Metal Maniacs / May 2004
Lacuna Coil – Torrential!
“I don’t plan anything. Anytime you plan something, it doesn’t come out quite as you planned,” quips a reflective Cristina Scabbia from a cell phone somewhere in Milan, Italy. She’s relaxed, if a bit weary from more than a year of virtually endless touring and escalating recognition she and Lacuna Coil have accidentally – though deservingly – reaped. Still though, the forever feisty front-woman is eager to chat about the musical enigma that is Comalies, a record that’s garnered enormous success since its October 2002 domestic release. And it’s not just the US coddling the elastic beauty of Comalies. The record’s triumph has had a bit of a domino-effect past US shores. “When you do something good in America, apparently the rest of the world loves you even more,” she points out. “One of the biggest magazines in Italy regarding metal and rock [is giving] us the cover! We don’t have anything coming out right now and nothing coming out anytime soon. It’s solely because of the attention that we are getting here! We are the first Italian band to get any real attention here. We actually toured more times here and this is something that’s really hard for a European band, especially from Italy. We are the only one that did something and that makes us really proud. We’re totally proud and totally satisfied. This is the biggest thing for us because it’s something totally unexpected.”
Her words are sincere and without conceit. Lacuna Coil has indeed become quite the household name over the post 15 months having shared the stage with the likes of Anthrax, Opeth, Type 0 Negative, the more commercially accessible 3 Doors Down and their own one month headlining stint just before year’s end – and that’s just the terrain covered here in the states. The band’s Patric Ulaeus (Dimmu Borgir) directed “Heaven’s A Lie” video is getting video play on both MTVs revamped Headbanger’s Ball and Uranium’s Fuse and by late October, the hit single was in regular rotation on over 65 commercial rock stations nationwide! Not a bad feat for a band who, until the release of Comalies, was relatively nameless in the states beyond the precincts of underground and the band’s fanatical online disciples. (Check out their infinitely high-traffic website at: www.lacunacoil.net.) Skeptics are quick to push Comalies aside as a mere case of good timing, fingers pointing towards another Goth rock success-story, Evanescense (who, some would say merely used Lacuna Coil as a stencil). But after spinning this record an incalculable amount of times, I’m still caught in its grandiose web of regal beauty. Comalies will stand the test of time – something that simply can’t be said about … wait, what was that other band called?
“We were surprised not so much for Europe,” Scabbia admits, “we know our potential in Europe but we never expected to get this attention in America especially one year after the release of the album. That’s the weirdest thing. The record in the US came out one month after the release in Europe so it’s weird to see that we’re getting a lot of attention so late.” But recognition late is certainly better than never.
Fact is, Lacuna Coil’s been crafting markedly heavy melodic tunes of majesty since ’94 under their original moniker of Sleep Of Right. The hand later changed their name to the more fitting Ethereal, cut a demo that tickled the pickles of the A&R moguls at Century Media and were officially signed just a year later. The band was forced to change their name a third time (Ethereal was
Already copyrighted and in use elsewhere) to Lacuna Coil before releasing their self titled debut EP. A metallic post-goth metal amalgam of passion and persistence with an enticing yin-yang duelling of male/female vocals, the EP revealed a lavish foreshadow of sounds to come. ’99′s , In A Reverie boasted thick riffing and sultry harmonies and an undeniably melancholy edge evoking feelings of agony and ecstasy all neatly packaged into 9 tracks; 41 minutes. By 2001’s Unleashed, the band had added a second guitarist (the final lineup featuring Scabbia, male vocalist Andrea Ferro, guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazzi, bassist Marco Coti Zelati and drummer Cristiano Mozzati) and succeeded in sculpting a distinct, hammering and rather delicious sound to call their own. With more attention paid to the juxtaposition of the male and female vocals combined with a weightier rhythm section, darker lyrics and a track sung entirely in their native tongue (“Senzafine”), Unleashed Memories’ overall composition was simply astounding.
Still, there’s no denying the almost painfully addictive qualities of Comalie. Each song is its, own perceptive story book, the twine of Scabbia and Ferro’s words and resonance painting lush backdrops, of romance, triumph, suffering and beyond; food for the psyche. Each song is empowering, intoxicating, thick, baroque – the sort of experimental dynamics that weigh in on your soul even when you’re not paying attention to the actual words being sung. See, the Scabbia/Ferro tag team are their own instruments; the lyrics, their notes; the melodies = the emotion behind the song. While the guitars are more streamlined here than past efforts, songs like the cryptic, slow-building “Humane” and “Daylight Dancer,” the more ethereal “Aeon” and “Comalies” and the climactic, wholly moving title track (sung half in Italian) are more than songs – they’re tiny soundtracks to life – fervent, passionate, motivating and entirely catchy. Some will continue to debate Comalies’ “heaviness” but some records are simply heavy in terms of atmosphere and Comalies is damn near torrential.
