Body Count’s lead guitarist and founding member Ernie C might be one of the funniest, most intriguing musicians in the metal world. He was nice enough to sit down with Scene Point Blank to discuss the band’s newest record Bloodlust and their upcoming Australian tour, the first time the metal icons will visit that country. I have never interviewed a musician that has seamlessly worked with such varied talent, within multiple genres’ and light up with excitement at every artist named. Ernie C seemed delighted and open to discuss just about anything, as you will see below, we touched on everything from Quincy Jones, to Slayer, to “Cop Killer,” Nirvana, and the 1st ever Lollapalooza tour in 1990.
Scene Point Blank: How did the recording of the band’s most recent album, Bloodlust, come together?
Ernie C: During the summer, Ice has a vacation from Law and Order, and he went to Arizona where (Ice-T’s) wife Coco’s family is from. The band rented a house, and stayed there, and went to the studio every day and wrote riffs. After that we went back New York and recorded with Will Putney and it was seriously that simple.
Scene Point Blank: Just a bunch of friends in a room, that’s a great sentiment…
Ernie C: And that’s the catch about it, there’s a lot of friends right now in the band. We’ve had so many different configurations of the band, some that weren’t friends and didn’t like being in the same room together, and it’s hard to write music like that. But this time the combination of the band, those that are on Manslaughter and Bloodlust is the right combination of people, and being friends has a lot to do with how the record sounds.
Scene Point Blank: And it comes through on the record, with Bloodlust sounding as a natural progression from Manslaughter…
Ernie C: We had two to three years to get better and go out and play. When we did Manslaughter we had eight years off before that record, and eight years where we didn’t play. When we did Manslaughter, we had two years of touring and that sound is what you are hearing on Bloodlust.
Scene Point Blank: You have so many other metal icons on the record as well: Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, and Max Cavalera from Sepultura. How did those collaborations happen?
Ernie C: It was basically as simple as calling them up and asking if they wanted to play on the record. It wasn’t planned at all. When we started the record we didn’t say, "Let’s get so-and-so." We’ve known Dave since the '80s. Before we were with Body Count, we wanted to be on a Megadeth record and that never happened. Ice and Dave were on Twitter together and Ice, on Twitter –- in public, asked Dave, "Do you want to be on a Body Count record?" Dave responded, "Heck yes –- send over the track," so we did.
With Max, we were in Arizona for 6 weeks writing the record and we decided to do a show at this little club called The Marquis, and Max came to the show. We met with him at the show, and he ended up singing “Cop Killer” with us live. So we said to him: "We’re writing a record, why don’t you come down tomorrow," and he and his wife show up at the rehearsal the next day. He brought his own song with him, so we learned the song. It was so simple.
With Randy…I quit drinking years ago, and Randy quit drinking years ago, so we get together and talk about sobriety every now and then. One day I asked him, "Would you like to be on our new record?" and he was like "Send over the track."
And the record company kept asking us "How did you pull this off, how did you get these guys together?" And they were just shocked that it just happened so easily. If Axl Rose was around, we would have had Axl on a track, ya know? Anything can happen.
Ernie C: What’s so good about it is when we sent the track to them, and then got the track back, we were like fans listening for the first time listening like, "Wow, Randy killed it." We got to experience the record like it’s brand new. And then Dave Mustaine does a guitar solo and I’m like…"Damn, now I have to learn that?"
It was just a lot of fun, and nice to feel like a musician again.
Scene Point Blank: And the band covered Slayer’s “Raining Blood,” which was amazing in its own right.
Ernie C: We wanted to do a Slayer song. There’s a lot of great Slayer songs, but when you hear that riff from “Raining Blood” you know exactly what it is right away. We didn’t want to do a Slayer song that you have to play it for a while before you figure it out. We didn’t want our fans to have to figure it out. When you hear that first note of “Raining Blood” you know exactly what it is. And with a Slayer song, you have to play it well, you can’t butcher a Slayer song, 'cause they’ll come butcher you up.
There’s a show coming up called the Live Wire Awards in Los Angeles on October 24th, and we’re gonna play “Raining Blood” at the awards show. Kerry (King) is going to come out and play guitar with us, and Tom (Araya) is going to sing it with Ice. That, to me, means that we didn’t kill their song. If we would have messed it up, they wouldn’t even have acknowledged that we existed.
Scene Point Blank: You sound really jazzed about the new record. Does that transition to your live shows?
Ernie C: We’ve only played a couple of those songs live, but we’ll find out when we get there. We know our old stuff works, so we’ll see. The whole thing is just us having a good time, and we’re gonna have a good time, when you’re looking so forward to something, you know it’s gonna be fun. It’ll be nice to see how the crowd reacts to the new songs.
