Interview with Ernie C of Body Count
By: "double M" Michael Melchor

The name “Body Count” was on the tips of everyone’s tongues when they released their first album 12 years ago. Unfortunately, none of it had to do with the music – an abrasive brand of metal – nor did any of it have to do with the fact that Ice T had become the first rap star to completely cross genre lines.

Most of the notoriety behind Body Count’s eponymous first album had to do with “Cop Killer”, a song born out of frustration at how minorities were treated by police in South Central Los Angeles. The controversy – including a boycott of Warner Bros. Music by several police departments and conservative groups, as well as public damnations from Charlton Heston and former President George Bush – resulted in Ice T leaving the Warner Brothers label, and taking Body Count with him.

After making a pit-stop on the Jimi Hendrix tribute Stone Free, the band returned three years later with Born Dead. With the firestorm over the first album behind them, Body Count chose to let their music do the talking for them. The album included several blistering commentaries on current issues, their reaction to the controversy, and the poignant cover of “Hey Joe” that appeared on Stone Free.

The band then released Violent Demise: The Last Days in 1997, a release that was hailed by critics who had finally “gotten” Body Count. Alas, shortly after, Body Count became a memory as no new material was forthcoming and the surviving members had seemingly disappeared. To greatly complicate matters, original drummer Beatmaster V passed away shortly before the release of Last Days from leukemia, and original bass player Mooseman was killed in a drive-by shooting in South Central Los Angeles in 2001.

Seven years after the release of their last album, Body Count is poised to make their return. Recently, we caught up with lead guitar player Ernie C to talk about what we can expect in 2004 from one of the most controversial and hostile metal bands ever and the reasons behind the hiatus.

There Goes The Neighborhood.

MM: The last time Body Count put out an album was 1997, so it’s been 7 years since your last release. What was everybody doing during that downtime?

EC: During that time, I produced a lot of bands. I went to London and lived there a while and working with bands there. Nothing really big, just doing that for a while.

MM: That’s cool; what were some of the bands you worked with there?

EC: Oh jeez, all kinds of bands. I was trying to produce different kinds of music, you know what I mean?

MM: Right.

EC: And then everybody got divorced. It was like, once the new millennium hit, EVERYbody got divorced. It was a couple of years, trying to deal with that. Ice, myself, D-Roc, we all went through it. We knew we were going to put the band back in 2001, like 3 years ago, and we were going to get the original bass player [Mooseman], but he got killed in South Central in a drive-by. So then the last 2 years we’ve been getting the band back together and went on tour. We actually toured around the US and got a great reaction, so we said, “okay, let’s do this.” So now we’re getting everything in order and we’ll have a record out by the end of the year.

Michael Melchor: So you’re working on something new?

Ernie C: Yeah, right now we’re getting all the players in line and trying to focus on the music and get everyone in to do it. Over the past year, everyone from Kid Rock and Linkin Park, these people have been like, “we want to be on your record” – and that’s definitely a good thing [chuckles].

MM: So after everyone’s been through all that, it’s been a matter of getting everyone back together.

EC: Yeah. Ice is in New York [filming “Law And Order”], and the band is in Los Angeles, so we decided Ice will fly back in, record, and go back. So we’ve found a happy medium, basically.

MM: So who all is in the lineup now?

EC: It’s me, myself – I’m on lead guitars, publisher, publicist, all that. Ice T, he’s on lead vocals; D-Roc, the original rhythm guitar player; the new bass player is Vince, and OT is our drummer. He took over for [original drummer] Beatmaster V back in ’96, so he played on all of [“Violent Demise: The Last Days”] and he’s been with the band since then.

MM: Cool. So the record now is mainly in the writing stage?

