INTERVIEW WITH JUAN GARCIA
(BODY COUNT, EVIL DEAD, MASTERS OF METAL, AGENT STEEL)
Juan Garcia has been interviewed by Metal-Rules.com before as his commitments to thrash metal have been tremendous. His works with Abattoir, Agent Steel and Evil Dead has reached for the monumental status in the metal genre. Even though Evil Dead is very activate, the man has been extremely busy with Body Count, crisscrossing the world and played at various festival all around Europe. Metal-Rules.com sat down with Juan Garcia to talk about Body Count and of course a little bit about Evil Dead and Agent Steel.
JOINING BODY COUNT
I was working at a record company and I was doing label production, it was a Hip-hop label. The owner of the label wanted me to do some rock music as well. The idea was, let’s see? Ice-T is Hip-Hop, Body Count is rock. I was interested in what they’re doing at that time; they’re friends of mine. I contacted Vincent Price, also known as Vincent Dennis. Who plays for Steel Prophet. I asked him what was going on and he told me that, “We’re working on some music.” I go, yeah. Any new music? I’d like to hear something. He gave me a rough demo. I took it to some other friends at another label, which I thought would fit more appropriately on that label. Which was Sumerian Records. Right away they found that Ice-T was involved, they were interested in the project and they signed it, but I wasn’t a member of the band at the time, I just helped Body Count get their record deal. They band had a show booked with Slayer in Austin, Texas at a Festival, and they needed a guitar player, because D-Roc, the guy who wore a hockey mask, Rest in Peace, passed away and they needed a guitar player. D-Roc was also a friend of mine. They asked me if I wanted to do the show. We did the show and then Ice-T said you’re in the band. That’s it. They didn’t try out anybody and I knew the band and was very familiar with the material. I knew Ernie-C already and I knew D-Roc, and Vince. I didn’t really know Ice that well, although I had met him in the past.
When did you cross your path with Ice-T in the first place? In the early ’90s or late ’80s?
It was in ’94, but I think around the time the Body Count ‘BORN DEAD’ record came out. They band rehearsed in North Hollywood, California at Bill’s Place Studios; where White Zombie rehearsed and also Stone Temple Pilots, and I met him there once, or twice, but I don’t think he would ever remember that. That was such a long time ago.
Your lyrics in EvilDead, and especially in Agent Steel, are about aliens and the stuff like that. Whereas Body Count is more in your face. Did you have to adjust yourself to the Body Count world?
Not at all. An interesting fact is when I was a kid growing up, around the time of Agent Steel, a few years after the SKEPTICS APOCALYPSE album. I would listen to some of Ice-T’s music, mainly the first few records. I always liked his lyrics and I thought, “Wow! It would be kind of cool if he had a rock band.” I liked the lyrical message and stuff. I thought, “It would be cool if he was a rock singer.” I pictured him in a metal band. That was right around the time Ice-T introduced Body Count, and then they went on and played Lollapalooza. I already envisioned Ice-T as a metal singer, believe it or not. I liked the tone of his voice and I liked his lyrics a lot. I already kind of pictured that in a sense.
That was your idea how the rap mixes with metal in the first place before Anthrax came out with their idea?
It was an idea, Anthrax did “Bring The Noise” in ’94 and the Body Count record came out in ’92, however Anthrax had the song “I’m The Man” in ’87 so you could say both bands were on track to mix rap with metal.
Body Count has always had very controversial lyrics. They’ve had problems in the past. Even Presidents back in the day used to pay attention to them. What about nowadays? Because I guess the politicians and the presidents are no longer interested in what you say. You’re not giving much controversial things, even though you’re singing about nasty things
At the time I think the P.M.R.C. had a problem with the lyrics on the Body Count debut record. At the time they were also very offended by certain album covers, and stuff like that. I think nowadays, things are a little bit more relaxed and album covers are not as shocking as they once were, they don’t pay as much attention to that sort of stuff as they did in the past. When the song “Cop Killer” came out, that was a problem, because the shareholders of Time Warner music had a huge problem with the song. In reality nowadays it just seems like it’s not that big of a deal anymore.
BLOODLUST AND MANSLAUGHTER
MANSLAUGHTER was a debut album for you. How much did you bring your input from your background into the BodyCount when you joined?
