Chris Motionless and Mike Hranica discuss their thoughts on music, touring together, more
It’s day three of the Apollo X Tour, and arguably the weightiest package you’re likely to be exposed to this fall has rolled into Boston, ahead of a show at the House Of Blues. Bringing together co-headliners Motionless In White and the Devil Wears Prada plus Upon A Burning Body, the Word Alive and the Color Morale, that’s a lot of bruising bang for your buck, but it’s not a mindless mosh-fest. Both MIW and TDWP have been offering fans not only crushing riffs and soaring choruses for a decade, but heavy music that has genuine depth and intelligence to it. Looking forward to the show this evening, lead vocalist Chris Motionless and Mike Hranica have taken the time to sit down and discuss their thoughts on music, aspirations and the written word.
How’s the tour going so far?
CHRIS MOTIONLESS: It’s been great. It’s only been two days and usually the first couple of days are working out the kinks and making the show what we really wanted it to be from the beginning. But so far, there hasn’t been much to work out, which has been really cool.
MIKE HRANICA: I’ll pretty much go along with everything Chris said. I’m pumped for this run, it’s our first club tour since early in the year, and the whole opportunity is amazing. We’ve only played [this venue] once, and the first time was a bit of a trainwreck, so we’re looking forward to making sure that doesn’t happen this evening!
Have you guys toured together, or crossed paths at shows before?
HRANICA: We did Warped Tour in 2014, and I don’t know if anyone would recall but I remember playing with Motionless somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania in 2006, maybe?
MOTIONLESS: Yeah, we played at Crocodile Rock in Allentown together, way back in the day, when they were touring for Plagues in 2007, and that’s why we in the band are all so pumped to be playing with them again now. We’ve loved the band since way, way back, and it’s exciting to get to tour with them for real.
Time to put you on the spot—what do you like about each other’s band? Mike, after you…
HRANICA: I become so quickly exhausted and bitter with so many bands popping up, but Motionless have been around for at least 10 years, and they’ve definitely worked their way to the top. I think their general professionalism, the energy and all of the effort they put in is very transparent. A lot of music—and so often in the metalcore scene—seems to come with this sense of entitlement, and I don’t get that from Motionless at all. They’re totally, totally hard working, and that’s something we deeply value in other bands. And of course, their songwriting is something that really sets them apart.
MOTIONLESS: From very early on, they were defining the genre they were in, and we would look to them and say we wanted to be doing the same things that they’re doing—and it wasn’t just us, everybody wanted to be in the Devil Wears Prada! It was just so badass for a band that was so young to go out there and completely crush it, in every way. They did something different then, and that’s followed through all the way to now, and it’s super-cool to see a band in our genre do the concept record thing and have it be so successful. I applaud their hard work and effort, and it’s awesome to share this together.
Do you feel like veterans at this point, having been going so long compared to the many bands that have fallen by the wayside over the decade you’ve been bands?
HRANICA: [Laughs.] The severe asshole side of me definitely wants to say “yes!” But we look up to a lot of bands still who have worked harder, longer and have done so much better stuff than we’ve been able to do yet. I think that considering yourself a veteran is rather complacent. I never wanted to consider the Devil Wears Prada to be a successful band or a veteran band or anything like that. As soon as we reach that realization it’s going to be coming to a standstill, I’d like to focus on continuing working and doing things that people might not expect, and will hopefully appreciate. That’s kind of the backbone of the band in some sense.
MOTIONLESS: It’s hard to add to that after what Mike said so eloquently, because I feel that we’re both coming from such similar places. I don’t consider us veterans, because it’s really only been a few years since we really got the band the way we wanted it to be all along. It took us a while to find our true, happy identity, and, like Mike, I never want to feel complacent, there’s so much left to accomplish that we’ve yet to do. We just toured with Slipknot—and that was a dream come true for us—but we were opening and obviously there are better positions to be in that we wanted to keep growing the band toward. I don’t want to feel like, “Well, we opened for Slipknot, there’s not much left to do.” We want to work as hard and harder than we have until the point fans no longer want to support the band, and then we’ll have to reconsider where we’re at.
With all heavyweight bands on the tour, it’s a very intense package for the fans coming out. Are you at all concerned that they’ll be exhausted by the time you guys take the stage?
