It goes without saying that tales of horror, gore, and macabre go hand-in-hand with the heavy music community, and Boston’s Ice Nine Kills certainly have a flair and knack for it. They mainly draw inspiration and interpretations of popular films and novels, with the likes of Dracula and Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde all making impressions on their material.
Their latest record, 2015’s ‘Every Trick In The Book’, had each song heavily inspired by a work of literature, and latest single ‘Enjoy Your Slay’ came as a product of a poll to their fans, asking if they’d prefer a song based off of The Shining or Psycho. Not only did the former win, but the track also featured features vocals from Sam Kubrick, grandson of the film’s director/producer, Stanley Kubrick.
After slogging it over in the States for nearly a decade, the post-hardcore troupe are finally starting to make their mark overseas, starting off their 2018 by heading over to the UK supporting Motionless In White.
We spoke with frontman and lyricist Spencer Charnas about his interest in horror, if he believes in ghosts, his favourite crime documentaries, why they re-recorded and re-released their 2010 album ‘Safe Is Just A Shadow’ last year, progress on their new record, and more.
DP!: You’re on the UK leg of the European tour with Motionless In White, how’ve you been finding it?
S: It has been a great tour. It’s our first ever time over in the UK doing a support tour. The first time that we came here was headlining about a year ago – maybe a little bit more than a year now. So, to never have been here opening for a large band like Motionless In White, and seeing the reaction from the kids and them singing along is a good feeling.
DP!: Sure. Obviously this is a much bigger venue than the last time you were here playing at Satan’s Hollow.
S: Oh, yeah! Satan’s is like the bathroom of this venue.
DP!: Exactly. What did you think of Satan’s Hollow when you were last here and headlining, especially with the way that it’s laid out?
S: It was cool. I really like the big devil that they have in the corner. I definitely got a few photos of the place. We did a band photo under the devil too ’cause, well, how could you not? That was our first time ever performing in England. That was the first ever Ice Nine Kills show in the UK, so I will always remember that show. It’s circular and almost like there’s no stage in a traditional sense. You’re essentially just playing on the floor.
DP!: Technically your most recent release was a re-recorded and re-mastered version of your 2010 full-length, ‘Safe Is Just A Shadow’. What made you want to re-work and re-release that record?
S: It really boils down to a label that we were on previously who owned the master recordings to that album, which means that they don’t own the songs but they own those particular recordings. We wanted to be able to own that album in a certain regard, and I think we just wanted to beef it up a little bit too. Our guitarist JD is a really big fan of that album, and so I think it’s partially also because he really loved that album and he wanted to re-record it.
DP!: Do you prefer the new version of that album, or do you feel you still tend to gravitate towards liking some of the original versions of the songs more so than the new ones?
S: I like the new version. I think it’s a lot better. I mean, obviously technological advances since 2010, at least in terms of recording anyway, are vastly superior, so obviously sonically it sounds like a better record than the old one. So, yeah, I definitely prefer it.
DP!: A lot of your work is influenced by horror, macabre, and stuff like that. When you’re writing and are drawing influences into your work, does that tend to come more from work involving monsters, ghosts, serial killers, or even more so from novels than films?
S: My love for the horror genre definitely stems from the prominent slasher era; the late 70s and through the 80s were the golden age for that, starting with the likes of Halloween and Black Christmas, and then through all of the Friday The 13th rip-offs and all of that. I think that’s my favourite area of horror, but I also love Stephen King stuff like the novels that are horror influenced. That’s kind of where I live. I’m not super into the ghost kind of stuff, you know? I mean, some of the found footage stuff like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity I thought were some good films and scary, but the slasher world is a lot more my thing.
DP!: How do you look at horror as it stands today? Some of it is very Hollywood and diluted.
S: I think that 2017 in particular was a great year for horror. I follow a site called Bloody Disgusting, which is like the Mecca or the pinnacle of what’s going on in the horror world, and they seem to think that it was also a great year for horror, especially in terms of the box office. You had IT which holds the biggest horror opening of all time, and it wasn’t and didn’t feel like a diluted film – it felt dangerous. I mean, right off the bat he’s ripping off some kid’s arm within the first five minutes, so that was huge. Then you have movies like Happy Death Day, which was an interesting film which was basically almost like Friday The 13th meets Groundhog Day, and surprisingly I’m glad that it did do very well box office-wise. We’ll see if this year can top 2017. It’s going to be difficult.
