Interview by Ed MacLaren
Lacuna Coil has made a career of pushing the sonic boundaries of darkness and melody. Growing from an Italian goth rock phenomenon to a truly international success, the quintet have done it without compromising their musical instinct or their artistic commitment. With the new album, “Dark Adrenaline”, setting new sales and chart records for the band across the globe, lead singer Cristina Scabbia could be taking time to enjoy the album’s success but after two months touring with metal icons Megadeth and Motorhead along with Denmark’s Volbeat as part of Gigantour, her focus is ramping up for the band’s upcoming Dark Legacy tour.
Forthright and insightful, Cristina spent some time backstage with Femme Metal Webzine hours before Lacuna Coil’s final show on Gigantour in Austin, Texas. Despite nagging back pain, we got a change to talking about touring with Megadeth and Motorhead, Lacuna Coil’s upcoming tour plans and the secrets to the band’s ongoing success. How’s your back doing?
It’s actually pretty bad. Better than two days ago. But I think I have an inflamed muscle that kind of touches a nerve so every once in a while I kind of jump. And it’s so painful for a few seconds then it stops and then it starts again. But I’m going to home in a couple of days so I’m going to rest at least a week!
So you’re just going to muscle through it for this show?
I’m signed up to your Facebook page – that’s how I found out about the back issue. I noticed that you do a lot of updates on the things that you’re doing and you have a lot of fun doing that and fans really like it.
I was just talking a few minutes ago with the wife of Volbeat’s singer Michael (Poulsen) and there is always this mixed up feeling of happiness because you’re going to be going home but there is also this sadness because it’s the end of the cycle and you know that you’re going to miss all the people from the bands and crew. And you know that you’re going to see each other again because I know that we’re going to play some dates together especially with Megadeth for the Megadeth/Rob Zombie tour. We’re going to see Volbeat at the Rock on the Range Fest. But there is always this weird feeling and weird day where everyone is wandering around like zombies because you know that it’s over but it’s not over yet. It’s just like a weird feeling.
That’s why I appreciate you taking some time to talk to me because I know it’s the last day and you’re all ready to go home.
Oh, no problem because all I have to do during the day is promo and relax.
Being on Gigantour you get to hang out with two metal icons Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Lemmy of Motorhead. How is it hanging with those guys for a tour?
Oh yes! I’m so bummed out because we were talking about me going up on stage at the last gig to do “Kill by Death”! And I was so bummed out that they had to cancel. Mainly because he has laryngitis and it sucks! I know it very well being a singer so it’s going to need some rest. But I’m very happy that we met each other.
And anything that you pick up as a musician from just watching these guys perform? They’ve been around for so long.
More than a musician, I think that what you can get from them is the fact that if you really have a big passion for what you’re doing it can go on forever. Sometimes I hear a lot of musicians that are saying, “Oh you never know how long we’re going to make this job for. You never know when it will end.” And then you see bands like Megadeth and Motorhead and it’s like it will never end if you really want to make your life out of it. I know that I want sing and I know that I want to sing forever so I know that I will be here. (Laughs) If I’m going to be alive, I’m going to be here for a lot of years to come. That’s what you get from bands like these that are still here after some many years and kicking ass!
It’s the last show for this part of the tour. Do you guys have a big end-of-tour blowout planned?
We have three weeks home and then we’re going to rest a little bit and I’m going to go on with the charity project – Rezophonic – that I have back home. So I’m going to play some gigs with them around Italy and in three weeks we’ll going to be in South America for a few gigs with Lamb of God and Hatebreed. And then we’re going to play our headliner tour and we’re going to post those dates very soon. They’re just locking them up and we’re going to have a list in the next few days. We’re going to come back to North America for a headliner tour and it’s going to be something special. We’re going to play a lot of old stuff as well so the fans will be happy. We’re going to play a mixture – probably the longest set we’ve ever had, with an acoustic part in it. We’re going to talk more about it as soon as we can release the list of the dates. Then we’re going to play summer festivals. We’re going to be at Rock on the Range for the first time and this is going to be amazing. We’re going to play Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, Florida. And the summer festivals in Europe and I think a possible European headliner. But that will happen after September, I guess.
