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Motionless in White's Chris Motionless on Working-Class Values, Wearing Makeup and 'Reincarnate'

Motionless in White's Chris Motionless on Working-Class Values, Wearing Makeup and 'Reincarnate'

Words by Dan Epstein

“I still can’t believe it,” laughs Chris Motionless. “There’s not a single aspect of this record, from the first day of writing to the release date, that went wrong. I’m still waiting for there to be some kind of catch!”

Motionless is referring to Reincarnate, the aptly-titled third album from his industrial horrorcore band Motionless in White. A massive, platform-booted leap forward from 2012’s Infamous, Reincarnate is a gripping work that veers from symphonic black metal (“Puppets 3 [The Grand Finale],” featuring Cradle of Filth’s Dani Filth) to ’80s electronica (“Wasp”) to volcanic surges of Marilyn Manson–style biliousness (“Everybody Sells Cocaine”) and back with total self-assurance.

“This is the first record I can look back at and say that I’m proud of everything about it,” Motionless explains. “I’m a perfectionist, and I always look back at things that I’ve done and pick it apart. And this…” he pauses, momentarily lost for words. “This…is not like that!”

If the normally voluble MIW frontman is struggling to articulate his feelings right now, it’s understandable. After nine years of serious graft, Motionless in White— who have gone through numerous lineup changes since 2005, when the singer formed the band while still in high school—are finally poised on the precipice of a massive breakthrough. Released in mid September, Reincarnate debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard chart, selling over 31,000 copies in its first week. The band’s dance card is full through the end of 2014, supporting Lacuna Coil and Dani Filth’s side project Devilment on a European tour, followed by a round of U.S. theater dates supporting HIM.

Like Dani Filth, the MIW frontman has a fearsome onstage persona that’s somewhat at odds with his friendly and well-spoken offstage self. “I don’t want to be an aggressive and intimidating person to people in real life,” he explains. “That’s why my stage character has a different name than me [Chris Cerulli]—it’s a good way to let that part of my personality shine. It’s a big reason why I love to play live, having that outlet.

“Still, just because that person onstage is that way, doesn’t mean that I’m not,” he continues. “It’s just that I don’t ever let it show normally. I have to get onstage in order for that portion of myself to show. Writing music and performing in the studio, that person’s still in there, so it’s not like I have to go into this Zen state of mind and light a bunch of incense to get that persona. It’s just as much a part of me as the nicer half is. There’s a lot of anger inside of me, and I certainly don’t have to convince myself to be pissed off!”

Despite his inner rage and rising rock stardom, the MIW frontman comes across in conversation as impressively grounded, a fact he attributes to his blue-collar upbringing in the former coal-mining town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

“My dad’s busted his ass as a blue-collar working man his whole life, and those values definitely made their way down to me,” he says. “I’ve never been handed anything. I put everything that I have into the band. Everything that the band is, it’s because of the hard work that I’ve done for years to make it this way. I’m very proud of my accomplishments, because nothing was handed to me. I’m not some Hollywood kid who had everything given to me by my rich fucking parents. I’m very lucky in the way I grew up.

Without that, I’m not sure it would have gone this far, or that I would be who I am.” While his parents initially viewed his rock star ambitions as “just a phase,” the singer says they were incredibly supportive from the get-go. “Before we had enough money to buy a van, my dad was always loading up our shit in his truck and driving two hours so we could play a show at a venue in front of 10 fucking people,” he recalls. “They’re very proud parents. They can look at a magazine that I’m on the cover of, and know that they had something to do with that—and I love that.”

Still, he says, they’re not above giving him a little well-meaning parental shit from time to time. “They’re not hateful towards anything that I do, and they know that I’m an adult and I’m going to do what I’m going to do,” he says. “Of course, my dad has never been a real big fan of the makeup, or the stuff I wear. I don’t wear work jeans and pocket Tees to work every day. I wear moderately flamboyant stuff onstage, and he’s not really fond of that, but that’s just the blue collar coming out...

“My mom, she hates that I shave my eyebrows off, and that I have my neck tattooed,” he laughs. “She’s always like, ‘Christopher, when are you going to grow your eyebrows back?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, Mom!’”

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