Kaleidoscope / 1999

Interview with Cristina Scabbia

One of the most noticeable features about the band is the dual vocal partnership between the vigorous growls of Andrea Ferro And the versatile melancholic clarity of Cristina Scabbia, a partnership that allows the lyrical content of the songs to be displayed to their full, and which leaves room for ever more involved musical exploration.
Kaleidoscope interviewed the enchanting Cristina recently, following the release of their incredible new album. Interview by mike Francis.

How do you feel the new album marks a development for the band?
Cristina-‘Do you mean between this one and the old one? Er, I think that right now we are more mature, more professional maybe. And it is different because we changed the line-up-now we have two new guitar players, and a new drummer, and this is the main difference. And the other difference is that right now, the main composer is the bass player, and for the first album, the main composers were the other guitar players. The style is quite similar, but we want to improve more, because we want to be powerful with the next album.’ She laughs.

Are there any new sounds that the band are exploring for the next album?
‘Right now…no! We only know that we want to be more powerful! Not more metal, but more powerful…for sure. Maybe try new sounds…we have to think about it. But right now we are very concentrated on this album.

What are your plans for this year?
‘Erm, it is a very full year this year, because we have one tour with Skyclad-next month,’ she laughs, ‘and then, I hope, but I’m not really sure, but we might have a tour with Grip Inc. Do you know them? Valdimar is also our producer! And then we will go to Dynamo, and in June we go to Gods of Metal. There are two different nights-the second one is something like ‘Defender Night’ with Manowar and stuff, and the first night we are playing with Metallica and Fear Factory-it’s better the first night!’ She laughs.

Are you planning to play England at all?
‘Hmmm, I don’t know. With the first one-no, because we will go around Germany, Belgium, and Holland. Maybe with the second tour, with Grip Inc, if we play with them we will play England…I don’t know where!’ she laughs.

What is your favorite track from the new album?
‘My favorite? Maybe ‘My Wings’, because it is the most different. And ‘To Myself I Turned’. But I like all the songs-of course! But these are my favorite.’

What lies behind the lyrics of ‘To Myself I turned’?
‘It’s strange, because it is a particular story, because it is a co-operation between Valdimar!??? And me- I wrote the vocal line and the lyrics, and he wrote the music. And it is a love story, but I cannot say more because it is personal…it is not a story of mine, but I cannot say because it’s really really personal!’ she laughs. ‘I can’t explain!’

It doesn’t seen like a love story…
‘It is not a real love story, but ‘To Myself I Turned’ is about a couple that break up, and talks about the sensation afterwards. When I say ‘I’m the only survivor in this land’, I try to say that you have to survive after a love story like that…’

OK-why did you choose to re-record ‘Falling’ from the mini-album?
‘First of all, because it was the only song that Marco the bass player wrote without the other members of the old band. And because this is the original version-not the one from the old album. And we wanted to use the loop of the drums and the distorted guitars, but because of the other members, we chose to keep the version (on the mini-album) very smooth. That’s why we chose to put it on again, but now how we wanted to play it.’

Apart from ‘Love’, what else inspires your lyrics?
‘It depends, because we are not very good at speak English, so we try to transform the sensation given by the music, to write it down. I don’t know if you can understand what I say? Laughs Cristina again. ‘We try to suck all the sensations, and write after we listen to the music. Or, we talk about little stories about the everyday life. It depends… but ‘To Myself I Turned’ is very personal. ‘My Wings’ talks about the freedom to be how you want to be. ‘Stately Lover’ talks about people who follow the laws too much, and we don’t agree, because you have to be yourself.’

There seems to be a sort of yearning in the lyrics for escapism-a sort of search for a fantasy-is this correct? (We took several attempts to try and share an understanding of what I was asking here!)
‘Erm, no-not so much. We try to stay in reality. We try to use the fantasy only in some parts, like in the artwork. But we try to stay with real stories, something that has really happened, real sensations, but not fantasy, no. Sorry for my English, but…’ she laughs.

