Horror Metal, Killer Sequels, Patton Worship: Ice Nine Kills Interviewed by Papa Roach | Revolver

Horror Metal, Killer Sequels, Patton Worship: Ice Nine Kills Interviewed by Papa Roach

Jacoby Shaddix chops it up with INK's master of mayhem Spencer Charnas
ink_spencer_credit_mattakana.jpg, Matt Akana
Ice Nine Kills' Spencer Charnas
photograph by Matt Akana

"When we first came out, Korn took us out on tour, and they were just so gracious to us," Papa Roach vocalist Jacoby Shaddix recalls. "They were just like, 'Yo, kids' — they called us 'grasshopper.' They're like, 'Yo, grasshopper, check it out ...'

"I was like, 'All right, cool. This is sick! I love Korn.' And they're telling me that they're going to teach me the ways,'" he says, giggling like a little kid. "And they were like, 'You turn the system up as loud as you want. You can be anywhere on the stage, all the lights, do your thing. While you're on that stage, that crowd is yours — go kill it.' And I think that, for me, I try to remain as humble as possible, but also teachable."

Now a rock veteran himself, Shaddix is trying to pass it on, and Ice Nine Kills' Spencer Charnas, for one, appreciates him for it. "You're not too cool for school," the 35-year-old singer compliments the Papa Roach frontman, his elder by a decade. "You're into playing with the younger bands and doing guest spots."

Those guest spots have included features with everyone from Texan alt-rock outfit Nothing More to Mongolian folk-metal phenoms the HU to, most recently, Charnas' horror-obsessed metalcore group. Credit Hollywood Undead for bringing the two vocalists together: The rap-rock crew enlisted Ice Nine Kills to open their 2020 European tour, where Charnas and Shaddix would first meet, but they also united the two singers as guest vocalists on that year's single "Heart of a Champion." Around the same time, Ice Nine Kills had been working on a song inspired by 2000's Christian Bale-helmed American Psycho movie, and Charnas needed his Paul Allen. One day on the tour he turned to Shaddix standing side stage and asked him, "Do you mind if I just kind of lodge an axe in your head and [you] sing with me?" Shaddix's response? "Absolutely, dude!"

The resulting song, "Hip to Be Scared," dropped this past July. It's the lead single off INK's upcoming album, The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, the follow-up to the band's chart-topping 2018 LP, The Silver Scream, every song on which pays homage to a different horror movie. As any good sequel should, Welcome to Horrorwood ups the ante on the original. There are catchier choruses, fiercer screams, heavier breakdowns, more fright-flick source material and a murderer's row of guests: Cannibal Corpse's George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, Atreyu's Brandon Saller, Fit for a King's Ryan Kirby, Senses Fail's Buddy Nielsen and or course, Shaddix, who not only sings on "Hip to Be Scared" but also appears in its cinematic music video, delivering his vocals from the floor in a pool of blood.

Under less gory circumstances, Revolver reunited him and Charnas on Zoom, the INK frontman with slick hair, dress shirt, suspenders and tie, controlled and deliberate, still in American Psycho mode, and Shaddix, in contrast, dressed down and nearly jumping out of his chair with excitement in a blue-lit studio space. Here, he interviews his grasshopper. 

JACOBY SHADDIX I got to tell you, man, thank you so much for having me on the track. It's an honor to be rocking that shit with you. And I love that flick. I mean, when it comes to films, that's definitely up there.

SPENCER CHARNAS And thank you so much for being a part of it. I've always admired Papa Roach and I knew that this part would fit you so well, because you are such a great frontman. I got to tell you, your acting was really good in this. A lot of people tend to, if they're not actors — and I'm not an actor either — to overplay the role, and you just did it perfectly. And you killed it … and then I killed you.

