INTERVIEW: ERNIE C of BODY COUNT – March 2017

There are rockstars that don’t consider themselves rockstars at all, but they put out killer music that sticks with you over time.  When Body Count released their self-titled disc in 1992, the rock world was put on notice and this charge was led by Ice-T and his long-time friend and guitarist Ernie C.  With songs that prompted bans and large ripples in the music industry, these guys took it all in stride and slowly built a following and catalog.  After taking a self-inposed rest from the industry, the duo reformed the band and pulled in some new members after the untimely deaths of some of the founding members and released a disc in 2014 kicking the door open for old fans and new fans alike… and preparing them all for the new disc to be released March 31 2017 – Bloodlust.  With the release date approaching, we were able to grab some phone time with guitarist Ernie C to discuss the disc and so much more…

Toddstar: Ernie, thank you so much for taking time out for us. I really appreciate this.

Ernie: Oh no problem, it’s fun to talk on the phone. We haven’t done press like this in a long time, so it’s good, you know, we’ve been around a long time. So it’s good to just talk.

Toddstar: Well, I’m excited because, and I’ll do a horrible impression and channel my Ice-T but I remember the first time I ever heard your name was listening through the Body Count CD when it first came out and I heard, Ernie mother-fucking C.

Ernie: Representing South Central, right? You know, I was in Electric Bugaloo with Ice 1983. We’ve been writing together a long time.

Toddstar: Well, I’ll tell you what, as somebody who couldn’t wait to get their hands on Manslaughter and I was lucky enough to bump into you guys in Detroit, here, on the tour when you guys did the Monster Energy tour out in the parking lot at Pine Knob.

Ernie: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

Toddstar: But to hear this music, man, and to know that you’re doing it again. What’s it like for you guys to know that you’re still doing it 20 years on.

Ernie: As a matter of fact, tomorrow it’ll be 25 years to the day that first record came out. We wrote on that record, we wrote about cops, and we wrote about racism, things like that. We thought by shedding some light on it, it might make it a little better. And here we are 25 years later, coming out with basically the same record. It seems to be worse, so, it’s kind of ironic, things are actually worse than they were then.

Toddstar: There’s a lot of truth to that statement, Ernie.

Ernie: Yeah, in 25 years.

Toddstar: Yeah, no shit. Both of us have seen a lot in that 25 years and yeah, to know we are no better off, as a matter of fact in many ways we are worse off is just amazing.

Ernie: The gaps are getting wider and wider. And on this new record, we have a song out right now called “No Lives Matter.” And people are, it talks about black lives but it’s not just talking about black lives in that, it talks about white lives also, but it really talks about the economic situation that goes on between the rich and the poor. If you have the right lawyer, more than likely, you’re not going to get into a lot of crap that you get in if you don’t have money to defend yourself.

Toddstar: Well, you brought it up that the single is, I love it, couldn’t stop listening to it when I first got a link to the video.

Ernie: It’s more melodic than some of our stuff, you know?

Toddstar: It’s crazy melodic, compared to a lot of the stuff. It’s actually a lot easier to listen to, just the song I heard, but what is it about Bloodlust, the new release. What’s different about this one from a writing and production standpoint from some of the other stuff, whether it be Manslaughter going all the way back to Body Count?

Ernie: This record, you know, when we did Manslaughter, it was our first record after taking 8 years off. And we were looking after, you know we lost members of our band, they passed, 3 members of our band passed, so we were doing records but it just wasn’t the right feel when we replaced the members. And so we took 8 years off, Ice and I took 8 years off, to kind of grieve. So then after the end of the 8 years, we’re like, OK, let’s play. So we played and we got one last person that was missing was Juan Garcia, who is our new rhythm guitarist, and he was in Evil Dead and all of these rock bands. And he’s been around us for 20+ years and we just grabbed Juan and we started playing and we wrote that record. And that record was good, after 8 years off, for people to like that record and then look to go on tour with Avenged Sevenfold and all that kind of stuff and then we went to Europe and played. All this is really cool, so the band got better so we decided to do this record, you know. People say that the records are close together, but it’s 3 years apart, and back in the day, people used to do records a year apart. So I don’t get it, you know. But, we just wanted to do some more music, and we had a lot of music in us, now that we were back playing. Different from the beginning? I think we’re better musicians and the first record we did 25 years ago, when I listen to that record, it sounds like a punk band. This new record we just finished sounds more like a metal band, or it’s more refined.

