything!”. By that
time I had found out what was going on behind my back and that he was
trying to get me kicked out, and I got really upset. When Blitz came back
from his honeymoon I said, “Hey, I’m not playing with this guy anymore, so
the decision is yours”. Actually, D.D. was kicked out of the band first
and he sort of came back. I said, “Look, I’m not playing with him”, and
Blitz said, “Well, I’ve been with him longer, and I kind of want to stay
with him”. I was like, “OK, I’m gone”. That was it.
I think what happened was that when their guitar players over the
years, a lot of it had to do with money. I’ve kept in contact with a few
people who know those guys as well and they said that they just didn’t pay
those guys anything and made it so they couldn’t stay around. With me,
since I’m the only one that people asked about, they have to make it seem
like they threw me out. If that gives them a pair of balls between them to
say that, then so be it. I didn’t care because I wasn’t in the business
anymore. I kind of gave up and said “The hell with it!”. Now that I’m
back, at least my side can be told. You can believe what you want, but I
think the more that they’ve said it, people tend to believe it, but just
because a lie is told 100 times doesn’t make it true.
Overkill photo from 1990 (Bobby G. is second from
How did you feel about the situation after this happened? You must
have been pretty pissed because you were such a big part of the reason why
the band got to where they did at that point?
I was kind of shocked, mostly because D.D. is the one that wanted to
leave the band. We were like, “Why are you starting all of this shit
between everybody when you want out? If you want to go, just go!”. I said,
“Fine, if you think that you can do it without me, then go for it. I just
wrote four of your albums, and now you can start doing it with someone
else. If you think you can make it, go ahead”. As far as anybody is
concerned they never really topped anything that I did. It’s obvious that
they’re still making a career off of my music since what, 11 out of 17
songs on their new DVD are from their first four albums. Obviously they
know something too, because they’ve done what, 9 albums since I left and
most of the shit is still off the first four albums.
So do you still, after all these years and having stepped back from
the situation, feel disgruntled over what happened, or have you forgotten
about it and moved on?
Yeah, I’ve kind of moved on. I haven’t spoken to D.D. since I left.
I’ve spoken to Blitz a few times over the years and it was pleasant, but
uncomfortable. Just recently, since they’ve never given me any royalties
or anything from any of the albums that have been out, I just found out
that the first album recouped like three years ago. Actually, Misty from
the new Megaforce Records gave me the heads-up on that. I tried see what
was going on and tracking down money that was owed to me, and our first
drummer Rat, because he had no idea, so I’m basically watching out for
him. I think that stirred things up because those guys don’t like to give
up money at all. So now, even my relationship with Blitz has turned sour.
Do you hope to recoup some of the money that was made off of those
Well, when I left the band I really only kept my royalties and my
publishing, and I haven’t gotten any of that yet. All of the money
basically goes to them and they’re not giving it up. I asked Blitz on the
phone if he knew that the first album had recouped and he said he didn’t
know, but I already had heard from Megaforce that it had. He was sending
my money to them, and I’m trying to get it back. Now it really turns into
a mess because those guys were just all about money and that was what the
fight was over 13 years ago.
So not a lot has changed then?
No. They really haven’t changed at all.
Overkill - Taking Over era
Did you keep up with Overkill and check out the new albums after?
No, nope! The only thing I kept on was HORRORSCOPE to see if they used
any of my riffs, but I guess they didn’t. I didn’t follow them, but it
seemed like every other week they had a new guitar player. I was just
shocked about the new DVD about how many old songs were on there. I think
that they realized that no one wants to hear their new stuff so they went
back and played the old stuff.
There’s two DVDs inside. The second one has old clips of the band
live with yourself, which was cool to see.
I think I got more air time than their current guitar player believe it
or not! (laughs)
On that DVD, sure. So you checked out the DVD at least then?
Yeah, my other band member was saying how much I was on it and wanted
to show me, so I watched it. Basically, I got the same…Blitz came off
well, but D.D. came off as the same old stubborn, pig-headed, wearing the
blinders. He’s got his opinion and everybody else doesn’t matter. He came
across as the same as he was when I left, he hasn’t changed one bit.
Overkill - Under The Influence
Did Overkill go in a direction that you would have not been happy
I can’t really say because I don’t know what direction they were taking
at all. I really didn’t follow it, I just checked up on that one album,
and that in itself was 12 years ago. I don’t know anything that they do.
I thought there was some talk on the DVD about difference of musical
They’re always going to say that! They don’t want to look bad. They
also give a whole laundry list of reasons why these other guitarists left.
