By MIKE CHAIKEN
Body Count is back. And the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has them.
Body Count, the metal group led by rapper/ actor Ice-T, is touring behind its latest release, “Manslaughter”
Actually, “back” isn’t entirely true, when it comes to Body Count.
The group never really went away.
“Manslaughter” is the group’s fifth album since it hit the public eye in 1992 with its self-titled debut. Between then and now, the group also released “Born Dead” in 1994, “Violent Demise” in 1997, and “Murder 4 Hire” in 2006.
And Ice-T himself has been incredibly busy since Body Count’s first record. He’s been in several movies in that time. Since 2000, television viewers have watched him as he has taken on the role of “Fin” on “Law and Order: SVU.” And he’s also been in some reality series, including “Ice Loves Coco,” which followed his home life with his wife Nicole “Coco” Austin.”
But Ice-T once again is making music with Body Count—which now includes long-time collaborator Ernie C on lead guitar, Juan of the Dead on rhythm guitar, Vincent Price on bass, Ill Will on drums, Sean E Sean on back-up vocals/sampler.
The group arrives in Hartford on the Mayhem Festival on Sunday, July 27.
In an interview in which questions were emailed to Ice-T and he replied via an MP3 voice recording, the rapper spoke about Body Count, their new music, and Mayhem Festival.
Observer: It’s been more than 20 years since the first Body Count record was released. You’ve had several albums since then. But it’s been several years since you guys gathered as Body Count. Why do you think the time is right in music for Body Count to reach out to fans of heavy music once again?
Ice-T: I don’t know so much the time being right. I just think there’s a lot of topics that aren’t being addressed in music today. A lot of people are beating around the bush. I guess it kind of aggravates me that we’re kind of in a delusional state of music where everything is okay when everything really isn’t.
O: Since the first album came out, artistically, how have you evolved—and how has the band evolved— and how is it reflected in your performance and in any new music in the works?
I: I don’t know really know how I have evolved. I know I’ve had more life experiences. And adding more life experiences, it gives you more perspective about things.
The band has taken on three brand new members who are really anxious to play. They’re excited and we’ve got that new blood in the band.
I kind of make music as I hear it and as I think it.
I guess, you’ll have to tell us how we’ve evolved.
Sometimes, you know, certain things aren’t meant to evolve too much. Sometimes if you have a good sound, you just stick with it.
O: You have a multi-dimensional career. You first gained attention as a rapper. You surprised many people when Body Count came out. Your acting resume in television and film is pretty lengthy. And you’ve even opened up your home to the cameras for a reality series. How do these different elements to your career fulfill you creatively?
I: I’m just a person who takes advantage of the outlet. If I was still stuck in the hood, I wouldn’t have any opportunities. As opportunities show themselves, I take advantage of them. I think everybody would love to be, you know, a rock star, being on stage and rocking out loud or rap or be on television, be in films, so I’ve just been somebody that as opportunities opened for me I applied myself to it.
I didn’t really have problems with the reality show to show people what my life was really like. But with reality shows, you have to be really cautious because you’re trying to entertain people with your life. … We got in and got out with that.
O: Body Count, of course, is a band. Talk to me about what they bring to the table in terms of creativity and making the band what it is?
I: I think the key to Body Count is just my perspective I have on life, and just use it in a rock formula to bring them out. Now, I’ve been putting my perspective on music ever since I started in hip hop back in 1982 and I’ve got a pretty interesting way to see life. I’m also kind of good at relaying other people’s feelings. So you could to that over hip hop or you could do that over heavy metal I think that the music kind of adds to the aggression and the feeling
But I don’t really know. I think Body Count has its own niche, it’s own sound. I don’t know if you’d call it funk. I don’t know if you’d call it metal. It’s definitely a rap vocal. But I don’t think it’s hiphop rock. I think we created our own niche that we’re unlike any other group.
O: How did the decision to join Mayhem Festival come about… what did you like about the idea of being on this tour? Had you ever been to the Mayhem Festival as a fan?
I: I’ve never been to a Mayhem Festival, but I’m very cool with the promoter who does the show… from my Warped Tour days. I’ve been out on the Warped Tour, I went out there as a rapper and Body Count has performed on a few Warped Tour stages. I think that this year with… “Body Count,” as you said, coming out 20 years earlier, it was important to me to get in front of new fans. I didn’t just want to go out on a tour that would… only have our fans. I wanted to be in front of new ears and let them get a taste of the band and hopefully start creating a new fan base of… a younger audience that I’m quite sure will be attracted to what we do.
I didn’t care what the tour was. I just had to get out there on a festival stage.
And Mayhem Fest just happened to hit during my hiatus when I’m break from my TV show (“Law and Order: SVU”), so we just had to go with it. And we’re going to be out there with a lot of fans of and friends with (the band) and the kids we want.
O: Are there bands on the bill that you’re curious to get a chance to watch in action… which ones?
I: I think honestly Korn would be the most similar to us because they came out around the same time as us. They’re kind of veterans. Of course, I want to see Cannibal Corpse, because that’s always been one of my most favorite. I’ve actually worked with (former member) Chris Barnes… Asking Alexandria is a label mate, and we got a chance to play on the same bill at UFEST in Arizona. I like checking out all of the new bands. All the so-called undercard, groups that are just coming up, to see what they’re doing I’m just going to have a good time. I love festivals because there’s so much good music out there.
O: For the fans, what can they expect from Body Count on stage at Mayhem Fest in terms of music and performance?
I: We’ve been known to have a good show. We go out there and nail it. We have a lot of material because we have four albums, so trying to force that in to 45 minutes is always interesting so we pretty much go non-stop. And of course, you’ll get the Ice-T dark humor that happens during the show. But we just try to nail it, move the crowd, and have a brutal pit— that’s our trademark, we’ve always had a very aggressive mosh pits.
(Our performance is) going to be different first off, we’re going to have four black guys and a Cuban up there (with) definitely some hardcore L.A. (stuff). So I know we’ll look different than all the other bands.
O: How does “Manslaughter” fit in artistically with Body Count’s existing catalogue?
I: My last couple of records I wasn’t really happy with. I kind of mailed those records in. We weren’t really all together at the time… There’s a few good songs here and then. But this record is solid all the way through. We got a good deal with Sumerian (Records). They gave us the time (to record it)… We wrote it last summer. We recorded it over this year. And I worked hands on…all the music on this album just like the first record. So I think it’s better record than the previous two, way better. I’m very anxious to let people hear this new album.
Body Count appears with the Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival on Sunday, July 27 at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford. Performances begin at 1 p.m. The bill includes Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Asking Alexandria, Trivium, Cannibal Corpse, Suicide Silence, Mushroomhead, Miss May I, Emmure, Texas Hippie Coalition, Veil Of Maya , Upon A Burning Body, Darkest Hour, Ill Nino, Wretched, Islander, King 810, and Erimha.
For more information on Mayhem Festival, go to RockStarMayhemFest.com.