Interview conducted March 10 2017
Interview published April 25 2017
"Every time we've put out a record there is a
considerable group of fans that feel pretty disappointed in it."
American outfit Motionless In White
lets go of its new making Graveyard Shift on May 5th and vocalist Chris
"Motionless" Cerulli made a quick stop
in Stockholm on his promotion trip to Europe. Chris might have kind of
a scary look on stage, but he's in fact a very sweet guy who doesn't mind
talking about his close relation to his family and that he is still learning
stuff to improve his music and vocals.
Tobbe: Your 4th record is soon to be out
and to avoid asking the same question "What differentiates it from
the rest of your catalogue?", I will ask the opposite instead, so
what does Graveyard Shift have in common with Reincarnate ?
Chris: I like this already. I think what this
one has with Reincarnate is that: You know, we talked in the past about
Reincarnate being the album that we feel like we finally found ourselves
with. We're a band that's been trying a lot of different techniques.
Just like different things over the years to really find what we felt
like our true potential was. So in that, this record represents more
of a refinement of Reincarnate, so they definitely have, like, similar
elements and similar styles in a lot of different songs.
Is there any stuff in particular that you, like, really, really try to
put some extra effort in on the record?
Chris: Yeah. You know, we're a band that's starting
to kind of see, like, a little bit of exposure on the radio in the States
and for us what's really tough is that: To be on the radio kind of upsets
a lot of fans just because then you happen to be associated with the
radio. I don't know why that bothers fans, so for us it's really trying
to stay true to the band while also writing songs that we love that
could be on the radio, you know.
When people see, like, a lot of newer bands go
to radio, they forget that Slipknot, Korn and Rob Zombie are on the
radio too. So it's okay for a band to be played on the radio, so it's
just trying to find that line, which is just too much vs. what the band
really wants to do.
Tobbe: But radio is also a great way to
some income too for the band and when money comes in the more you can
put effort in the band and make it even greater.
Chris: Exactly. People get caught up in the whole
sell-out, mainstream terms.
Tobbe: When you're about to lay down a catchy
chorus on a heavy or kind of industrial background, what goes through
your mind in that moment?
Chris: I mean, I think that's what's contributed
to make the band have the sound that it does, and that is: You know,
we have these songs that are either really heavy songs or they have,
like you said, an industrial foundation, but the point of the song is
to get to that chorus that provides the listeners to have, like, that
So I think having that mentality allows the songs
to be liked by people outside of the genre in which that they are, and
that's kind of what I think is one of the charms of the band. It's that
the music could sound very much one way and the vocal techniques could
be something that fits that, but may attract listeners that are outside
of that particular genre, so. At least that's something we try to do.
Tobbe: So when you put different vocal elements
to the songs, in different parts of the songs, how do you figure out which
style to approach?
Chris: You know, for me, part of that experimenting
is trying to see what works where and sometimes I feel like, you know,
in our music, in other bands' music, I hear screaming over stuff that
when I hear the music I'm like "I don't hear that screaming should
be over this.". You know, I hear that singing should have been
here or something a little bit more theatrical should have been here.
always finish the music before I start writing the vocals, for this
exact reason, so great question. I think it's just a matter of figuring
out what feels right with the song, but what allows me to, like, project
the lyrics as well. It's tough; I'm still figuring it out. I think there's
a couple times on this album that I may have screamed where maybe I
didn't want to, but I did, because I felt that I had to, to get the
Tobbe: So lyric-wise. What topics do you
deal with this time?
Chris: There's a lot of, like, personal life
experiences on this one. One of the songs that means a lot to me, that
I rarely have gotten to talk about so far, is a song called Hourglass.
While I was working on the record, before I had gotten to the lyrics
of that song, I already knew what I wanted it to be about and that was
kind of questioning time and questioning, like, I guess life in general,
but more specifically the time. Like "How much time, in a lot of
ways, am I gonna have left in the band? What's gonna happen after that?
Where is my life gonna go?".
