Interview: Body Count
US thrash metal/rap metal legends Body Count are returning to Australia this June for three massive headline shows in support of their new record, Bloodlust. The Ice-T fronted group’s last stint Down Under was back in 1995 as part of the one-off Alternative Nation festival that toured Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. We caught up with founding member and guitarist, Ernie C, and spoke about returning to Australia after so many years, the new album, playing heavy music and much more.
Hey there Ernie, congratulations on the release of the new album, it's a terrific release. How has it been for you since Bloodlust came out?
Bloodlust is doing very good, ya know, I mean Bloodlust is doing surprisingly well around the World. I guess timing is everything and we released it at the right time, so yeah things have been good to us so far.
So you’re happy with the praise and positivity that the album has been receiving thus far?
Yeah, it’s going well. We are with a new record company (Sumerian Records) and this is the first album that we have done with them. I think the last record we did which was Manslaughter kind of let people know that we were back, but this record definitely took off beyond our expectations.
Did you handle most of the writing for Bloodlust or was it more of a collaborative effort amongst everyone?
It’s a collaborative record for sure. But I mean, when we’re writing the stuff, we are all writing it together in the same room mostly. But you know the song that Max Cavalera is on, well he brought that song to us and that was all him, he came up with that track “All Love Is Lost” which was really cool. He came to rehearsal with an actual cassette tape of it (laughs) and he played the song and then we all sat around and learnt the song together. So yeah, it’s a collaborative effort, and there are other parts like with Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, he wrote his own part and Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, he wrote his own part as well. Whatever comes out best, that’s what we like to try and achieve.
Covers can usually be a bit of a hit or miss, but your rendition of the classic track from Slayer “Reign In Blood” is one of the best I’ve ever heard, who’s idea was it to take on that song?
Thank you man, I appreciate that. Well, we wanted to cover a Slayer song just because, you know and you hear what Ice says at the beginning before that opening riff starts up. We always knew that we wanted to do a cover on this new album, and with Reign In Blood and that opening riff, you know that riff is like ‘it’ so we wanted a song that people can identify with right away because everyone knows that opening part of the song. When people listen to it, they’re like ‘What are they playing? Oh that’s freakin’ Slayer’ and they get it right away. You get an immediate reaction just from the riff alone when it’s done right. We know it turned out okay because we’re going to be on this awards show here in Los Angeles this October and Kerry King is actually going to play it up on stage with us and Tom Araya will probably make a special appearance also. So you know, they don’t play around, if they don’t like you then they don’t even acknowledge that you exist (laughs) but yeah I guess they liked it because they’re going to be playing ‘Reign In Blood’ on stage with us. I appreciate you saying that it’s a great cover, but it’s also validation hearing it from Slayer and them actually saying ‘Yeah we’ll play it with you’ it makes you think, well that’s pretty damn cool.
How important is heavy music to you and what inspired you to pick up the guitar and start playing heavy metal?
Heavy Metal is just what I do, ya know? I can’t play pop music because pop is just too pop (laughs) it’s just not what I do and it doesn’t feel right for me personally. I used to get into RnB music and I reached a point where I couldn’t get any more guitars out of this music anymore, I couldn’t hear the guitars anymore and it was mixed in with the horn sections and it just didn’t have that appeal to me anymore. I used to listen to the Isley Brothers, that’s the only guitars you heard in black urban music during the 70’s. Then I discovered Led Zeppelin and I got into them and I also started listening to Richie Blackmore (Deep Purple) and from then on it was off to the races. People when they talk about me sometimes say that I was influenced by Jimi Hendrix because it was a black man and a guitar player, but that’s not true, you know I like Hendrix but he wasn’t my main influence. Eddie Van Halen influenced me more than Jimi Hendrix for sure.
It’s been a long time since you guys were in Australia last and you’re finally heading back here in June, how excited are you to be coming back here once again?
We’re ecstatically happy! The reason we haven’t been there in so long is because Ice has been doing Law & Order for 18 years, and we had our first break during the summer. So when we have 3 months off during the summer, we have to really sit down and plan where we want to go and figure out where we haven’t been for the longest amount of time. This year we decided, you know, let’s go to Australia. This really is the first leg of our Bloodlust tour, so Australia really gets to see our new music being performed live before anybody else. After Australia, we’ll be heading to Canada and the States for the rest of the summer. But we really wanted to go back and we had an opportunity so we took it, so yeah we’re really excited.
So after hearing that, have you had a chance to play any of the new track live yet? If so, what’s been the best ones to play so far?
Well yeah we haven’t had a proper opportunity yet to perform the new songs live yet, but we did play one or two new songs back when we were still writing the album before it was entirely finished. We played ‘This Time We Ride’ and we played the Slayer cover ‘Reign In Blood’ live also and people really liked it But with the new shows that we are about to do we will probably play about 4 or 5 songs from Bloodlust, we don’t know which ones yet. We don’t really plan our shows and our set-lists like other bands do, as long as it has a good mix of good songs, we usually play Cop Killer at the end. Everything else just sort of comes together and we take a couple of songs from each record. When we do a rehearsal like before a big festival show in Europe, the set-list can change at any time and sometimes we make it up as we go. A couple times I’ve yelled out ‘Hey how about we play this song’ while we’re up on the stage (laughs) so yeah it’s very impromptu I guess you could say.
What’s been the highlight for you being in Body Count? Is there a definitive moment that stand out that makes you go… Wow, this is it, this is what I do and I love it.
I mean, just going all around the world and getting to play this type of music is enough for me to think that really. From playing to tiny clubs and having a blast and then going to play in front of hundreds and thousands of people over in Europe at the festivals. Being about to play heavy music, being able to travel off of it, being able to go to Australia, I mean how crazy is that! That right there is a highlight. It’s been about 20 years since we were last there, and now we get to come back and we’re our 50’s, still rocking and still being able to do what we do. It’s incredible and I truly am thankful.
Catch Body Count at the following dates with support from A.B. Original and Void Of Vision.