So after doing two months as a support act and then you have to switch gears and go headline and you have the longer sets. Do you have to change anything musically or get your mindset in order?
Your mindset just changes because, of course, you have to play every night a longer set so it’s more tiring for your body, for your voice, so you have to be extra careful about your body, your voice, your fingers if you play guitar or your energy if you’re a drummer. So definitely we’re going to be able to take care of ourselves and our bodies during that tour because I know we’re going to push the energy to the limit every night. As I said, even if you tried to take it easy once you’re up there, it’s impossible. It’s just impossible. We give everything we have onstage.
Sacrificing your body for the good of the show?
It’s more of a mindset that changes because on this tour we had two off-dates – one in Baltimore and the other one in Des Moines, Iowa. And you can feel it but it’s different – you need a sort of a rhythm every night. If you know you’re going to have a headliner then you know what you have to do every night. But if you switch from support – half an hour playing – to an hour and a half, it’s like,”Uhhhhhhhh!” Sometimes your body feels it! (Laughs)
Absolutely! I guess you have to keep yourself in shape while you’re on tour.
Yes it’s really hard. It’s really hard to eat healthy – in a healthy way. The mattresses on the bus – just living on a bus is tough. It’s not easy. Driving around, sleeping while the bus is going. That’s probably why my back is kind of messed up! (Laughs)
Are there any benefits to playing more support shows to doing a headline show?
When you play a headliner show you know that the people coming to see you are fans so they know your music already. When you play as a support band you have a chance to grab and to win over new people that in the future will come to your headliner shows. So any support tour is useful to spread the word and let more people know about Lacuna Coil. Actually, this tour really surprised me because we never had problems to fit with any lineup and any band because we have such a special sound ourselves. We have a specific Lacuna Coil thing going on that we pretty much fit with every band we played with from Rob Zombie to Anthrax to Type O Negative to P.O.D. Diverse bands and nobody has ever said anything but on this tour it was more like there’s going to be a lot of old school fans. You know, Motorhead and Megadeth, die-hard fans that are going to look at us like “Oh my God, who’s this girl on stage? Why do they even have a female singer? Why aren’t they doing this?” And the reaction was magnificent! It was amazing! Everybody was rocking out! They loved the show. We would leave the stage every night with hands up in the air and people cheering us and going for it. It was amazing because when you’re the opener, you don’t really know. It’s like you have to warm up the crowd and you never know how they’re going to react most of the time – they will be like having a beer somewhere getting interested in the show. And it wasn’t like that. We got the attention of pretty much everybody. And that was amazing. It’s a big challenge. It’s exciting.
Good music transcends everything…
I think despite of the fact that you like the music or not, if you keep the energy up and you let the crowd understand that you’re having a great time and you’re having fun onstage you will connect no matter what. I’m not saying that they’re going to buy the records right away but at least they will go away saying, “You know what? They can kick ass! They seriously rock onstage!” And that’s all I want. I want people to have fun at our concerts.
It’s cool that you guys are actually touring the States right now. Your album just got released here in the States and its right at the top of the charts. Setting personal records on the charts as far as album and single, so it must be cool to be touring a place like the States with the album coming out.
It’s the perfect moment now because we did a pre-tour in October in the UK and some parts of Europe so we presented the new singles because we knew we were going to be here in the States at the precise moment where the album was out. It’s more difficult to tour the States because it’s such a big territory. When you tour in Europe, you maybe do one gig in Belgium, one in Holland, one in France and then you go to Italy and you play two. And then you go to Germany and play one or two. It’s like a few gigs in different places. If you play in America you have at least to tour for a month and a half. If you want to cover the main cities – not even all the cities you would like to play in – it’s definitely more difficult and we’re trying to keep a balance between Europe and America but it’s not always easy.
