Don’t call it a comeback, but when Body Count released the album Manslaughter in 2014, the metal community warmly embraced the metal crossover group, whose frontman Ice-T is is better known to the current generation as an actor on Law and Order: SVU, a show that in one more season will become the longest running drama in television history. Leading up to this last record, the group faced many obstacles: their frontman’s successful acting/rap career, the untimely passing of original band members and a music industry in transition. However now on the heels of this resurgence and in a time where the band’s lyrical themes of police brutality and street violence are more relevant than ever, founding member/guitar player Ernie C. spoke with El Prezidente of The Chainsaw Symphony radio program about their newest album Bloodlust (Century Media) on the eve of its release.
How you doing? Stoked to be talking to you and very stoked to check out the entire Bloodlust record which drops in what, like 7 hours?
Yeah. Real soon, I’m counting the minutes. I’m really excited it’s a really good one. I have to say its our best record to date.
From what I’ve heard so far, this thing is just air tight and has so much punch to it, it’s unbelievable! “No Lives Matter,” when I heard the title and that you were taking on the whole Black Lives Matter thing, I was almost a little nervous for you guys because it was almost like after 911 when all the 911 songs came out. It’s such a delicate subject matter that if you don’t treat it right it could come off the wrong way, but Ice laid it out in a way that made sense to me.
He laid it out in a way that everyone could understand and It’s not really black lives matter cause he has a line in there that goes, “white people that they call trash.” So it’s talking about everyone that doesn’t have money, that’s what we’re talking about. Years ago we wrote “Cop Killer” and it was like the problem is the cops, then later on as you get older, we discovered that money has a lot to do with the way people get treated by the cops. We’re talking about economics on this record and class wars. That’s what we’re talking about.
Yeah I think the racial divide is blown up by the media, I think the whole Black Lives Matter thing turned a lot of people off because it seemed to pit the races against one another when its an economic thing and there’s a lot to it.
Ice and I were talking one day, and you know he’s been on Law and Order for the past 18 years, and he was saying that his character Fin was going over to the upper East side to talk to some people about a crime and the captain says to him “tread lightly when you go over there,” that’s saying that they have a lot of money you don’t wanna say the wrong thing to them, but if they were coming to our house or someone without money it’s like anything goes, all bets are off, but tread lightly when you go there!
As a guitar player I gotta ask you what tuning are you in, because it has a really thick sound.
I’m tuning a half step lower, I got that from when I started listening to Eddie Van Halen, I’m like what is he doing? He’s tuning a half step lower, so I started tuning a half step lower. A lot of rockers are tuned like that. When I started playing it was in 440 which is regular tuning, but it’s a little more flexible on the strings you know, no odd tuning no drop D’s and all that kinda stuff I keep it kinda straight, no 7-string guitars.
Its like dropped B now.
Yeah you can go too low, when it’s too low it gets kinda funky and I like play leads and when you start low like that it takes away from playing leads.
I know your boy Will Putney from Fit for an Autopsy, producer of this record, his band is super low so I was just wondering cause I don’t have the greatest ear. But let’s talk gear for a minute what kind of distortion are you using and what kinda rig you got going on? Is there something you swear by?
When I first started 25 years ago I used to use racks with 28 spaces of rack equipment you know everything like H 3,000’s and this and that and you had this power amp and this pre-amp, this sub-divider, all kinds of stuff. I didn’t know what half the stuff did. Basically I took a studio on the road with me and these days everything’s a lot simpler. It seems like it would be more complicated in the digital age but I’ve gone simpler, I just use a regular 5150 amp some of Jimmy Dunlap’s pedals on the floor and that’s it. I just keep it real simple right now.
That’s the way to go, technology’s come a long way, you got fractals and everything now so you don’t need that whole rig.
Yeah I have a Kemper, but I still like my tubes, I still like going in there with the tubes. They’re ok for fly gigs but there’s something to be said for tubes, they add some extra harmonics that you wouldn’t get when they’re trying to imitate the harmonics. . . I’d like to see Hendrix feedback on a Kemper you know! You know turn around and put his guitar up to the Kemper you know and see if it feeds back you know! (laughs)
Is that one of your guys, Hendrix?
I like Hendrix, but he wasn’t my main influence. People generally say that because I’m left handed and I’m black. so I kinda signed up for it. Back in the day we did “Hey Joe” and Eddie Kramer produced it, so I was in Electric Ladyland studios with Eddie Kramer, it don’t get no better than that! And I said ‘why did you choose us to produce?’ Cause he had Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Slash, every guitar player and he chose us, and he said, “I think Jimi would have liked you guys.” I thought that was the biggest compliment you could ever get. But, Jimmy Page is my guy! When I first heard him, he played a lot of different stuff, as Hendrix, you know I basically understand what Hendrix was doing cause its basic blues. Page added a little more to it, he had some folksy stuff and a different kind of feel. And I like Deep Purple, I like Richie Blackmore.
Page man, talk about the precursor to heavy metal what you guys are doing, the stuff he was doing in Zeppelin, those huge riffs.