EC: We’re writing – we’re going to do a song on the new Resident Evil 2, and Ben Moody is going to co-produce the song with me. He’s going to write a song with Body Count. It sounds weird, but it’s a great hard rock record, so he’s writing us on [the] “Resident Evil” [soundtrack]. I met him, he’s a really cool guy, he wants to work with us, so we’re going to do “Resident Evil”, and that’ll be the first song. And I know that’s a big achievement; that’ll be a big deal.
"But the new album, you know, we’ve got people like Kid Rock wanting to be on it and all and we’re just looking to make some good music."
MM: Yeah, because I know—I have the first soundtrack, and that was excellent.

EC: Yeah, the first one had Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Fear Factory, Mudvayne, Depeche Mode, Method Man, Saliva, Coal Chamber – that was a great record, so we want to be just as good with that.

MM: Do you know if it’s going to be on the same label, Roadrunner?

EC: No, I think it’s going to be on Def Jam; they’re still getting the record together and the movie should be out in the summer.

MM: So what attracted you to doing MetalFest? Are you looking to get your name back out there?

EC: We’ve played MetalFest over the years, since back in the early-90s. I don’t know if we’re metal – I don’t know what Body Count is. I’ve produced a Black Sabbath album, so that makes me the king of metal, actually! [laughs] I don’t think we’re a metal band, I don’t know if we’re a punk band, because we’ve played with The Ramones; we’ve played with everyone from L.A. Guns to Public Enemy. We’ve played at rap shows. I don’t know where Body Count actually fits. We go to the MetalFest years ago, and they love us! I don’t know if we’re that kind of band, but they invited us to play and we figured it’d be a great thing to play because we al love metal. So it all works out fine. I mean, Ice is a rapper; people there may listen to rap, but if here was there rapping it wouldn’t be the same. So I don’t know where Body Count fits anymore.

MM: So are any of those concerns on the new album?

EC: I know we want to concentrate on the music. People think we sold, like, 50 million records off the controversy [over “Cop Killer”], but that wasn’t the case. Before all that, we sold maybe 300, 400k. After the fact, maybe a million and a half, so we never sold as much as people think we did. And now it’s a case of, you know, did people make it too late? Are they looking for another song like that? We don’t know. But the new album, you know, we’ve got people like Kid Rock wanting to be on it and all and we’re just looking to make some good music. It probably will be a little heavier and a little darker; we want to do things like work with the B-tuned guitars and the sludgy sound. We want to make it a little grindy.

I know something I want to do, personally, is put some more guitar solos in there. That’s something that’s missing from a lot of hard rock and metal nowadays. You have some great players, but a lot of them do just rhythm, and they’re great at it, but no one really does solos anymore. People don’t understand that that’s how a guitar player expresses himself. Those are his emotions coming out of that, and it’s been missing. So I think I want to bring the old feeling of guitar playing back and combine it with the newer, heavier style.

MM: Is there a full-on tour we can look forward to after MetalFest? Have any plans come about regarding going back on the road?

EC: That’s something we’ll probably figure out more of come summertime. We may look at going to Europe and playing there. Tours in the US are very specialized anymore; you have OzzFest, the Warped tour, and it’s all just very genre-specific. Over in Europe we’ve opened for REM, Sheryl Crow, The Black Crowes; we’ve covered it all there. And if you look at someone’s record collection over there, they have everything! [laughs] It’s not as pigeonholed as it seems to be over here; there’s a real big variety of music over there.

MM: Are there any bands or artists in particular you would like to take out on the road with you?

EC: Well, we’ve always wanted to be the opening band. We’re a lot more comfortable with that than being the headliner. It’s kind of easier to chose who we want to tour with that way. Right now there’s no one in particular; we do like to have a variety of bands to play with. We recently played a show out in California, it was a festival show. It was us, Linkin Park, DMX, Cypress Hill and Obie Trice. That was a GREAT show. We had a real good time with that one.

MM: Good deal. And that looks like everything I have here.

EC: Cool.

MM: I want to thank you again very much for your time, Ernie.

EC: Not a problem.

MM: And I’ll catch up with you again at the MetalFest Pre-Party and see at the show on Saturday.

EC: All right, looking forward to it.

--double M

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