SHADDIX Once the video had premiered, not only am I a fan, but my kids are fans, as well. My son, Makaile, is an uber fan, right? And so he's watching the video, we watched it over and over. I'm like, "How many times you going to watch this damn video?" He's like, "No, dad, now I'm watching reaction videos." [Charnas laughs] We were watching Ice Nine fans and P-Roach fans reacting to the music video. I never really sat down and watched reaction videos, and I just went down this rabbit hole and I'm like, "Oh my God, there's reaction videos to everything." The internet is a strange place if you get lost in it.

CHARNAS Oh, 100 percent. And it's cool, as I'm sure you can relate, when you create music and you have so long before it actually comes out. We recorded this song, we started recording it over a year ago before we did that tour with you, so that opportunity that we get as musicians, as songwriters, to eventually see the reaction, especially in real time, is such a rewarding experience.

SHADDIX Yeah, absolutely, man. I know the feeling of sitting on music for a long time.

CHARNAS And what's so cool about you guys, your career spans so far back, and you guys continue to write all of these bangers, and watching you guys play the earlier hits that you've been playing for 20 years or so, I can tell that no matter how many times you've played a song, when that crowd goes off like they do every night for you, I could still see that twinkle in your eye where this is probably just as exciting as the first time you [played] "Last Resort," because just that undeniable reaction of everyone singing it in a Papa Roach crowd is just so awesome to see. Unless you're acting up there — I could tell it's fucking genuine as hell.

SHADDIX Oh yeah, man, there's an authentic excitement coming off of it. I just feel that connection, it's infectious. Honestly, dude, that's my straight drug of choice. That connection and that experience. I live for it. And I also live for watching other bands have that experience, too. It's when I really kind of fell in love with your band is when I saw you guys live. I was like, "Oh, I get it," because I can hear records, but it's so important to me to see a band be able to pull off what they're doing live.

And you guys, it's theatrical, it's hilarious, it's dark, it's twisted. I love your dry humor that you're throwing into the set. And there's just this, it's insanity, but focused. When I saw you guys, I watched you guys on the regular, on that tour. And every time I'm just like, "All right, this is legit. Spence brings it." You're on point, you're on key, dude. How many singers have I seen that just [fart noise] ... And you're bringing it on key.

I got to tell you, man, the evolution of your band and the songwriting and the themes that you're bringing on this album and the connections with the films, honestly, it's genius.

CHARNAS It comes from that place where I've always been a performer inside because I've always been obsessed, not only with music, but films. I was always the guy that wanted to memorize every single line with every inflection, and if someone else would do it and they would say "and" instead of "the," I'd be like, "You fucked it up!" So I was that pain-in-the-ass guy, and I know I drive my girlfriend crazy talking over movies and quoting the lines: "Shut up, Spencer, let the actor do it." "No, no, I'm going to do it."

But at the same time, you touched on it, because it all comes with that sort of wink towards the camera that we're having a good time. We're not taking ourselves super seriously. To me, that was always the most fun of going to the movies. We're just doing escape here. We aspire to do what you guys have done, which is to have that career that isn't just a moment, that you guys have been able to make this thing take on this life of its own, and still just crushing it and playing the huge crowds. Because it's hard enough to have that little bit of success, but to be able to parlay it into this long, thriving career is incredible. And I hope that we even have the fraction of that, what you guys have.

SHADDIX You got what it takes. I got a question for you as you were riffing, growing up, right? When you were younger, and you were into film, did you ever do any kind of theater or anything like that?

CHARNAS I did on a very low level in terms of, I went to camp and there would be a production of, I don't know, Grease or something, and I would be in the chorus line or something like that, but I never went hard at the theater stuff. I don't know exactly why?

SHADDIX So at what point in your life, right, when did the music come into play? How did you discover that you were a rock vocalist?

CHARNAS So I think my first experience with being aware of a band or branding of a band was probably the Grateful Dead, because I would see my sister wearing their stuff with the bear and the skull. I was like, "That's kind of badass," but [what] got me into music was watching MTV and seeing bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots when I was about seven or eight. ... I was the kid at school that was telling my friends what to listen to — "You got to check these bands out."

