Body Count have one hell of a legacy. Their first album is one of the most infamous in rock history. The controversy surrounding the song ‘Cop Killer‘ was felt all over the world – even going as far as having the album banned in some countries and efforts to stop performances reaching as far as New Zealand. But beyond that, the band also became a founding piece of the rap-metal scene and would go on to inspire acts like Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit. The band has just released their 6th studio album Bloodlust and will be hitting Australian shores in June. Dave Mullins caught up with guitarist, and founding member, Ernie C, to chat about the record and the tour.
Back when I was in high school, having a copy of your album was highly controversial, it was like instant cool factor. I think my first copy of Body Count was stolen after about 2 days, you know? Obviously a lot of that controversy circles around ‘Cop Killer’ – even on YouTube today you’ll see comments about that song. Has it ever been hard to move beyond the controversy of the album and have your music recognised in its own right?
“That song speaks for itself – I think that song allows us to be around playing today. Because we wrote that music at a time when things were bad. We just celebrated… well, not celebrated, but it’s been 25 years since the riots here in L.A. and we wrote that song before the riots. So we were kinda screaming out ‘this is gonna happen’ before it happened. So I think that song enables us to be around today so people can listen to us when we write songs like ‘No Lives Matter’. So it’s a good thing, it’s not a curse.”
Cool man, I think that makes sense. And it’s an important song. Lately, it seems like the message is more poignant than ever. The fact that you’re having to still write songs like ‘No Lives Matter’ is a testament to that. When it came to writing the album was it important that you tackled these issues head on?
“No, well we just started writing. When we first started writing, we just started writing music and everything just kind of came together – with our elections and just the climate of this country over here. Which, from talking to people, seems to be the climate all around the world. The whole world is kind of uptight and tense right now. So we wrote a record that kind of reflected upon that. But over the last 25 years, we’ve also grown up a lot. We’re able to travel and things like that. So 25 years ago we wrote about the cops being a problem but right now we’re writing about class war – and economics has a lot to do with the underlying issue of everything. So that’s what ‘No Lives Matter’ is about, even what this record is about.”
Yeah, that seems to be a pretty balanced approach to it. Do you ever listen back to your older music and wish you’d had more information at the time?
“Yeah, at the time it fit, you know? We could still play ‘Cop Killer’, it’s still relevant. It’s not like we wrote something that wouldn’t be relevant today. It’s not like we writing about something that was time-stamped – it still works today. We were a little more angry then than we are now but rightfully so.”
“When you’re in your 20’s you’re a lot more angry than you are in your 50’s. So we haven’t mellowed, we haven’t had that sense of acceptance – people have said ‘you haven’t mellowed’ but it’s because nothing’s changed. The only thing that’s changing is us. We’re just trying to stay focused on what we do. Ice’s son is in our band. He’s a background singer. He’s 23 years old. So we’re listening to him – he’s just as mad as us about the same issues. It’s not that big of a gap to when we were younger. It’s like ‘oh, somebody’s in their 50’s, they’re out of touch’. We’re really in touch because we get what the kids are saying.”
Yeah absolutely. And as you’ve said, things around the world are tense. It’s kind of surprising there aren’t more bands writing angry music about it. It’s to the point where people are saying shit like ‘Donald Trump is Punk Rock and Bands should Support Him’. It’s kind of insane.
“We don’t mention Donald Trump on our record. We had the opportunity to – ‘cause we started writing this record before the election and after the election. But it’s such a cheap shot, you know I what mean? Sometimes you don’t have to take that cheap shot. Everyone knows you can put down ‘Fuck Trump’ or whatever but it’s such a cheap shot.”
“So we wrote this record and put all the other issues all in one, the bigger picture. Not just the Trump picture. You can get rid of him but there’s still a lot of things that need to be fixed around the planet. So that’s the perspective we tried to do, not just focus on Trump. He is a jerk and all that but we just left that alone.”
Oh for sure, and he is just a symptom of a greater issue.
“Exactly. Obama was over here for years, for 8 years, and everyone was somehat complacent. He was so cool and mellow that everyone was cool and mellow. Music was cool and mellow. All the EDM and all the rock bands were soft and happy and a lot of fun, but now it seems like things are getting a little more hardcore because people are gonna have to spill it out. So I think that’s why our record is selling around the world. People are listening to it, they are wanting to hear what’s going on. They don’t want to fill their heads with nothing.”
Damn straight man. Speaking of hardcore you worked with Will Putney from Fit for an Autopsy as producer on the record. What did he bring to that table?
“Will is our guy! Will is our extra member of the band. People don’t know he’s a Jewish kid… I wish the world would work like that. People just getting together and getting along. Will’s a member of the band, he’s a guitar player. Will is the right guy for us to have. He brings a good musical challenge… he helps us out a lot.”