The artwork on the new album is very fantasy based…
‘It was a co-operation between us and a German artist, and we chose to do some body painting, and to use ourselves instead of models or something like that. We wanted to be like two strange creatures in a wood, in a fantastic world. And to be in a reverie-like the title of the album. And we wanted it to be about nature, because when you are in a wood, for example, you are free, because you can scream, you can do everything-there is nobody there to look at you. And that’s why we chose a wood sceneography; to be like, you know, elf creatures-but only because we wanted to do something special-not for a real meaning. We wanted a special cover to attract attention.’

So do you feel that everyday society suppresses the freedom of people to be free?
‘Oh yes, of course. You know, there is a lot of censorship. And I think that metal is the worst kind of music you can do if you don’t want to be censored, because metal is a very small scene. For example, if you do hip-hop, you can talk about every shit you want, but if you are in metal, you are seen as dirty-if you have long hair, you are a criminal. There is a lot of discrimination. It’s really hard to say what you want, if you don’t want to have all the press at you.

When did the idea of dual vocals emerge?
‘I came later to the band, because before ’96 the band was different you know. Only one male vocal, and he used to sing in a different way-more growl, more like black metal, or something like that. They asked me if I wanted to try and to sing for them, but only for a chorus you know-only a little part. And when they saw the results, they asked me to stay in the band, as a member. So I said ‘Yes’, and everything happened from then.

How do you think they would have developed if you hadn’t joined them?
‘Erm, that is really hard. Erm, I don’t really know. I think that the music would be the same-the only difference is maybe with the image. When you have a girl in the band, you have more attention from the press, because that is something special. The metal scene is a male scene-there are not so many girls who play with bands.

Does that kind of media focus annoy you?
‘Yes!’ she laughs, ‘because sometimes the press try to see me as a sex symbol, and I’m not-I’m really normal. I try to do my best when I sing, and I don’t want to be, you know, too much in front of the band. I mean, it can be a help, because if you are in the press and on the radio, and if you do more interviews, it is better for the band. But, in my personal opinion, it is not so good!’ she laughs. ‘Because they principally look at you, and they listen to the music-to the band.’

I’ve noticed in reviews and features that you are constantly compared with The Gathering, which strikes me as a lazy comparison. How do you feel about that?
‘I mean, it is a compliment, because I like Anneke’s voice, and I like the music they play, but I think that we are totally different. It is normal to compare us to The Gathering because we have female vocals, we play quite a similar style, we have the same label; but right now, the directions are totally different. They choose to play a different style, like Pink Floyd orientated, and we choose to stay more into metal-into our roots!’ she laughs. ‘But it is normal for bands to be compared. Maybe only bands like Metallica and Marilyn Manson are not compared!’

Do you have any religious interests?
‘Erm, no. I believe in something, but, you know, I don’t go to the church every Sunday. I like to believe in something, because it makes me strong-I don’t know why, but when I’m sad, when I’m depressed, to think that there is…something after. But I’m not Christian, or have any special religion to follow. I believe in peace, and I believe in my own personal god.

And any political interests?
‘No. No. Absolutely…I hate politics! She laughs.

A lot of the lyrics seem to be about Love-what does love mean to you?
‘Mmm, I think that it is the most important thing in the word! Like Madonna says, ‘Nothing really matters-Love is all we need.’ And I think its true-you can go everywhere if you love somebody and if you are loved. I think that money can’t buy love-nothing can buy love. I’m really romantic in this way!’

When did you realise you wanted to be a singer?
‘Aaah, in about ’91, because I’ve always liked to sing, but I never really thought about becoming a singer in a band. I only liked to sing, but alone. I don’t know why I never thought to do something like this, but if the band hadn’t asked me to join them, I would be doing something else.’

And when did you begin writing songs?
‘Writing songs? Erm, with Lacuna Coil in ’96. Because I’m very good at finding the vocal line in the music. But I’m not very good at, you know, to find the words!’ She laughs, ‘I have to improve my English! As you can listen!’

