WHEN RAPPER TURNED METAL VOCALIST ICE-T decided to return his attention toward his infamous hardcore metal band Body Count in 2001, he needed a bassist who could power through punk and thrash riffs with a dominating presence and equally menacing tone. Luckily for Ice, he didn’t have to look much further than his Los Angeles rehearsal studio, where he discovered Vince Dennis practicing next door with his metal group Steel Prophet. Dennis accepted the offer to join the band that had become notorious for its 1992 single “Cop Killer,” and he quickly became Ice’s right-hand songwriting partner.
This year, after almost a decade between albums, Dennis headed out to Las Vegas, where he and Ice hashed out Body Count’s fifth studio album, Manslaughter. On the final product, Dennis’ brash playing relentlessly powers the speed-metal riffs that support Ice’s rapinfused vocals. His obsession with tweaking amps and digging into the strings to get a powerfully dirty tone hits paydirt on “Pray for Death,” “Manslaughter,” and “Enter the Dark Side.” Preferring to play the fast lines with his fingers instead of a pick, Dennis not only keeps up with the shredding, he blazes the trail right under it.
What were the recording sessions like?
We rented two houses in Vegas—Ice and his wife had one house, and the band members had a house that we all shared. In our house, where we had our instruments, we were able to write, and at the other house, which had a Pro Tools rig, we did our demoing. We had a living room environment instead of a rehearsal room, which was nice because it brought us back to where we started. We spent two months working on the record, but we never really left the houses. It was all work.
What kind of sound were you going for?
It can be hard to record bass when you have two guitar players, so I try to stay away from their frequencies and keep with deep lows and high highs so I can cut through and be heard. Everyone always asks me how I get my low end; my trick is playing a 4-string bass with the bottom strings from a 5-string set.
You play with a really hard attack.
It’s a big part of my sound, for sure. My technique comes from punk rock and heavy metal, where you need a lot of power behind your tone. It’s hard for me to play with a pick and really dig in, so I’ll ditch it. If I’m just standing there it will work, but I like to move around a lot onstage.
What is it like working with Ice-T?
Ice knows his stuff. He truly knows the ins and outs of music, and he’ll even tell us to change a note here or there or change the key we’re playing in. Ice and I grew up listening to the same music, which was everything from Curtis Mayfield to Black Sabbath, so I know what kind of bass tone he likes and what he goes for. I go for the slow, Geezer Butler, grooving ’70s-style heavy sound.
How has playing in Body Count made you a better player?
I’ve come a long way; I feel like I’m up there as far as bass players go. My main thing is writing music. You can learn all the chops and scales, but I don’t know many of either; I just know what I hear. And I know that I can play with anybody in any band out there and make it sound good.
Body Count, Manslaughter [Sumerian, 2014]
Bass Schecter Hellraiser Extreme-4
Amp Hartke LH1000, Hartke 810XL
Strings D’Addario Roundwound 5-string (B, E, A, D strings)
Picks Dunlop Tortex