Interview Date: 05/05/2009
Run Date: 05/11/2009
Since their recording debut in 1998, Lacuna Coil has been at the forefront of melodic heavy metal and hard rock. Their undeniably hooky blend of industrial rock-informed guitars and stadium-sized choruses predates by at least four years the formula that Evanescence, a band to whom they are often compared, took the top of the charts. On past albums like Comalies and Karmacode, the Italian outfit kept their sound focused a bit more on the guitars and atmospherics, but on their recently released Shallow Life, they took Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro’s (it’s a guy) vocals and pushed them into the front of the mix. Working with producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Lit, Avril Lavigne), Lacuna Coil have made no apology for their pursuit of the level of success their infectious music deserves. Bullz-Eye caught up with singer and all-around sex bomb Scabbia while the band was out on tour with Disturbed as part of the Music as a Weapon Tour to talk about the new album, working with Gilmore, and her admittedly foxy image.
Bullz-Eye: Hey Cristina, thanks for doing this interview so early in the day!
Cristina Scabbia: Hi Carlos, it’s my pleasure! We’re actually in Cleveland for a show and we’re having a barbeque in the parking lot right now.
BE: You can’t get more American than that!
CS: (Laughs) I know, it’s such an American thing but Europeans can do it really well, too. We’re having a great time right now. We’re playing well, all of the venues are packed and the audiences are reacting really well to the new songs. We’re so happy that the album is finally out, because we worked so hard on it.
BE: Lacuna Coil started out with a more traditional heavy metal bent to it, but your newer material has strayed away from that a lot. You grew up in Italy during the 1980s so I wondered if your early influences were based more in pop and commercial rock.
CS: My tastes have always been all over the place. I come from a family where no one is a musician but everyone listened to music, so there was always something playing in the house. When I was young I listened to everything from darker metal bands to American AOR music. I loved artists like Pink Floyd, Phil Collins, and Gary Numan, but I also listened to a lot of Italian music and even hip hop. I’m still like that. I listen to everything.
BE: You dig AOR? I think the Bullz-Eye readers will love that. At what point did you think that singing in a band could actually be a full-time profession?
CS: I have always been a singer but until I met the Lacuna Coil guys, I didn’t really believe I could make a living doing it. When they first played me what they had been working on before I joined, I fell completely in love with it. I’d played in other projects before but this was something truly special. I knew I had to be involved and we should try and work it out. I’m so happy we did.
BE: On Shallow Life you hired Don Gilmore for the producer’s chair. He’s obviously worked on big radio records so I have to ask, was that a management and record label choice, or did the band feel like it was the right time for a move like that?
CS: It was a collective decision, and we’re glad we did it. We approached Don and he flew out to Milan to watch us rehearse the new material. He really loved the songs and we all got along really well, so that was that. He’s worked with so many different types of artists, and he brought so much experience into the studio. He was a teacher and we learned so much from working with him. In the past we worked with Waldemar Sorychta (Moonspell, Therion) a lot, and that was great because he’s a talented metal producer, but this time we wanted to focus more on the rock side of our sound.
BE: What was his approach like once you were tracking? He’s got a bit of a reputation as a slave driver.
CS: He definitely pushed us when we needed it. It got intense at times, and he made sure the guys played to their best abilities. I’ve never worked that hard on my vocals but I love how they turned out. We spent a month on my vocals alone, so I got to try a lot of different ideas. He’s also great with melody ideas and the songwriting side of things.
BE: What immediately stood out to me on this new album is how direct the lyrics are. Was that a deliberate move?
CS: I think we were just clearer and to the point with everything this time around. The lyrics are definitely less poetic, I would say. We wanted the listener to connect right away, so we made things more straight-forward. We’re talking about things on this album that everyone can relate to. I think the listeners will recognize themselves in these songs.
BE: You called the album Shallow Life, which I took to be a criticism on our culture’s infatuation with material things. You even filmed the video at Gold, the Dolce & Gabbana-owned restaurant in Milan. Am I reading it wrong?
CS: Well, the Shallow Life isn’t really a concept album. Each song is like a story within itself. But yes, the album talks about that kind of thing, too. There is this need in the entertainment media to make everything shiny and perfect, and that’s frustrating sometimes. But I think with all of the stress and problems we all deal with in this life, it’s okay to have fun and embrace the silly little things that make us happy. I enjoy fashion and buying nice clothes, so I’m no different, but we all need an escape sometimes.
BE: When the average person thinks of Lacuna Coil they think of you. You’ve been marketed as the sex goddess of heavy metal, but I wondered how you saw yourself.
CS: I love to have fun with it and dress up, but I’m completely different from that image. If you come see us live, you’ll see another side of me, which is closer to what I’m really like. I know people expect me to be a certain way but once they meet me, they realize I am really down-to-earth. When I do those shoots, it’s like I’m an actress playing a part and I have fun with it. We did a photo session where we were actually interpreting “The Shallow Life.” I was made up like one of those pop princesses and Andrea, our other singer, was dressed like a pimp. It was done as a joke and to get people talking, but a lot of our hardcore fans thought it was like our new look or something. They thought we had completely sold out. (Laughs)
BE: You must have some interesting male fans.
CS: (Laughs) Yes, but for the most part, they’ve been so cool. Most of the time they just want a photo or an autograph, and they’re sweet about it. The one thing fans say about me is that they didn’t expect me to be so short! I guess the photo shoots and videos make me look like a giant (Laughs).
BE: Shallow Life opened at #16 on the Billboard Top 200 chart giving your label, Century Media, their highest debut for any album in their catalog. In terms of their expectations now, are you afraid that you might be thrown into artistically compromising situations?CS: When we heard about the sales figures that week, we couldn’t believe it! We worked so hard on the album, so to see that people went out and supported it was a beautiful feeling. In terms of the label, we’ve been with them since the beginning and they’ve always been so good to us. They are like family and I don’t see that changing. We trust them and they trust us. We just hope we get to keep on doing what we do.