The 1980s were a curious time for music. It was one of the most creative and cool times ever for all kinds of music from Rock, Heavy metal, Pop, Hip-Hop, and Dance Music. Art and music is an expression of society and what people are feeling, and rarely just artists pushing their opinions on fans. But forces were aligning against personal freedom, especially in the United States Government and the Parents Music Resource Center (The P.M.R.C.) led by Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius.
By all accounts this past weekend’s Download Festival was a smashing success with many memorable sets. One such moment was Body Count featuring Ice T, who were joined by Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed for the classic track ‘Cop Killer’. Watch it below.
It has been quite some time since the world has last heard from Ice T and Body Count. Aside from Ice T’s thriving acting career on Law & Order: SVU as Odafin ‘Fin’ Tutuola for the past 14 years, the band has been relatively quiet until now.
Manslaughter is the band’s first new release since 2006’s Murder 4 Hire, and the band is coming back swinging. Band guitarist Ernie C [Ernie Cunnigan] explained the reasons behind their extended hiatus.
“Last summer, we were at the point where we could really do a record. Last one we did [was] eight years ago. It wasn’t really a record. Ice was in New York. I was in LA. I’d send him tracks and if he wanted to make a change, he’d send it back. It would take two weeks to make a simple change that it would take a second if you’re sitting together.”
“From last summer, we rented a house in Vegas. We put the band in there and stayed there for six weeks and wrote a record. When he heard something he didn’t like, he’d change it right then, go to sleep and wake up in the morning and say ‘let’s change that.’ So that’s why the record sounds the way it sounds.”
Ice T and Ernie C are the sole original members in Body Count, and the two have experienced many ups and downs throughout the years. They lost three original members [original drummer Victor Ray “Beatmaster V” Wilson in 1996 from leukemia; bassist Lloyd “Mooseman” Roberts from a drive by shooting in 2001; and guitarist Dennis “D-Roc” Miles from lymphoma in 2004], as well as shuffling various lineups throughout the years.
“First of all, we lost three members over the years. Now the band has to grieve. I’ve been doing different combinations of people but the band has to grieve. So we’re at a point where we’ve grieved.”
“Remember we’re one removed from the original member. Vince is my second bass player. Will [Ill Will ie Dorsey] is my second drummer. Juan [Juan of the Dead – Garcia] is my second guitarist and he came from Evildead, which everyone knows him. Vince [Vincent Price – Dennis] is been with me for the past ten years. Will is new but he works out just fine in the band. The thing of it is it just works well. Everyone works well together. The band sounds best as it sounds in the last ten years.”
Once they resumed the band, they began working on new material over an extended period of time and slowly worked its way back into business.
“The topics on here are really good. The first record is still relevant. ‘Cop Killer’ is still a relevant song. Nothing’s really changed. I’m going back to the first record with songs about racism like ‘Momma’s Gotta Die’ and ‘KKK Bitch’ which is still relevant today, with Donald Sterling proved that everything is still relevant. That record is still a current record. We had to write a record that’s contemporary. So we started writing songs and we wrote a lot of music without Ice’s lyrics. It takes more time to think about the lyrics than me writing the riffs.”
He talked about some of the songs on Manslaughter.
“Like a song called ‘Back To Rehab’ – I went to a rehab. I quit drinking about five years ago. Not like back, back, back to rehab…but it’s relevant. We have a song as a tribute to our soldiers – ‘I Will Always Love You’. Ice is an airborne ranger. That’s relevant. We wrote songs like ‘Talk Shit, Get Shot’, which is a rule of life. Every song is a single by itself. That record, you know it or not, plays from beginning to end…it’s sequenced. We wrote a record that’s sequenced like our first record, where you put on and play. People are used to buying on iTunes one song at a time. They don’t know you can buy a record and play it from beginning to end and take it to a whole new experience.”
Ice T and Body Count nearly coined the phrase ‘Fuck the Police’ from ‘Cop Killer’, where the line repeatedly comes up throughout the song. The song came out at a time when racial tension in Los Angeles arose during the infamous Rodney King police beatings and the LA Riots in 1992.
But 20 years plus has passed since those days, and the phrase often gets overused. How does the band feel about it looking at it now?
“It’s a slogan and nobody acts on anything. Now it’s just cheering – I’m just mad…can’t do nothing about it. Over the past two weeks, we’ve done a lot of national television. We’re one of the first heavy metal band to play on The Tonight Show. People were still uptight about it. We haven’t changed. We’re still the same band. But now America changed around us to accept us into their living rooms. That’s Middle America”.
“It’s ok to say “Fuck the Police”. That’s what that says. That makes it more so it’s a chanting slogan. That’s not really a cause. They put us on TV…”we didn’t say fuck the police”. But 20 years ago when we were saying it, it was like shut it down.
Another interesting point in the battle of metal versus rap, is whether metalheads were closet rap fans and if that stemmed into the problems. “I really don’t know. The metal fans listen to everything. I hang around musicians. I don’t talk to them about anything outside of…some metal fans just listen to metal. They discriminate before they know what it is.”
But despite all of the controversy, Body Count found itself on the annual Rockstar Mayhem Fest alongside bands such as Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Trivium, Asking Alexandria, Cannibal Corpse, Suicide Silence and others.
The relation goes back years and Ice T had previous done select shows for tour co-organizer Kevin Lyman on the Vans Warped Tour.
“We’ve only play select shows on Warped Tour. We’ve never done an entire Warped Tour. Kevin [Lyman] and John Reese are partners. I’ve known John Reese forever from Guns N Roses. So I’m out here like old times. We haven’t hung out with him in 24 years on tour. It’s like friends.”
“He was [under] Ice T [on Warped Tour]. He was out there with Eminem. Eminem wasn’t out there as Eminem. He was 187. He was out there with those guys. Ice was out there doing his thing.”
So what should the crowd expect this summer from them? “Our set is an hour and a half. Our set here is 25 minutes. Our normal set Ice talks for 25 minutes. So I said ‘you can talk for 30 minutes.’ We’re gonna play some old songs. We’re playing three new songs. We’ll play ‘There Goes The Neighborhood’, ‘Cop Killer’ and mix it up. We can only play so much. There’s enough for people to know there’s a new record and see if they like it.”
As far as future touring, Cunnigan would not commit to exact schedules due to Ice T’s acting schedule. “After this, Ice is going back to Law & Order. This is his summer vacation like high school. Coco is coming out with the dogs. Everybody’s watching the shows. The dogs are on tour. It’s a party. It’s a lot of fun.”