Chris Motionless: “It Sucks To Feel Like I’m Losing Myself In This Alternate Person I Feel Like I Have To Be”
Scranton metallers Motionless In White are back. Last month, MIW announced details of their pummelling fifth album, Disguise, as well as dropping two brand-new tracks. In doing so, the Chris Motionless-fronted group have not only never sounded more assured – they’ve also never been more personal.
Having evolved both drastically and dramatically throughout their discography, this time out Motionless In White have eschewed reinvention in favour of picking up where 2017’s Graveyard Shift left off, embracing the sound of that record and pushing it to the next level. With a new bass player in their ranks and working again with producer Drew Fulk (aka WZRD BLD), the band took their time to assure they delivered the best possible version of the band – along with the most open lyrics of Chris’ career. Kerrang! caught up with the vocalist to find out absolutely everything about it…
While you were making Graveyard Shift, you said you’d never felt more confident in regard to knowing exactly what you wanted the album to be. Does the same apply to the new record?
“This one has been interesting because it’s gone through a few phases. The whole process of writing and recording has been spread out over a longer period, and there’s been double or perhaps triple the amount of songs written than there were for Graveyard Shift. That’s been really interesting for us, because we treat every song like it’s our very personal little baby, so it’s been hard having to get over letting some of them go. That said, I think we knew what we wanted to do from the start, and we did have that same confidence. I do have to sadly report that one of the songs I was most excited about when it was in an experimental form did not make the record, but I’m hoping to put it out on the next one. But we definitely got pretty wild and pushed in each direction as far as we could, and we just had fun with it. That was really great, going in there and just writing music, not caring so much about specifics – just creating, knowing we could pick what we wanted later on.”
At any point did you surprise yourselves with what you were coming up with?
“I’d say the most surprising aspect of the process was how easy it was to achieve what we wanted on a song-by-song basis. There’s one track on the record that’s really similar to how the songs on our first record [2010’s] Creatures sound, and knowing that was what I wanted from the start it ended up being fairly easy to accomplish. I think that factors into that confidence we were talking about: we know what we like, and we know what our fans like. It’s not so much a search for what we’re looking to do; it’s a case of knowing what we want and just doing it.”
When did you start working on the album?
“We started the first writing process in January 2018. We’ve had a problem before where we kind of get boxed into a corner and don’t have as much time as we want, and we had the choice of taking some more time off and enjoying the Graveyard Shift cycle or we could get to work earlier, which is the route we took, and I’m really grateful that we did. We only stopped writing when we went on tour, because it’s fucking impossible to write on the road.”
How do you think Disguise compares to Graveyard Shift?
“I think they’re the most similar two records that we’ve done. Graveyard Shift was what we believed to be the ultimate realisation of what we wanted the band to be, and seeing the reaction of the fans reinforced that.”
So, rather than calling this a new era, would you say that Disguise is more of a continuation from the Graveyard Shift era?
“Yeah, I would definitely say that. We’ve always been a band who doesn’t want to do the same record twice – and I think there are differences, so we’ve avoided that – but in the past we’ve always had each record be notably different to the last, and that wasn’t what we wanted to do. Maybe the next record will be different, but right now we really like where we’re at, so let’s just keep the fires burning!”
You released the first two tracks on the same day: the super-bouncy Brand New Numb, and the darker and far more aggressive title-track. Why did you decide to do that?
“(Laughs) Well, there was definitely an interesting sequence of phone calls with the label about that! They really wanted to push Brand New Numb, and we think the song is really cool, and it’s kind of a throwback song to our album [2012’s] Infamous, which has a lot of stuff like that on there. What’s cool about it is there’s a little sample at the beginning which is me and my guitarist Ricky [Olson] working on the song in 2012, recording the riff into my phone, and it’s cool that we chose not to put that song on that record and all these years later we can make it even better and get it out there. But as much as we like that song, when we look back to what happened when we dropped the track LOUD ahead of Graveyard Shift, we felt we were kind of misrepresenting ourselves with it, because it was the most different-sounding song on the record. We feel that Brand New Numb is also the most different song on this record, and we didn’t want people to have the wrong idea and think Motionless isn’t a heavy or aggressive band anymore. So we thought, ‘Let’s put out both and let people’s first taste of the record be two songs on both sides of the spectrum.’ If I were a fan and a band I love did that I know I’d be stoked!”
