Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia Speaks To SonicAbuse

Since 1994 Lacuna Coil have been studiously developing their unique brand of gothic-tinged metal. Despite frequent (and fatuous) comparisons to band’s such as Evanescence by less discerning music fans, seemingly by virtue of the fact that Lacuna Coil have a female singer (most people conveniently forgetting Andrea’s role in co-fronting the band), Lacuna Coil have carved a uniquely successful and diverse career with albums such as ‘Comalies’, an album that received rave reviews in the metal press and which provided the world with the stunning video for single ‘heaven’s a lie’ in the process. Most bands would have taken such success as an opportunity to rest on their laurels, but Lacuna Coil responded by releasing the heavier ‘Karmacode’, an album shot through with bristling guitars and, perplexingly for some, an excellent cover of Depeche Mode’s classic ‘enjoy the silence’.

Adopting another shift in sound, ‘Shallow life’ proved to be one of Lacuna Coil’s most diverse (and controversial) albums, with the band incorporating new influences and toning down the metallic edges. Of course, like everything else Lacuna coil do, the album proved to be just another piece in a much larger story, rather than a deliberate shift in style, and 2011’s excellent ‘Dark Adrenalin’ heralded a return to heavier pastures. Subsequently the band have been out on tour, bringing their majestic show to as many parts of the glove as humanly possible and indulging in a two-hour set that not only spans the band’s substantial career, but which also includes an acoustic set.

With the band so busy we were privileged indeed that Cristina Scabbia agreed to phone us for an interview about the band’s development and current  tour and we found her to be charming, deeply passionate about her art and great fun to talk to. Read on and delve into the Lacuna Coil’s world.

 

The first thing that I wanted to ask about is that Lacuna Coil are something of a unique band in that you have two very distinct voices fronting the band – how difficult is it when it comes to composing and sharing the lyrics out and whether you work together or in isolation when it comes to arranging how the vocals are handled on each album?

It’s not difficult at all because, surprisingly, even if we have two singers, we’ve never had ego problems or the need to split vocals 50/50 just because we have two vocalists. It’s always about the song and we use our voices like instruments so that we can add to the composition, so we work all together and mainly Marco is responsible for the music whilst Andrea and I are responsible for the lyrics. But then every member of the band likes to contribute heavily to the music – it’s a very democratic process and we just go with the flow and let our inspiration go without putting too much pressure on ourselves. It’s art and you cannot really force it – if you’re not inspired you just take your time and do something else. So it’s not difficult at all, it’s actually a fun process.

When it comes to lyrics – how do you develop those? Do you work together or split those because they seem very coherent when you read them across the albums…

I think it’s probably the most difficult part just because Andrea and I are not American or English so English is not our main language and sometimes it’s not easy to be able to express ourselves the way we want. But we take our time, we just sit down together and discuss what we want to talk about and we always agree because we pretty much have the same taste and the same lifestyle – we’re like a brother and sister so it’s really easy for us to connect and to agree which is the better choice to go for on every lyric that we write.

Lyrically ‘Dark Adrenalin’ sounds quite dark, quite downbeat, and I was wondering where you go for inspiration and how long it takes to develop the ideas from theme to the finished article.

Developing the theme is not that difficult because normally we write about our life and the lyrics on Dark Adrenalin are definitely darker than before because during the period of song writing and before that, most of the members of the band went through kind of harsh experiences; nothing too insane, things that are happening to every human being – you might lose a person you love, you might have a death in the family or lose someone close to you – some things that kinda change your point of view on life anyway because it’s so intense or so big; and writing for us is a kind of therapy, like a diary for us which is like write down a phrase that we can think of that is inspired by our life so that’s why it came out as dark as it sounds.

It seems to me that every Lacuna album represents a subtle shift in sound – is it important to you to try to do something different on each record?

The thing is that we don’t even try. We never put ourselves in a place with barriers – we just want to explore different scenarios, we’re just interested to see where the band can go and we want to keep our sound fresh. It’s still a choice because there are some bands that like better to do the same thing over and over, and some of them are honest and they really like to play the same music for years and sometimes I’m surprised and it’s like –well you’ve evolved as a human being and different things are happening in your life and you have the chance to read books, watch movies and listen to music and it’s pretty much impossible for me to think that there’s not an evolution in you as a person and inevitably the way you are as a person goes into your music because it’s part of you. But again some people choose to stay where they are just because they can be sire that they’re going to sell copies. I think it’s better for us to take some risks but be 100% honest and say ‘OK – this record represents lacuna Coil right now – that record represented Lacuna Coil in 2002 or 1998’ – it really depends because every record represents a part of your life but it’s still you.

I mean if you look back at albums like ‘in a reverie’ for example or the first EP – it’s still us – it’s not like we don’t like anymore what we did. It’s just that we did it already and we don’t want to repeat the same thing.

