Body Count is a metal band formed in 1990 by co-founders Ice-T and Ernie C, the lead vocalist and lead guitarist, respectively. Alternately dubbed “thrash metal,” “rap metal,” and “crossover metal,” the band plays a unique style that incorporates influences from multiple metal genres as well as a hip-hop influence brought in by vocalist Ice-T who started his career as a rapper. They released their controversial eponymous album in 1992 that included the controversial track “Cop Killer.” The band’s lineup has changed over the years, with Ice-T and Ernie C being the two consistent members. The band has recently reactivated, releasing a new album, “Manslaughter,” earlier this year, and are currently on tour with the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. The following is a transcript of an interview with Ernie C (EC), bassist Vincent Price (VP), and drummer Ill Will at the Indianapolis stop of the Mayhem Festival on July 19.
How did this lineup come together?
EC: Well as you know we’ve lost three members of our group over the last 20 years or so. And we’ve had different reincarnations of the band. Some of them jived right, some of them didn’t jive right. But Vince came along about 15 years ago and he’s been a friend and he worked fine and then Will came about three years ago.
EC: OK, it’s one big year to me [laughs]. So he came in, he worked well, and then during the recording of our last record 8 years ago, we lost our rhythm guitar player. We needed to find someone to fill that void and we found Juan Garcia, who plays in Agent Steele, one of the bands he plays in. Evil Dead [is another]. And he’s known us for 20 years. And he just fit right in and made the band... I feel comfortable with playing these songs again. And Ice, we’re like, ‘This is the right band.’ So we did, we thought it was time for us to do another record.
So you’ve been active this whole time.
EC: We’ve been active, but not the way other bands are. We do spot dates here and there. But when the band is dormant for seven years, it’s hard to start again, you know. This has been a two-year process to get to this point of getting the record company, getting the band to play the set, you know. We’re playing for 25 minutes today but our normal set is an hour and a half. It’s a festival. But it’s good for now, you know what I mean? We can’t complain about it. It gives people what we do.
Ice-T, he’s getting back into music but he’s kind of more known as a rapper, why did he choose to go with Body Count, which is more of a rock outfit?
EC: Because rap has changed a whole lot. Rock and roll has stayed the same. Our new record can be released now and still be relevant, even controversial. But rap, you know, you’ve got Drake, you’ve got all these kids rapping. It’s kind of a young person’s game. So Body Count is still Body Count, you know? People don’t look at us as old guys playing rockers, it’s just, it is what it is. It stands on its merits.
So when you play to audiences who are younger, maybe they weren’t around when Body Count first came out. What kind of reaction do you get?
EC: Will can say. He looks at everybody, he’s back there, he’s got time to look.
IW: Fans are like, really, younger and older, just digging the band.
Are the young people aware of the history, do they know how controversial you were at one point?
EC: No. We play out here with Avenged Sevenfold, their audience was born when we did our first record. It’s really cool. You can sit down and play the same songs I wrote 25 years ago and people are bobbing to it. That’s half my life. So it’s cool, it’s really cool.
In the mainstream, Body Count is still known for “Cop Killer.” Is there any kind of lingering controversy stemming from that, or is that all pretty much in the past?
EC: Um... No, it’s in the past. But it still gives the group some kind of stigma for the group. Which is good for some of our fans. It’s what rock and roll is. It’s what rock and roll is supposed to be. You know, to get people motivated and things like that. It’s good. It still sticks around and I enjoy that part of it. The controversy is still there. People know what we are....
As far as your status in rock, you’re here, minorities in sort of a monocultural environment, have there ever been any issues as far as race, or is that part of your M.O.? I spoke with a member of Living Colour about this at Rock on the Range.
EC: We can talk about that. They’re [Living Colour] more concerned about race than we are. There was a thing that they had, something called the Black Rock Coalition and I wanted to be a member of it 25 years ago, or 27 years ago, and they discriminated against me! So they were more concerned about race and all that kind of stuff. We’re not concerned about it. We’re just out here playing rock and roll. I mean, like our guitarist, people are always trying to pigeonhole us as a black group. We’re not a black group. It just so happens that we were all high school friends. Our new guitar player is Cuban. So I’m not buying into that whole thing. But out here? We’re just here playing rock and roll.
VP: Everybody’s friends.
EC: We had a problem with them on Lollapalooza. We had a problem with them way back. I can talk about it. Because someone asked us what it was like to be the only black band out on Lollapalooza. And -oh!- what about Living Colour? [laughs]. They said that to us. Because they’re not “black,” they’re something else.
For your live set nowadays, what would you say is the highlight?
IW: The highlight? For me, it’s just getting into this band... I like playing “Disorder.”
EC The Exploited.
IW: I like playing that song. That song’s fun.
I hear you’re playing “99 Problems.”
EC: No, we’re not.
EC: Not playing it live.
Oh, it was on the album but you’re not playing it live.
EC: Yeah, from the album, but we’re not playing it live. It’s just difficult to play because you have to listen to the lyrics so intensely. We’re not playing that live. But what were you going to ask about that song? Did Jay Z cover it? [laughs]
What I was gonna ask was when you play it do people think that it was originally a Jay-Z song that you’re covering?
We haven’t played it live yet, but people have talked about it being a Jay-Z cover. And we’re like, ‘No, it’s not a Jay-Z cover.’ That’s why we decided to do it, just so people will know. That Jay-Z and Linkin Park did that song.
Now, you’re a band that I would think is more connected to hip-hop than some others, because Ice-T...
EC: Yeah, that’s the only reason. I consider him as, like, the Dave Mustaine of the band, you know. When we started the band, it wasn’t to be a novelty, like Run-DMC and...
EC: Aerosmith. Not like that. He came in the band as a singer. It just so happened that he did hip-hop. He wasn’t trying to bring a hip-hop influence into it. It’s just the way he talks and the way he is.
Sure. Now a lot of people at festivals like this, they would look at hip-hop as, that’s the enemy, that’s what’s keeping rock off the charts and off mainstream radio. If somebody said that to you, what would your response be?
EC: This generation of kids, they’re more hip-hop influenced than anything else. That’s why the mosh pit is slowing down. You know, when we were younger, it was Slayer, it was fast, everything was fast. Now it’s, they can mosh to slower beats. That comes from hip-hop. I think they’re more influenced by hip-hop.