LACUNA COIL’S CRISTINA SCABBIA: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
When you talk about Cristina Scabbia, bewitching singer of Italy’s Lacuna Coil, it’s tempting to devote poetic volumes to descriptions of her melodic acumen, intoxicating voice, and oppressive physical beauty. Even knowing all this, I was still able to be surprised by Scabbia’s effortless coolness: the reader has to imagine her expressing polite disagreement by gently raising the pitch of her voice, dismissing haters with venomless derision, and discoursing like someone casually thinking aloud. Conversely, picture the interviewer perplexed by feelings of sexual longing for his phone, from which Scabbia’s oddly musical speaking voice emanated. (It didn’t help that Scabbia thoughtlessly spoke of wanting more and more, improving your stuff, and getting squeezed in the studio.)
After some shared confusion regarding the difference between Arizona and New Mexico, Scabbia spoke with MetalSucks about her band’s new record Shallow Life (out April 21), boisterous busmates, touring with the melodic dudes of Disturbed, and why Lacuna Coil is a happy band. Check out their new video, “Spellbound,” above; then the full interview is after the jump.
Lacuna Coil is in Arizona now?
Yes. We are in Albuquerque. Yesterday was Phoenix.
The tour just kicked off. How’s it going so far?
It’s going great. We’ve been touring for basically a week. But it’s going great. Oh, actually we’re in New Mexico today. Not Arizona. We were there yesterday.
We are doing amazing – great reactions from the crowd, the vibe in-between the bands is beautiful. We’re really happy! So far, so good.
So it feels good to be back out on the road with new material?
Oh yes. Especially since we’re gonna play two new songs from this coming album. It’s really exciting that we can change a little bit this set.
Do you get tired of certain songs?
No, Nobody gets tired because they’re still your songs and you love them. But at the same time, it’s much more exciting to play something new.
The tour’s headliners, Disturbed, have a reputation for having a mostly male audience.
Well, to be honest I saw a lot of girls as well. We draw a lot of girls as well to our shows. It’s not about guys only for Disturbed either, ‘cause they’re really melodic as well. I don’t think their music is completely – Can you hold on a second?
[Indecipherable scolding] Sorry. They were screaming in the back. I couldn’t hear you.
Was that Italian?
I told them [sweetly] “Can you please calm down a bit?’ [laughs] Anyway, there are a lot of guys and girls on this tour.
When can we expect a headlining tour for Lacuna Coil?
We’re talking about it. But, to be honest, I don’t know if it’s gonna be in Europe or America. After this tour, we’re gonna focus on the summer festivals in Europe. So it’s too early to talk about another tour. We have to be careful and pick whatever is best for us. We’ll be back sooner or later.
I can see how those big festivals in Europe would be a priority.
Not really a priority. It’s just that when you’re a musician, it’s really hard to plan that many months ahead. You never know. Plans are changing all the time. Sometimes, problems come up or you can’t do a tour because you’re forced to do something else. For sure, we’re gonna play the summer festivals first.
Some say that you have the best voice around right now.
Oh, it’s a fact. But is your voice a finite thing? How much do you worry about limiting the band’s touring?
To be honest, it’s not that I’m taking care of my voice in terms of being obsessed with it. I never warm up before I go on stage – which is pretty stupid, I would say. You need to warm up. But I’m Italian – I’m a lazy bum, so [before the show] I’m always like ‘Yeah, whatever. I’ll warm up a bit later.’ I definitely should [warm up], but I don’t.
But on the other side, I don’t smoke and I’m not a huge drinker. I drink every once in a while, just for partying. It’s not like I go back to the bus every night and open a beer. On this side, I’m kind of wise. But I ‘m not taking particular care of my voice.
Especially on 2006’s Karmacode, there is so much singing going on – even in addition to [co-vocalist] Andrea’s parts. How do you deal with that in a live setting?
Well, in the live setting, we use a DAT controlled by our drummer. ‘Cause obviously I can’t sing two parts at the same time. I wanna learn that but I didn’t yet [laughs].
Going into the recording of Shallow Life, what was the mood of the band? How satisfied were you with Karmacode?
We were pretty happy with it. We weren’t 100% happy about the production. I think we could’ve worked more, but we didn’t have time. Sometimes you need just a little more time to adjust everything or to make everything better. But we didn’t – we couldn’t.
This time, we took our time and stayed in the studio for a couple of months. We had a bigger budget because Karmacode was successful, which got us the opportunity to have a bigger budget for Shallow Life. We decided to record in the US for the first time with an American producer, which is another big change for us. We’re absolutely happy – we were able to get the sound we wanted. We’re happy about the evolution of the band. We’re super excited. It’s gonna come out next month and we can’t wait to see how it goes.
What parts of the production of Karmacode were you dissatisfied with?
I would’ve worked a little bit more on the vocals. And some sounds, especially drums. But it’s not that I’m unhappy; I’m just telling you that it could’ve been even better than it is. We’re really picky. We’re kind of like that every time. We always feel like it could be better, like we could’ve changed this or that. We could go on forever [laughs].
It must be tough to have to draw the line somewhere.
It is. It is. It is! That’s what keeps you going so it’s good to be that excited and to want to improve your stuff. That makes you want more and more every time.
