In 1992 Body Count released their self-titled debut album amid a wave of controversy, censorship and presidential hearings, thanks in no small part to their anthem, 'Cop Killer'. 25 years on, Body Count are about to release their ninth studio album, Bloodlust – and you'd best believe they're still mad as hell.
“On the 10th, it'll be 25 years since Body Count; and then Bloodlust comes out on the 31st,” says Ernie Cunnigan, AKA Ernie C, the guitarist and one of three founding members still playing with the band today.
“That's a quarter of a century between those albums, and we're still talking about the same stuff. Hell, you could put out 'Cop Killer' this week and it would still be as relevant, still elicit the same reaction. Maybe even more so,” he says. “There's more of a divide now than there was then. 25 years ago - it was a shock when Rodney King was beaten and shot. Now that kind of violence is just accepted. Look at our president now – he's going after everyone, even your president, or prime minister or whatever. It's been 30 days. People have just gotten so complacent. That's why we do this.”
Bloodlust is the second album the band have released since their 2009 comeback, following 2014's Manslaughter. With the six people in the band serving not only as musicians, but songwriters, one could easily suspect there to be a lot of clutter in order to get to the core of what works, but Cunnigan assures this is not the case.
“There's a few different writing styles in the band,” he says. “Our bass player [Vincent Price] tends to write as he goes along, but I just like writing in the moment. I play guitar every day, but that's just playing to play. It's only when we've got our sights set on making another record that I start putting ideas together.
“That's just how I work; I mess around with some riffs, and then when I'm in the room with Ice and all the other guys I just cycle through them until we land on one that excites everybody. We start playing it in a loop until something comes together,” says Cunnigam. “We're all full of ideas at any given time – Ice, in particular, took a lot of time to write what I think are really, really good lyrics. We're all standing with him on the subject matter, and we all agree entirely with what he's saying. I think there's a real power to this record – I've been making these Body Count records since the beginning, and this is easily one of the top ones for me.”
In order to layer on the heaviness required, some big names from the world of metal were enlisted to make their presence felt on Bloodlust. This included former Metallica guitarist and Megadeth figurehead Dave Mustaine, as well as Sepultura and Soulfly screamer/shredder Max Cavalera. “Ice and I have known Dave since back in 1988,” Cunnigan says. “He was gonna have Ice and me on a Megadeth record at some point, but it just never happened. Ice and Dave were talking over Twitter, and Ice floated the idea of having Dave on one of the tracks on the new album. Dave was just like, 'send the track over.' It wasn't long before we had the finished version back – Dave wrote that intro part all on his own, and we were just absolutely blown away by what he came up with. It was perfect.
“As for Max, we toured with Sepultura back in the 90s, he's an old friend of ours. When we were recording this album, we were out in Arizona and wanted to try and break the monotony of the studio sessions,” he says. “We ended up playing this club show, and Max came along to hang out – he even got on stage to do 'Cop Killer' with us. The next day, we invited him to the studio, and we've both got these ideas for a new track. It just made sense to bring them together, and that's what the track ended up being.”
Completing the guest list is Randall Blythe, the fearsome frontman of alt-metal heroes Lamb of God, who lends his roar to the track ‘Walk with Me’, a collaboration that particularly excited Cunnigan. “Randy's a good friend of mine,” he says. “We both quit drinking a few years back, so we were able to talk through that with one another and we really became close. One day, we were talking and I asked if he wanted to get in on a track. It was the same as Dave. Real simple - 'sure, just send me the track.' That was it. We don't deal with no lawyers, no label dudes. These are all just people that are friends of ours that we personally asked to contribute. We weren't forcing anything – it wasn't like we were writing a song and were then like, 'oh, let's go get so-and-so.' These were our friends that we wanted to work with.”
From the unforgiving ‘No Lives Matter’ to the frustration of ‘Black Hoodie’, Body Count take no prisoners across the course of Bloodlust. As a centrepiece to the record, however, the band decided to pay tribute to one of their key influences - Slayer, taking on the band's most iconic single, 'Raining Blood.'
“Everyone knows that intro,” says Cunnigan. “Everyone knows that song. We figured that if we were going to cover Slayer, we had to do something big – something instantly identifiable. We were already playing a Slayer song in our set – the song 'Judgment Night', which is the track they recorded with Ice. Once we started doing that, it was like 'why not go one better?' Once we'd picked the song, all we had to do was make sure that we didn't butcher it. When we posted a teaser of us playing it on Twitter, people really seemed to love it – and we made sure that we got Tom and the guys’ blessing to record it.”
A world tour is currently being planned in support of the album, and their local fans agree that it's high-time for the band to return to Australia after a considerably lengthy time away from our shores. “Man, I can remember being out there back in the 90s,” says Cunnigan. “We did this big festival – I think it was literally called the Big Day Out. I really hope that we get to come back there some day. We're doing the US all through this year and then hitting the UK after that, so we'll definitely put a word in that we want to come and see you guys.”
Bloodlust by Body Count is out Friday March 31 through Century Media Records.