Chris Motionless: "Music has been my therapy"

Chris Motionless from Motionless In White
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This summer was a big one for Motionless In White. In May they dropped their fourth studio album Graveyard Shift, which came with a brand new look for frontman Chris Cerulli (aka Chris Motionless), and they played the main stage of Download festival in front of tens of thousands of people. Not bad, huh?

To find out what it meant to the band, we called up Chris Motionless to talk about the latest album, plans for next year’s UK tour, covering One Step Closer and much more.

You guys are currently on the Graveyard Shift tour run in the US. How has it been so far?

“It’s been amazing. The crowds have got bigger and better as the tour has gone on, with people saying to each other, ‘Oh man, you gotta go to this tour’. We had a great show in LA, the week after was slower, but as it gets closer to the Halloween date in Philadelphia, which is like the hometown show, people are more and more excited. We usually do a couple of cover songs, but this year I’m trying to coerce my dad to get up and sing a Metallica song with me. It would make my dad’s life, but he’s nervous – it’ll be one of those last minute ‘I’ll do it!’ moments.”

You’re coming back to the UK in January. What can we expect from those shows?

“We had a long phone conversation with our management and discussed how we feel the UK has always gotten the short end of the stick on the Motionless show front. We’ve been over there – done all kinds of shows, headliners, all kinds of different rooms, two nights at The Underworld etc. There’s always a special feel over there so with these shows; it’s time to pull that fucking trigger. Whatever fits on that fucking stage, every bit of production we can get on – that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna give the UK fans the real show that they’ve been waiting for. We’re sick of dealing with budgets and all that other shit – it’s game time.

Motionless graced the main stage at Download this year. What was the standout moment for you during that set?

“I couldn’t believe how nervous I was. I guess that shows just how special this moment was. I was warming up and was shaking and arguing with myself! But as soon as that first note hit, I remember taking a breath and just being like, ‘Holy fuck, man, here we are’, and it was so cool to debut a new song [Necessary Evil]. We saved that as a special moment for Download. It was cool to pick out who was casually walking by and who the actual fans were! It was delightful to see just how many people were there and familiar with us, and those who stopped to watch.”

Do you think the pre-show nerves were to do with the fact that Download has this ‘hallowed turf’ status associated with it, and the calibre of bands who have played there?

“It’s definitely big pressure to be part of main stage Download. It’s one of the most renowned festivals in the world, and the bands on the bill are phenomenal every single year. My dad has a DVD of AC/DC playing at Donington – we’d watch it all the time – and here I am stepping out on that same stage thinking, ‘Wow, this is just bizarre!’ It’s crazy to think of the progression – to go from the tiny stages to here in only a few years.”

We sadly lost Chester Bennington from Linkin Park this year. You covered One Step Closer as a tribute to him. Why that song?

“We covered that song on two different tours in 2015. LP are a band that got a lot of shit for the changes that they’ve made, but I’ve always respected them and love how experimental they’ve been. But when I think back to the songs that have really hit me the most, it’s songs like One Step Closer. It has that old school, gritty LP feel to it, and it went over so well on the tours. When we learnt about Chester’s death, it was like, ‘We’ve got to do this one final time.’ There’s a video circulating on the internet of us covering it. I wanted the opportunity to say something – that we weren’t just playing it, but wanted to voice our opinion on what happened. It’s just very sad and I want to encourage people to not make the same mistake. To try and offer options as to what you can do besides making that decision.”

Do you think there’s still a stigma regarding mental health with some people in this genre thinking that needing help is a sign of weakness?

“I think it’s split down the middle. In certain types of metal, it’s still a case of ‘grow some balls, man’ or ‘stop being a pussy’, ‘cause it’s meant to be this symbol of masculinity. Sadly, with that idea, masculinity means not having any weaknesses – and I think that’s just the wrong way to go about it. I would encourage people to be open and feel how they actually feel. We’re a band that try to push that sense of community through our music – to offer that support system – and that’s the kind of metal we want to be associated with. Music has been my therapy – it keeps that rage at bay – especially as there are a lot of things in the world that make me harbour anger. The state of the world, the US right now, things people say on the internet – sometimes I have a hard time separating the important from the crap.”

What have been your high and low points of 2017?

“The highs have been Download and working all year to get to this moment – the official Graveyard Shift headlining tour. We’ve actually only ever done two-and-a-half headliners out of 11 years of touring, so to have it at this level – we call it putting on an arena show in a club – is pretty miraculous to me. As far as the lows go, worrying about my dad’s health following his heart attack – thankfully it’s improving all the time – and when we had to delay the album release. I was just so upset and felt helpless watching the fans’ reactions and not being able to offer an explanation for it.”

Is there anything in particular that you’ve learned about yourself this year?

“I don’t think I’ve had any life-changing revelations, per se. I feel like this year has been more of a case of reaping the rewards of the hard work we’ve put in. Last year was a really tough year – hardships and learning how to cope with them – and now 2017 is where it’s all paying off. The realisation that this band is still one that people wanna come see and be a part of is something that keeps me motivated and happy.”

What are your thoughts on the state of the world in 2017?

“It’s a very dark place right now. It’s incredibly sad that America is looked at as a punchline for the rest of the world, and rightfully so. I know the majority of our country doesn’t actually agree with what’s going on, but the rest of the world might not want to see that. Somehow, what seems to be a minority, ended up being the majority in making things this way. I just hope that the world knows there’s a lot of people here that don’t agree with what seems to be coming out of here lately! Give us a chance to make it right when the time comes. But hey, if the time comes and we don’t make it right – then fucking punch away!”

You can read exclusive interviews with all the bands that made 2017 – from Myrkur to Satyricon to Avenged Sevenfold – in the latest issue of Metal Hammer. Buy it directly here or become a TeamRock+ member to read it right now.

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