Toddstar: That makes sense. You can sonically hear a difference between Body Count into Born Dead and all the way up into Manslaughter. So you can sonically hear a difference in your guys’ playing. With that said, and you talk about this being more of a rock record, more of a metal record, you just had a couple of special guests on this cd. What is it like for you as a guy who grew up playing guitar and wanting to rock out, to be able to grab some of your contemporaries and say, “Let’s jam?”

Ernie: You know, it was really interesting, but it was easier than it seems. You know, those people are our friends and they were around when we were in the recording process. It’s not like when we started this when we were like “Let’s get Dave [Mustaine] to be on this, or let’s get Max [Cavalera]”. They ended up, active, when we were recording the record. Like we’ve known, I’ve known Dave since 1988, before Body Count, Ice and I were going to be on a Megadeth record. So Ice and Dave ended up on Twitter. You know, they’re on Twitter together, and so Ice is like we’re out here recording a record, and Dave’s like, “Why don’t you send over a track?” So we send him a track, and so, that’s how that happened and Max, you know, we recorded this record.  Well we wrote the record in Arizona this summer, and we decided to do a show at a place in Arizona and Max came to the show. And so we’re sitting backstage and we were like, “Hey, we’re rehearsing tomorrow”, and he was like “Oh, I’ll be there.” And he ended up, he came with a guitar with four strings, and so he wrote that song and it just worked, and Randy [Blythe] is my buddy, he and I quit drinking years and years ago, right, so we talk about that. And so I was talking to him on the phone and I said “Randy, do you want to go on our record?” And he was like “Yeah, I’d love to. Let’s send a track.” So it was just real simple, it was no lawyers, no record companies, no managers, just musicians being musicians, you know? And wanting to hang and write music together.

Toddstar: That’s the funny part, this is totally way off topic, but again when I was able to bump into you guys and even got to hang out with Ice during his podcast recording, again out there, hanging out none of you guys walking around backstage, there was no ego. You go to a lot of rock shows and there is a shit ton of ego man.

Ernie: Oh, I know all about it. You know, I’ve toured with them. But you know, it’s like, we’ve been around long enough and we’re happy to just hang out. You know, we hung out when we started in the business. We toured with Guns ‘N Roses and Metallica, we were there opening act, so we know about egos and things like that. But you gotta squash the ego. Like, first, when you put on this record, the first person you hear on this record is Dave Mustaine, it’s not Ice. So that’s like crushing the ego right there. You know, and not like I have to be, no Dave is the first person that you hear for about a minute and a half.

Toddstar: You guys definitely get your props and give them as well. One thing about you, Ernie, and most people if they haven’t seen you they won’t believe this when I say it, but you are self-taught man, everything that you do on stage, every note you play is real, there’s no loops, there’s no bullshit. It’s you and a guitar and that’s all it’s ever been. What made you want to do that back in the day?

Ernie: Well, you know, I was an only child, so nothing else to do but play guitar. And so, it was just the guitar, I just gravitated towards the guitar. It was an instrument that I liked and I gravitated toward it and when I saw people playing the guitar, I was like, “That’s cool”, you know what I mean? And it wasn’t, people always think because I’m left-handed and black and all that kind of stuff that it was Jimi Hendrix and it wasn’t Jimi Hendrix. It was Jimmy Page, I thought Page was the coolest thing walking and Ritchie Blackmore. I thought those were the coolest guys. Hendrix was cool, he’s flashy and he’s the man, but I like Page, I like his notes, I like what he did, I like the contrasts that he had between the acoustic stuff and the rock stuff.

Toddstar: Going over the song list on the new album Bloodlust, which I can’t wait to hear the whole thing through. Are there any songs on there Ernie that really just tore you up while you were trying to get them written and recorded? They just didn’t seem to come out the way you wanted them to?