You’re one of the few bands that are able to do that…
To work both ways – I know! (Laughs) But sometimes our fans are complaining but it’s not up to us. They’re like you never play to Europe and then we go Europe. Why don’t you come here to the States? Come on! (Laughs) We can’t be in two places at the same time! Just be patient! We’ll be there as well!
With the new album – great album by the way – been listening to it non-stop. Do you think that you’ve been doing anything different with this album than the previous stuff or are you just doing what you do well better?
I think that it came out different but without us thinking about making it sound different because what we always do with every album is that we don’t think. We just go with the flow which is let the inspiration go and do everything for us. It’s not that we sit around a table and we say OK the last album went this way. Why don’t we try to do this? It’s not like that – the process is completely different because we collect the ideas and whatever we like, we keep it. We don’t care about clichés, we don’t think about what people might think about the album because it’s a representation of art so it has to describe who we are. It has to be who we are. It doesn’t have to be what fans want from us and I personally think that that’s why we kept it – for such a long time – interesting to a lot of people. We might have lost some fans but we won over a lot of people. And then maybe the new people didn’t like the album after and the old school fans came back. I think it’s refreshing. It’s refreshing to just evolve and not to get stuck in the same thing over and over. And this album definitely the most obscure, the heaviest one we’ve ever done but it’s not that we thought about it before we started songwritin
It’s heavier but you still have the underlying melodies and hooks.
Always! It’s still us. I mean it’s still us writing the songs so you cannot really change. It’s just like a little evolution here and there.
No, because we still love rock and metal but sometimes there is a rock vibe that can come out more sometimes versus the metal side sometimes that can come out more but it’s still us. If you listen to our first EP, it wasn’t like heavy metal. Let’s say it clear – we’ve always been a rock hard band.
When you look from the first EP to “Dark Adrenaline” – you were talking about evolution – can you see a common thread that you can see how you’ve evolved from album to album?
The common thread is that we’ve always mixed up melody and heaviness in every album. And the fact that we’ve never really used our voices – Andreas and my voice – in the “beauty and the beast” context. We’ve always sung the same way – so I wasn’t always singing the melodic, nice parts. Sometimes I’m doing the aggressive ones and sometimes he sings clear so there is always this interaction between us that not a lot of bands are using the same way we do. And this is present in every album.
I wanted to ask you about the way you and Andrea do you vocals. You’ve been doing it for a number of albums now and it always sounds fresh and unexpected – the way that you guys do your arrangements. It doesn’t feel like, “OK you sing this part, I’ll sing that part”.
No, because it doesn’t happen this way.
What’s the process that you guys do to do that?
It’s not a real process. We simply don’t sit and decide to split 50% of vocal lines. Sometimes I write parts that he ends up singing because it sounds better. Or vise versa. Or I come up with an idea for lyrics and he likes it because we share the same tastes. It’s surprising we never really clashed. We never really said, “Oh no I will never do this or no I don’t like it”. Because you can feel it if you’re honest and you don’t let the ego get over you. You realize that it sounds good if it’s sung this way or it sounds better if it’s sung this way. So we keep it the way we feel more comfortable with.
So it’s a real collaboration.
It’s total teamwork. Even in the photo sessions we decided to underline it even more that this is a band. This is not Cristina with a bunch of musicians. So even if we got the attention because I was the focal point in the very beginning, now we’re starting to be recognized as a band and people see it on stage and off.
I wanted to ask you about your vocals on the album. Tracks like “Intoxicated” it sounds like you’re doing some different things with your voice than what you’ve done before. Do you have an experimental nature that you try to do different things with your vocals on the album?
I can’t really tell you about that because what happens is that we come up with a lot of ideas when we’re home – when we’re separately at home. Because now you can exchange files, you can go with a USB key or your computer and say, “Hey! I found this idea”. So the vocal line for “Intoxicated”totally happened – I just listened to the music and I was like (sings melody line) and came up with this melody and was like, “This sounds cool!” and then I recorded it. But it was nothing planned because I didn’t take any specific lessons or something that inspired me in this way. It was simply fitting with the music. And I realize that I’m using my voice in a different way but I don’t know what happened because I’m definitely learning how to use my voice by myself. I’m not taking any lessons because I want to keep it personal. It might not be perfect, it might not be super technical but it’s me and me only. I don’t want to change my voice because it has to be sounding like someone else.
