“I’m runnin’ ’round here like a fuckin’ chicken with its head cut off, man!”
Never one to mince words, Tracy Lauren Marrow – best known to the world as rapper-slash-actor Ice-T – cuts to the chase as soon as his voice hits the phone line. It’s Friday morning Australian time, and news has broken overnight about the untimely passing of Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. Ice-T knows the band well (“They used to cover [Body Count song] ‘Cop Killer’ all the time,” he says) and met with Cornell many times over the years (he was “a really cool guy”). The connection between Cornell and Ice-T’s band Body Count, however, is far more immediate than simply one covering the other’s signature song.
“So get this,” Ice-T begins. “My bass player in Body Count [Vince Dennis AKA Vince Price] is Soundgarden’s guitar tech. Vince was in Detroit with them. They were touring, and we were waiting on Vince to get back so we could start rehearsals for our upcoming tour. He’s coming back early now, and he’s just in shock. This tragedy happened, and my man was right there. They’d just done this show together – it was crazy.
“It’s a horrible thing to take your own life. You’re on tour, you’re doing all these sold-out concerts, and you go in a room and kill yourself… I mean, people that have never been through that sort of thing would never be able to understand that. It’s a whole other level of depression – it’s so sad.”
Ice-T’s rap metal pioneers Body Count returned in March with a brand new LP entitled Bloodlust, their sixth. It’s an album that’s just as enraged and disenfranchised at the world around it as any of the band’s classic output: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“When the record came out, I had people asking me if I’d written the lyrics the week before,” Ice-T snickers. “The whole thing was a perfect storm. It just so happened that we were coming into the primaries for the election when we were starting to write the record. The world started imploding, Donald Trump came out… it was wild. Black people were getting shot down all over the country. Shit was crazy. How could anyone make a happy album in such a chaotic time? One of the things I never mention on the album is Trump. I didn’t think he could be president. I didn’t think it could happen. I was wrong.”
Body Count formed all the way back in 1990, when Ice-T and some high school friends decided to get together and explore their love of heavy metal after the rapper had made several solo LPs. Despite the band garnering critical acclaim and notoriety at the time, many younger listeners have only recently discovered Body Count’s music. It’s particularly shocking to those who only know Ice-T from his role as Sergeant Fin Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, or from his cheesy 2010s reality show Ice Loves Coco. That’s not something that’s lost on Ice-T at all. “Do the math,” he reasons.
“I been on Law & Order almost 20 years now. So, if you’re 20, then you were only a baby when I started on the show. You gotta understand that these generational things are real. The thing is, I’m just like everybody else. When you listen to Bloodlust, you’re probably mad at the same stuff. You just don’t have a vehicle to voice it the way that I do.
“Every time I say something, verse for verse, I want people to say, ‘That’s right! That’s right! I wish I said that!’ Whether I’m livin’ in the hills or I’m livin’ in the gutter, I know what’s goin’ on. I got two eyes! I see it! Why wouldn’t I be mad?”
Black people were getting shot down all over the country. Shit was crazy. How could anyone make a happy album in such a chaotic time?
Body Count will undertake a whirlwind tour of Australia this June in support of Bloodlust, and it marks their first time playing in Australia in over 20 years, following on from the ill-fated Alternative Nation festival in 1995. That festival saw Body Count go up against ’90s heroes like Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More and Tool, as well as the legendary Lou Reed and an obscure young band by the name of Powderfinger. Ice-T has few memories to share from ’95 – “I can barely remember what happened last week!” he quips – but he is certainly excited to be performing on Australia’s east coast alongside the fiery A.B. Original.
“I’m a big fan of Briggs,” he says. “I’ve been on Twitter with him for a few years. When we were gettin’ the tour together, he hit us up and asked who was opening. I told him that was all on the promoter, and I guess somebody made the right call – because they’re on it now! I’m excited about that.
“I’ve been to Australia a few times, and it’s always a great response. Sometimes, the further you’re away from home, the more excited people are to see you.” Ice-T laughs, and concludes: “And y’can’t get much further away than Australia now, can you?”
Bloodlust is out now through Century Media/Sony. Body Count head to Australia this week, playing shows at Brisbane on Thursday June 1, Melbourne on Friday June 2, and Sydney on Saturday June 3 – tickets on sale now.
This article was originally published on The Brag.