Another element that I found quite surprising is that you make very brave choices when it comes to covers – both R.E.M’s ‘losing my religion’ and Depeche Mode’s ‘enjoy the silence’ are very iconic tracks – what made you decide to tackle those particular songs?

It’s because we like to have fun with songs that somebody else wrote but we also like to pick up bands or artists that our well-respected no matter what they do. So in the case of ‘enjoy the silence’ everyone agreed… I mean I’m a huge Depeche Mode fan and I love the original song anyway so it was kind of fun for us to try to make it ours. But, in the case of ‘losing my religion’ I don’t really like the original song musically. I love the lyrics, very much, I think they’re a great band, but to me the original song was too happy sounding so when Marcus came up with the completely different version, sounding really Lacuna Coil and it just worked as a song, changing vocals and making it completely different. It’s just interesting because it challenges you because you’re working on something that somebody else wrote.

Right from the very start you’ve had a very strong visual identity both in terms of what you wear and in terms of videos and album art – who is the driving force behind the aesthetic of the band and how has it helped you over the years?

The band is behind it 1000% we don’t have stylists or people who decide upon our look. We know very much how we want to look and if you think about it we’re probably between the very dark… let’s call them dark goth bands but we didn’t wear the classic traditional stuff and that’s because it’s us – we’re from Milan and Milan is a very fashionable city so probably we’ve got a very different point of view about looks compared to other bands so that might be it.

What are the challenges in gaining recognition and acceptance outside of central Europe?

Well, it’s simply that we didn’t try – we didn’t even try, we didn’t force anything we simply took all the good coming from different places. We’ve always been true to ourselves and I think that’s really important because people aren’t stupid – that just look at you; they meet you after your shows out of the venue and on the bus and they talk with you and… that’s how it is. You cannot really plan anything in this so called ‘business’ – there’s not a recipe for success. It’s not like you wake up in the morning and think ‘OK – let’s try to be successful in England so we have to do this, this and this’ – it just happens. You just have to make your best about everything that you do and that’s it, and people will be smart enough to understand that.

As an artist – you always seem very confident in interviews – but when you formed the band did you have any inkling that it’d go as far as it has?

Oh not at all, not at all. We don’t really have videos from when we started but in 1997, the first concerts we played were in December 1997 and we already loved to play music but of course we weren’t really experienced and I can remember myself being absolutely shy, hiding behind the mic stand and I wasn’t really ready to be a performer and I had to get out of my shell – I wasn’t looking at myself as a rock star or anything like that and I still don’t – I’m just more confident and everything’s come with experience and the fact that we’ve played so many concerts that we’ve just learned to let everything go and have a good time on stage.

That, perhaps, is one of the reasons for your longevity because you always seemed to be a band who are accessible to the fans…

Yeah- we are definitely very accessible to our fans. We’re very active on our social network I have an official page on facebook and I’m constantly interacting and posting pictures of what I do because we’re here because of the fans. Because of people supporting us and, honestly in 2012, all this ‘leave me alone, I’m a rock star, I’m better than you’ attitude is so over-rated and it doesn’t really make sense – I mean we haven’t cured cancer or anything like that – we’re artists and there was nothing better than  interacting with the people who are following and supporting you.

Across your career, you’ve had a very varied and exciting career. For you, what’s been the highlight of what you’ve done so far?

I think the travelling. I absolutely love travel and meeting and experiencing different cultures. I was just talking about that with a friend today and we’ve just come back from a hectic week in Ukraine, Estonia and Russia and, despite the fact that we almost had no sleep and I caught the flu in between the concerts, and the flights and the time in airports, in the end we are so blessed and we are so privileged that in fifteen years of career we’ve pretty much seen the world and there are a lot of people that have never really gotten out of their own city, state or region and this is what I love the most. It’s kind of weird because everything has pros and cons because it’s something that I absolutely love, but it’s also the thing that keeps me away from my loved ones so… you definitely have to be used to this lifestyle.

It seems early to be asking but what do you see happening next?

We started the ‘dark legacy’ tour which will bring us around Europe towards the end of November and it’s a very special show which will last around two hours and it will have a lot of old songs, and also the new songs, and it is pretty much a show that will show the history of Lacuna Coil since day one with an acoustic set in the middle, which is really cool. But we definitely want to start to write new songs because we’re definitely inspired, but we don’t really know how to write on the road because although you have a lot of spare time you also have so many things to do at the same time and when you have some off time you just want to rest because it’s not as easy as it sounds to be on tour. So we’re going to write some new stuff and touring… that’s the plan so far.

What’s the most challenging Lacuna Coil song for you to sing?

Maybe the most challenging are the ones when I have to keep the high notes for a long time – songs like ‘Spellbound’ or ‘trip the darkness’ because when I sing high, I don’t sing falsetto, it’s full voice so it’s not really easy to make it because you really have to push with your diaphragm and go for it, so you have to be perfectly healthy because if you have a little bit of a cough or you’re a little bit sick it sucks! It really does!

 

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