Whereas Ice-T fronts the Californian hip-hop/rap-inspired metal band and acts in Law & Order: SVU, Body Count guitarist and co-founding member, Ernie C (the ‘C’ being short Cunnigan) provides the riffs. And he’s done so since the band’s inception in 1990. Five years on from their genesis and the three years after their self-titled debut record, the band hit Aussie shores for the ill-fated venture that was Alternative Nation. Now, 22 years later, Body Count are finally coming back in early June for a headline tour down the East Coast of Oz. Ahead of this tour, I spoke with the always enthusiastic Ernie C about this Australian tour, the supporting bands, recent album ‘Bloodlust’, upcoming music videos as well as a cool Black Sabbath anecdote…
So Ernie, with it being 22 years ago since the band played in Australia, have you yourself been over here personally – whether for personal travel or even for Masters of Metal?
No, not at all. The last time for me was 22 years. We’ve played three times over there in the 90’s; once at Big Day Out, our own tour, and then for Alternative Nation. But for the last 18 years, Ice has been on Law & Order, so we only have time in the summers when it’s not filming to tour, and this Australian tour is the start of our summer touring.
Right on! On Law & Order, did it ever bother you and the rest of the band that Ice got onto that show and then Body Count had to take a back seat to that commitment?
No, not really. First, we had a lot of tragedy in our band. We were having band members – our friends – pass away and we lost three members. If we were to keep touring and playing as per normal right up to today, then we wouldn’t be playing today. In not doing the band 24/7, I get to look at other interests and other things in my life, like how I used to produce bands or now how I can write or spend time with the grandkids. It’s the right amount of time for us, and when we do play, we really do enjoy playing. We don’t have to play a show every month. And now, we’re really excited to come over to Australia in June!
Very good point, actually – you may have run the risk of burning out or just getting bored with touring and phoning it in when you play.
Yeah! We may have burnt ourselves out. We lost members of our bands, and we then replaced those members and then certain the combination of members didn’t work out and such. But now this version of Body Count is the best one yet. Even with Ice-T out in New York and us here in L.A., we all rehearse together and we all hang out together. It’s great.
Good to hear. Of course, with the tour supports – A.B. Original and Void Of Vision – I’m curious to know what you honestly think about those two bands if you’ve heard them yet?
Oh, I haven’t actually heard either one yet. In doing all this press, I only heard yesterday who the opening acts were. I’m gonna get the promoter to send me their music to check it out. Whenever we have supporting bands, we always try and get there early to see them play so we can see what they’re really about.
Well, hopefully, a lot of punters get there early too, so these two don’t have to play to half-empty rooms!
I love when the opening acts have a full house in front of them. If they’re local bands, like here, hopefully, locals come out to see them do their own thing – warm the crowd up for us. So it’d be great if people came down early for them both.
I also think that those two supports are a really good representation of Body Count; A.B. Original cover the rap/hip-hop spectrum while Void Of Vision covers the heavier side of things.
Cool! That’s quite interesting. See, now, you’ve made me really look forward to checking them out [laughs].
You should! Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the Void’s debut album, but I’ve seen them many times live and they’re usually a sick band on-stage. Anyway, with ‘Bloodlust’, there’s a song called ‘Walk With Me’, and as a massive Lamb Of God fan, I thought it was pretty on the nose to have Randy feature on that song; considering they have a great track called ‘Walk With Me In Hell’.
Oh yeah, maybe. Randy’s a big friend of ours and he’s the nicest guy in the world. I was talking to him on the phone a while back when we were in Arizona, told him about the track, sent it over to him. And you know how you might have heard the song for the first time and gone “Wow!” Well, that’s what we had when we got it back from him – he killed it! He also wrote a video for it too. We’re actually doing a video for every song on the album, and Randy wrote the treatment for it.
Cool! And doing a video for every song on the album? Very few bands do that.
Well, we wrote this record as a complete record; every song leads you into the next one. So we figured that you can’t do a video for just one or two songs and leave out pieces of the puzzle. This album was basically all singles put together as a complete listening journey. We have animation videos coming and we’ve also got a dark video coming for the serial killer song where Ice plays this psychotic – that video’s actually done. It’s an interesting concept for us, really.
