Ice Nine Kills: Paying Homage to Influences and Inspirations

  Just because the spookiest season of the year is behind us, it doesn’t mean that everything filled with horror gets left behind…especially because one of the most creative and talented bands in modern metal has a new album out that strikes a lot of chords within horror fans and listeners alike. Frontman of Ice Nine Kills, Spencer Charnas, spoke to me about horror, The Silver Scream, and the work he does aside from leading his band. He’s much more than a metalcore fan with a love of scary movies. He’s the head of a chart-topping group with numerous creative outlets to his name, and he even finds the time to dip his feet into the pool of all of his other interests. INK is just lucky enough to get a combination of it all; therefore, he is not just creating phenomenal music, but starting a community that many people can enjoy.

Talking a little bit about The Silver Scream, I know that all 13 tracks off this album pay homage, in some way, to 13 separate horror films that have become known as classics in the genre. Although fans know that the heart of your band is found within horror influence, what was the idea behind this?

  So, the last album we did was called Every Trick in the Book and every song was based on a different piece of literature, and that really seemed to strike a chord in people. They liked how the album had a defined concept. It was a bit interesting, because it was out of the norm for our genre; no band was really releasing a concept record like that and with that kind of unified theme. It only seemed natural to continue what seemed to really work for us and it was a really fun writing process on the last album and we thought it would be a great idea to take our love of horror — specifically my love of horror — that has always sort of permeated through the band in some respect and just kind of go full force into it.

Absolutely! And I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

  Thank you!

You’re welcome. I think it has some really cool stylistic elements within it, so I was wondering, when you went into the studio to actually put this album together: did you go in with a solid idea for each song, or was it a continuous process that had to be worked at a little bit?

  The album was sort of done in a way where we would write a few songs and then go in with the producer and then come back home and work on the songs…and then go back to the studio. Usually, the ideas start with myself, a melody, and a guitar, then we sort of just go from there.

From a fan’s perspective, that seems to work out for you guys, since your music really does come together very naturally, so that’s awesome.

  Thank you, again!

Speaking of your love of horror, I know you also have a horror inspired clothing and lifestyle line called Kleaver Klothing. How did this come about? Did you ever see yourself doing something like this? Was it a goal of yours?

  I think that over years and doing stuff with the band I just wanted another creative outlet; some stuff that wouldn’t ordinarily work with Ice Nine Kills, but might work for something else. This was my way of having another avenue and another platform to get creative and just have fun with the horror genre, and also give not only the band, but people who like the horror lifestyle in general, a new brand to latch onto.

That’s so cool and it seems to be doing so well! Congrats! On the topic of creativity, the cinematography and theatrics that go into your music videos and songs is something that fans and listeners alike always find astounding. How much say do you and the band have in it? Does it stem from an idea you have? Do you bounce ideas off of each other…?

  I mean, generally everything with the band is my brain child. Usually, the vision for everything comes from me, but I definitely have other collaborators that I work with. For instance, the film that coincides with the album, we’re working with this company that we’ve worked together with in the past called Little Sky Film and the director, Daniel Hourihan, is a really, really talented director and writer. We sort of get together and flesh out the ideas and just go from there.

Definitely! This new album is fantastic, and it is topping charts and breaking personal records for you guys. When starting this band way back in high school, did you think that years later you would still be so passionate about music and all the success that comes with it?

  You know, that was always the goal. The band has been together for a long time, you know, I started the band back in high school, and I was always chasing the dream of being able to do this band and perform for a living. To be able to say that that is a reality is a really cool thing that I think is just a testament of the cliché saying: you have to follow your dreams. I believe that if you want it bad enough and you figure out a way to become an expert at what you do then it’s very possible that you can do what you want in this world.

For sure! I mean, you guys are about to embark on yet another big tour, which is no small feat. What is something you are looking forward to when it comes to getting on the road again?

  You know, this will be the first time we will be playing these new songs throughout the country, really. We had four or five CD release shows, album release shows early on in the month when our album came out, but this will be our really big, first exploration of playing our new album to our fans across the U.S. We couldn’t be more excited.

Are there any songs in particular that you are really ready to bring to life on stage?

  I think that we are pretty much playing the same songs that we played at the album release shows, but we’ll be playing all of the new ones that we have never played before now that we are really excited about. Songs like “This is the End,” and seeing the crowd respond was really cool. To be playing these songs for the first time at these shows a few weeks ago and everyone already knew the words…I am just so eager to see if it like that the rest of the way throughout the country.

Oh, definitely! Now, I know that Ice Nine Kills is metalcore band at heart, but I was wondering about your own personal influences. Did you grow up listening to heavy rock and metal? How did you get into that genre?

  You know, I sort of was always floating between different genres. I was never really one to listen to one specific thing, like I never only listened to punk or only listened to metal or only listened to ska. But, as far the first kind of rock bands I liked, it was really all from the Seattle scene in the ‘90s, like Soundgarden and Nirvana and Pearl Jam and all of that kind of stuff.

  Throughout my high school years I really got into punk rock and the sort of Southern California sound, ska bands and punk bands like Goldfinger and Less Than Jake. Then I sorted gravitated to really heavy bands like As I Lay Dying and He Is Legend and all the kind of stuff. That is sort of how I got into that style.

That’s a wide range of music to love and draw influence from, which is never a bad thing.

  Oh, absolutely. Personally, I am also a great fan of Broadway shows like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, and those influences are just as prevalent as the heavy stuff is in our songs. A track like “It is the End” starts off like it is from a Broadway show and goes into some really intense heavy music.

I found that really interesting, as well, especially as an introduction to such a dynamic metal song.

  Thank you!

This album, The Silver Scream, also has a lot of really interesting features on it, including people like Tony Lovato and Stanley Kubrick’s grandson. Do you enjoy the incorporation of features while writing and recording songs?

  Absolutely! On this album specifically, I wanted to get guest performers that have influenced my own musical style and writing. We have everyone from, like you said, Tony from Mest, two of the horn players from Less than Jake: Buddy and JR, and Randy from Finch, and more, so for me, this was a way to sort of and not only collaborate with musicians I really respect, but also play a tribute to people who have shaped my own writing style.

That must have been a really fun process, as well.

  Absolutely! It was really humbling and a sort of surreal experience to collaborate with some of my favorite bands.


See Ice Nine Kills perform live at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, N.J. on Nov. 24, and at Gramercy Theatre in N.Y. on Nov. 27.