INTERVIEW: Ice Nine Kills (25/09/2019)

Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

Bridging their love for horror cinema with their craft of metalcore on latest album ‘The Silver Scream’ has seen Boston’s Ice Nine Kills burst through the ranks of their contemporaries and really come into their own.

Coming up to Halloween and also the record’s one-year anniversary, the band have a deluxe edition – aptly named ‘The Silver Scream: Final Cut’ – ready to go, offering not only acoustic reworkings of some of its tracks, but also a brand new song about the slasher classic, Scream.

Whilst on their sold out UK tour, we sat down with the band’s vocalist and visionary Spencer Charnas to talk about the success of ‘The Silver Scream’, the extent to which he made horror a part of the record’s DNA, a dispute with Disney, the idea of becoming a movie director, and more.

DP!: You’ve almost wrapped up this UK and European tour with just a few dates left now, and this date has been upgraded too. How’s it been?
SC: Insane. It’s one of the most memorable tours that we’ve ever done. We’ve been over to Europe a few times, but to see this growth so fast from a few years ago when we first came over here to all sold out shows is amazing. We’ve had a great time.

DP!: I believe the first time you came and headlined in Manchester was at Satan’s Hollow? That’s a very fitting venue for you guys too.
SC: Yeah, that was actually the first time we ever played the UK. It was our first ever UK show. It’s on the floor if I remember correctly with no actual conventional stage.

DP!: Of course, this run and its success is all off the back of your latest album, ‘The Silver Scream’, which came out almost a year ago. It’s obviously got a lot of attention. How’ve you found that the reception has been?
SC: Just like this tour, it exceeded all of our expectations. I just do what I would want to see as a fan, and that’s from the music to the voice-overs and the video films that we do. I just do everything the way that I would like to see it, so to see people responding so passionately to it, and coming to the shows and singing all of the words and dressing up as the characters from the films, it’s great. I’ve always loved horror and loved the genre, so to be recognised in the genre by people who love it is an honour and I love the idea of introducing horror to people that may not have heard of or seen a particular film before. I’m just happy to help the genre in any way.

DP!: I imagine with the songs that some fans will have heard them and not seen the films that you’ve written about, so when they’ve enjoyed them so much they’ve gone out of the way to give it a bit more context and appreciate the record even further.
SC: Exactly. It’s great.

DP!: I’ve read somewhere that you visited some of the locations where the films you wrote about were shot, and that you recorded some of the vocals and voice-overs at those locations, is that right?
SC: That’s right, yeah, I went to two locations. I went to the house where they filmed A Nightmare On Elm Street – 1428 Elm Street in the movie, but it’s actually 1428 North Genesse Avenue in Los Angeles, which is like five minutes away from where I live. So, I recorded some vocals there as well as the original Michael Myers house from Halloween and Halloween II, which is located in Pasadena, California. It was fun to be able to give some authenticity to some of the tracks by having that scenery and inspiration, and it acts as a bit of an easter egg of sorts for the fans who adore those films too.

DP!: Obviously you have the deluxe edition of ‘The Silver Scream’ coming, which will have a song dedicated to the film Scream and a cover of ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson. Were there any films that you wanted to write about but for one reason or another it never came to be?
SC: There was just Scream really. We basically ran out of time finishing that song before we needed to submit the original version of the album for release, and it’s one of my favourite films. I think our ‘Thriller’ cover turned out great too, and was really fun to put together. Obviously Michael Jackson was such an icon, so it was always going to be difficult to respect the original whilst also putting our own stamp on it, but I think that we nailed it. I think we changed the song drastically, but at the same time I think we kept the spirit of it alive. I changed all of the chords to make it sound like something I would write, but it still has that swagger that the song is so famous for.

DP!: Since releasing ‘The Silver Scream’, has anyone from the films you wrote about such as actors, directors, etc. approached you about the respective songs and given feedback or opinions?
SC: I’ve met a couple of people. One person from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, Eric Freeman, he’s the one who yells “garbage day”. He really liked it. I also met Ari Lehman who played the original Jason Voorhees in the 1980 original, and he’s an Ice Nine Kills fan. And, you know, just being out in Los Angeles and hanging with people and meeting someone who knows this director, and I’ve become friendly with one of the guys from Blumhouse Productions who put out the new Halloween. He messaged me and was like “Yo, I’ve just listened to ‘The Silver Scream’ and, bravo, it’s awesome.” To hear positive feedback from people who are more or less running the top horror studios is amazing.