Even Tim Mallere who’s been with them for ten years now doesn’t get paid
well. He’s not a part of the band, he’s a hired gun. From what I heard he
makes VERY little and he just does it to go on the road. That sounds bad!
No wonder why all of these other guitarists left! They just used them as a
stepping stone. They have to make a point out of me because basically…
...You weren’t the hired gun.
Yeah. I was the songwriter. They were doing covers when I first joined.
I was 17 years old and I got them to write songs, originals.
Back when you did first join Overkill, the only other guitarist that
I’ve ever heard mentioned before you was Dan Spitz who went on to join
Anthrax. Were there any other guitar players around at the time you
When I joined, I actually auditioned, and there was another guitar
player but he split two weeks after. They had someone when Dan was in the
band, and I tried to bring in a couple of my friends, but no one ever
really worked out so basically we were wasting time and I said, “Hey, why
don’t we just stick with one?”. That was it, the decision we made at the
time because there was no one working out. I think maybe that there was at
least three to four guys before me. They were just a cover band then
Overkill - Fuck You!
Is there anything else from back in that time period that you want
to talk about before we get into the post-Overkill era?
No, that’s really just it. The biggest pain in the ass for me is that
they’re going around saying that they kicked me out. I’m getting that
straight right now. I’m also giving another interview where I’m trying to
straighten that out.
Overkill - Years of Deacy
So immediately following this, the next time I remember hearing your
name was with the band Cycle Sluts from Hell. You were in that band I
Yeah. They had a guitar player quit while they were in the studio and
they needed some solos or something done. I knew the one girl, Betty, and
she asked me to come in and do some solos and I agreed. They had a
two-month tour that they were putting together with Motorhead and they
asked me to come out. At the time I was trying to get I4NI (reads as: Eye
for an Eye) together, and I figured that it would keep me out there. I
played with them and then there was some sort of record company internal
bullshit going on and they got blackballed somehow, and then got dropped.
They were a great band though, they were fun!
So on their album, all that we hear from you is the solos? You
didn’t write any of the material?
Yeah, I just did a few solos, and one song didn’t make it to the album.
Then I went on tour with them.
You weren’t in the video for “Wish you were a Beer” were you?
Yeah, I was in that. (laughs)
That was you? (laughs) That was a pretty big video back in 1991 or
It was pretty funny. I saw that on Beavis and Butthead first, and it
amazed me that they would pick that out. “Hello from the Gutter” I think
they used too.
After that I think the next time I heard your name was in relation
to, as your mentioned, I4NI which basically later became Grip Inc. What
was the story there? Did things just not jive musically between you and
Dave Lombardo? That’s kind of the story floating around anyway.
Yeah, it started out and I was playing locally in New York in late
1991. Billy Milano got in touch with me because he wanted me to join
Pro-Pain, but I didn’t want to do it. I kept in touch with him though and
he wanted me to do the next M.O.D. album with him, so I said OK. From
there we went to San Francisco to play with Perry Strickland from
Vio-lence, and that didn’t work out and Billy left, but I stayed. Somehow
I hooked up with Dave’s manager by staying there. It really was just gonna
be another band, not I4NI, it was going to be Grip. Dave was down in L.A.
and I was in San Francisco. He had his own ideas for guitar parts and
stuff, and I just didn’t think that it was that great, and it wasn’t worth
my time to drive seven hours down there to sit around with them and just
waste my time because it just wasn’t going anywhere. As far as playing
goes, he’s still a great drummer, but I just couldn’t deal with him on a
personal level. He was very paranoid about everything that I said. I think
it was probably because of the drugs that he was doing at the time, and I
was just not into that. He took the name Grip, which I came up with and
changed it into Grip Inc. because he thought I was going to sue him, which
at that point I really didn’t care. I just left. Grip had nothing to do
with I4NI and I left before that really got started. None of the music
that I did with him was even on their first album.
When their first album finally came out, was it anything at all like
you had done with him?
No, actually it was much better than what we were doing. Really, the
first couple of songs were guitar riffs that he came up with. I don’t
think anything that we did made it on the album. It was better than I
expected. To this day though, I don’t regret that one bit. I probably
wouldn’t have lasted to long. Just trying to deal with him and his wife,
it wouldn’t have worked out.
What were you doing after that? The next time I heard mention of you
was with the band Skrew, but that was in 1996. Was there anything else
going on in between then?