DP!: Do you have any interest in stuff like crime documentaries and real-life horror and events of that nature?
S: Yeah, I’m definitely interested in the real stuff as well, particularly the West Memphis Three case that was basically told through the documentary series Paradise Lost, and is about the three kids in 1993 that were young kids killed in West Memphis. It’s an amazing documentary if you haven’t already seen it, but basically it turned into a witch hunt, and they put these other three kids on trial that looked the part, you know? They listened to Metallica and heavy metal music, and they ended up getting convicted of this crime. There was really no hard evidence, but just sort of a witch hunt kind of thing. That’s a very interesting documentary series to check out. It’s got a great ending to it too because it started back in the early ’90s – the story and the crime – and then it’s just wrapped up as far as the late legal proceedings just a few years ago.
DP!: Crime documentaries are getting increasingly popular, with stuff like Making A Murderer on Netlfix.
S: That’s right, yeah. I saw that too, and people were really buzzing about that one in particular, and I enjoyed it, but I definitely think that it was way overhyped. That guy clearly did it if you ask me.
DP!: Oh, do you think?
S: Yeah, I think that he did. I think that there were mistakes from the police and that they definitely planted some shit that made it far too obvious that he did it, so the way that it worked out for them was counter-productive, but the fact that the guy had called her place of work several times was sketchy, and then he denied that he ever knew her. He did it.
DP!: Also his nephew became involved, Brendan Dassey, with the police pressuring him and manipulating him on confession tapes. Then later they would ask “Why did you say yes to doing it?” and he’d be like, “I don’t know.”
S: He had the IQ of a snow cone.
DP!: Are there any other documentaries, films, novels, podcasts, or anything like that which are influence or you’re just indulging lately?
S: Well, I’ve been very much into the movie The Room.
DP!: Are you referring to the one that’s meant to be so bad that it’s good?
S: Yes! Seriously, it’s so bad that it’s almost brilliant, so the band has been watching that an awful lot, and also the movie that came out which James Franco made called The Disaster Artist which is so good. We’ve been watching a load of those two films.
DP!: Touching a little bit on what you raised earlier, that you aren’t overly keen on films and stories surrounding ghosts and the paranormal, do you believe in ghosts and the spirit world? Do you think there’s something there?
S: Sure, I think that there’s something there. Absolutely. I think that there’s definitely a spiritual world out there, and I don’t think that when you die that it’s necessarily the end for some people. I haven’t personally experienced it, but I have heard enough from people that I trust about things that have happened to them that there are spiritually paranormal areas and goings on that just cannot be explained. I think that if you say that there’s not something there, some ghost is going to come along and fuck your shit up, so that’s another part of the reason why I say that I believe in that kind of thing. I don’t want to play with that.
DP!: Returning back to the band and your music, your latest album of brand new material is ‘Every Trick In The Book’, which you released back in 2015, are you working on a follow-up yet?
S: Yeah. We’re in the midst of writing and recording a new album at the moment. We’re actually working on it whilst we’re on this tour, and we’re definitely excited about how it’s coming together.
DP!: Great! How’s that shaping up so far?
S: It’s shaping up great so far. As much as I’d love to, I can’t really give away what the concept is ’cause obviously we haven’t announced it yet. The hope as it has always been and always is is to one up ourselves, to write more challenging stuff, and make it better than what we’ve already done on all levels.
DP!: That makes sense. Does it have any relation to the last album at all?
S: There’s some crossover elements for sure, but honestly that’s literally as much as I can say to you now without giving it away.
DP!: What else does Ice Nine Kills have planned for 2018 so far?
S: After we finish up this tour, which I think is almost halfway over now, we go back to the US. We have a couple of weeks off and then we start the North American leg of this tour, which is obviously with Motionless In White, but also with Chelsea Grin and Every Time I Die too. They’re both bands that we’ve toured with before, and I think it’s probably the biggest support tour that we’ve ever done – this tour for Europe and then the US soon. It’s cool to have those two tours back-to-back.
DP!: It definitely sounds like you’re starting off 2018 on a high.
S: Yeah, and we’re loving it.
The band’s new album, ‘Every Trick In The Book’, is out now through Fearless Records.
Interview by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)