On MANSLAUGHTER, I did not write anything on there. My input was getting the band a record deal. Will Putney had a major influence on that record with his production and the rest of the band doing the writing. I was more involved on the new record that we have now called BLOODLUST
What kind of input did you have on BLOODLUST?
On the BLOODLUST, I co-wrote the song that got nominated for a Grammy. A song called “Black Hoodie” which surprised us all when we got the Grammy nomination. I co-wrote on that song, and I had some other ideas on the title track BLOODLUST, the guitar harmonies, and stuff like that. Believe it or not, a lot of the major production and some songwriting ideas came from our Producer, Will Putney as a producer he’s like an extra member of the band.
You covered the song “Raining Blood” by Slayer on this album. Last time you had the old Suicidal song. As you’re starting to work on the next album, and Ice-T is a huge fan of Black Sabbath, might there be a Black Sabbath cover song on the next album? am I on the right track?
I’ll introduce you to him and you could ask him that question. Him and Ernie have been Black Sabbath fans from the beginning. Ernie-C actually produced the Black Sabbath “Forbidden” record and I think Ice-T was also featured on a song on that record. As far as covers for the next record. I don’t know. Believe it or not, Ice is a big metal fan and he kind of like chooses what covers to do. Interesting enough the Suicidal Tendencies song we covered on the MANSLAUGHTER record; EvilDead also covered a section of it back in ’80s, on the RISE ABOVE EP. On this new upcoming BC album, we’ll see what comes out as far as covers.
“Civil War” with Dave Mustaine, “All Love Is Lost” with Max Cavalera and “Walk With Me” had Randy Blythe from Lamb of God. Was it an obvious choice to have these special guests for the album or did they come up by natural?
Very Natural. When we started writing the music for “Bloodlust” in Phoenix, Arizona. We took a month and just wrote lots of material. We all got in a room and just started writing songs and parts to songs. Ice dissected the songs, and wrote the lyrics. Our A&R guy at Century Media, contacted friends and other bands and musicians and asked for idea submissions for the Body Count record and we got our friends involved either submitting guitar solos, vocal features, song ideas it made our album that more special. We used the song ideas and made them more Body Count style pretty much. For example, Monte Pittman who plays guitar with Madonna contributed to the title track. He’s also a big metal fan who used to play with the band Prong and he’s now the guitarist for Madonna. Then Max Cavalera came down to our studio in Arizona. He came in and he brought his ideas that he recorded on an old school four track. The same one he used back since the Sepultura days. His old school four track recorder; that was for the song “All Love is Lost.” Randy Blythe got involved because Ernie-C knows him really well; we sent him instrumental version of “Walk With Me”, and he wrote his own verses to those parts and layed down some killer vocal tracks. There were just contributions that came in from Billy Graziadei from Biohazard and now his new band Powerflo, he contributed to some of the unreleased material that didn’t make the record; it’s a bonus track that we hope to release it in the near future, or maybe save it for our new record. We wanted our peers and friends to contribute to the new “Bloodlust” record. We have no egos about stuff like that. Some bands want to write everything, Body Count is quite the opposite. Dave Mustaine did the guitar solo and intro voice to the song “Civil War.”
He played with you. Was it The Grammy Awards?
It was the Loudwire Awards held in downtown Los Angeles at the Novo Theater in October, 2017. Dave Mustaine showed up to one of our rehearsals and we went over the song once, or twice only. Then the next day he was up onstage with Body Count, and played his solo section to “Civil War” and shredded on the guitar! It all worked out great. It was lots of fun.
The videos are really grim in a way. I guess they’re simply about what’s going on the streets of L.A. Can you say that those lyrics and videos are the reality, what happens on the streets of L.A and in the gang world.
It’s similar to what really happens. But at the same time Body Count is kind of over the top. What I see is our music is like a grindhouse movie, we are like the Quentin Tarantino of metal. It shouldn’t be taken too serious, of course certain songs like “No Lives Matter” is a little more of a serious issue. Overall, Body Count is Body Count. We’re more of a Grindhouse kind of a band, but certain songs on the record are to be taken a little more serious, for example the song “Black Hoodie” and “No Lives Matter” for sure.
“No Lives Matter” is about what happened when cops beating people down and all these demonstrations. I guess a simple like meaning what it is about.