What are your earliest childhood memories?
‘Erm, earliest? … I can’t remember!’ she laughs. ‘There is nothing special, because my family is a normal Italian family. I spent a lot of very beautiful times, but not very special, you know. No, I had a very very normal childhood. I never traveled a lot when I was younger…so I think it is better right now. I grew up in the city-there is nothing special in a city. We didn’t have fields or mountains, or anything really beautiful to see.’ She laughs, ‘we only see smog and cars. I’m sorry!’

You have described Britain as ‘fashion led’, and where image is more important than music. What did you mean by that?
‘Mmm, yes. I agree! Because every time we see London on TV, every time the image is more important than the music. There are a lot of bands, not only in London, but we only see, for example, MTV. And you can see first of all the image- a very beautiful video, with strange clothes-and it is good to see, because image is very important, but in Italy it is not the same. We have singers with a very simple image-you know, the ‘good boy next door’. We don’t really have an image in Italy. It’s really hard-you would never find a Marilyn Manson in Italy, for example. Never. There is a lot of censorship in this way. You can find, maybe the drag queens dressed like Marilyn Manson. But there are very very few people. There is not the freedom like in London. There are a lot of Italian people I know who have gone to London for this reason. Because there is more freedom. If I wanted to wear completely black, here in Italy all the people look at me. It’s stupid, but…Italy is very conservative. Even the main commercial magazines-you can see only perfect guys and girls. You would never see a big magazine for heavy metal, for example. There are very few people who follow any kind of strange music. In Italy, the main music is the classical music.’ (I think she is referring to the standard commercial music-Ed)

So how did you get into alternative music?
‘Because I hate the classical Italian music! She laughs, ‘I think it is very stupid, it is useless. Every time they write the same song, and try to convince people it is the same song! The music is still the same, from the first song, but with a different lyric. It’s all stupid!’

How do you see the future of the band?
‘Ooof, it is very hard. I hope to live with our music-this is my dream. And for the future, I don’t know. We have a lot of promotion to do, these two tours, and it is really hard to think about after. Because we are concentrating on that now. But I think with the next album we will be more powerful, to try, maybe, to experiment with something new. To find new ways to sing. I want to research different types of style-to listen to different stuff, like Celtic music, and Arabian music-why not? I want to study.’

This next question is one that we always ask people, but if you could be an animal, what kind of animal would you choose to be?
‘Aaah, that is really hard, because I love animals, but in a very strange way, because I am completely mad for animals. I don’t know, I love dogs, But I don’t think I’d like to be a dog!’ she laughs. ‘Maybe…maybe a panther. Yep. Because I like their femininity-it is really sexy, really aggressive, but her sounds are really sweet. I like the image they have and the sweetness and the aggressivity.

You’ve been asked that question before haven’t you?
‘No! Never.’ She laughs. ‘Maybe I’d be a cat…but I prefer to be a panther.’

A panther is better, because everyone says they’d be a cat! Right, if you could visit any where in the world. Where would you go? 
‘Tokyo! Because I’m really interested in, you know, video games, and this kind of stuff. And there is great for this kind of stuff. I’d like to go to Tokyo only to buy video games! And some things for computers. I’m really into that! Has anyone said Tokyo before?’

‘No, no-one’s ever said Tokyo before!’
‘Aah-good.’

Talking of videos, have you any plans to make one for your songs?
‘Er, no- I don’t think so, because we want to do a beautiful video. If you don’t have the budget to make a good video, I think that it’s useless. So I think that we prefer to wait. It is better to have just one good video which is very very good, than ten videos not very good’.

How do you see the music scene developing across Europe?
‘There are a lot of bands that are growling right now. In Italy, there is not a big scene, but there a lot of good bands, like Rhapsody-they are quite famous all around Europe. But I’m not too interested in the new bands that are not from Italy. But I’m not so much into it-I only read the magazines, but I don’t know too many new bands. I try to only concentrate on Lacuna Coil right now.’ She laughs, ‘I don’t have time to follow other bands. I want to do it, because I want to hear what is happening, but…’

By which point the allocated time was more than up and we had to end the interview. KAL