I just kind of finished up with I4NI in San Francisco. I played with
Tom Hunting, the drummer from Exodus. We did a demo and stuff and we
handed it out, but we really got no feedback on it. At that point, I was
ready to go to Florida because that’s where I wanted to be. I went back to
New York first and Debby Bono, the manger of Skrew, who I was staying with
in San Francisco, and the same problem came up. Skrew got rid of their
guitar player in the studio, and they asked me to go down there. I went
and learned 13 songs in four days and played on the album. I pretty much
just stayed in Texas when I went out there. We played some shows and went
out on tour with Kreator and that was it. It really didn’t turn into
anything, and I didn’t really want to be there anyway. As far as I was
concerned, that was it. That’s my time to go to Florida and moved out
right after that.
I remember buying SHADOW OF A DOUBT and saying, “Well this
doesn’t sound anything like Overkill”. That was the reason I bought it
because I read that you were band.
Yeah, they had the material done, luckily I was able to put the tracks
down on all the songs, but that material was already written. I only knew
of the band because Debby was the manager. I grew to like it a little bit
more. I was happy that I was playing different styles. I just wasn’t crazy
about living in Texas and I really wanted to come here, and I’ve been here
ever since. I pretty much just dropped out.
Yeah, after 1996 there was no other band that I heard that you were
a part of.
No, I didn’t do anything. I put the business out of the way. I wanted
to get myself established down here, buy a house and car, the whole deal.
Now that I’m established, I’ve been checking out some of the local bands
down here. Through friends I met Mark, and I checked out his band a couple
of times, and thought they were cool. They seemed really honest and
sincere with what they were doing, and they were fans of what I used to
do. I don’t know, they just convinced me to play with them.
Was there ever a time where you ever did put down the guitar for any
amount of time? Were you still jamming with people at all?
Yeah, I jammed with a friend of mine down here who’s a drummer. We used
to play parties and get really drunk and play old Iron Maiden songs. We’d
play in his garage with big parties and just go nuts. I basically just
played at home, that was it. I was not into putting anything together
again. It’s a lot of work finding the right people.
Throughout the 90s did you listen to a lot of the changes in metal?
Or what people were calling metal? Did you keep up with new bands, or just
listening to bands that you liked all along?
There’s a radio station down here that plays all the new bands like
Blink-182 and all that stuff. It’s just radio rock, it’s not heavy. The
closest thing to being worthwhile is Godsmack and Disturbed, but they’re
already out of it in a lot of people’s eyes. I just didn’t really keep on
top of it. These guys do, they’re younger and keep on top of what’s going
on. They’re up to date with what’s cool. There’s a bunch of New York bands
that are coming out that are aggressive and aren’t worried about airplay.
Weren’t you involved with a New York area band called Insult II
Injury, in terms of producing or something like that?
Yeah, that was about 1994, when I was finishing up the San Francisco
version of I4NI. They were friends of mine and they wanted somebody to
come in and try and help them out with studio sounds and whatnot.
They seem to have dropped off of the map altogether in the last
couple of years.
Yeah, I don’t think that they’ve done anything.
So onto the new band now, I believe that Response Negative is the
Can you tell me the background on how you met the guys and what it
was about this band that made you finally join a new band and make it
it’s just through friends. They were playing around with another band that
they shared rehearsal space with, and they were always asking me to come
out to a show, “Watch us play! Watch us play! Tell us what we’re doing
wrong”. They wanted me to manage them at one point, and I just didn’t have
the time to do it. They lost a guitar player and I just found the time, I
felt like I was ready. I thought they had grown since the first time I saw
them and I thought that they were very trustworthy guys. That was my
biggest gripe after the whole Overkill thing; I didn’t want to get screwed
over again. Knowing these guys for almost three years now, I felt that I
could trust them and play music and not worry about getting stabbed in the
back. They’ve got a few songs that they had before I joined, and now we’re
writing some new songs this week actually. We’re putting stuff together
for Megaforce, giving them first crack at it.
So they’ve already expressed some interest in it?
Yeah. We’re hoping to get into the studio by August and record a
You’ve been helping with the writing for the new album then?
Yeah, I worked on some of the older material and tried to polish it up.
I’ve just got tapes and tapes of riffs that I had that we’re going through
now. It’s really weird because my style changed a little bit and some of
the songs that Mark wrote sound more Overkill than me. I got into the
heavy groove stuff and they are trying to pull me back into the death
metal and the early days of thrash. It’s great and I love playing with
them. They made playing fun again.