Ernie: You know what, this is a strange record. Because it just went exact, like I look at this record like one record. I mean, like one continuous record. This record you can put on the first song and it plays all the way to the last song, so the songs, they like, play into one another. You know, like before Randy comes on, it goes down, he comes in blasting on the next song. This record was easy to do. It was the easiest record for us to do because it just flowed exactly right. And we did a cover of “Raining Blood” on this record and it just, everything just went really smooth. So, I don’t, there’s no song I like more than other songs, or guitar solo I like because it’s all pretty consistent.

Toddstar: That makes sense. You mentioned the cover of “Raining Blood”, is there any other songs that you guys have bounced around the idea, or that you’ve thrown out during sound check that you think, “Man, we gotta record that?” What covers out there are just waiting to be recorded by you guys.

Ernie: I don’t know. We were talking about doing a Black Sabbath song, we don’t know which one. Because on the last record we covered Suicidal [Tendencies], so we’re thinking about doing a Black Sabbath song, but we come out to a Black Sabbath “War Pigs” kind of intro, but there’s no song that we have that we play as a cover that we want to get out and play. We generally play what we know. We’ll play some funk stuff. If you haven’t heard the band play funk, that’s always interesting. That’s always a lot of fun.

Toddstar: Well, you know, you’ve got you, you’ve got a killer bass player, in Vincent, and you’ve got Will on drums, so you’ve got a strong rhythm section so you should be able to nail some funk or something like, with a heavier groove.

Ernie: In my earlier life I played for bands like The Gap Band, and the Temptations and all of that stuff when I was in high school. Yeah, I’ve played with Donny Hathaway. At least you go to a club and you see him at 12 o’ clock. Drinking a bottle of Southern Comfort at 12:00 in the afternoon. I thought that was cool when you’re in high school that’s the coolest thing ever, you know. And that’s why I quit drinking.

Toddstar: You have a lot of friends in the music business, like you mentioned, Randy Blythe, from Lamb of God, you guys called in Dave Mustaine, who are one or two collaborators that you’d like to write with or record with that you haven’t yet?

Ernie: Oh, I’ll record with Duff McKagan. He’s my dear friend. I’m in his book and stuff like that. Duff is my friend from day one, when we were playing, the band was playing 27 years ago, Duff was the first person at our show and I’ve known him all this time. I would like for him and Axl, we wanted to do a song with Axl, he’d probably sing on it, you know?

Toddstar: He’s able to throw some attitude in there with you guys.

Ernie: We toured with them one time, right, and everyone was outside, eating lunch, all the crew, everyone, the whole production of everyone. There was one table, and me and Duff were standing there eating. We’re standing up eating. One table was open, sitting at this table was Axl and Ice, and nobody would have sat at the table. We were standing up eating.

Toddstar: Man. I’d love to have been a fly on that table, though listening to that.

Ernie: You know, both of us, we’re in the bands with them, and we both said that. We’d like to know what they’re talking about.

Toddstar: Ernie, what’s the best thing in your mind about being a musician?

Ernie: Oh, just the ability to express myself musically. You know, I’ve had opportunities from the time I was very young until I’m in my 50’s now and I’m still able to get out and play and make an okay living doing this. And just being able to express myself. I deal with musicians all the time, and they’re like, “I can’t get nowhere to play”, so I’m very fortunate. That’s the best thing, you get to write the music I want to write, because people are always like “You want to come out and jam?”, and I’m like, “No, I really don’t want to jam anymore”. I had my way of getting my musical self out, so I’m happy just doing this band as long as it goes.

Toddstar: Well, that said, like you said, tomorrow 25 years since the Body Count disc. Looking back over those 25 years and even longer because you’ve been doing this a long time, is there anything you would consider a misstep or you just wish you could redo?

Ernie: You know, I don’t have regrets. I wish I would have kept my Fuzz Face. It’s a thing that Hendrix used, and so I sold it years ago. That’s the only thing I regret, selling equipment that I have to buy now for ten times as much as when I had it in the 70’s. Everything that’s out of style right now was out of style is back in style.

Toddstar: If you could go back and be a part of any album recorded in the history of time, what would you want to be a part of, Ernie? What’s that one album that’s just always puts you in awe when you hear it?

