All photos by Julius Aguilar
As you’ve probably heard by now, the world is a scary place. For vocalist Spencer Charnas, however, that’s exactly how he likes it. Growing up as a devout horror fanatic, the outspoken vocalist has committed his life to the world of blood, guts and gore via his cinematic and self-proclaimed “theatricore” band Ice Nine Kills.
Currently out on The Noise-presented Episode III tour with Falling In Reverse, From Ashes To New and New Years Day in support of their hard-hitting, horror-themed LP The Silver Scream, Charnas and company are destroying venues all across the US giving numerous showgoers nightmares in the best way possible.
Speaking with Charnas about the momentum his Fearless Records act has started to build with the release of their fifth full-length record – which has sold over 50,000 copies by the way – the passionate frontman says he owes it all to persistence.
“I think ever since I was a little kid, I was always extremely persistent in whatever I wanted,” he explained. “I remember my dad used to just call me relentless. If I wanted something I just wouldn’t give up. ‘Dad, can we do this? Dad, can I get a guitar? Dad, can I go to this concert?’”
“And while I probably was an annoying little prick when I was a kid,” he added, “I think that mentality and that spirit has helped navigate a very difficult and competitive and frustrating path in life.”
To hear Charnas open up more about Ice Nine Kills’ blossoming career as well as his honest take on censorship in America and the new horror remakes of Pet Cemetary and Child’s Play, be sure to read our in-depth Q&A below. Afterward, make sure to grab tickets to see Ice Nine Kills out on tour here.
The Falling In Reverse tour starts today but you guys have already been on the road doing your own headliner leading up to this. How are you feeling coming into this and is it weird to switch gears from a headliner to a support tour?
Spencer Charnas: Is it weird to come into it from a headliner and just jump into another tour, it takes a little bit of time to get used to it. The venues on this tour are a bit bigger in size. So the stages are obviously larger, we’re a little bit further away from the crowd. So it’s going to take a few shows to kind of get the feeling of it and get the hang of it. Whereas before the venues were a little bit more intimate and not every show had a barricade.
You guys are doing something pretty fun for your VIP meet and greets where you’re playing horror trivia with fans. Where did that idea come from?
You know with VIP, we’ve done so many in the past over the last, probably five years. And over the last few ones, it just seemed like it got a little bit stock – everyone kind of does the same thing. You show up, you get a signed poster and a picture with the band and it doesn’t really seem like too much of an experience. So I was racking my brain for something that we could really have fun with and get kids excited about and [create a] sort of spontaneous anything-goes atmosphere, because you don’t know who’s going to win. You don’t know what the questions are. And I thought what better way to do something like that and do trivia with horror films, which obviously ties into our entire band’s aura.
Have you won pretty much all of them so far?
I’ve won 98%.
So the questions are easy for you?
Some of them are challenging. But for the most part, I know the answers. It’s getting to a point where I’m winning all of them. So I think we might do everyone verses me.
Speaking of horror movies, have you been able to see the recent horror films that have come out? Us? The new Pet Semetary?
Yeah, I did. I saw both of them. Didn’t care for Us. I was definitely a fan of Get Out. I think Jordan Peele is enormously talented and I think he’ll continue to make great films, but for whatever reason, I was not crazy about Us and I kind of fell asleep. Pet Semetary I did enjoy. I thought it was entertaining and disturbing at the same time. I don’t think it was incredible. But I did enjoy it and I thought the acting was phenomenal. John Lithgow was great. And I like the twists that they put on their version. It wasn’t just a regurgitation of the former film.
Well talking about remakes, any thoughts on the new Child’s Play that’s going to come out?
You know, I really was but the first trailer to me was underwhelming. The second trailer looked better. For me, you know, Child’s Play – in the sense that I think you can’t do Nightmare on Elm Street without Robert Englund – I think the same thing [goes] with Child’s Play and Brad Dourif doing the voice of Chucky. That’s just, he’s Chucky. So to not do it with him, I’m a bit wary of. But I gotta say Mark Hamill did sound good in the last trailer that I heard. But I wish that they would have maintained the iconic voice of Brad.
So obviously, you guys have a lot of imagery that ties in with horror movies. It’s very intense. Some people think it’s a little gory. It’s gotten you guys banned from House of Blues in Orlando. Were you surprised by that or more surprised it’s taken this long with how graphic some of your imagery can be?
I’m kind of surprised in 2019, as far as in the rock or metal scene, that any band would really be banned – unless they were like a terrible white power, sort of racist hate mongering band. But yeah, I was surprised that we were banned. And you know, at first, the only thing that’s the bummer for me is I love playing in Orlando and it’s always such a great show. But at the same time, it’s kind of cool that it happened because we got a lot of press and publicity from it. And we got to release this line of shirts that are some of our coolest shirts ever. And I think it was kind of a blessing in disguise. So thank you, Disney.
