"Kurt Cobain was one of my absolute first idols." Ice Nine Kills' Spencer Charnas talks horror movies, heavy metal and cosplaying as a Nirvana icon

Spencer Charnas laughing on stage
(Image credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns via Getty Images)

Modern metalcore's true horror masters, Boston, Massachusetts' Ice Nine Kills have deservedly carved out a bloody reputation as one of the most creative and brilliantly OTT bands in the game right now. Much of their success has been masterminded by frontman and horror fanatic Spencer Charnas, who co-founded the band back in high school and hasn't looked back since. We sat down with Spencer for a conversation about cosplaying Kurt Cobain, the band's next chapter and - you guessed it - horror movies.

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You’ve cosplayed a lot throughout your career, but apparently the first time you tried it was a bit different. Didn’t you basically want to be Kurt Cobain when you were a kid?

“Yeah, he was one of my absolute first idols. I saw the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit on MTV and it changed everything for me. The music, the look – it made me want to want to buy a guitar and learn how to play all of Nirvana’s songs.”

Didn’t you even dye your hair to look like Kurt?

“I did! I grew my hair long and dyed the front of it blonde, I wore flannel shirts and I bought any Nirvana shirt I could get my hands on. But I was so young – seven, eight years old – that none of the shirts fit me. They all went down to my knees.”

What’s the cosplay you’re proudest of?

“I’d say I like the deep cuts: films that aren’t as well known as, say, Friday The 13th. Last October, I had always wanted to cosplay as Devon Sawa’s character, Anton Tobias, from [1999 horror comedy] Idle Hands. I think I really nailed it, including the inhaler necklace that he wears, which is actually just a marijuana pipe.”

That film had a stacked punk and metal soundtrack. Is there a franchise or director you’d love to do a soundtrack for?

Halloween. John Carpenter’s score is so iconic, yet so minimal. I think it would be really fun to tackle that. From what I understand, John Carpenter scored that film in three days with one synthesiser.”

Horror films notwithstanding, what scares you the most?

“I guess it’s the things that scare everybody, you know? Death of family members, losing anyone you love. But, to be honest, nothing in the horror world really scares me that much. I miss the feeling that I got when I was a little kid, when I would be so scared that I would think Jason [Voorhees] or Michael [Myers] was in my closet or under the bed.”

When was the last time a film truly got under your skin in that way?

“Some of those Paranormal Activity movies were very scary, especially the first one, just because it seemed so real. I really respect a movie like that for being able to do so much with such a limited budget.”

You’ve made two Silver Scream albums now. Can we expect a third?

“At some point, it will probably be on the horizon. We’ll see. I can’t talk too much about what we’re doing right now.”

Whatever Ice Nine Kills do next, do you think it’s going to be The Silver Scream 3? Or would you do something else first?

“I don’t know yet; time will tell, man! But we are working on new music and it’s turning out incredible. We’re sort of in the demo stage now, but everything is really exciting. I think people are going to be very, very excited about what comes next.”

What does what you’re demoing sound like?

“You’re not gonna get an answer out of me, dude. Ha ha ha!”

It’s only spring but, a horror fanatic such as yourself, you must already have plans for Halloween this year…

“Yeah, I actually do! It’s funny because, last year, I’d just moved into a new house and I wanted to throw a Halloween party. I brainstormed this idea of renting out this big, outdoor-screen theatre, and we put it on the lawn! The company brought a popcorn machine and we hired a taco truck, so we had this really cool Halloween outside my house and invited a bunch of friends and some of my favourite actors. It was just a great experience! I’m going to try and keep up that tradition for as long as I can: hosting a party at my house.”

Will cosplays be mandatory?

“No, but if you want to wear a costume, that’s great! Come as you are.”

It’s great that we opened the interview with a Kurt Cobain question and finished by name- dropping a Nirvana song.

“I didn’t even realise I did that! Ha ha ha!”

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.

With contributions from