You know, it's been 10 years since the band has
been a band and so much has changed already and "What's gonna happen
in 10 more years? Where am I gonna be at?". And then what really
gave it an extra layer of meaning to me is while I was working on the
album, I was in Los Angeles, I'm from Pennsylvania, I got a call from
my sister that said my dad had had a heart attack.
So when I got that call it kind of just put everything
even to more of this perspective of, like "How much time am I gonna
have left with my parents?". You know, like "Where is my life
right now?" and it kind of brought to life what's really important
to me and that's kind of what that song is about. So that's the one
that means a whole hell of a lot internally and personally, so. There
is that and there's other songs that are similar. You know, like different
life experiences, just whether they are quite from an angry standpoint
or a thoughtful standpoint. There's a lot of that.
Tobbe: So are you the one that kind of sits
down and write a whole bunch of lyrics or do you, like, get ideas from
all over the place and writes stuff down in your phone?
Chris: For me, on this record I tried something
different and that was: If I knew what I wanted the song to be about
I just sat down and I was like "Just go! Just try it! Just brainstorm
whatever happens first!". Normally I'm not like that and I discovered
that a lot of the stuff I like the most was some of the first thoughts
And something I learned about myself is to kind
of just trust that internal, first instinct towards a song. But yeah,
there is notes and notes and notes in my phone, of lyrics, or voice
recordings of me just like being like "Yeah, I really like this
thought. How can I get from here to here?".
Tobbe: When you're writing the lyrics, do
you feel that you get into a flow sometimes and can write, like, 2 or
3 or 4 songs in an instant?
Chris: That's actually what I tried to do. For
me, to start and stop really gets me out of the flow, like: If I write
a song and then, you know, takes a week working on something else I
feel like I have to start all over again. So what I do is I'll gather
all my initial first notes for the songs and I'll get, like, the goal
and mind in what I want and then I just will try to attack as many as
I could write in a row.
only problem I've discovered with that is sometimes I kind of get stuck
on certain words I wanna use. At different times in my life different
words just are stuck in my head, so I'll end up writing the same kind
of style of vocabulary and I don't like that. So I'm gonna try to figure
out how to correct that for the next record. I think I use the word
crown, or king, or something like that, not a very eloquent word, but
I maybe used that a few times and there's a couple other lines that,
for the better of the song I had to use it, but I hate that I used it
twice or three times.
Tobbe: I've gotta ask this. About Jonathan
Davis' involvement of course. [On the song Necessary Evil] So how about
Chris: Back in October of 2016 we did a tour
with Korn and it was really cool because Korn is such a massive influence
for our band. You know, finding out that those guys were really, really
nice people really kind of made it extra special to, like, find out
that all these years of looking up to them was justified. So yeah, when
I actually heard myself record the vocals I was like "This sounds
cool, but I hear Jonathan Davis on it.". Like "I need to hear
his voice on this song or it won't feel complete to me.".
So I was just like "Okay. I'm just gonna
suck it up and take the risk and just ask." and I did and he was
really cool, like into doing it and it was no bullshit, just like total
professional, got me the stuff that I needed and it all worked out.
When I hear it I can't listen to it as part of the band; I listen to
it as, like, a fan. So it's pretty cool.
Tobbe: Maybe you should have put it as the
last song on the record then, just for yourself. But for the fans it's
probably important to have a guest appearance a little bit sooner.
Chris: Yeah, you know, I felt like putting it
pretty early [Song number 3] was just like a nicer way to help really
get that first couple early thoughts of the album. To have like "Oh!
That's another cool thing to focus on.", so.
Tobbe: Graveyard Shift is probably, I think,
your lightest and most melodic record so far and what do you expect fans
to think of this record then?
Chris: It's weird for me to listen to it, because
yes, when I hear how, I guess, melodic it is and how much it focuses
around, like, not so much just brutal, intense screaming all the time,
it is a lot lighter in that realm, in that aspect. However, I think
the songs are coming from a slightly more aggressive standpoint, so
it seems heavier to me than I think it actually is.