Ernie: Let’s see, Steely Dan’s Aja, I just like that record because it’s just a lot of chords on it. I listen to that stuff, and I used to play that and it’s just a lot of chords. That’s a great record and George Benson’s Breezin‘ is a great record. There’s all kinds of great records for whatever you’re looking for. Surfing With The Alien is great, for great notes. There’s so much music I don’t try to, you know what Return To Forever is a great record. There’s just, there’s so much music I really would have wanted to be part of a whole get down, it would be like “The Song Remains the Same”, I just like that, I just like the whole moving.

Toddstar: Well getting back to Bloodlust, because this thing drops in just about 3 weeks, what songs on this disk do you think are going to hold up in a live scenario next to the ones in the catalog? Which ones will just fit in perfectly?  As you said earlier, sonically, this is a little different record, so what’s going to fit right in?

Ernie: We’re going to play “No Lives Matter”, I’m sure that’s going to fit in. We cover, we played “Raining Blood” already with “Post Mortem,” we play that and that worked. We have a song called “This is Why We Ride” and it’s a song about why gang members go out and do drive by shootings. That song we played that one live and it had people crying and it breaks down to a blues part that’s kind of different for us and people were digging that. So we’ll play that one live. I don’t know what other ones we might play. There’s a lot of, there’s good choices on that record, so we’ll try to fit as many of them as we can. But then, we still, people still want to hear the “KKK Bitch” and “There Goes the Neighborhood” and all those songs, so we can’t forget about songs that we had from 25 years ago.

Toddstar: I’m telling you brother, if you guys came out and just played that first album front to back, it’d be awesome.

Ernie: Yeah, it’s fun. We play a lot of those songs and it’s always fun when we play those songs. Because they’re punky, they’re fun, you don’t have to think a whole lot to play them. It’s not like, records now are a little more precise. You know what I mean, you got to kind of dig in, you can’t be like a player, you can’t play Slayer songs hopping around the stage. You gotta kind of dig in to play those notes.

Toddstar: That’s true. What amazed me, and I’d like your take on it, is when I did see you guys a couple of years ago, on the Monster Energy tour, it didn’t matter if you were your age or my age, but you had kids 16, 18, 20 that knew the words to that first disk. I mean, what’s that like for you guys to look down and see kids that weren’t even alive when that came out know these songs.

Ernie: You know, we did Meet and Greets with a lot of Avenged Sevenfold fans. I like Zack, I know Zack is a left handed guitar player, I’ve known him for a while so we did meet and greets with some of their fans and they come back here like “Oh, the guy from Law and Order has a band now.” You’re like “What the hell?” So he’s been on the show 16 years, so that’s all they know, they don’t know the whole thing. And then, we were surprised, not the old songs but the majority of them know “Talk Shit Get Shot” and they knew that from YouTube. YouTube helped out that last record for the kids knowing the record. Because we were out there playing and they knew that exact song, and we were like “Well that’s amazing.” So it was really interesting playing with them because now we do have the 16 year olds and the 20-something year olds and the 40 year olds and the 50 year olds that you thought should go out to shows. They’re still with us.

Toddstar: Well, I’ll tell you what, up here in Detroit, you’ve got at least one fan who will always show up. As a matter of fact, I’m driving out to Chicago because I’m excited to see you guys were one hell of a great addition to the Chicago Open Air Festival.

Ernie: Oh yeah, that’s going to be fun. That’s going to be fun. We might get there a day early to see KISS. Because we were on their Farewell Tour.

Toddstar: Other than KISS, what other bands are there are you just like “Oh man, I’d love to see them”?

Ernie: Well, we toured with Korn all last year. You know, we play kind of in the middle of the day, so we’re able to just see bands. You know, last year in Europe we played with ZZ Top a couple of shows. That was fun because I’ve never seen them. We played with the Scorpions, I’ve never seen them. So it’s always good just to be at a show and you never, you see different bands. You get to be a fan.

Toddstar: That’s got to be an amazing feeling, man. I wish you well with the launch of the new disk in a couple weeks.

Ernie: Thank you. I think it’ll be okay. I think, like I said, this record when you get it, just put it on and play it from beginning to end.

Toddstar: I will do that and I’ll make sure everyone I know does. I look forward to hopefully running into you and saying hello when we are both in Chicago.

Ernie: I will, I’ll be there.

Toddstar: Okay brother, talk to you soon.

Ernie: Thank you very much.

 

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INTERVIEW: ERNIE C of BODY COUNT - March 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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