You mentioned that the success of Karmacode allowed for a bigger budget for Shallow Life.
So, do you put any pressure on yourselves after that success?
Not on ourselves. At least, we didn’t really care. Of course, I believe that the label was really nervous because you can never know if you can repeat the success of an album. We’ve been growing as a band, and with sales album after album. We just decided the best way to write and record the album was to just be honest with ourselves. To do what we really wanted to do without feeling too much pressure from outside or without trying too hard.
There is not a recipe. You never know if people are gonna love your record or not. So you just better try to be genuine and have fun with it. And then if people understand, [they] will buy your record. But you can’t really plan it. Being nervous doesn’t really help. So we just chill out and say “Let’s see what’s coming out. Let’s try in the practice room and experiment a little bit. Let’s see what we’re coming with.”
Of all the great producers out there, how did you land on Don Gilmore [Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne]?
It’s complicated to explain. It’s not like you just pick one person and that’s it. It’s much more elaborate. Basically, we picked different names that we were interested in. We sent them demo tapes we recorded in the practice room. We got different feedback, but we found out that Don was the most passionate about it. He told me he saw a lot of potential in this album. So we decided to meet him in Milan, where we live. He came by and we played the songs for him. We went out for dinner, talked about the songs, and just clicked immediately.
He’s the kind of guy, just to give you an example, who’s really anal about recording, so he squeezes you 100% from what you can do. But at the same time, he’s the funniest guy. He puts you in the condition to be absolutely relaxed, and in a good vibe while you’re recording. Which is the best part of it.
So you’re saying he contributed to the atmosphere and work ethic. Can you tell me how he contributed to the music itself? How is Shallow Life different musically from other Lacuna Coil records?
The music was already written, even before we met him. So he basically just cut some parts and together we made some small changes to vocal parts. But the songs are basically the same as they were before. Maybe they were a little longer, and we cut some parts that weren’t absolutely necessary, or were kinda boring after listening to them a couple times. So now the songs are definitely more direct. The message is clear. The lyrics are… we took better care about the lyrics. They’re not as poetic as they used to be. We wanted to be absolutely clear in what we wanted to say so the listener could get our message.
Do you feel that, in the past, your message was obscure?
Not obscure. It was our way to express ourselves. We knew what we wanted to say and in a way it was kinda good, because everybody could have a different interpretation. But this time, we just tried to be absolutely clear. Every song has a specific story that everyone can get. And we’re talking about real life. Everybody who’s listening can recognize himself or herself in what we’re saying.
I was reading some of the reactions to the new single, “Spellbound” – wait, do you pay attention to what people write about Lacuna Coil and you specifically?
No. Never. It’s not that I don’t care about fans, or other people’s opinions, but most of the time, the internet is the space for people who generally don’t have a life.
So they don’t really have anything else to do but go on websites and talk bullshit – even if they like the album! Which is peculiar. I know a lot of people were writing ‘Oh they should write the same songs they wrote 10 years ago.’ So first of all – Sorry I have to shut them up again. [More hot Italian scolding]
I just don’t get it. I don’t really believe in the reviews I read online – or comments and criticisms. I don’t really care. I don’t want them to influence me. Why bother, ‘cause it’ll always be like that anyway. Some people will love the album and some will hate it. You can’t please everybody.
That makes sense. It would probably just cause confusion for you.
Well, not even confusion. But you get the risk to be pissed off about something. In the end, you’re like “You know what? You don’t like the album? Fuck you! You have 10,000 bands to choose from.” Why even bother to write a bad comment about a band?
You are cool.
If I don’t like a band, I don’t bother to go on a website to write bullshit. So if they do, I’m kinda happy ’cause that means we catch their attention.
But surely some people make valid points. And do so with the best intentions.
But what I don’t understand about some people is when they would love the band they love to be stuck in the past forever. I mean, this is something that I really don’t understand. People grow up. People get different experiences in life. People listen to different music so how can you be the same person as 10 years ago? We can, but it wouldn’t be honest. I know we could’ve made the same album for 12 years, 20 years, 50 years, so we could please the same fans we have. They have to understand that every band needs to have an evolution just to happy and creative [laughs]. You can’t be creative if you’re copying yourself over and over.
You told me that Shallow Life was recorded in America – in Los Angeles, right?
Lacuna Coil is not exactly a happy band, but L.A. is such a sunny place. Did any of that influence the album?
There is a misconception about us being an unhappy band or anything like that. When we started, we made music more oriented toward goth metal. That doesn’t mean that we’re not happy persons at all. Actually, there are huge amounts of positivity coming from Shallow Life and a lot more confidence. We are a happy band. [laughs] Thank god! [laughs]
Well, your music is not unhappy – I mean, it’s positive, but you agree that it’s not dancing, smiling music.
No. Probably because you’re a little bit more inspired when you’re mellow or sad. I don’t know why but that’s the place where creativity comes out better. When you’re happy, you want to do something like hang out with friends. I know it’s true for myself that I’m more inspired when I’m kinda … blue? So probably that’s why [laughs].
Anso DF is a former music journalist in need of several cold showers before resuming his half-cocked worship of Kobe Bryant and He Is Legend on the daily Metal column Hipsters Out Of Metal!