MOTIONLESS: I think it’ll be okay. There are some diehard MIW fans that will spend all day at Warped Tour standing on the same spot on the hot asphalt just waiting for the band to come on, and there’s a lot of those fans at these shows, so we’ll be fine. I also think there’s a lot of curious new people who might be fans of the other bands, and I see some sticking around, some leaving after a couple of songs, but whether they’re worn out or not it doesn’t affect us. I kinda don’t expect people to stay for the whole show after they’ve listened to four bands and then us coming up after that. You can only stand so much, and we’re just happy they’ve come along to see any of the bands.
HRANICA: I don’t know if this is something I should be saying, but we’ve felt discrepancies in some of our tour packages over the past couple of years, and I don’t think any of those compare to how strong this one is. Right now, we’re just so grateful for it to come together. The fact that it is a pretty brutal onslaught of bands is totally fine and is what the fans appreciate. That’s what’s most important, though the heavily biased part of me wants to favor more towards some of the slower post-hardcore bands I appreciate. I’ve always wanted to have some more of those bands on the bill with us, but at the same time I’m very happy with who we have out with us now.
Is there any danger of a prank war breaking out between bands on this tour?
MOTIONLESS: I don’t know, we toured with Attila a few years ago and there was a lot of back-and-forth happening between the bands, which was pretty funny, but we’re never sure if the bands we do that with are going to be receptive or pissed off at us! So, we just play the show, and we’re a very quiet, keep-to-ourselves kind of band, and I get that vibe from Prada too. I’m not looking to pull pranks, I’m looking to have cool conversations as the tour goes on. And it’ll probably be the last week when we’re finally like [excitedly] “Hey, what’s up man!” And then the tour will be over, which will bum me out.
HRANICA: That’s exactly how it works for us too! [Laughs.]
Motionless: The curse of the quiet bands!
Do you have a bucket list of bands you’d like to share the stage with?
HRANICA: Getting to support other bands is generally something I very much enjoy. Thinking back, one of the tours we’re fondest of was getting to support Killswitch Engage across the States for five or six weeks. That was a really monumental point in our career, the point where we befriended [Killswitch guitarist and über-metal producer] Mr. Adam D, which led us to start working with him on our records and whatnot. That was amazing, and that’s the kind of opportunity that can blossom when you get to support other bands. I’m pumped to be under Motionless and to work with them and collaborate to some extent. We’ve been dreaming of a Deftones tour forever, and Mastodon’s up there too, We’ll see.
Do you like being able to offer a helping hand to up and coming bands?
HRANICA: That’s something we haven’t really been able to do as much as we would like, and coming from my own taste in heavy music, I don’t think a lot of the fans at our shows would be able to appreciate some of the bands I want to bring out. At the same time, I think it would be rather defeatist to not even try. A couple of years ago on our co-headline tour with As I Lay Dying we were able to bring out the Chariot, who were a well-established band, but not one a lot of our fans were accustomed to. They were a band that meant absolutely everything to me 10 or 11 years ago, and it was just amazing getting to introduce them to some people.”
MOTIONLESS: I’m going to bounce off of Mike’s answer because I completely agree with him that it’s hard to bring out bands that you would want to tour with versus what the fans are going to appreciate. It’s kind of annoying, we’re grateful for the bands coming out with us and we’re friends with a lot of the bands on this tour, and we’re definitely happy for this package. But, let’s say we’re booking our own headliner for the next cycle, I can name five bands I’d love to take out with us, but it’s tricky in the sense that you can build a package that you’re happy with, but there’s so many bands touring at the same time, all the time, that the package has to be as loaded as possible just to get fans to choose your tour, which is kind of a bummer. There’s a band called Old Wounds from Jersey who have this mid-2000 metalcore sound that I’m obsessed with, and I’d love to bring them out and get them some exposure, but I have no idea how that’d work, so you really have to think things through. In terms of bands I’d like to support, I’d love to go on a club tour with Rob Zombie. We accomplished our career-long goal to tour with Slipknot, we’ve done a few shows with Manson here and there, and Zombie would have to be next. Or, the completely unrealistic goal of a tour with Rammstein. Those are some big dreams though. Maybe one day!
You’re playing Allentown on Halloween, which isn’t far from Motionless In White’s hometown, Scranton. Will you be doing anything special for that show?
