Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Motionless in White: The Band That Is Anything But

Via Twitter 4/23/2014
Chris "Motionless" Cerulli surprised me today by logging in and posting on his Twitter feed, a social media platform the lead vocals and front-man of Motionless In White admitted last week that he rarely partakes of. When I saw it, I might have squeed a little (and really, if you don't like the squeeing, why are you here?), especially when I saw the image featured to your immediate left. I could hardly contain my joy, and I might have screwed up an entire week's worth of accuracy at work trying to comprehend it. 

MIW has been hinting at a new album for a couple of months, and the band's activity hasn't stopped since 2012. MIW's latest undertakings include a cover of Rammstein's "Du Hast", the Van's Warped Tour (coming to a San Antonio near me June 14) and now this little gem. What comes as a complete surprise to me is the removal of drummer Brandon Richter (Wikipedia, and thanks to whoever updated that--someone please correct me with a Tweet message if this information is wrong), leaving us with Chris, Ricky, Ryan, Josh and Ghost (Devin). All-star line-up, in my honest opinion, but I'm gonna miss that sexy drummer--one-sixth of a now five-part sexy metalcore band. MIW: now that's a boy band! But seriously, aside from the loss to women-kind, this band goes through members like some people go through shoes. Bass, rhythm guitar, and drums. These three aspects have undergone the most transition since the band's inception in 2005. Drums has undergone the least upheaval, but Chris Cerulli is the only original band member. 

The band's Wiki page states Richter left on good terms, which is great. If MIW is teaching me anything, it's that change is good. The band is very good at keeping it's drama on the down-low, focusing instead on giving the people want they want: in-your-face, no-apologies-offered, no-quarter-given heavy metal. 

Artwork for Infamous featuring former drummer, Brandon "Rage" Richter, second from the left.

Each and every one of these changes, I feel, has been done for the better. Infamous diverged greatly from Creatures, the band's official debut album. Infamous steps away from what I've been calling "metal from the pulpit", though probably not as far as Motionless would like, hence the latest heavy metal bomb-drop, the release date for Reincarnate, set for September 16, 2014. 

Unlike other metalcore bands, MIW took a stance. On everything. Chris Motionless has been quoted saying, "Whatever you want, we support it." Impressive, bold, even a little naive, and that little teenager inside me bought it. I ate the band's previous works with enthusiasm, embracing their Total Love/Anger theory. Still get "Divine Infection" stuck in my head during moments when I feel a little militant without a clear course of action.

According to Chris Motionless' own Tumblr feed today (yeah I got Tumblr...seriously) the band has decided they will no longer "preach". I respond with this: good on ya! I must admit, it hurts a little. That little girl inside me went, "Aww, naw." An artist takes a stance by default. Metalcore is already a huge slap in the face to society as a whole, as is punk rock and metal in general. The counter-culture itself is metaphysical, drawing attention to itself down to the sheer volume of the music. Can you really ignore something that could cause me not to hear my children in my old age? No, you can't, and that's the point. Like literary author Flannery O'Connor (and I believe Mr. Motionless would relish the comparison) MIW was going to scare you to righteousness, and not righteousness of the soul through God, but through a serious re-evaluation of American ideals and ideology (A-M-E-R-I-C-A baby!). How close the band came to getting's its wish has yet to be seen, and that unattainable, seemingly impossible philosophy might have kept the band in a pseudo Green Day state, but Motionless In White has other plans. According to his Tumblr blog, Chris Motionless also expressed plans to remove so much anti-Christianity symbolism (upside-down crosses, etc.) from their merchandise, which has prompted an angry response from the group's younger, rebellious audience, to which Cerulli promptly raised his middle finger, stating "I'm an adult." Twenty-eight-year-old me grinned. Again, change is a good thing. For those of us who maintain this isn't a phase, we have Chris Motionless. This is a band you can grow up with. This is a band in motion. 