DP!: Well, you also got some less favourable attention, more specifically from Disney who banned you from performing at one of the venues they own. What happened there? What’s the story with that whole situation?
SC: Disney has a reputation for banning bands randomly. Usually I think it’s because they just have someone go down a list of bands that are scheduled to play and if you have a name that sounds like it could be violent, like including words like ‘kill’ or ‘die’ or ‘cannibal’ or whatever, they do a little bit of research into the band. We were told maybe a month before the tour started that we’re not allowed to play at the Orlando date, and I thought that it was hysterical. The only bummer of the whole situation was that I like playing in Orlando, but I made a decision that I’m not going to bitch and moan, like “This is censorship” and make some martyr kind of statement.

DP!: If anything their banning you from playing and the news it generated gave you a lot of attention, right?
SC: Yes, exactly. It was great publicity for us, and it allowed us a reason to make some really funny shirts and make a bit of fun of the whole situation, so I kind of hope we get banned from some more places, haha.

DP!: You mentioned the shirts, which basically parody some of Disney’s most iconic characters. Did you ever receive a cease and desist or any other legal warning?
SC: We really thought that we would, but no. Our lawyers told us that Disney are really stringent about their intellectual property and that they have a reputation for that, but it just never came. I think they didn’t want to. I think it all turned out to be bad publicity for them, and I don’t think they wanted to pour salt onto their own wound. They have nothing to gain from taking away some shirts from a metal band, and also if you could argue that something is parody, which it is – no one could argue that “Well, I thought that it was a real Disney shirt. Yeah, I thought that Disney would put out Mickey with a Freddy Krueger glove on.” It would never happen.

DP!: You also shared a video for the album’s final track, ‘IT Is The End’, which nicely comes around the release of the new IT film and also signifies the end of your horror mini-series that you’ve been putting out with the record’s singles. How was the shoot for that? Playing the role of Pennywise must’ve been fun.
SC: Yeah, it was really fun. It was a lot of long hours in make-up and I had to wear contacts for almost two days straight pretty much, so it was difficult. It was cold on location too. We rented out an amusement park in New Hampshire that was in the off season, and it was scary kind of, being in an amusement park that looks abandoned basically, but given the subject matter of the video it was pretty cool. But, like I say, it was a lot of fun and I’m blown away by the response that it’s received already. It got around 150,000 views within the first 24 hours, which is a lot for us. It’s also good to see that the other videos beforehand built that hype and anticipation, and it’s also just a fun song.

DP!: How did the whole horror mini-series that you created get put together? Did you have a storyboard in the beginning and you knew which songs on the album would have their own part of the story to tell?
SC: Pretty much. I kind of planned out the over-arching idea and worked with our long-time video director Dan Hourihan on fleshing out the story, and as time went on and we came to “Oh, I think we’re going to do this song next”, the story kind of had to morph into it, and that’s showbiz. I was still writing the ending of the series up until about two weeks ago. I just came up with the ending of it all and then we shot it.

DP!: On the subject of doing a mini-series and bitesize horror films, do you think in the future if the opportunity presented itself that you’d like to get stuck into directing horror films like Rob Zombie has done?
SC: Honestly, I would love that. Rob Zombie has always been a big influence on me, both in music and film. He’s also from Massachusetts, and the fact that he was able to kind of conquer the rock world and the horror world simultaneously is just really inspiring to me.

DP!: Well, you’ve covered horror literature with your previous album, ‘Every Trick In The Book’, and obviously ‘The Silver Scream’ covers horror film. What’s the next step? Are you going to try and cover horror video games, real-life serial killers, or return to the topic of films again?
SC: That’s the question really, and it’s a big question that I’m still sort of figuring out, but, with horror tradition being so sort of predictable in certain ways, there’s always a sequel. So, maybe that’s what we’ll do.

DP!: You could even go as far as to call it ‘The Silver Scream: The Se-kill’ as a play on words, and cover some films that you didn’t before?
SC: Pretty much, but I guess we’ll see what happens.

DP!: What’s planned for the rest of the year?
SC: For the rest of the year we’ve got our biggest headliner yet in the US with Fit For A King, and it’s going to be an amazing tour, and then we finish the year in Australia for the first time. We’ve never been to Australia before.

DP!: Any final words?
SC: Just thank you to everyone for supporting the band, and keep your eyes peeled for some new stuff.

The deluxe edition of the band’s fifth studio album, ‘The Silver Scream: The Final Cut’, is out now through Fearless Records.

You can order the album online from iTunes (here), Amazon (here), and Google Play (here).

You can keep up-to-date with the band and what they’re up to online via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.