Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but Ice Nine Kills plans to serve some up in the sizzling heat of summer.
The horrorcore band — which pulled some headlines after being banned from playing the House of Blues in Orlando, Fla., in April with Falling in Reverse due to its “violent imagery” — has booked a “revenge show” for July 25 at the city’s Soundbar venue, with Toothgrinder along for support. The cheeky attitude reflects how Ice Nine Kills has taken the hiccup in stride.
Frontman Spencer Charnas explains, “What happened was — maybe a month before the tour was supposed to start, I get a call from my booking agent saying, ‘Hey, unfortunately, you guys have been asked not to play the Orlando show because it’s on Disney property [and] the band’s violent imagery doesn’t bond well with their moral and ethical code.’ So, you know, it was really funny.”
While he thought it “a bummer” not to play House of Blues, as soon as Charnas heard the news, he thought his band “somehow [had] to make fun of this, and not take it too seriously. So I got together with our artist, Mike Cortada, who does our album covers. The idea I had was to take Disney characters and put them into the horror icons and iconic situations from horror films. He was all about it, and we got these really cool T-shirts designed.” When the group’s lawyer warned him to be careful, because Disney is stringent in protecting its intellectual property, Charnas said, “Let’s just go for it.”
“And the shirts sold like crazy!” he continues. “And nothing happened. But we pulled the shirts down [from TooEvilForChildren.com] — and still, not even a cease-and-desist. It was just one of those situations where you take a possible negative and turn it into something funny and positive.”
The positive turned out to be lucrative as well. “Those shirts have been some of our best-sellers ever, and people are constantly asking when we’re going to re-release them. We developed this thing called ‘Nightmare on the Ninth’ where, every month on the ninth — because our band’s named Ice Nine Kills — we do a limited-edition run of shirts and special items that we never put up again. So that Disney thing was the third or fourth ‘Nightmare on the Ninth’ sale, and then we just did a run with a Jason Voorhees hockey jersey. It gives the kids something to look forward to, to know that on the ninth, we’re going to put out something that we never do again. And we’ll have something for June ninth.”
Ice Nine Kills is putting itself on the map with a fascination for darkness and aggressive melodic rock. Its latest album, The Silver Scream (Fearless Records), released in October 2018, hit No. 29 on the Billboard 200, No. 2 on Hard Rock Albums and No. 4 on Top Rock Albums. Produced by Drew Fulk (Motionless in White, Emmure, Cane Hill), the album features 13 tracks inspired by American horror movies and appearances from members of Finch, Fenix TX, Mest and Less Than Jake. Songs like “Communion of the Cursed,” “The Fastest Way to a Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Ribcage” — and unlikely covers of Maroon 5’s “Animals” and Adele’s “Someone Like You” — have amassed over 30 million YouTube views.
When asked to describe Ice Nine Kill’s sound — which is often categorized as metalcore or post-metalcore — Charnas laughs. “What I’ve been saying is that we’re a ‘horror-centric theatri-core’ band. Because obviously we’re very influenced by horror, but a lot of the orchestration and my ideas for melodies come from musical theater like Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera, and mixing that with extreme heavy metal and the energy of punk and ska. It’s weird, but it works for me and I like it. I like trying to defy the odds and put ska into a heavy song and seeing what happens.”
Charnas originally started Ice Nine Kills as a ska-punk band after seeing Goldfinger. “I saw their show at the Palladium in Worcester [Mass.] — it was Sept. 21, 2000 — and that show was so good it made me want to play music.” As his tastes changed, INK morphed into its current state, “but I wear my influences on my sleeve and it shows on this album,” says Charnas. “Peter ‘JR’ Wasilewski and Buddy Schaub of Less Than Jake play horns on ‘It Is the End.’” (Finch’s Randy Strohmeyer, Fenix TX’s Will Salazar and Mest’s Tony Lovato also contributed.) “So it’s cool to have all those influences involved with the band.”
Charnas’ love for slasher flicks and scary movies inspired The Silver Scream, and it’s not the first time he and his cohorts have visited books and film for inspiration. On Ice Nine Kill’s first Fearless release, Every Trick in the Book, each song was inspired by a work of literature from a disparate group of authors, from Thomas Hardy to William Peter Blatty. With The Silver Scream, Charnas looked to films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween for incentive. The band also tributed the 25th anniversary of The Crow with the song “A Grave Mistake,” which is currently No. 13 on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Songs chart, and they also cut an acoustic version during a visit to SiriusXM’s Octane studio.
“That was actually the first song that I worked on for the record,” says Charnas. “I knew that I wanted to make the album about horror movies. I sat down at the piano and found this melody, something tragic, something somber but also something uplifting. I thought, ‘What film could this be about?’ and suddenly, it hit me that it was The Crow. Everything fell into place, and the lyrics came quite quickly. As most people know, Brandon Lee was killed when a prop gun – which was not supposed to fire, misfired and killed him – and there’s just something so eerie about that because it was when he was filming his [character’s] death scene. He was taken away from us far too soon.”
The band has made a series of interconnected videos to accompany the music, again inspired by his favorite horror movies. “The idea is to string them together so they all connect and become a feature film. Creatively, I came up with the overarching concept,” says Charnas. “Then our director, Daniel Hourihan, made it happen. As a film buff, to be able to play out my own fantasies, it was pretty darn close to the real thing. We have another video coming out, but that doesn’t have a release date yet. Sometime this summer, though.”