What makes MIW incredible is the band's ability to walk that thin line between true anger and artistic integrity. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: a band's decision to redefine itself has absolutely no bearing on how we enjoy the music, past, present, and future. Our individual experience through their art is not diminished and it remains unchanged. Does MIW's decision to end a crusade make "Immaculate Misconception" or "Devil's Night" any less moving? No. Is the band's integrity called into question? Hardly. Can you blame a band for wanting to pursue art for the sake of art? Not at all. Actually, that isn't even the crux of it. In his Tumblr blog, Chris Motionless seems to express resentment for the people who claim his music has "saved them". He's well within his right to be resentful. Many artists, including authors and actors, take a stance, creating a rhetoric, a didactic message, from their craft. Cat Valente comes quickly to mind. John Scalzi has no trouble voicing his opinions like a buffet for all to sample from. Are they wrong? No, but a person who makes their living selling books should be very careful what they take a stand on. I try to keep literacy in the forefront of why I write. At one point, I thought I was going to write a novel about raising awareness of human trafficking. I got so far away from that, I abandoned the idea entirely. Taking a stance makes you responsible, and you can very easily bite off more than you can chew. We embrace a cause at our own detriment. We as artists bear the burden of our fans (I don't have fans, so I assume these things). Every day, popular artists like Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi and even Chris Motionless are bombarded with statements like, "Your artwork saved me," or, "Your music pulled me back from the edge," or, "Help save my friend's life by following her on Twitter," (poor John Scalzi). Why do that? Why put that evil on an artist? Why burden another person with that responsibility? It's an occurrence Chris Motionless hopes to put an end to, and I can't say that I disagree. 

Reincarnate, according to the Wiki page I seem to frequent, is purported to be as aggressive as Creatures, something Infamous seems to have lacked (I beg to differ). It will have a more consistent style, which I will appreciate. I must say I'm a little nervous. I really liked Infamous, and Creatures, but for entirely different reasons, and what worries me most is that a band in the midst of so much transition has decided to almost regress. I could be wrong, and Elder Gods, I hope I am, but if what I loved about Infamous is going bye-bye, then that will have to be a bitter pill I must swallow. I appreciated Creatures' aggression and raw power. I also appreciated Infamous' coupe-like over-throw of pop culture, the utter snook-cocking (all the wrongness of that statement) at America the Beautiful and organized religion, and the ass-backwardness of sex as a weapon and selling-point, all the viewpoints I shared. Perhaps they're not being abandoned, but a dramatic shift is in the works, and I, like everyone else, will have to wait until September 16 to truly discover what form Motionless In White will take with its "reincarnation". 

One thing remains absolutely certain: the concert at Van's Warped Tour is going to blow my mind. It saddens me that I have missed MIW twice in my hometown of San Antonio already. I won't make that mistake again. Until June then, gentlemen of MIW, I wish you only the best, whatever you decide to do.

Update: April 25, 2014

Listened to Infamous again while working out. It's like I was hearing Richter's work for the first time. I think I'm gonna miss that man. I mean, they didn't fire him. They didn't bury him...I'm not crying! It's just--well I thought--stop looking at me!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo: Advice for April 2014

April is in full swing, but it's already 90 degrees Fahrenheit here in Austin, Texas.  

Seasoned writers know that there are many demands on our time, attention, and priorities. CampNaNoWriMo offers us an opportunity during the Spring and Summer months before NaNoWriMo to schlep our way through our novels employing the same principles we use in November. Here is a short compilation of tips I've gained from numerous NaNoWriMo sources and my own research.

Priorities: When to Say "No!"

There are somethings we cannot ignore. We can't ignore our children; we can't ignore work; we can't ignore school, but there are definitely times when we don't have to take on more than we should. As people, we strive to be helpful. No one wants to be branded a "bitch", that friend that never shows up to events, that guy that never helps me move. This happens to be more than I care to admit. Sometimes, I do things I can't figure out. I gave a ride to a homeless person the other day to a terrible part of town, even though I was perfectly on time to a networking event and had no incentive to do so. The person lied to me, first of all, stank up my car (I wish she'd been a transient. She probably would have smelled better), then threw the food I gave her out my window while I was still driving. I was sitting right there. There was no good reason for  me to put myself in that situation. For one thing, it was freaking dangerous. For another thing, I was rudely and unreasonably taken advantage of. Did I mention she stank up my car? Took me days to get the smell of stale alcohol, cigarettes and BO out of my car. That was an unnecessary action that made me late to my networking event and took years off my life. There are some things you should just say "no" to. Letting strange people in your car is one of them.

Here are some other helpful pieces of advice if you want to finish your work during your lifetime. No, they're not dangerous and stupid. By the way, I've never been "haunted" by anything in my life, but having just wrote that, the person's smell, I suppose the memory of it, just invaded my personal space. Incredible. Donna Tartt was onto something after all. 