What’s Brand New Numb about?
“It’s very rooted in the message of the band, which is about individuality and celebrating differences. It’s about celebrating who you are, and it has kind of a cocky manner to it similar to how our song Necessary Evil did. I wanted to encourage people to come out of their shell and love who they are, to be a fucking badass and to be comfortable in their own skin, which is what we’ve always been about.”
And what about Disguise?
“It’s about the common thread that circulates through the rest of the record lyrically. That’s a lot more personal. In the past year – well, longer than just the past year, but more specifically in that timeframe – I’ve noticed an interesting change in myself mentally. It’s a culmination of a lot of different aspects of my life that have been happening outside of the band that I don’t really share with a lot of people. I use lyrics as a way to express those things that I don’t share publicly, and the song is about how I feel like I’m constantly having to put on this mask, put on this disguise when I show myself. I don’t feel like it’s accepted to talk about the things I want to talk about emotionally or mentally to a certain degree, and that’s been a struggle for me, and what I’ve been dealing with. It sucks to feel like I’m losing myself in this alternate person I feel like I have to be, and that definitely hit me very hard last summer when I recognised that I had to figure myself out because something is absolutely wrong, something that is going to stop me from wanting to even be in a band if I don’t care for myself emotionally or mentally. Probably eight of the songs are centred around those feelings, and starting the record off with the title-track gives you an idea of what it’s going to be.”
Has it been cathartic for you, writing about all of that?
“It’s funny you ask, since the last song on the record is called Catharsis! But yeah, I think it has been; it’s definitely helped me manage my own feelings and thoughts, putting them on paper – that’s what music has always been to me. It’s been that outlet to let out those things I don’t elsewhere, but with this record in particular, based on what’s been happening, it absolutely has been the most cathartic experience of my life. And I think the lyrics on this record are better than every other record, too: there’s no funny, goofy lyrics that don’t make sense to throw people off. These are the most serious lyrics I’ve ever written. I think people are going to feel what I’ve been feeling, for better or worse, but it’s out there, and maybe it will help someone to know they can relate to someone whose music they enjoy, as well as giving a little more insight as to who I am as a person.”
Have you taken any other steps to try to help with your mental health?
“I have. During the process of making the record I was advised by many friends to try therapy, and in the past I’ve been moderately vocal in my inner circle about not agreeing with the method of therapy, but I’ve since changed my mind. I think it’s really helpful to talk to someone about what you’re feeling, and now I agree that most people in the world would probably be a lot better off if they felt that they could talk to someone about their feelings and what they’re experiencing. Now I definitely see it as an amazing outlet. Even getting to hear yourself talking about things out loud can help manage where you’re at and the way you feel – even if the person isn’t saying anything back, you’re letting it out rather than bottling it up and having that conversation in your head.”
You’ve had a lot of high-calibre guests on past records – including Korn’s Jonathan Davis and Cradle Of Filth’s Dani Filth. Do you have any on this album?
“As of right now we do not. I do have one request out that I haven’t heard back from, but I actually kinda like that there aren’t any. We’ve always had guests on our records, and I think it helps a lot and I’ve personally always loved the contributions we’ve had from other artists, but maybe it’s time for us to have a record where it’s a case of, ‘Okay, here’s Motionless, and everything you’re hearing is our band.’ So I won’t be too upset if that doesn’t come off!”
Finally, then, can you sum up what things are like in the Motionless In White camp right now?
“I think things are better than they have been in a long time! Our new bass player has revitalised the energy, which is crucial. That’s been great, the new songs are great, I’m confident that fans are going to love them. You can put this in bold letters: the record is a culmination of every positive thing fans have said and told us what they love about the band. I’m just so excited to start the next cycle.”
Motionless In White’s new album Disguise is due out now June 7 via Roadrunner Records. Pre-order your copy now.
Beartooth, Motionless In White and Stray From The Path will be hitting the road together in the UK and Europe next year.
“From choirboy to rock’n’roll singer…” AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson will be releasing his memoirs later this year.