Motionless In White on creating their most political album yet
Chris Motionless remembers the moment when he knew everything was going to be OK. In the summer of 2021, the Motionless In White vocalist was in Los Angeles, where he had spent a month working on the band’s sixth album, Scoring The End Of The World. The past 15 months, he admits, had been an “ugly period” that had seen him spiral back to the fear and anxiety that had defined their previous full-length, 2019’s horror-splattered Disguise.
Inspired by the beautiful surroundings, every morning and evening he would take long walks around the neighborhood of Toluca Lake, an opportunity to listen back to the new music through headphones, when suddenly it hit him. “I took this deep breath that I felt like I’d been gasping for since the pandemic hit,” he recalls. “I knew I was going to get through this, the record was going to be good and I was going to be better and stronger individually. It was this affirmation moment that made me feel so inspired, and a huge weight of stress lifted off [me].”
Since emerging with 2010’s fiendish Creatures, the Pennsylvanian quintet have steadily honed their industrial-tinged metalcore template, growing with every release and cultivating a uniquely close relationship with a legion of enthusiastic fans. “It’s weird to be the old guy now,” Motionless laughs today down the phone from his hometown of Scranton at the suggestion that his group could be classed as metal veterans. “We’re not a young, up-and-coming band anymore.”
Scoring The End Of The World, out June 10, showcases yet another leap forward for the band. Written in the eye of the COVID-19 pandemic, it contains some of the band’s heaviest material yet and, alongside collabs with Knocked Loose’s Bryan Garris, Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo and legendary video game composer Mick Gordon, is their most personal, fiercely political statement to date. “[The pandemic] is not the focal point of the lyrics,” Motionless explains, “but that event shined a light on so many things for me both internally and externally that I really had to write about.”
When did you start writing Scoring The End Of The World?
It was started in 2020, and it came together over the course of about a year-and-a-half. My best friend, and one of the producers on the new record, [Ice Nine Kills’] Justin deBlieck, lives two hours from Scranton, and I went up to Syracuse, New York and ended up living there for the first couple of months [of the pandemic] and throughout the summer. We worked on all kinds of music, whether it was new record stuff or alternate versions of our songs. Then, in July of 2021, I went and worked with the other producer on the record, my other best friend, Drew Fulk. A large portion of the melodies and lyrics were written in that period. We finished recording it in December last year.
What was your daily routine once the pandemic hit?
In those first initial few months, we didn’t really know what was happening, but we felt like there might be some hope. Once we realized everything was going to be canceled for an indefinite period of time, it ignited this plummet into a black hole mentally. And that’s where I started to get to dark places in my mind. I went through a period where I lost a will to eat anything. I started working out way too much to fill the need to do some sort of activity, and I lost a bunch of weight really quickly, which was really unhealthy.
I would work on music, and start to feel a lot better, which felt inspiring in a way that felt productive and meaningful. Then I started to realize, “Wow, I seem to tether my entire purpose of existence to music, and that’s not good.” I would sink back into the despairing feelings of, “I need to find something in my life that gives me purpose that’s not just essentially my job.” It was a constant vicious cycle of build me up, knock me down and I felt like I couldn’t get out of it.
What was your greatest fear at that time?
It made me realize I’d pushed away so much in the name of being present 100% of the time for my job, and I don’t think that’s healthy. And as much as I credit that work ethic for part of our success, it’s not going to do much for my mental health or my life. When, eventually and inevitably, the band isn’t a band anymore, I don’t want to be left with literally nothing. That’s the existential crisis that I went through: Who am I? What am I doing? What am I going to have in my life when this is over? It felt so lonely.
On your previous album, 2019’s Disguise, you opened up about your mental health. Did the pandemic scupper the journey of healing you were already on?
It really did. Disguise was [about] my lifestyle and patterns of behavior, the destruction they had caused and how I wanted to face and take control of them. It felt good that I was making those changes, and then the pandemic came. I don’t know if you would refer to it as a relapse, but I felt like I had to hit restart on all of that progress. When you have that kind of setback, it’s just soul-crushing, and it really hit me hard.
Do you feel like you’ve come out the other side now?
I think it might be naïve to say that I’ve come out of the other end, more than I’m still traveling through the process of getting there. I’m making sure I don’t put myself in compromising situations mentally or emotionally. As soon as I recognize that something feels familiar to a past pattern, I immediately try to make an adjustment.
You worked with Knocked Loose’s Bryan Garris on the track “Slaughterhouse.” What was that experience like?
I had tracked the song entirely myself, and I liked what I had done, but I wanted to have somebody else join to make it a heavy, pivotal moment. I felt Bryan was a great choice. He has an iconic scream that’s very unique.