Other People's Projects

 My ex-husband and his mother had a really bad habit of pulling other people into their projects. Once I was conscripted into washing PVC pipe that would later be painted to make some decorations for my mother-in-law's church. My father-in-law had already left for his favorite place to escape to when his wife bit off more than she could chew: the bar. Conversely, I was also conscripted into helping my ex reupholster a futon cover. Yes, we sewed our own toile cushion cover, with repeating patterns. This meant bringing in my mother-in-law, who had no interest in the project and added it to her list of things we weren't allowed to ask her for (pot calling the kettle black, as it were). I suppose I should say, they sewed their own futon cover. I wrote Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan fanfic. Currently, I'm dog-sitting for a friend for money. I feel like it's necessary. I get a little bit more money every week, but at what cost? Half of that money every week goes into my gas tank. I am doing a favor that devastates my work and takes precious hours of my time. Don't let other people's projects interfere with your time when you are writing. 

The Importance of Exercise

An active mind is necessary for composition. When I first moved to Austin, I did everything wrong. I moved into a cave of an apartment. I stayed out of the light. I trolled Facebook and Reddit. I didn't even consider going back to school, and there was no reason why I couldn't have. I didn't consider getting a job. I drowned in depression and misery. It wasn't until I began exercising that I began to be active with my writing again. I wrote for whole days at a time. I still can't believe how much time I wasted, how many days I lost. By the time I began my novel, I was running three miles a day and lifting weights. My back stopped hurting; my hands stopped hurting. I had forgotten that when I lived in San Antonio, and worked, I was always writing. I felt great; I felt confident, and that confidence lead me to my keyboard. I wrote my blog, and I wrote fiction. I had a great time, and my exercise has, once again, lead me back to my work. An active body will beget an active mind.

Never Feel Guilty

When I was in college, I was constantly writing what someone else wanted me to write. So much so, that when presented with the opportunity to write even an ounce of fiction, I pounced on it with more confidence than my skill level could account for. I felt guilty, though. I thought, "If I'm going to write, I should focus on my school work." My professors had me writing term papers, essays, articles, journal entries, and by the end of my bachelor's degree, 30 plus hours of writing and reading a week. It's no wonder I did dumb things, like reading Harry Potter when I should have been reading Shakespeare, or reading about Drizzt when I should have been reading for Third Planet. You should pace yourself, give yourself time to write, and read, even if it's nothing important, nothing you ever intend to publish. I've written hundreds of pages of useless content that will never see the light of day. Never feel guilty that you seem like you'll never finish your writing project. Never feel bad when you hit a dead end and move on. Your wasted time is not important; it's what you've learned along the way that will make a difference when you sit down to your magnum opus. Never feel guilty.

Read, Read, Read!

If you are writing, but not reading, yer doin' it wrong. Read everything: newspapers, articles, biographies of interest, magazines, fiction, science-fiction, Eighteenth-Century fiction, Nineteenth-Century Gothic fiction, blogs, fantasy fiction, everything. If it sucks, put it down and move on. Read all the time. If you are not immersed in the culture of reading, you cannot hope to enter it. I  love fantasy and science-fiction. The other day I finished Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, and piece of literary fiction. I read whatever grabs my interest, and I read classics and Medieval literature in college. Do you have to read Beowful? No, but it'd be nice if you did. Follow a few publishers on Twitter and Facebook, a few authors here and there. Talk to people, and put yourself out there. Read and keep up with today's literature, yesterday's literature, and our masters from the past. I stopped reading once. It was terrible. I had myself convinced that the thing I loved most was keeping me from my dreams. If I read all the time, how could I write? In a way, I was right, but I had villainized my profession. I'd made my dream taboo. If I was unwilling to read, how could I expect to be read? Everything I ever believed in centers on books, and my refusal to read was irrational and inexcusable. Read.

That's All Folks

I've been writing a novel for over two years. I'm 238 pages, 127,345 words in. I can't always write when I want, but I will never give up until my work is done. No matter how much my hands hurt, no matter what job I have, I will not stop. I encourage everyone to keep that stiff upper lip. I encourage everyone to read, pace themselves, and sometimes be that bitch that just says "no". Keep positive people in your corner, eat well and exercise. Be good to yourself. Actually, that's probably the best piece of advice I could possibly think of. Good luck, guys. Happy writing.