I know that a lot of the songs, that maybe aren't
as heavy, are coming from a standpoint of, like, being angry about something,
where I, you know, needed to get that out. So I think fans will see
that this is where the band has been going and I don't think it'll be
really a surprise. Maybe they won't like all of it and then wish that
there was some more, you know, heavier material, but there's plenty
of it on there to help suffice, you know.
Tobbe: As your development goes on, is it
possible to keep the same fans over the 4 records, or do you lose some
fans, yet gain some fans along the road?
Chris: That's been a hard thing that we've had
to deal with in the past. Every time we've put out a record there is
a considerable group of fans that feel pretty disappointed in it. And
I can see it in each record cycle. You know, even just through social
media I can see that there's like this hardcore group of fans that come
and go in each cycle.
now I recognize, like, 30 different people that tweet at me all the
time and I'm wondering if they're still gonna be there when the album
comes out or if 30 new people are gonna always be tweeting at me, you
know. It is tough, but we've let people know a long time ago that "We're
doing it for us, and if you love it and wanna be a part of it, great!,
but we're writing the music that we wanna write and we're not really
sorry if you don't like either.", you know.
Tobbe: You've changed your vocal style a
bit too, as part of the process of course, and have you ever hit a wall
on some occasion and had to back a few steps down for that matter and
wait for natural growth instead of pushing it?
Chris: Yes. A big focus on this record was trying
to make sure that I put myself in a position to be recognized. You know,
I'm known as Chris Motionless in the band, so I've been struggling with
making sure that people hear our records and say "That's Chris
Motionless!". Look, if I was doing a guest vocal on another band's
You know, Jonathan Davis did the guest vocal on our song
and when you hear it you know that that's Jonathan Davis. I wanna be
that kind of vocalist where you hear it and you know.
So this record was definitely in an effort to
explore all of what I could do of my voice and really find what I liked
that I felt set me apart. However, yes, you're very much right, in that
I hit a few walls. It was very literally and figuratively. I think I
still have a bruise on one of my knuckles, from one of the later days
in the studio, trying to accomplish a specific thing and I just got
really mad and the wall felt the fury, and so did my knuckles.
Tobbe: If it's possible to come out original
in this day and age, then what makes Motionless In White to a unique experience?
Chris: Ah. That is a question for the ages.
What even is original these days? You know, not just in our sense, but
a lot of bands and just music in general, I really do think that everything
has been done. I don't think there has been one riff left unwritten.
I don't think there's one type of vocal that's left untried.
And what I think sets people apart is obviously
the vocals and the band, you know. How many iconic vocalists sound just
like someone else? They're the only people that sound like that. So
I think that's where the main focus should be. I think vocals are the
most important part of every song, even if I like music more.
your music does sound similar to something that has come out in the
past you really have to make sure that the vocals stand on their own
and, like we just talked about, that's something I really try to do.
But it's tough. I mean, it's always gonna be compared to something else,
because that's just the point in music that we're at. Everything is
gonna sound like something else, you know.
Tobbe: Your influence hails mostly from
the 90's, I reckon, but did you pay some attention too to the 70's and
the 80's music when you were younger, or was that to you more the old
Chris: You know, I grew up on all kinds of,
I guess, older music, regardless of the time period. My mom's a huge
[The] Beatles fan and my dad's really into Led Zeppelin and Rush and
bands like that. So I've had, I guess, a pretty well-rounded upbringing,
in that I've heard a lot of classic rock and a lot of just classic bands
in general. So I've always appreciated it and that's where my essential
growth is starting from. But you know, coming from a place where Metallica
is the band that really changed my life and really became that gateway
band, I think 80's music really is behind me and where Metallica starts
is where my, like, real history with music begins.
Tobbe: So you've signed to a new label,
Roadrunner Records, so what might that collaboration generate?