Are you friends? Did you know each other before?
We’ve played shows together before. We haven’t had a chance to hang out, but he was so cool to work with, such an easygoing, great guy. We’re both upset that the tour we were supposed to do in 2020 got canceled, and we’re talking back and forth about how and when we can possibly make it happen because it really has to.
You also worked with video game composer Mick Gordon. What did he bring to the table?
Movie scores and video games scores have been prevalent throughout our career, but not at the level as they are on this record. Mick’s material is iconic and something we felt was a shared vision between us and him. He took [the track] “Scoring The End Of The World” to another cinematic stratosphere with chord changes I would never have imagined would work with the song. He kept it fresh, huge and very climatic.
You mentioned that you wrote about some wider world topics on this album. What are they?
World leaders failing to handle the pandemic. Capitalism, which makes us feel like we’re packaged and sold, and our suffering is profited off to make rich people richer. Corporations are buying housing, and middle-class families can’t buy a home anymore. Pharmaceutical abuse. It’s one thing after another. There’s a small group of people who are benefiting from all of it, and essentially, it feels like we’re living in a fucking slaughterhouse where we’re the cattle. You also had George Floyd, which shined a massive spotlight on racism and abuse, and most recently you have things like Roe v. Wade.
What is your opinion on the possible abolition of Roe v. Wade?
It’s a massive leap backward. That a group in a position of political power can dictate what a human being can choose to do with their body is fucking mind-blowing to me. How did we even get to this point where we can allow that?
What is the core message at the heart of the album?
When I say Scoring The End Of The World, I’m not suggesting an all-encompassing, the-world-is-over Armageddon. Songs such as “Cyberhex” and the title track do suggest a resistance and revolt, a call to arms, but I’m metaphorically suggesting that the end of the world as we know it is happening, and we are going to step in and forge a new, better positive, forward-thinking world from the ashes. I feel like that started with George Floyd. That really seemed to be a moment where this social movement took place that felt really positive.
Is this the most political album you’ve released lyrically?
I’ve had songs that address the American lifestyle or religious abuse, but never more than one or two on an album. On this album, half the songs are focused on that kind of stuff. I wanted us to have some songs that really felt like we were putting out a statement on what we stand for as a band.
Why did that feel important this time around?
It had to be that way. We took a risk and put our opinions and feelings out there in the face of what I’m sure is going to be criticism and loss of fans. It’s a mark of maturity in that we’re not fearful of fan reaction. We care more about trying to promote positivity and being on the right side of change and justice.
Would you have been nervous at one point about putting your political opinions out there?
I remember putting out “America” [from 2012’s Infamous] and being so stressed that we were going to get hatred, which we did, but I got through it. At this point in time, how could you not want to be on the front lines of change for the better for everybody? If that’s a socialist mentality, then I’m happy to claim that I want humankind to flourish, and not just a small percentage of people while the rest of us suffer.
You’ve recently been on the Trinity Of Terror tour across the U.S. with Ice Nine Kills and Black Veil Brides. What is your favorite story from the road?
I think my favorite story is that we all got through it. Every band had their own version of insane problems. Black Veil Brides had to miss shows from COVID. Ice Nine had bus issues. I got sick to the point [where] I had to cancel a show. Every band was cursed one way or another. I ended up getting a pretty bad sinus infection to the point where I couldn’t breathe onstage, and it really damaged my voice. I couldn’t even speak for a couple of days. You go out there and it’s not your best show, and you feel like you’re letting the fans down more than anything.
You’ve said Scoring The End Of The World represents a new era for the band. What has changed since Disguise?
Disguise was when we felt like we had fully digested the relationship between our fans and our music. From listening to our fans, we know what they like and don’t like, and it’s really cool to put out a record that we know we are all going to love.
While you clearly care a lot about your fans, do you ever worry you’re writing more for them than for yourselves?
I used to. From 2013 to 2016, we put music [out] in a rebellious sense. We were so sick of fans saying, “Go back to your first record. Go back to being heavy.” We had this resistance to that where it was like, “We’re just going to do what we wanna do and fuck you if you’re not into it.” But because we did that, we found the sound we were happy with on our own, and it started to attract fans for that very reason. Now, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing it for the fans; it feels like you’re doing it with the fans. They’re essentially part of the writing process.
How does the new album represent you personally and where you are in your life right now?
It’s a moment of recognizing some pretty heavy destruction in my life and taking control of that again. It’s essentially a follow-up to Disguise: what’s happened, where I’ve been and where I’m going. It’s been a great cathartic and cleansing experience for me because, when you get to write about these types of things at the level I did, it’s very much a release and a restart button. I’m looking forward to pacing myself, readjusting patterns and becoming a bigger, better person.