When was it that you joined the band? How recently?
About a month and a half ago, if that long. We did our third show last
How did that go?
Great! I’m still hung over! (laughs) I threw up and I’m already on my
second beer! (laughs) It was great. We had a little bit of down time
because we switched drummers in between. We had two weeks when I played my
first show, then we got rid of the drummer and got a new guy and that took
two weeks to get him prepared for our second show, and then we just had
our third one last night. Now we’ve got one next Saturday, and the one
after that too. We’re gonna do a few more shows locally, keep up with the
website, and just concentrate on coming up with a few more songs.
Do you find that the word is out now with people in the area who
maybe were old Overkill fans, coming to shows with their old Overkill
shirts on? (laughs)
These guys are so young that they kind of…they know about the band, and
some of them are fans. They’re slowly getting the gist of what I did. A
guy in another band was like, “I think I saw you on VH1 last night!”.
(laughs) “Was that you with the long hair?”. Yeah, that was me! (laughs)
There’s nothing much like Overkill fans being around, but the guys are
coming around a bit more. We didn’t let it out at first but once we did on
the website we got like a thousand hits in two days.
And it’s only going to get "worse"! (laughs)
I love it though! I’m hearing from people that I haven’t heard from in
years, people in Germany and all over the world. It’s instantaneous. I’m
flattered that people still remember me when I haven’t done anything
I saw some of the live pictures on the website and I noticed that
you’re still playing the beige/white Explorer shaped guitar. Is that still
your trademark guitar?
guess. I switched off between that and my Flying V. My last two gigs I did
the V, and then I switched to a black one. It sounds kind of big-headed
but I’ve got so many guitars that I don’t know which ones to play!
(laughs) I almost didn’t want to play the Explorer but it’s such a damn
good guitar. I can throw that thing against the wall and it will still be
Is it the same one from the videos from Overkill?
Yeah! Those are all the same guitars. A lot of the newer guitars that I
have just don’t hold up. Everything else is compared to that guitar.
Have you bought any new guitars in the past few years, or is it
basically the same ones that you’ve been playing all along?
Yeah, it’s still all of the same stuff. I didn’t really purchase
anymore. Some of them just sit in the box ‘cause I haven’t even played
When I was on the website, there’s a section there for sound clips,
I think there were two at the time, I listened to both of them and I don’t
know if you were playing on those, but my impression was that it sounded
like death metal. Is your material now leaning more towards death metal,
or do you think that it will sound more old-school thrash?
It’s probably going to be a combination of everything. The one thing
that we’re trying to keep away from is the new groovy type of stuff
because it doesn’t sit well with Nick’s vocals. I’m actually coming up
with a few things that are more death metal. Mark’s like a big Overkill
and Savatage fan, so his writing is very similar to mine. It’s everything.
Nick loves Nuclear Assault and Anthrax while the drummer loves Iron
Maiden. We’ve got a little bit of everything covered. Basically his vocals
are death metal though. Whenever we play underneath him, it’s going to
sound death metal.
Response Negative promo picture
Do you have any particular goal for the band, or is the goal just to
have fun? Do you want to bring it to a certain type of level with touring?
Yeah, I want to get these guys out and tour! I mean, basically I felt
like I was Yoda! I was telling them all of these road stories and I really
want them to experience the fun I had doing it. I want to at least get the
band out and on the road to show them what it’s all about. They’ve totally
changed already, professional-wise. They wanted someone to kind of guide
them, so that’s basically the position that I’m in right now. We’ve got so
much happening so quickly between writing new material, getting ready to
record, new members, and getting ready to tour, its great man!
Do you think that the album will be out this year?
Yeah, depending on what Megaforce does with it; if they put it out
themselves, or we take ‘em halves on it. We’re trying to get into a
certain studio down here which is why we’re waiting until August.
It’s not Morrisound is it?
No, no. It’s a smaller studio, but the guy, Jeremy is doing all of the
bands down here. It’s amazing.
I look forward to hearing some new stuff! I’ll be checking out the
Yeah, we’ll be putting up some new pictures and stuff soon.
Is there anything else about your new band that you want to let
people know about?
Just check out the website. We’ll keep everybody up to date through
Does the band do the website themselves?
Yeah. We have a webmaster but we all make changes and stuff. Yeah,
that’s about it that I can think of.
Well, thanks for your time! It’s nice to hear that you’re back in
Interview pictures courtesy of various Overkill albums.
New Bobby Gustafson pictures courtesy of Response Negative.