MOTIONLESS: I’m actually quite bummed that Prada isn’t on that show because it would have been super-cool to reunite in the venue that we first played with those guys when we were just a local opener. Regardless of that, we’re just happy to be in our area for Halloween. Literally, the last few years we’ve spent it in places like Louisiana or the middle of nowhere and not having a show that day, so having a hometown show on Halloween has been a long time coming. This is our Halloween, and we’re going to do a couple of things different than we’ll be doing on the rest of the tour. Unfortunately, the venue is a lot smaller than a lot of the venues we’re playing right now, so our full production is not going to fit onto the stage. It’s a bit of a bummer that the fans won’t get the same show the rest of the country will get, but they’ll get something special and I don’t think they’ll care too much.
Mike, you’ve just released your latest book, Three Dots & The Guilt Machine.
HRANICA: It’s sort of an eclectic mess of poetry and prose that I’ve accumulated over the last four or five years. I’ve tried to keep disciplined in writing outside of the band and not just working on lyrics. There’s a sort of exaggerated tour-slash-life diary in the middle, which kind of chases the more exaggerated and abrupt and raw realizations of the day. I hate to compare it to Bukowski, but he was the main inspiration, really. It’s my third publication, and I was hoping to have it out on this tour, but someone stole my UPS box so I don’t right now, annoyingly! I’ve heard a few good things from fans so far though. But I always like to challenge myself by doing something extraneous to the band. It keeps me busy and not going crazy.
Could you see yourself releasing a full-length novel?
HRANICA: I’ve actually tried. The second thing I put out last year was a short story called Home For Grave, which was based off a Prada song. I’m about two thirds of the way through a novel, and I finished another one a number of years ago that I just haven’t done anything with, but I actually think it’s a little too similar to Home For Grave. It’s a strange process for me, and an indescribably vulnerable process to come up with some of these things. I haven’t touched the newest novel for what must be a year now, and I’m ashamed of that. Sometimes I get into terrible fits of restless anxiety over it. But I hope to rap it up soon, it’s definitely the next thing on my plate, it’s just a matter of discipline, and I’m not good at that. Forcing myself to sit down and write isn’t easy, and it only gets trickier on tour where there are a lot of distractions or there’s something fun to be doing, and I get super-ADD and can’t sit by myself long enough.”
Chris, can you ever imagine yourself venturing into the literary side of things?
MOTIONLESS: I’ve considered writing stuff, and I think it’d be more along the lines of a diary sort of vibe. I’d want to just write down my thoughts and feelings based on what’s going on. But, I don’t ever want to come off as whiny or unappreciative, and I feel like if you even for a second talk negatively about something that’s happening, everyone pegs you for being that way. That’s a tricky thing, and I might wait until later on when I have some more substantial things to write about, because right now things are going really well, I’m happy and I don’t ever want to come off as a complainer. I also write a very large portion of music for the band, so I’m wrapped up in that most of the time, and trying to do anything that requires going undistracted on tour is nearly impossible. I really admire Mike for what he’s doing though. Another reason I like Prada is that there’s a deep side of intelligence to what they write about. They’re not another band writing the dumbest lyrics ever, and I respect that he’s able to find another outlet for what he wants to say. I’m actually quite envious.
Are you sitting on any music right now or too busy with other things going on?
HRANICA: Through the end of September, we spent two weeks in a barn in the middle of Wisconsin writing, so we’re already demoing the next full-length. We’re trying to be intentionally slow about the process and being more specific and spending more time with the songs under a microscope, to some extent. I’m trying to develop new themes and keep things interesting, and we’re trying to make our records have less filler than what I think some parts of 8:18 came out. It’s fun, and I’m pumped about it, so we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll keep writing in December and January and accumulating songs.
MOTIONLESS: Yeah, we’ve started too, on our bits of time off, but it’s pretty much impossible to work on anything on the road. Really, I need to have some time off to sit by myself and get deep into the thought of what I want to accomplish per song. There are parts here and there that have been recorded though, which will really help when we sit down and really go at it. But we’ve got three tours back-to-back—this one, then the UK, then Australia. After that, we’ll be off until next summer. So, the whole earlier part of 2016 will be the writing and recording, and we really want to get the record out by the end of summer or early fall of next year. ALT