I interpret the lyrics to be about certain people that try to divide and separate mainly through propaganda, and the basic issue isn’t about everybody, it isn’t about black lives matter, or all lives matter, or even white lives matter, but if you really break it all down; my interpretation is that it’s about money and power, and the division of those who get between the two, and at that point no lives would matter. The song is about money and power and those who are in charge. The creation of subdivision separates and unleashes chaos and disorder and unfortunately racism is real.
You’re working on the new album CARNIVORE, it’s the title that I have seen.
That’s a working title, but yes.
Do you think that you’re bringing more reality in your lyrics on the next Body Count album, because I guess the separation in the world is getting harder and more difficult and more and more demonstrations ?
Do other guys pay attention to what he writes? Do other guys consult him, what about this or?
Ice, he’s such a great lyricist; He comes up with all the words for the songs, and we focus on the music and he focuses on the theme and concept of the songs and lyrics.
How do you come up with riff? You have a thrash metal background and other guys having more punk and rap thing. I guess you’re putting the things together when you’re jamming in your rehearsal.
We just get in there and we jam. We don’t really say ahead of time we’re going to write a punk, or a rock song. It’s kind of whatever ideas are flowing at the time and form there we work on those ideas, and then we will record the ideas and listen to it later to see what song parts fit well together, and what doesn’t fit will get thrown out, and then we refine the parts; they become the basic bones to the song. The Producer, Will Putney will come in and takes those ideas and he may throw in some of his own ideas, and may change a song around a little bit by rearranging it. You kind of have to check your ego at the door with Body Count. It’s not like Steve Harris of Iron Maiden writing the whole song. This is more like, okay. Here are some of our ideas, here are some riffs. We jam, we put it all together, and it’s the bones and basic structures of the songs. In the end the Producer really is the one that will come in and rearrange and finalize the songs. Even Ice sometimes will also rearrange songs, like “Black Hoodie” before the song was called “Black Hoodie” it was titled something else and a completely different song. It was changed at the last minute. I would say we put all ideas together and then our producer will finalize it. It’s a lot different than what I’m used to doing in a speed and thrash metal background.
GETTING MOTIVATED TO CARRY ON
When Agent Steel fell apart, and EvilDead as well, I remember that you were kind of tired and disillusioned about the whole music thing. I guess Body Count came in the right time and right place, bringing you back to the music.
Yeah. I never quit, I always continued to play guitar. I was just disillusioned with the music industry in general a bit then Agent Steel was breaking up. Actually our last show was here at “Sweden Rock Festival” and I thought it was a really good show. I just thought, if we’re going to end it, I’d rather end it on a good note, on a good show.That’s kind of where we left it. EvilDead, I have been writing some new stuff. I have been working with Albert, the guitar player and Rob the drummer and we got our old singer Phil Flores back in. We can do some demos and it really sounds like old EvilDead stuff and I’m hoping to put something out in the next year.
EvilDead is active and you’re very busy with Body Count right now. How do you actually share your time? Is EvilDead more like a hobby and is Body Count your more serious work?
I take it all serious of course. Here it is, music is meant to be fun, you have to have a good time doing this, If you’re not having a good time playing music, then don’t do it, don’t’ be a downer and please don’t be miserable. I have fun performing live with Body Count. Everybody gets along great, and there’s no drama. I try to live my life without drama, and there’s no drama in Body Count now, everything is ran smooth. It’s good. Body Count is very professional and we go out and we do our thing. Ice will go back to his acting with SVU: Law & Order and when there is some down time, I’ll focus on writing new music with my other project.
When you get Grammy nominated and sell out venues, I guess it brings more motivation for you to continue and to play more and more.
Sure, yeah. We just got booked for a show Louisville, Kentucky. Which I’m looking forward to, it’s a pretty big show called “Louder Than Life”. There are a lot of the live music festivals in the United States now. The next BC show is on September 29th. We sold out Hamburg, two shows in one night. At the moment Body Count is hot and people are really interested in the band, I think it’s the message of the band that Ice delivers that makes people listen, also cool original music, and the strong production from Will Putney. It’s a lot of factors involved. Century Media is doing a great job promoting it.
Body Count used to release album on huge labels like Warner and Century Media is more focused on the underground thing. They know where they’re supposed to advertise and promote metal bands. I guess Century Media is a right home for Body Count at the moment, especially in Europe.
