INTERVIEW: Chris Motionless – Motionless in White

MOTIONLESS IN WHITE are still riding the crest of a huge wave off the back of last year’s Graveyard Shift, their fourth and arguably most accomplished album to date, which they finally brought to the UK last month with an excellent stage show to match. Before they played in Bristol, we had a chat with singer Chris Motionless about the album, interlinking songs, his Dad singing METALLICA and, amazingly, hating the British sunshine…

Chris, thanks for joining me. Fourth date of an extensive UK and Ireland tour tonight for MOTIONLESS IN WHITE – how’s it been going so far?

Chris: It’s great. We played Southampton yesterday. The Irish shows are cool but it’s a different type of crowd than here and the US. Every territory has a different type of people and having been here many times before we recognise a lot of faces and it’s really cool to seeing people coming back; this is the third or fourth time for some people seeing us.

Is it nice that CANE HILL are playing this date after yesterday? (CANE HILL cancelled their slot in Southampton the night before)

Chris: Yeah! [laughs] yesterday was really unfortunate for them, but it was a case of “Oh well, we’re just gonna do what we do anyway and hopefully they get it sorted”, so we’re really happy to have them today.

Describe to me a day in the life of a tour: are cancellations really common two hours before?

Chris: Yeah, we do our absolute best to avoid it because we don’t want to keep changing thing for everyone involved. There’s just a lot of people and a lot of communication between things like press, VIP, stage hands etc and sometimes that gets a little crossed. I mean, I’m happy that we’re trying to make everything work as much as we can within the time we have but when you’re headlining it’s definitely a lot busier of a day and if one things ends up being delayed then everything is, kinda like airports, your flights delayed and it’s like “Well, guess you’re fucked!” and you just have to figure it out. Thankfully we have a good team to get it done.

You’ve never shied away from the fact that MOTIONLESS IN WHITE has a rather special relationship on these shores – why do you think this is?

Chris: I don’t know. I just think we decided to come and do a headline tour very early on which may have been seen as a gutsy move, but we just wanted to show the UK and Europe what we’re about and every show sold out, so the love was there straight off and built such a hard foundation for the band to come back again and again, and this tour we’re on is the biggest we’ve ever done. There’s also the people of Download giving us the chance to play on the  main stage, that also speaks of the love the UK has for us and the connection – that’s something that you just cannot buy or manipulate whatsoever

I was going to ask about MOTIONLESS IN WHITE’s performance at Download last year; describe it from your point of view.

Chris: Well the weather thing was bizarre, because of all the years for it to be sunny and daylight out, it had to be when we’re playing the Main Stage, it didn’t really work for us! I was counting on it being overcast and playing into our stage performance but of course we not only had to play against the early afternoon slot but the sunlight as well. It was a fun challenge to go up and do what we did but I thought it was great, the crowd got bigger as we played and we debuted a new song as well; it was a very memorable experience.

You mentioned in a previous interview that you were going to give us as much of a show as possible; have you managed to come through on that promise?

Chris: Yes we have, we literally brought out a big package and we’ll fit as much of it onto each stage as we can. We have tons of lights, our full crew, our stage performers, it’s time to bring over here what we have in the US. Before it’s just been a few lights, very skin and bones and a punk rock rock version of ourselves which is cool but we wanted to give everyone what they see in the US so we spent a lot of money to make sure that was possible and it’s worth every penny.

If you had an unlimited budget, what one item of stage production would you love to incorporate into your set?

Chris: I think I want an actual Psycho Bates Motel house, full constructed on the stage and the stage dressed like we were playing in the front yard of the house, with lightning behind and big LED moon so it looks like we’re playing on a horror movie cover.

See, the minute you said that I had an image of the hotel with four windows and they each come forward to form platforms and there’s one band member on each of them.

Chris: You’re just adding to the dream there!

I see you managed to cover METALLICA with your Dad on Halloween in Philadelphia; how cool was that given everything that’s happened over the past year?

Chris: It was one of those moments that you’re like…you’re able to move on from it, there’s a lot of moments now where sometimes his health gets a little bit of a struggle but to have that happen and have him included was awesome. He’s just been such a behind-the -scenes member of our band whether it be he and I building our stage  props together or transport our shit everywhere in the early days, he’s been such a strong figure behind the scenes, so to finally have him up there IN the scenes and for people see him and acknowledge his presence as part of our band in some way or other, it was great to just be like “Okay, it came up to this moment and that’s as much as I can think to do with him to get him out there and give him the glory he deserves”.

So, Graveyard Shift – out now for eight and a half months. Now that’s it had time to sink in, how does it compare to the rest of MOTIONLESS IN WHITE’s back catalogue from a band point of view?

