Motionless in White Keyboardist talks music, makeup and the APMAs

By Gene Axton - [email protected]
Motionless in White keyboardist Josh Balz. - Photo by Lars Kommienezuspadt

When Josh Balz was younger he used to go to Music Go Round and buy cheap guitars and drum kits. He just wanted to play music. The keyboard ended up calling him the loudest—one keyboard in particular.

“When I first got into it I went to RadioShack and I got one of those keyboards with the light up keys and I was so excited,” Balz said. “I remember playing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion and I thought it was sick. I don’t know why—I had guitars, drums, everything—for some reason I just gravitated towards piano, keyboard and that kind of stuff.”

Balz was a bit of a NEPA journeyman until he settled in Pittston and began going to school with his friend Thomas Bell. Balz accompanied Bell to the practices for a local band he was a part of called Motionless in White and soon began doing things for the band like running the merch table. Balz was hanging out with the band one day and MiW’s keyboard player didn’t show up for practice—that’s when Balz put his experience as a musician to good use. He became part of the band and his first live show was a trial by chaos.

“My first show ever was the Taste of Chaos,” Balz said. “We won a contest to play Taste of Chaos, which was 30 Seconds to Mars, the Used… there were so many good bands on it. We got to open it and it was awesome. It wasn’t even a lot of people—it was when the doors opened (so) it was only a few hundred people—but I was losing it. It might as well have been a million.”

MiW stage show has evolved since then, but they’ve always been focused on putting a quality product in front of audiences. Balz said that most members of MiW don’t smoke or drink, so they spend their time working on their craft. Their stage shows are elaborate and their costumes are outlandish and that’s the way the band likes it—they like putting on a show, and apparently the work is paying off.

“I think people are kind of understanding what we’re doing,” Balz said. “They get it. They understand us now. In the beginning no one understood us because we have songs that are heavy like Lamb of God (or) Bleeding Through, but then we have Rob Zombie-esque songs and Depeche Mode kind of songs. We’ve had people throw beer cans at us (but) it’s kind of fizzled out, which is great. This is what we want to do. We want to play whatever we want—whatever we like.”

Music fans and the music press both seem to like it too. MiW is nominated in four categories at the upcoming Alternative Press Music Awards in Cleveland, Ohio. The awards show, which held its inaugural ceremony last year, is organized by Alternative Press, a magazine that has covered the alternative and underground music scenes since 1985. This year’s event takes place on July 22 at Quicken Loans Arena.

Alternative Press is a mainstay in the underground music scene, so for Motionless in White keyboardist Josh Balz, being nominated for an APMA is an honor.

“I think it’s awesome,” Balz said. “One of our friends writes for AP (and) he’s one of the most honest, straightforward dudes I’ve ever met. We respect him and (AP founder) Mike Shea. Those dudes have been at it forever. For them to even know who we are and what we’re doing—and understanding what we’re doing—goes such a long way and it’s super cool.”

Motionless in White is nominated as a group in the Artist of the Year category, MiW bassist Devin “Ghost” Sola is up for Best Bassist and the band’s song “Reincarnate” is a contender for Song of the Year. The band’s fourth nomination is for Most Dedicated Fans, an unorthodox category that fits the APMA’s perfectly—after nominees are chosen, AP readers are invited to vote online to decide the winners.

Award recipients won’t be announced until the Alternative Press Music Awards event, but Balz and his band mates are already grateful for everything their fan base (affectionately referred to as “creatures” in reference to the band’s first full-length album) has given them.

“We’re a band that’s always appreciative,” Balz said. “When Chris is on stage he’ll say, ‘I said thank you a million times. I’m going to stop saying thank you—but, just so you know—thank you.’ We appreciate it. That’s what I think they see. We appreciate everything—we’re there to play music and they’re helping us flourish.”

Motionless in White is also scheduled to perform at the event, which will be broadcast live on AXS TV. Red carped festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. and the awards show begins at 7 p.m. Balz and his band mates will fly back from South America to go to the APMAs and leave straight from Cleveland to join Slipknot for a North American tour. That kind of lifestyle may not seem conducive to anywhere but the city, but Balz doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. He’s planted his roots here—he’s even opened a shop here called The Strange and Unusual Oddities Parlor.

It’s great—I love home, I love it here and I love this area,” Balz said. “People ask why I don’t move to California and I say I never will. I love this area. It’s such a good area (and) it deserves everything it can get. That’s why we chose to open the store here rather than California or New York. This area deserves everything.”

Motionless in White keyboardist Josh Balz. in White keyboardist Josh Balz. Photo by Lars Kommienezuspadt

By Gene Axton

[email protected]