I think so. They do a good job. We have a good A&R guy in the states, Mike Gitter. In Germany Century Media has always been a very strong label, as you know. They know the market very well. I think they are part of Sony Music now. They already knew Body Count’s history; it’s a perfect fit for a band like us. In my opinion record companies like Century Media, and Nuclear Blast; they know their metal. They know the metal and rock bands. Even a label like Napalm is another strong company. Not to take anything away from the major labels, of course they’re always here to do what they do.
MASTERS OF METAL – AGENT OF STEEL
Masters of Metal, is it still around or on hiatus?
What happened, as you know, Bernie Versailles had an aneurysm. He recovered, but he’s not 100%. We just put it to rest for now and see how he does; the band is on hiatus, that’s what happened with that.
When you released the “From World’s Beyond” album with Masters of Metal. I was thinking when seeing ” This is basically Agent Steel, with the other singer”. I guess you had to change the name to avoid hassles.
What it was, in the beginning the material were the basic structures to a new Agent Steel record, but we decided that we weren’t going to continue as a band, so we basically scrapped all the music and started all over. We re-wrote the songs and then Bernie Versailles wanted to sing and I said, “Man! You should have done these 10 years ago.” Because his voice isn’t that bad really; I thought it was pretty good for what it was, he had some great vocal ideas. We wanted to release those songs for the fans; it was a side project. It wasn’t like leftover Agent Steel music. We started from scratch and rewrote everything; basicly started over. It was music that we were passionate about and wanted to release, because we love music, and we wanted to release it out to our fans. Thank God Metalville stepped in and released the record.
Do you have some material in your pocket for Masters Of Metal or Agent Steel?
I think at the moment it’s over, it’s done. I don’t see myself doing anything with any of that for obvious reasons, I was speaking with Mille from Kreator at “Rock Am Ring” Festival in Germany, we did a few shows with Kreator. I also ran into Jeff Loomis at “Forta Rock” and said hello; all these guys were Agent Steel fans at one point in their careers by the way. Jeff Loomis, Michael Amott from Arch Enemy, these are the guys that I look up to as guitar players and people in general; they’re all fantastic and incredible players. I love the early Kreator stuff, even the new songs are good. Mille especially asked, “What’s going on with Agent Steel? He said, and he thought it would be interesting if Agent Steel would do something, possibly a tour, but I told him it would be very difficult for Agent Steel to do anything now. The only way something like that would work, would be supporting another band, on our own I don’t think we would draw that great. We could do some festival appearances, but it would have to be more of a package tour to actually work correctly. I think it would be very complicated and a financial stress to resurrect Agent Steel at this time. First of all, Bernie Versailles is not 100% and I don’t know where even to begin? To even entertain that thought. Right now it’s not in the cards for me. I’m focusing in on the stuff I’m doing with Body Count and I’m focusing in on new EvilDead material. I like to keep things simple, with no drama. I’m not one of those guys that can play in five bands. There are people that can do it; it’s not for me.
Actually you played with Nuclear Assault with EvilDead.
Yes, it was incredible.
Who else played with you? D.R.I. or was it Hirax?
It was Hirax. It was an amazing show in Los Angeles; it was the “Show Your Scars Festival.” I could see EvilDead, Hirax, and even a band like Overkill, or Nuclear Assault, doing some shows together in the future. EvilDead is a band that you could pretty much put together with other thrash metal bands in the same genre, and the shows would do well. The band is firing on all cylinders right now, the materials we’re writing is solid and very original sounding. I’m very excited about it. It’s really for the fans and I would love to put out a new EvilDead album; maybe not a full length, maybe an EP or a record split with another band. We have plenty of new material right now. We have seven new songs. I think 10 new songs would be the magic number for a new album.
I saw your gig on YouTube, where you played with Hirax.
Yeah. It was at The Regent Theater in Los Angeles on January 5, 2018.
I noticed that there was a bunch of young generation.
All kids, and they were into the bands.
I was surprised that there is a metal crowd in L.A.
Yes. EvilDead attracts a very young crowd. Hirax also attracts a very young crowd. I think its thrash metal in general, it attracts the youth. They look up and study the history of the bands; thrash fans are very smart, they know their history, they know the songs and lyrics and they know the music. It’s really that, that’s what it is. They know the history of thrash metal and they supported.
NEW GENERATION vs. OLD GENERATION OF METAL
This is a rough question. Do you think that the kids are more interested in the old generation of thrash metal bands, than the modern day thrash bands. Because there are a lot of young thrash bands like Havok trying to break out. But old bands are still dominating so strong, that younger bands are not able to make the breakthroughs.