On that “serial killer song”, you mean ‘Here I Go Again’. You know, that and ‘The Ski Mask Way’ were actually what I disliked about ‘Bloodlust’. As I love it when you guys tackle the really heavy political issues with poignant songs, but those two tracks – which are about robbing people and going on a killing spree respectively – created this massive tonal dissonance for me; one that negatively impacted the record.
Well… we’re not really a political band. Sure, we’ll cover political issues but we have a dark side also. Originally, ‘Here I Go Again’ came on with the Halloween theme, but John Carpenter wanted so much money for it, that we dropped it. That song is a real horror movie; a real grindhouse movie kind of song. Just something different for us on this record to get away form the political. Where the same band who can turn around play Bitch In The Pit or KKK Bitch [laughs]. We’re not Rage Against The Machine; we’re Rage Against The Machine with a sense of humour.
Well said. That’s true, and you have done that since the first record – which had opposite-end songs like ‘Cop Killer’ and ‘Evil Dick’. It’s just a personal caveat I have with ‘Bloodlust’.
That’s cool, man! We’re all musicians; we ain’t politicians. We just have some fun with our records. We sit around and watch all kinds of movies, and I’m not even a big fan of horror; I don’t like being scared. But Ice has got the lyrics and I got the riffs for him. It does make me cringe a bit though, but the video we have for the song [‘Here I Go Again’] is very scary too. It’s a dark kind of fun. Horror movie fans will dig it I think. Not sure how they’re dropping just yet but we have another animated clip coming as well. Can’t remember which one exactly, as we have eight of these videos now! But something will drop right before this tour, I believe.
Well, shit, now I’m kinda keen to see this clip when it drops. Might even change my opinion of the song too.
Now, just a random little thing here, but despite watching a lot of Body Count videos and live footage, I saw a photo of you playing the other week and only just realised then that you’re actually a left-handed guitarist.
Yes, actually! [Laughs] I’ll tell you, man, the cool thing about that is that I played Toni Iommi’s guitar, the one he used on Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’. He was coming into the studio once, so he told me that cause we’re both left-handed he’d bring the guitar out for me to play and he barely brings it out. I even posed in the mirror with it [laughs]. As for guitars, it’s funny, it wasn’t Jimi Hendrix that influenced me to play the guitar but rather Jimmy Paige. People think because I’m black and left-handed that I must have been influenced by Hendrix but no, it was Paige!
[Laughs] I love that people just assume that about you. Wrongly, of course. Also, that would have been very cool to hold and play Iommi’s own guitar.
What’s interesting about it is that people think it’s a Gibson SG, but it’s not a Gibson SG; it’s an Aegle. He wanted a guitar with 24-frets, but Gibson wouldn’t do the extra two frets on their guitars so another company made that guitar for him. Then, later on, Gibson said, “Oh, you’re in Black Sabbath, we’ll make you one!” That’s just a little fact for you. I only found it out when I opened it up with him and saw that it wasn’t a Gibson. This is the 60’s back when they didn’t do custom guitars all the time. Nowadays, you can get a custom guitar in half a minute, but back then, it was very hard.
Very true about customs these days – anyone with the money can get one, really. That being said, do you have or have you had your own custom guitar?
Yup! Schecter makes me guitars with no knobs with just the on-off switch. I used to play and accidently hit the knobs and change the volume or the tone while I was playing, so I just said, “I don’t need ’em”. I mean, all I do is play loud and use the amp and pedals. People ask me all the time how I survive without them and it’s simple – you don’t need them in rock and roll. Sounds like something out of Wayne’s World, doesn’t it?
That it does! On that guitar anecdote, we’ll have to leave our interview there, Ernie. Thanks for your time today!
Cool man, no worries. See you guys next month!
Body Count is touring down the Australian East Coast this June with A.B. Original & Void Of Vision. All ticket and tour date info can be found here.