And that’s what I don’t want. And that’s why I’m happy when people aren’t able to describe our music. That’s the biggest success for me. The bands that I admire the most are the bands that never repeated themselves. One of my favorite bands is Faith No More, for example. And how would you describe Faith No More? It’s fucking Faith No More! (Laughs) You can’t really say they’re playing this, they’re playing that. It’s Faith No More! And they’re music is great because it’s them.
You’re going to be playing the Metal Female Voices Festival this year and you haven’t been there in seven or eight years. Are you looking forward to having a few more women around – at least for the weekend?
Absolutely! I really like it when I see a lot of women in the crowd actually – more than the other bands. I’m sure that I’m going to have a great time and it’s going to be good to see some friends because I have female friends in the music business. It’s going to be great to see a lot of females coming to the shows because as Lacuna Coil we get a lot of female fans and the guys in the crowds are very happy. (Laughs) Because it doesn’t really happen a lot – at a metal concert you see a lot of guys not a lot of girls. I just love it – there is always a very cool vibe. I’m definitely excited about it.
You were saying before that Lacuna Coil – even though you’re a female in the band – you’ve really sort of shed that “there’s that metal band with the chick singer kind of thing” label. You guys are considered Lacuna Coil and you tour when you want with who you want. It’s not like you’re being pushed in a certain direction.
At least, that’s what we’re trying to do. Because, I mean, I can understand that. If someone doesn’t know the band you kind of have to tell them they’re sounding kind of like this or that. But every time I got somebody – who didn’t know the band – that came to the show was like very impressed. Like it wasn’t what I was expecting. I listened to them on the radio or just reading the articles. I wasn’t expecting them to be rocking out that much. So I get a lot of positive comments from people who saw us for the first time.
Every festival is important and I think it’s interesting because a lot of people listen to music where female singers are in the lineup. Sometimes it’s a little overrated to put too much attention on females in the scene because a lot of newcomers might think that this is the secret for the success – which it’s not. Some new bands might think, “Ok I’m going to have a female in the lineup and I’m going to be successful right away because we’re getting a lot of attention”. And it’s not like that because there is a lot of hard work behind everything and behind success and most of all there is not a recipe for success. So there is a natural selection in which if you’re not talented or if you don’t have the right potential, it’s not going to work. So a lot of bands are going to disappear in one year or even less.
It’s the quality. It doesn’t matter what some critics might say. Oh there’re there for the look. This is not true because people are not stupid. If it’s just for the look, people would buy magazines with posters and hang up the poster on the wall but they wouldn’t buy a record because with a record you don’t get a look. (Laughs)
Here on VH1 in the States they’ve had this series on called Metal Evolution. They’ve been charting the evolution of metal back from Black Sabbath up through all the different sub-genres. Through my work with Female Metal Webzine I take a look at a lot of the female-fronted bands. But thinking of it in that context there’s not so much a genre evolution but you can look at yourself and people like Sharon den Adel and Anneke van Giersbergen and singers back in the 90s when there weren’t a lot of female singers out there. And it’s almost like you’re in a first wave of a surge where you guys went out there and did your thing and there wasn’t a lot of people doing it.
That’s true it was different. It was something special back then.
Absolutely yes! Well not only opened a lot of doors for territories that are not exactly metal because we’re coming from Italy. We are with an independent label so we were the first ones to be surprised about our success because, wow, we’re having the chance to tour Europe. We’re having the chance to be signed by Century Media. And this is actually because we were trying to propose something different from what the other bands from Milan were doing back then. It was more the power metal era – a lot of bands were playing power metal style and we were doing something completely different – we were doing this sort of goth rock that nobody else would have done with a female and a male singer. And that immediately grabbed the attention of Century Media and that’s why we got signed. But now that other people can see that we made it to a certain level, a lot of other people can be inspired by that and think that if they made it and they are from Italy – which is not the UK and it’s not the States which are usually the main places where a success band might come from – then we can make it too if we work hard and we put a lot of passion and a lot of sacrifices in our jobs.