I don’t look at it that way at all, but I see what you’re saying and I understand what you mean. I think it just comes down to the music and it’s something that Gene Simmons once told me when I was much younger. He said; “Stick to what you do and just keep doing it. Just believe in what you do.” I don’t think whether it’s a young band at all. I think if you just believe in what you do and you focus and you work hard, I think eventually it pays off.
I saw Havok at Brutal Assault and they got a really good response, but I guess when older band plays, they got much wilder. They have a history, but the younger bands don’t have that huge history.
It’s just what it is. The younger bands don’t have the same respect [from the fans] as the older bands. I think eventually the younger bands will get the respect, if they just keep doing what they’re doing. Havok is a very good band. I remember seeing them before they signed their deal with Candlelight back in the day; they’re signed to Century Media now, at that time they were about to sign to Candlelight/Plastic Head Distribution; It was a band that I wanted to sign when I was working with that label from Netherlands. Mascot Records, and Havok was one of the bands that impressed me a lot, I saw them live and they’re kick ass, they are one of the newer bands that I really like, also Power Trip is another.
How do you see the whole metal thing nowadays? Slayer are doing a farewell tour. Judas Priest, they’re struggling, if I can say that. Ozzy is quitting. From your point of view, how do you see metal? There is a lot of audience, but big bands are vanishing or fading away, but there are no clear replacements.
That’s a popular topic that people mention and bring up. It really comes down to the music really. I don’t think Rock is dead, I don’t think metal is dying. I find it to be quite the opposite. I think live music is thriving, you look at all these festivals, and there are a lot of people coming out to these shows. As long as the bands are good live, it doesn’t matter whether you’re rock, punk, or metal. In this case metal, because we’re talking about metal. The replacement bands? honestly, I don’t think Slayer is going to go away anytime soon, I think they might go on a longer than a year, because they’re doing quite well. Why would they want to retire when they are very successful? Perhaps take some time off? I read Tom wants to retire though, nobody really knows what they’re going to do, I think maybe this farewell tour will be a little more than a year; I heard they’re returning to Europe next year. It’s a good subject to talk about. Who will replace some of these bands? We’ll just have to wait and see? Judas Priest are still kicking ass with Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap on guitar live, and I really like how Glenn Tipton still comes out for the encore songs live; their new album “Fire Power” rules and I hope Tipton will continue to write for the band. There are a lot of very good metal bands out there; I just saw Kreator.
Even better than in the 80’s.
Testament is doing great.
Yeah, very good live band. Testament kicks ass
You have roots to Cuba.
Yes I was born there.
David Lombardo also has the roots to Cuba and he recently played there with Suicidal. Have you talked about playing Cuba with Body Count?
No, we haven’t. I was going to talk to Dave at the Download Festival in a few days. He’s playing there with Dead Cross and I was going to ask him how his experience was and find out from him how they’re show in Cuba went? We haven’t really talked about it. It’s something that’s always been in the back of my mind, like going there and playing a show. It’s something that I would love to do some day.
Which has been the most exciting place you have played?
We’ve only played four or five shows so far on this European tour so far.
But with Body Count.
With Body Count, that’s a really good question. I got to say a few days ago we played in Hamburg. I can’t pronounce the name of the place, it’s called Große Freiheit 36. It’s near the reeperbahn section and it’s where The Beatles first played in Germany. The crowd there was intense, they were really into it. We sold out two shows in one night. We’re the only band that’s ever sold out two shows in one night at this venue. The last band that did two shows at this venue was back in 1981. We were the first band since then to sell two shows in one night at this club. It was pretty incredible, yeah. I think that was a really good show for us. Amsterdam is always great, we’ve played the Melkweg there in the past and it sold out; great passionate crowd. Overall, to answer your question Amsterdam, and Hamburg are like the top so far of this tour. There are plenty of more shows to go though.
Several bands have played and are going to play more and more in the eastern part of the world like China and stuff like that. Are you going to expand your touring dates with Body Count?
We did Australia last year and that was really cool. That was a great experience and very professional tour down there. I would love to go to Japan with Body Count. I would love to go to Brazil with Body Count. I think those would be two great markets, and it would be pretty incredible to do that. That’s kind of where I would like to do, but of course China or Russia would be memorable and interesting.
Thanks for your time.
Thank you. Thank you man.