2017 is the year that the bully won. It’s a time when all hope actually, truly, terrifyingly feels lost. The hard work of social activists striving for equality has been undone in the time it takes to send out a tweet. But in and amongst the chaos of hopelessness, when all seemed totally fucked, we heard the unmistakeable war cry of Body Count.
Fronted by Ice T, for 25 years, the outfit have been a thorn in the side of anyone who’s agenda was based on oppression. For a quarter of a century, they’ve kept a vigilant watch on the world, emerging form their studio lair when we need it most, as they have done with the forthcoming album Bloodlust, set to drop Friday, March 31.
Straight off the bat, the band released No Lives Matter and it became overwhelming clear they weren’t happy. Not even a little bit. Now we, the people, have something to scream. Ahead of the release we caught up with founding member, guitarist and Ice T’s main man Ernie C. to chat about why the world needs a little Bloodlust more than ever.
The Neversphere: Bloodlust will be out at the end of the month, from what we’ve heard already you guys have so much to say. Are you itching to get this thing out there?
Ernie: I am! I’m telling everyone today that today makes 25 years since the first album came out. It’s ironic in two weeks we have a record coming out 25 years later and we’re still around doing it and basically talking about the same thing we were 25 years ago.
The Neversphere: I was about to say! Usually when we speak to artists 25 years after an album, it’s all about how different everything is. But, I fear in this case, things are still pretty similar in the world.
Ernie: [Laughs] When we did that record we were young and going to change the world. Immediately, we got shot down. [Laughs] we learnt a lesson right then. 25 years later, we are still knocking at the door. People say you haven’t mellowed, I’m like ‘Nothing’s changed!” You mellow out when things change and things become comfortable. This record is brutal, this record is hard…it’s hardcore, it’s bloody, it’s all those things.
The Neversphere: So far we’ve heard No Lives Matter and it’s clear Body Count aren’t playing nice. You went straight for the jugular with this one. I can imagine there was a tonne of love and a tonne of hate. Where did it settle?
Ernie: [Laughs] I like that song a lot. It has a good groove to it, but Ice has a line I really like, ‘Don’t fall for the bait and switch, racism is real but not it‘. That song talks about economic issues more so than issues of colour. It talks about Black lives but it also talks about poor Whites that they call Trash. It’s talking about everyone, basically. It’s talking about people who don’t have money to fight the system, that’s what that song talks about.
We’ve getting a lot of people that say ‘Hey, that’s cool, that’s the way things really are’. Racism is something that you put the focus on, but that’s not the only thing going on. There’s a lot of underlying issues. So, we brought the focus onto that with that one song.
The Neversphere: Surely it can’t all be a coincidence. The debut album turns 25 years old moments before you release your new record, right at a time when the world seems to need Body Count more than ever…
Ernie: Actually, it’s just a great timing coincidence. We did Manslaughter , then we went and toured Europe then we toured the States and this last summer we had some time; Ice had a month off, so we were like ‘Let’s write a record!’ We didn’t know what we were writing for because we didn’t really have a record company, we only did one record with Sumerian. Century media came along, then they wanted to do the record, it was just perfect timing. It’s also the right record for the right time.
The Neversphere: If the average person was to look back on something they made 25 years ago, they’re most likely cringe at it. But you guys made such a crucial and important album. What’s it like for you to listen back to that album these days?
Ernie: It’s interesting. I probably wouldn’t do anything too much different. That record was made to sound like a punk record. But the band became better, became more precise and more metal. I think metal is a more precise punk, that’s my definition of things. Punk players usually play a looser riff; metal players are more precise. They’re like the jazz musicians of rock you know what I mean?
So that record was more punky, it was a little looser; I mean, I don’t play any better than I did then but I’m more concerned that the band plays better as a unit. Even though it’s different players, we play those songs more precise. But I play basically the same as I did then.
The Neversphere: Are you at all surprised, or I guess, taken aback listening to it now and realising just how aware and clued in you were as a young dude?
Ernie: I heard someone play some of my songs, they played them to me. He was like ‘Oh you did this and this’ He broke it down and it was more complicated than I thought. He’s like ‘You played it like this, then you did this, then this’ I’m just like ‘I just played it the way I felt at that moment’.
He said ‘then you did this hammer on and this pull off’ I’m like whoa; I had no idea all of this was going on when we wrote this record. It was just the feeling that we had, it’s just what it was, you know? There wasn’t all that thought going into it. We did a lot of experimenting on that record, we did some things we didn’t do now. We had big timpani drums on it; we played with a lot of equipment I don’t use now. The band is actually simpler now than it was then. It’s more amp and guitar now.
The Neversphere: With the amount of confusion, uncertainty and straight up fear in the world, is it safe to say that we need to move the frontline to art once more, and make more music that actually takes a stand?