Scene Point Blank: Body Count covered the Jimi Hendrix classic “Hey Joe,” on the Stone Free record in 1993. Can you discuss why you chose that song?
Ernie C: First off, “Hey Joe” was the first big hit that Hendrix had, and second of all, our song is produced by Eddie Kramer -- the only song on that whole record that Eddie produced. (For those of you that don’t know, Eddie Kramer worked very closely with Hendrix on all his records.) Eddie Kramer called up our management and wanted to come down and mix the single. He didn’t want to mix Clapton’s, or Slash’s, or Pat Metheny’s singles, only ours. I said: "You must be fucked up for Eddie Kramer to want to mix our record." I went to Electric Lady Studios and sitting there with him, I was a little intimidated. So I asked him "Why did you want to produce our single?" and he said, "I looked you guys up, and I think Jimi would have liked you a whole lot." I called up Ice immediately after that and said "Kiss My Ass."
Scene Point Blank: Ice T and Body Count played the first ever Lollapalooza tour in 1991 with that iconic bill including Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, and Rollins Band, among others. What was the vibe like during that time, playing with that lineup?
Ernie C: It was a lot of fun….
Quick backstory: I was a messenger in Los Angeles in 1988 where I delivered packages to different places, and Ice-T had his rap thing going, so I delivered a package to this management company and I saw Perry Farrell there, and I heard them talking about doing this song, and he was trying to talk to his manager and go into his office. I overheard him say "Sly Stone," and I’m like, "I know Sly Stone," and they turned around to look at me, and I told them I was serious. They were going to record this song called “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” from the Sly and the Family Stone record Stand!.. This was 1988, they were going to do a video for a movie that Perry Farrell’s wife at the time was doing called Gift. Two weeks go by, I talked with Sly Stone, and he says "I’m gonna be there." The day they were getting ready to shoot the part I called up Sly, and his team said that he just left and checked himself into rehab. So... what am I gonna do now?
So I went to Perry, and I asked him "Have you ever heard of this guy named Ice-T?" Perry said, "Hell yes I’ve heard of Ice-T." At the time Ice was doing Back on The Block with Quincy Jones. After he finished with Quincy Jones, he left and went to rehearsal space and recorded “Don’t’ Call Me Nigger, Whitey” with Perry Farrell. Ice didn’t have any idea who Perry Farrell was…I told him, "Just do it."
In 1990 when Perry got together to do Lollapalooza, he asked Ice-T to be on the tour, and then in turn Ice brought Body Count and did 15 minute sets, which is just long enough for a new band to play. People loved us. We played “Don’t Call Me Nigga, Whitey” On the Lollapalooza tour. I came out and played guitar with Dave (Navarro) from Jane’s Addiction, it was pretty amazing.
Living Colour was on that Lollapalooza tour and they were kind of a glam, black, rock band. The media were calling them a black rock band and then once people took a look at us they were like; if Living Colour is black, what is Body Count? 'Cause we came out in khakis, and bandanas, and guns onstage. That was kind of the downfall of the glam era, and then things started getting real. Nirvana came around, and you know, Kurt (Cobain) came to our shows. That was what Nirvana was; they came out and made everything real. They came out dressed like guys hanging out on the street instead of all glammy, and getting your makeup and hair done. Spandex ain’t gonna work.
Scene Point Blank: I can’t finish our conversation without bringing up the “Cop Killer” controversy. I read a story recently where President George H.W. Bush condemned the song and Body Count while he was in office. And then you see actor Charleston Heston reading the lyrics to “KKK Bitch” on the nightly news. How surreal was it that the name Body Count, and your lyrics, made it all the way to the Oval Office?
Ernie C: That was just a sign of the times. It had to do with election year politics and not having a platform, and looking for someone to point the finger at. On the new record the song “No Lives Matter” is kind of like a modern day “Cop Killer,” having to do with class warfare. Now that we’re a little older, we’re not just pointing the finger at the police, we’re talking about social issues and economics being the problem. Now we’re able to say "Things are bad, but it’s because people are broke in the hood." There’s no opportunity so that makes you hate the cops, and the cops are there to enforce the laws and keep people down.
One quick thing. Ice-T is on Law and Order and he talks about the Captain on the show telling his character, "You’re gonna go to the Upper East Side, but while you’re over there…tread lightly." What he’s really saying is; "Talk to these people in a certain way because they have lots of money." I’m sure when they go into the hood the Captain ain’t saying "tread lightly," he's saying "Bust down the doors and bring them in."
It was very surreal at the time, but it helps the band be around today. We didn’t sell a lot of records, but it made the people understand that we stood for something. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything.”