So, there is a video of me playing with my band, and I'm talking, we're like 10, and we played "Dive" by Nirvana, and "Tomorrow" by Silverchair, and I'll dig up the video at some point. But it was definitely funny to see little kind of grunge- looking guys at eight years old. And I remember we got in a lot of trouble for playing certain songs.

SHADDIX That's sick! So, where you're at in your life and in your career, this experience that you're having now, is it what you were dreaming of when you were a kid?

CHARNAS Absolutely. I'm so lucky to be able to do this kind of stuff. And it's twofold. I always dreamed of being a rock musician that people really embraced in moment that you share with the audience, where everyone is feeling it. And the second fold is I always wanted to be in the movies. I always liked — loved, rather — the Friday the 13th, the Halloweens, and getting to do that in videos and give our own spin on that and play those characters. I owe it all to our psycho fans because they let me trick or treat into my thirties.

I've always wanted to ask you, what are the bands that got you into wanting to be a rock vocalist?

SHADDIX Oh man, so I've got a funny story about how I became a singer. So, in the early years, I started on drums, and I was listening to, same, Nirvana — I was a big fan of Faith No More, grunge and punk, Social Distortion, Fugazi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mr. Bungle was one of my favorites.

I met Dave Buckner, he was one of the founding members of Papa Roach. Well, he was a better drummer than I was, right? I had a job, I earned some money. I went and bought a bass guitar. So, I started playing bass and I had it in the back of my truck one day, and somebody broke into my truck and stole my bass. I'm just like, "Ahhhh! What am I going to do, man? I ain't got no money." He's like, "Dude, just be a singer, bro — it's free." It was just kind of on that whimsical moment where I was just like, "All right, I'll be the singer."

It developed from there because early on in my singing, I was trying to sound like Mike Patton meets a death-metal singer. I got into rap, and then I discovered melody and that's when I started to take off as a vocalist. So, it took me a long time. I had a lot of embarrassing recordings. But Papa Roach is my first band I've ever been in. Here I am 20 some odd years later.

CHARNAS Same with me! This is the only band I've been in. And that's so amazing, that sort of manifest destiny thing you're talking about, like, whoever stole your bass that day, who knows what would have happened if he didn't steal the bass? Thank God. Where is that guy? Let's buy him a beer — if he's not dead.

SHADDIX Let me buy him a keg. Fuck! [Laughs]

CHARNAS Seriously, right?

SHADDIX It changed the course of my life.

All right, so when's the release date?

CHARNAS October 15th. And it's cool because as a horror fan, as a franchise fan, I've always loved the idea of sequels, and I remember being so excited when Scream came out and I saw it in the theater, I was like, "Where's the Scream II? When is Scream II is coming out?" So, I wanted to give our fans that same feeling of, "There's a second one? What are they going to do?" I'm really stoked to take that world of movies and put it into the music world and sort of cross pollinate there.

SHADDIX Hence the genius of Spencer. I love it, dude. Like I said earlier, I'll say it again. It's inspiring for a dude like me who's been around in the game to see somebody else and go, "Oh, they got it. They got it. They got that thing." There's bands out there that write great music, but what else is there? What's the hook that really gives this thing something that you can dig in deeper? And I think it takes levels of creativity. It's got me thinking about what we do with Papa Roach. When I think I got it figured out, that's when it's over. I guess we live and die by the art that we create, and if it's not successful, you feel the hit. And we've had some tough times in our career, but we just soldier on, my brother. We cockroaches, they can't get rid of us.

CHARNAS That's right.

SHADDIX As soon as you thought you got rid of us, guess who's creeping and crawling out the cuts in the crevices? [Flips shirt collar]

CHARNAS That's right. You guys don't scatter when the lights go on.

SHADDIX Oh hell no, dude. We infest.