Chris: I think that there’s still, it hasn’t got to the point where we feel like we’re overplaying any of the songs. When you think back to some of the older songs, we’re playing them for the fans and it’s great,  but we’re just bored of them because we’ve been playing them for so long. With the new album we don’t have that yet, even the single released before the album aren’t old yet and it still feels exciting to play them. What’s different about these songs versus the other ones is I think all of these songs come alive in a live setting better than the rest, so that’s great.

I was particularly interested to see you’d written a sequel to Dead as Fuck from Reincarnate, and even more interested that through these ‘sagas’, along with Puppets and Schizophrenicannibalisticsexfest, you’ve managed to link every single album together. Is that intentional?

Chris: Yep, that’s something we’ve always done; there’s other songs that link together in song theme and lyrical theme as opposed to song title and, for me, it depends on the type of the song – some of them are very serious in the themes that they carry on throughout the album and then many of them (like the ones you’ve just mentioned) are meant to be the complete ‘Fuck Off’ tracks and just meant to make people laugh and hope that people get that it’s meant to be funny and not serious. I think that’s a crucial part of what we do is show our humorous side and that we’re not entirely serious all the time.

And of course, you’re playing to two parts to Dead as Fuck one after the other!

Chris: That was by fan request! We probably would have only played the newer one but fans were all over Twitter saying “Oh man I hope we get them together” and asking to do that so we though “Okay, you want that, we’ll do it!”

It’s also the last album to feature Josh Balz on keyboards; at present you’re a five piece, is there any talk of expanding again in the near future permanently?

Chris: We haven’t really thought about it, we’ve been handling it just fine and I don’t feel that he COULD be replaced, I don’t think the fans would really cling to anyone else.  Josh still seems to be a member of the band and it still feels like he shouldn’t have a replacement, so we’re just rolling with it for now and if the time comes where we DO need to replace him then we’ll seek that out but for now everyone seems to be fine with it.

It might have been the last with Josh, but it was the first album from MOTIONLESS IN WHITE released on Roadrunner Records; was it a big deal signing with them, or were you just looking forward to getting back to what MOTIONLESS IN WHITE do best?

Chris: Yeah it was definitely one of the biggest moments for the band because when I look back to the labels we wanted to be signed to, the dream labels when we just wanted to be signed to ANYBODY, Roadrunner were at the top of that list. It’s a funny story really, we were playing some far away stage at Warped Tour in 2007 or something, it was a small stage in the middle of nowhere in the parking lot and a guy from Roadrunner came over and gave us his card and we were like “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!”, so 11 years later to actually have ended up on Roadrunner it’s wild to think back to that moment and see where things have gone.

I read that you still consider yourself a guitar player more than a singer, which given your presence and persona onstage came as a bit of a surprise to me. Why is this?

Chris: It’s so funny how it happened for me to be a singer. I played guitar so much, I played drums growing up as well – I just wanted to be a guitar player but we just never had a singer for any band I was jamming with, so I ended up saying “Oh alright, I’ll sing two”, so I started playing and singing. I’m not Claudio Sanchez from COHEED AND CAMBRIA though; I can’t shred and sing, so it got to the point where I just had to put the guitar down and embrace that I was the vocalist and now as every album goes I try to really make sure I know that and put forth a better vocal performance than make sure the guitars are great and everything.

Have you ever gone back into the studio and thought about composing a song with three guitars, coming on one night with a guitar and just playing?

Chris: Nah, I’m the vocalist and that’s the path I chose and thankfully I still get to play guitar in a lot of writing of the stuff so that makes up for it.

What’s next for MOTIONLESS IN WHITE once this current run is over? Can we expect to see you around in the summer?

Chris: I’ll let out a little secret; right now we’re really trying to work out how we can do a tour with a band that’s becoming really popular over here in the UK and that we really like a lot. It’s up to whoever they want to guess who but we really like the band, they put out an album last year that we really loved and we feel that we’d be a great fit together and we’re working on seeing if that could happen, and that would be at the end of the year so that means we’d be playing here twice in 12 months which is awesome.

You mentioned as well we’d got the raw end of the stick with some of MOTIONLESS IN WHITE’s tours because you haven’t done many headliners over here have you, it’s mainly been supporting tours.

Chris: Yeah, the big goal of this album cycle is to get everywhere else; instead of seven US tours and one foreign we want to flip that and do more foreign touring and try to keep the US at one or two a year if possible.

Chris, thank you very much for your time and enjoy the show tonight.

Chris: Thanks man.

Graveyard Shift is out now via Roadrunner Records.