That’s cool man. Oh, and you covered Slayer on this record. Which was a cool surprise. How did that come about?
“Well, we wanted to cover a Slayer song, and we decided when everyone hears that guitar riff everyone knows it’s Slayer. So we just wanted to play that guitar riff so we could play it at a show and when you hear that you know exactly what it’s gonna be. It’s a hard and fast song. We wanted to play something that was fast and everyone can’t play, just to show some musicianship. And that was the perfect song. We learnt the song and when we played it at a show people just went haywire and we were like ‘okay, this is the song we need to do’. We put ‘Post Mortem’ after it, on the record it comes on before but we put it on after just so we could come in with that guitar riff.”
That must be a pretty cool experience, as a guitarist, jumping into the studio and recording that riff. It’s epic, that Raining Blood riff.
“Yes, it’s an epic, epic guitar riff. Really quick on another subject, I was in the studio with Tony Iommi and I played on the guitar that he used on ‘Iron Man’. So I played ‘Iron Man’, all night long, on Tony Iommi’s guitar! That’s another epic riff!”
That’s so cool!
“Yeah, he’s left-handed, a left-handed guitar player so I got to use his guitar.”
Yeah, well that’s lucky, otherwise, it would have been a little more difficult haha. What sort of prep are you doing before you come on tour? Do you get in a lot of rehearsal or do just sorta jump on the plane and get it done?
[laughs] “That would be great if life could be that easy. But no, we practice. The thing about it is, I’ve had combinations of this band where the guys didn’t like each other and didn’t like rehearsing and things like that. But this combination of the band with Juan and Will – Ill Will – and Vincent Price. This combination works. So we like to rehearse.”
“When everybody’s around we rehearse two or three times a week. So when we hit the road we’re ready to play. If we wanna do a weekend gig, because Ice works during the week, we always have to be ready to play. And we have a lot of fun hanging.”
Well yeah, that’s good man. ‘Cause it’s gotta work. At the end of the day, you’ve gotta be mates as well.
“Yeah, it’s good to have fun. On this tour, we’re gonna come over there and we haven’t been there in a long time and everyone’s looking forward to it. Ice has a new baby, a baby with Coco. We’re a family, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
Yeah man. I think it’s 22 years, so that’s gonna be wonderful.
“Yeah, that’s so funny because the 22 years went by so fast. Ice has been on Law and Order, out here, for 18 years, so that has a lot to do with why we haven’t been there in so long – because it’s so hard for us to get there during the summer when we play. We usually go to Europe and tour all over the States so this time we decided we have to get back there. Just to apologise for our president [laughs]”
“That’s the one thing we have to do, we have to apologise for him! [laughs]”
Well yeah, that seems reasonable. On the Australian tour, you’re being joined by A.B. Original, who are made headlines here for their song ‘January 26‘, which criticised Australia Day… it brought them a lot of attacks from various groups, including hate groups. But I guess you could say that they’re doing something similar to you, thematically, in their music. Have you had a chance to check them out?
“That’s interesting. No, not at all. It’s all new to me.”
Well, they’re making headlines all around the country because they’re pissing off the right people
“Oh, that’s a lot of fun! Okay, so your country is going haywire too, right?”
Oh yeah, absolutely!
“Yeah, that’s interesting! As I was saying the world is in a ripple – everyone’s mad. We’re gonna get there and when you come to our show it’s a good time to vent and have a good time. We like going there. Ice is gonna talk – he talks for a while – because the same problems we have in the States is the same problems you have there. So it all works.”
Right! So is there anything, in particular, you’re looking forward to?
“Just to be back there, we haven’t been there in a while… and playing at the venues – I hear one place is an old theatre, that’s always a lot of fun. So we’re gonna have a good time. That’s the way we like doing it, we just have a good time now. We show up, have a good time and enjoy the moment. We’ve been doing it for a little while, after… 25 years ago was our first record but 28 since our first show. So after nearly 30 years, it’s good that you can still go out and play all around the world.”
“You have to love what you do. We love it, we’re not just there to be there. We’re there because we want to be there and we love the people and we love the people that love our thing. You have to have love for what you’re doing.”
Thanks to Ernie C for the chat, seems the upcoming Body Count tour is one definitely not to be missed. Get your hands on a ticket anyway you can.
Interview by Dave Mullins (@davos418)
Body Count – 2017 Australian Tour
With: A.B. Original & Void of Vision
THURSDAY 1 JUNE – TIVOLI THEATRE, BRISBANE
Tickets available from http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/
FRIDAY 2 JUNE – MARGARET COURT ARENA, MELBOURNE
Tickets available from http://premier.ticketek.com.au/
SATURDAY 3 JUNE – HORDERN PAVILION, SYDNEY
Tickets available from http://premier.ticketek.com.au/