So you can go back to a festival like MFVF and see how things have changed. One of my favorite YouTube videos is an old grainy one of you and The Gathering back in 1998.
Oh my God. “Shrink”! (Laughs)
Yeah. Green hair back then!
You guys are starting out and you’re doing the European circuit and then you fast forward 14 years and where you’re at now. Do you ever look back at the success you’ve had and think how you can keep challenging yourselves? Because back then you had a certain set of goals at that time. And now you’re selling millions of albums and touring the world. What do you do now to challenge yourselves?
We challenge ourselves being honest every time with a new album. It’s not even that we’re challenging ourselves – it’s like if you’re a painter, you don’t make a new painting because you want to make it better than the previous one you did. If you’re being creative and you’re an artist you just want to push out everything you have inside and you try to translate it with your heart. And that’s what happens with us. We have so many influences from our lives. We’re living such a hectic and crazy life that there’s so much inspiration for a lot of material to come that it’s impossible not to keep it fresh. It’s impossible to (be) stagnant – with every album we added something, we did something slightly different and that’s what keeps it fresh. It’s not that we’re doing the same cover, the same artwork, the same colors, the same clothes. We just like to keep it alive and change it. As life changes, we are evolving as well with life.
I guess then that you guys wouldn’t say that you’re not even close to peaking as a band yet.
Ahhh! I hope so! (Laughs)
You still have a long way to go before you run out of ideas.
It’s really hard now-a-days because the life of a musician is even harder. Because everyone seems to only see the sparkling side. They see the covers, they see the duets, they see the costumes. And they think that you’re a millionaire and have three swimming pools in your house. And that’s absolutely not close to reality at all. I live in an apartment that I’m finishing to pay in 30 years. We’re regular. We have regular lives. The rock star life doesn’t really exist anymore unless you’re a super huge band and with the illegal downloads it’s kind of killing the bands. It’s really hard now-a-days because there’s a lot of competition and a lot of new bands. We’re lucky because we have a large base of fans. The fact that we’ve been around for quite a long time makes us an established band and it’s probably easier for the fans to look at our albums like,”Oh they have a history. They’re not like the material that’s going to disappear next year”. So it’s kind of cool on our side.
Do you think that to have a career as long as you have and that people have responded to your music for such a long time – you’d think there was a certain element of it that hooks people and brings them in.
Really the fun factor and the fact – I’m going to say it again and it might sound boring – but the fact that we’re honest. The fact that I can feel that people see Lacuna Coil for what they are. They got closer because they got to know ourselves a little more personally because we’re really exposed to our fans. We’re constantly trying to find the interaction with them so they look at us as a band who’s very genuine but is rocking at the same time. There is this confidence and powerful factor that’s coming out of the band that made us grow through the years and made a lot of people come closer to us. This is kind of cool – I love the fact that we’ve had a career. I would hate it if we would have come out with the first album – super successful, millions of copies sold and then boom, gone. Who are they? I don’t know who they are. Because all the artists that I admire, they had a career. They started from zero, they started touring, they started to do promotion. And that’s why they got so big because even when they got really big, they still remember how it started. They still remember where they’re coming from and this is what’s happening to us.
You have a career. You can actually look at your shelf with your CDs on there.
I have so many memories that even if it would finish tomorrow and I certainly hope I’m not finished tomorrow (laughs), I have so memories and so many cool things that I did in my life that a regular person could only dream of. Because I did what I really wanted to do. How many people can say I made a job out of my biggest passion in life?
I appreciate the time. It was a pleasure talking to you!
My pleasure! Sorry for being for being so “papapa”* but I’m Italian! (Miriam) will know!
* papapa in a very familiar way in Italian means that you are so talkative/loquacious