The songstress has managed to take the band’s every accomplishment in stride. “I like to keep my feet on earth. Everything good that has happened to me and the band, I take it, I love it, I appreciate it. I’m not the kind of person that gets too much beside it. I’m really a calm and quiet person. I enjoy everything that is happening to me without expecting too much.” There’s an unspoken phenomenon that comes with a band’s rise in popularity – the fans’ view that band X is somehow omnipotent, all powerful and somehow above getting rundown from weeks of vigorous touring. Hey, it’s all a part of rock’n’roll but then we’re all human. Legend has it even God took a smoke-break on Sunday. How has Scabbia and company held up? “All the touring,” she signs. “I’m starting to get a little bit tired. When we were home for a month after the Type 0 tour, we didn’t even realize it. We had so much to do, so much more promotion. This job,” she continues adamantly, “it’s a wonderful job but sometimes you just wish you could be back home for awhile. It’s tough especially on a headlining tour because if you’re a supporting band you just have to play but you know, every night 70 – 80 minutes, it gets tough.” What about all us pesky journalists, I wonder. She’s probably had about enough of us. “I’m not tired of the interviews,” she assures. “I like talking to people. I’m just fired of trying to make the time. You have to deal with scheduling and you know, just an hour here just an hour there and most of the time you have to do it really early in the morning or a journalist will request an interview right before the show and that’s really bad because you have to talk and this is something you should avoid but it’s part of the job and you have to accept it. I’m proud of it.”
So while fatigue and hectic schedules are simply part of the game, how would one go about keeping those glorious pipes in tiptop song voice? For a Lacuna Coil without the enchanting coos of Scabbia to compliment the rugged barks of Ferro is simply no ‘Coil at all. “I do nothing special,” she says. “The bad thing is that I talk too much [laughing] but I’m Italian and that’s what we do [both laughing]. I don’t smoke and that’s good. I don’t drink too much on tour, I have some teas to drink and stuff like that but I don’t do anything special. With experience you learn how to sing in a better way for you. I never took lessons in my life so I don’t know which is the best to keep your voice warm or to use it the best way but I know which is my best way. I know how to keep my breath a certain way and you know, I just know how to keep my voice the best for a gig. Of course, in some cases you can’t help it. On this tour I’m fine which is unusual. I always get sick.”
“The US has better things on the road,” she continues of how the mere roadside conveniences of the US can often take some of the edge off the touring process. “You have truck stops where you can do your laundry. There’s places where you can have a proper shower, you can eat even in the night and that’s really difficult in Europe. We don’t have anything like that. It’s really uncommon to find a place to do laundry on the road and the truck stops we have, they just have stuff to eat and that’s it. We don’t have restaurants open in the night and that makes everything more difficult.”
Our conversation gravitates towards the tours themselves, the exposure to so many new audiences and sharing a bill with the mighty Type 0 Negative who’ve been a great influence on the band for many (full) moons. “I’ve been such a big fan for a lot of years so being on tour with them was an honor,” Scabbia chimes excitedly. “First and it was just a wonderful thing because they’re great people, absolutely great. We’re honored to be respected by them. They’re so down-to-earth and they’re just amazing as musicians. We did the show in Brooklyn [L’Amours] and Peter [Steele] just brought us out for dinner. I was thrilled. Everyone in the bond was amazing.”
But after so many months on a bus with the same people, when exactly does the fun and excitement end and the bickering begin? Scabbia’s quick to answer. “We are a family. I mean, this job, I think is impossible to get along with for a lot of time if you’re not in a good relationship with the members of the bond. We see each other more than girlfriends and families because we’re always together in the same tour bus and you know, sometimes we fight but that’s normal. As a human being it’s impossible to always be happy. Sometimes YOU just get annoyed. Sometimes you want to be by yourself and you always have people around you. It’s normal. We know each other for a lot of years and it’s going pretty good.”
When the band wasn’t sound checking or answering redundant questions about album titles, favorite foods and footwear (and let’s face it, Scabbia has some truly fabulous kicks), they did managed to get in some good shopping at our many malls. “We always stop by shopping malls,” Cristina laughs. “There are so many! We did a lot of shopping, bought lots of stuff at Hot Topic, got a lot of Nightmare Before Christmas stuff!’ [At this point the interview veers off into Nightmare Before Christmas shores, a movie we're both apparently obsessed with.]
Chitchat among Internet users about the band’s next venture have been in full force. “We’re not that kind of band,” Scabbia says when asked if the band’s done any writing on the road. “We need to be home and concentrate on the music. We’re not a country band. We can’t just sit down and play guitars. Our music is more complicated, it’s more researched and you can’t do proper research on the road. We do have a lot of ideas though,” she reassures. “We have some songs at home but they’re not totally finished. We still have to search for the vocal lines and all the arrangements because you know, you change structures a thousand times but we have to do another album soon.” Does she have any thoughts on where their sound might go from here? “I think it will be heavier. We’ll keep some of the melodic stuff. We like to keep the balance; that feeling. We never like to do something only extreme or only mellow. We want to do something balanced. We’ll experiment…the finished product is always something different.” And what about another song entirely in Italian? “I don’t know,” comes the response. “The only one we have is ‘Senzafine’ from Unleashed Memories and ‘Comalies’ which was half in Italian and half in English which was something that came out naturally. We didn’t really plan an Italian song for the Italian market. A lot of people like it when we sing in Italian but it has to fit perfectly. We can’t do something just because people request it. We have to feel it first.”