Do you think it’s interesting, though, that in 2019 metal isn’t as scary or intimidating as it used to be in the 80s or early 70s?
I think just in general, the political and social climate that we live in now is overly politically correct. You know, I’m not a conservative Republican and I’m not a crazy left wing liberal, you know, I kind of fit somewhere in the middle. But I think that putting up walls against what people think is obscene or gory is a very dangerous, slippery slope. I don’t think that there should be any censorship ever. And if you start putting up walls where you think something is obscene, you could very well wake up one day and there are walls up in all sorts of places that you never thought they would be and you can’t hear or say anything. And that’s not freedom to me.
It’s interesting that somebody can put a pentagram on stuff or upside-down crosses and a lot of people think that’s cool. But if you do one thing that crosses the line, you’re canceled on Twitter forever. It’s a weird line to walk.
I agree. I think people need to be more accepting of other people’s ideas and opinions. And I think that if you don’t like a band or you don’t like someone’s record, then the great thing about this country is that you don’t have to buy it. Or you could buy it and throw it in the trash. But I think that this society is moving in a dangerous way in that regard because I think art should never be censored. I don’t think comedians should ever be censored. I think that colleges are starting to raise and teach kids that if they don’t like something, it’s not that they should turn their back and go find something else, it’s that it should be banned and this speaker shouldn’t be allowed to speak on campus. And I think that doesn’t prepare people for the real world.
It’s one of those things where everyone’s allowed to have their own opinion. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. But everyone can have one.
Exactly. Obviously, there are dangerous, terrible groups out there. You know, hate mongering groups or groups that have an undertone of racism or sexism. And that’s awful. And that’s horrible, but let them spew their bullshit and walk away.
So moving on to your new album, The Silver Scream. It’s obviously been huge for you guys and opened a lot of doors. As this record has blown up, a lot of people are coming and hearing Ice Nine Kills for the first time even though you’ve been a band for close to 10 years. How have you personally persevered knowing this moment would someday come? And how does it feel to finally have that well-deserved breakout moment?
I mean, I think ever since I was a little kid, I was always extremely persistent in whatever I wanted. I remember my dad used to just call me relentless. If I wanted something I just wouldn’t give up. “Dad, can we do this? Dad, can I get a guitar? Dad, can I go to this concert?” And while I probably was an annoying little prick when I was a kid, I think that mentality and that spirit has helped navigate a very difficult and competitive and frustrating path in life. You know, the music industry is not something that you can say, “Hey, I’m going to go be a popular band.” And I think mostly the bands that make it, I would say a majority of them get lucky. They’re a good band, but they had that lucky break – [maybe] they knew someone or the right A&R guy happened to be on their MySpace and [thought] “that guy looks cool. And this is a great song, let’s sign them.”
But a majority of bands that get out there, even if they’re great, even if they have a great song or great albums, they could just go on and just never be discovered or not have the right business sense. And I think a lot of bands that had taken our route would have probably given up 5-10 years ago. And for whatever reason, I just would refuse to believe that I wasn’t going to be able to do what I wanted to do in life. And I kind of always come back to the story of a band like Metallica. Metallica couldn’t get a record deal to save their lives at the beginning because labels thought they were too punk for the metal kids and too metal from the punk kids. So if you think about that when you’re getting frustrated and no one is interested in your band, you have to think back to no one wanted to sign Metallica at one point – which, you know, obviously turned out to be one of the biggest bands of all time. So that kept me going. And I think honestly, the steady build that we’ve had I think has been very helpful for us building a cult following and not necessarily just kind of a flavor of the week. Like, “Oh, this band and song is cool, let’s go see them.” And then you know, a year later, you lose touch with that band. I think we’ve managed to build a real strong core following over the last 10 or so years of touring. And I think the stars just sort of aligned on this last album. I’ve always been very interested in horror films and theater. And this album, we decided to put that really at the forefront of what we’re doing. And with how popular horror is right now with the success of movies like Get Out and It and the new Halloween, I think it was just really good timing. And I’m excited to see where we can take it.
Did you feel any pressure to do a second Silver Scream?
There’s definitely pressure. I mean with any record you do, you always want to one-up yourself. And you know, I guess in true horror fashion, everyone’s looking for a sequel. So we’ll see what happens. You know, I just want to make sure that we do something again that’s special and reinvents what we did before but maintains the fun of what The Silver Screen was.
It’s interesting that you grew up such a fan of horror movies probably wanting sequels to certain films. But now you’re almost in the reverse position now where it’s like, “Hey, slow it down. Maybe we can’t do a sequel like you’re hoping.”
Yeah, it’s a tough call and I’m still sort of wrestling with exactly what to do. But we’ll see what happens.