Yeah, those first two records, He just had a lot of knowledge on the guitar. People always say he was sloppy but it wasn’t sloppy to me it was just good, He wasn’t tight in his playing, but you gotta remember they were all high! (laughs) That has a lot to do with a whole lot of things.
No Pro-Tools then either. Will Putney he’s knowm for being a guy that wants to capture a band live and not to do too many overdubs, did he make you guys do that in the studio this time?
No, this is our second record with Will, we took a while off, we did Manslaughter with him and we liked the way he worked. He’s a lot younger than us, so he brought a different perspective that we wouldn’t have musically and he’s a member of our band, we love that kid. The funniest thing was in the studio me, him, and Ice, it’s on YouTube or something like that. And Ice says, “when the Klan comes to get us all we’re all gonna take off running” and Will says, “Well they’re gonna get me too I’m Jewish.” So I said, “well all we gotta do now is outrun Will!”
(Laughs) Oh boy, yeah the Klan’s got a lot of enemies. So what can you tell me about the tour this summer? I know you said you were gonna hit the road this summer in the States but no announcements have been made, can you drop any hints? Will it be a headlining tour maybe a festival package?
I really don’t know, I don’t keep track of it too much, right now I’m just doing record stuff. At first in the early years, I used to worry about where we were going, now its like wherever we go is good. At this point playing in this band for like 26 or 27 years, everywhere we go we’ll be happy to go there. I know we’re going to Australia to start everything like at the end of next month, I know that much, but then we’re gonna come back I know we’re gonna be in the States, I don’t know where, I know we’re gonna be in Chicago, that one’s been announced. We’re gonna play this record here for the next years, we’ll get everywhere sooner or later.
The live show is great. I caught you guys at Mayhem Fest and The Gwar-BQ down in Richmond, VA.
Oh that was fun! That was a lot of fun. That’s where I met Randy Blythe, who’s on our record. I quit drinking years ago right, and so I get a call out of the blue. He says “my name is Randy and I’m in this band Lamb of God,” and I’m like, ‘Wow why am I getting this call?’ And he goes “well you’re coming down here to my city and I heard from someone that you quit drinking and there’s no gonna be nobody there but everybody drinking so I’m gonna come hang out with you.” I thought that was the coolest thing that anyone could ever do! He don’t know me from nothing and he came down and is like, “I’m Randy” and I said, ‘I know you’re Randy’ (laughs) And Ice is like “where do you know him from?” I said ‘I really don’t know him’ (laughs) It was so cool, we became fast friends after that.
Is that a place where there’s a lot of temptation, on the road sober, by the way how long do you have sober?
Congratulations man, that’s cool.
It just reached a point where I felt it was better for everything if I quit. It was just getting old and so its been working out and my guys, you know Ice barely drinks, I used to have him drinking years ago and he used to drink Kahlua and milk, and I used to say ‘you’re sober!’ (laughs). I had him drinking Jager one time and he was like ‘woah, slow it down!’
So there was no rock bottom it just got old?
Rock bottom was just tired of doing it, sick and tired of being sick and tired. I wasn’t getting no better, and all our friends were sobe,r like Duff McKagan, and those people. It seemed like everything was better and everything has gotten better. I was doing it all week long and when you’re on the road and you’re worrying more about the rider than you are the guitar, you know? But we’re in a good place now.
Cool, so speaking of the road is Coco coming on the road with Ice and the baby? I noticed she was on the side of the stage last time.
Yeah, we’re planning it all out. I ride on the bus with Ice, he’s gonna be on the road and the baby. It’s one family you know, we all like hanging out together, that’s the thing about this group of people, we all like hanging out, so when we have the opportunity, when you’re in a band with people you don’t like nobody wants to hang out.
That seems to be the case more often than not, one guy goes one way, one goes the other, and we’ll meet up stage time.
You get to a point like Guns ‘N Roses, they didn’t like each other. Then they started talking again and they’re like “you know I kinda like you and I understand you and we’re older now and I know your boundaries, what you do and what you don’t do,” and now they’re having fun. I talk to the guys and they’re having a good time playing out.
Right. That’s cool the family’s coming on the road. I thought it was really cool to see Coco on the side of the stage last time, then I was thinking she’s probably out there keeping an eye on his ass with all the chicks after the show!
Nah, she’s just there having fun. That’s like their vacation, Ice is on Law and Order, so it’s exciting but they don’t get to go anywhere. You go to a movie set, you sit out there and go home. So being on the road, that whole thing is fun. We get to hang out and go to restaurants. We go to Denny’s and everybody’s like “why is Ice-T at Denny’s?” Well because Ice-T wants to eat! We’re on a bus and we wanna eat at Denny’s (laughs).
Yeah. plus I was thinking with Coco on the road you get all the run-off pussy right? Cause the wife’s around, there’s gotta be some with Ice he’s a mega-star.
(Laughs) It’s not like that anymore. Everyone’s settled down and has got their girl and keep it moving forward.