Ernie: Music has always stood up for social issues. From Hendrix all the way back to Bob Dylan, even Elvis; he had some things going on. But music’s taken a step back. I don’t know what’s happened over the past decade with musicians; they just kind of went into a shell. It’s time for them to wake up. Rage Against The Machine, they started The Prophets Of Rage because it’s needed. Nobody is filling that vacuum of topics for people who are frustrated and upset. No one is saying anything.
Music is an outlet. People need musicians to say something so they can scream it because they want to scream it. Cop Killer; it’s not saying kill cops but you want to be able to scream ‘Fuck the police’….So that’s what musicians need to do. They’re not tuning in to what the public is saying. They’re on some other thing. Right now we’re focused on what’s going on.
It’s not just us, it’s in Australia too; it’s in France, it’s everywhere. Everyone is upset but everyone is brushing it under the rug.
The Neversphere: Politically and socially Australia is like 18 months behind America. We’re at the point where we’re looking around at each other and asking ‘Who should we hate?’ Now we’re starting to define people based on what they hate rather than anything else.
Ernie: Exactly! When our president got into office, he immediately went haywire on your Prime Minister. He didn’t waste any time to say some haywire stuff. He didn’t take no time, [Laughs] it was like two days! I use this analogy for what’s going on here in America: For the past 8 years we’ve been at a card game. Everyone’s been sitting around, playing a game of cards and they had a good hand. So Trump gets into office and he immediately comes in and flips over the table, now everyone’s cards are all over the place.
Right now, everyone is trying to figure out what’s going on. He tipped over the game; it’s a whole new game in the 6 weeks that everyone got use to over the past 8 years.
The Neversphere: How much did the current political climate impact the album? No Lives Matter was technically pre-Trump, so before the world went really topsy-turvy. How much did the election influence the album?
Ernie: [Laughs] Well, we were writing it over the Summer, so we were watching the Primaries and all that stuff. He was even more radical when he was saying all the crazy stuff, now he’s in office it’s settled him down just a tad. During the Primaries, he was saying so much crazy stuff we were like ‘We need to write something about what’s going on here’.
There’s all kinds of things that need to be said and people need to rise up a little more; Quit watching TV and get out of the house.
The Neversphere: You also got some punk and metal royalty on the album. Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, Randy Blythe from Lamb Of God and Max Cavalera from, well, everything. How did you go about selecting the guest vocalists for the record? It’s hard to imagine anyone not taking a call from you guys.
Ernie: It’s so funny, it seems like it’s a big process but this is an exact truth of how it happened. Dave is on the first song that you hear, when Civil War comes on, Dave’s voice is the first thing you hear on the record. Ice has known Dave since the 80s. Before Body Count, Ice and I were going to be on a Megadeth record but It just never happened. They ended up on twitter together. In public view Ice says to him on Twitter ‘You should be on one of our songs’ and Dave’s like ‘Send it over.’ We sent the track to him and he sent it back with vocals and a guitar solo, I mean you can’t beat that. It’s just that simple.
@FINALLEVEL Ice-T is a true friend. No name dropping BS, no costume bling wearing fake crap. THAT is why I’m down with Body Count and Ice-T! https://t.co/7ykvtmbqS3
— Dave Mustaine (@DaveMustaine) October 17, 2016
We’re writing this record in Arizona. We took time out to do a show and how ends up at the show? Max, he lives in Arizona. He came backstage and we said ‘we’re writing the record here, why don’t you come down tomorrow? Maybe you can do something? Him and his wife, Gloria, came to our rehearsal; he came with a song! So we learnt the song.
I’ve known Randy for a while. He quite drinking years ago; so did I, so we have that in common. I was talking to him on the phone about stuff and just said ‘You want to be on the record’, he goes ‘Sure, send over a track.’ [Laughs] so it was just that simple. When we started the record we didn’t know we’d have guests, it just happened; no lawyer, no manager, no record company involvement. Just send us the track. So that’s something.
The Neversphere: Where is your collective head at for the next Body Count album? It feels like the universe conspired for this to happen, will you wait for another queue from the universe?
Ernie: People said to us, because we did Manslaughter then Bloodlust three years later, that we did these records really close together. Back in the day people use to do a record every year so I don’t know where people get the idea that three years is close together. But we’re just going to play it by ear, see how this album goes, see if any new music pops in that we feel strong about.
We didn’t force this record; we didn’t have to do this record. We wanted to do this it. That’s the difference.
The Neversphere: What’s the plans for a tour? I’m sure there’ll be US dates, but I think we’re ready for some home truths to be shouted at us in Australia too…
Ernie: We were talking about that. We’re just trying to get Ice’s schedule. Right now, he’s been doing Law & Order for 16 years, which is a long time in television. But there’s no telling what the future will hold. We could do a couple of weeks down there. We’re just trying to figure it out and get the timing right but we’ll be there, y’know?
…We will be there.