Chris: I think, honestly, to be here is kind
of proof of what we were going for. You know, we've been touring the
United States for so long and putting so much time in and we have gone
elsewhere in the world and seen a lot of countries a lot of times, but
I don't think we've ever gotten the chance in, you know, Europe, Australia,
Japan. We've never gotten the full chance to go here and really explore
and actually, like, have a chance to get our name out there.
So something I talked about with Roadrunner,
as part of the deal of signing with them, is that I want to make sure
they were gonna, like, give us a presence in Europe, give us a presence
in Australia and I'm seeing that their end of the word is being held
on. You know, I'm here; I'm not on tour right now; I'm here because
they offered to bring me here to have these moments and that's what
it means to me. It's really expanding outside of the States, for real.
Tobbe: So which one would be most important
out of these two, because to some heavy metal fans you're not really metal,
as you know, and especially to the hardcore fans, so: Getting recognition
from the entire metal world for what you do, or: Be a band on the edge
of metal that would headline arenas?
Chris: Aah, I might go with the arenas, just
because I've never seen our band as a strictly metal band. You know,
that is very much where my roots are planted in, like Metallica, Iron
Maiden, Megadeth. All those bands are the bands that really kick-started
me into what became all of my interest. So my roots are there.
like I said, even coming from Led Zeppelin and Rush and all that stuff.
I'm coming from a long history of that. So it would be nice to be recognized,
but at the same time I don't know if I call Motionless In White a metal
band. So if they don't wanna come along for the ride, then "Fuck
'em!". [Expressed in a polite manner.]
Tobbe: About Josh [Balz, keyboards]. He
recently left the band, or quit the band, or got fired, I don't know,
and after being part of the lineup for so long, for like a decade, what
lies behind his decision, really? And don't give me some fabricated, sweet
Chris: It's pretty simple. I mean, he is just
over touring. Even when you're in a position now where we are, we're
in a bus and we're playing these pretty awesome shows with Korn and
Slipknot, it's still a lot of work and he's just over it. He wants to
get married, he wants to approach other things in his life and he kind
of just recognized that there is more to life than that tour bus and
then those shows every day year after year after year. He loved it and
I know that was, like, what kept him holding on, but it's just time
for him to grow up and get out of the bus and get married and live a
life, so. He's just over it, yeah.
Tobbe: So what will the rest of 2017 look
like for Motionless In White?
Chris: We better be getting our ass to Sweden,
I'll tell you that. You know, the first kick-start or kick-off for us
coming to Europe a lot more are these upcoming festivals. So there's
a lot of those June/July festivals that are gonna start us off and then,
I believe, something in the summer in the U.S.. I'm just gonna be pushing
the issue to, like "Let's go back to Europe! Let's do Australia!".
For as much as I hate flying I'll just figure it out. That's what takes
the most mental strength from me, getting on that plane.
But yeah, it's not gonna be unlikely to possibly
see us, you know, two times a year on Euro tours and Australian tours
and elsewhere. That is my goal. That's the number one thing with this
cycle that I want to accomplish; to build the band's establishment outside
of the U.S..
Tobbe: So my final question. Besides what
you just told me, what's most important for Motionless In White or for
you personally at this point?
Chris: This is gonna sound like a fabricated
answer, but it's not. One of the things that matters so much to me,
and is probably the top priority of my life, is my family. Especially,
as we talked about earlier, finding out my dad had a heart attack and
getting to a point where I'm really unsure how much time is left.
You know, it's not like they're sick in the hospital,
they're not, and they're doing well, but for me the biggest, most important
thing is trying to continue to make my family proud and finding time
outside of this busy schedule to really make sure that I get the most
out of that remaining time with them. I don't know how long it's gonna
be and I would hate my life and my career would mean nothing if I looked
back at it and thought I gave up too much of my time with them to chase
So that's where my heart is at at the moment.
Thankfully they're both really supportive and they have always been,
so they're really proud and I think that they feel accomplished as well
because they helped me get up off the ground and go, so.