Terrorizer / Sept 2003

Originally Published in issue 103 of Terrorizer.

 

UNCONSCIOUS DESIRES

Lacuna Coil are the kind of band you can love unselfishly. For all the stirring, the whipped, the masterfully souffléed emotion coursing throughout the music. listening to them isn’t exactly an autobiographical experience, in that it doesn’t recall emotions you’ve directly experienced, but rather all thoses stored away in your collective unconscious – reverie, nostalgia, melancholia, yearning – all those sensations that somehow resonate more because they’re latent, because the time and space needed to express them fully is never the here and now. They belong to chimerical pasts and futures, golden ages for which there’s always an appointment pending.
The gift these Italians offer is to tap into that emotional substrata and make it vivid, to grant you the drama that would rightfully be yours if only you were more noble, if only your landscape was more accommodating, if only your destiny truly were writ large in the stars above. They make you believe. ‘Comalies’ is the band’s most vivid statement yet, expansive, windblown and abandoned, more charged than ever before as determined metal rifts dilate into Cristina Scabbia’s gilded vocals, get roughed up by co-singer Andreas Ferro, and coast off amongst eastern melodies, spiralling guitar breaks and hooks that swell up until your heart’s at bursting point. Elsewhere in this issue, Jim Martin admits that for him. Lacuna Coil are a private pleasure, and I think I know what he means, in that the richness of their sound draws something out of you, a guard-dropping headiness you’d be embarrassed to exhibit in the visibility of a small group. And yet at the same time, ‘Comalies’ sounds like an album that belongs, more than ever to the arena, inducing a particular catharsis that belongs to the crowd, the one place where can you can truly surrender to its scope.

A CONFIDENCE SHARED

To achieve that balance between the private and the public must take a certain confidence, in your ability to zoom in and enflame an emotion, and also to communicate without losing your focus. Upstairs at the Century Media offices, Cristina Scabbia – the public face of Lacuna Coil – is nodding in agreement. ‘This is our most confident album. I think it is something natural for a band, especially if you have a lot of experience on stage, and especially in studio recording. It’s more confident because we didn’t plan anything before, we didn’t feel any pressure, so we just decided to write the music we like to do, and we thought that if the people like it that’s great, but we basically wrote everything for ourselves.
‘This time we found our real essence as a band. It’s just a sensation. It’s not something I can describe except in terms of ‘simplicity’. There’s not a clear division between what we’re doing now and what we did in the past, because we used to grow up step by step and improve step by step. We don’t like a fast change- and I would never be able to say, ‘Okay, tomorrow I will be a punk girl’. Thats not natural. We just consider our band as a person. It’s normal; you grow up and day by day you learn something new, and it’s just more mature. It’s just the typical word that everybody uses.”
And yet in most cases ‘mature’ means a softening up, a resignation towards fate. ‘Comalies’ has the most heightened drama of any album they’ve released.
“Yeah, many bands think they are mature just because they change sound. Some people think mature people, okay, get married, have children, don’t go out, but our conception of maturity is that we can be happy but we don’t need to do a very fast riff with the guitars. We worked more on the guitars. This time we used two seven-string guitars, and that sounds more bombastic compared to the other albums. But that’s our point of view of happiness. You can hear that everyone’s equalised perfectly. If you turn down the volume, you can still hear every instrument. There are a lot of bands who say, ‘Okay, we’re too mature to use distorted guitar’, and we don’t care, We like distorted guitar, but we like to use it in an elegant way.”

LIVING IN ANOTHER WORLD

The intriguing title for the album (Commalees? “Coma-lies”’ I’m firmly corrected) reflects the impressionistic nature of the band. I’m not disappointed to find out that the lyrics aren’t drawn from direct personal experience (“There are certain things I need to keep private”), because after all, what carries you up in the music isn’t so much the hooking on to individual personalities, as the way they project their emotion on to the most panoramic of screens, the way they give them free rein. But ambiguous good. Vague bad. What does it mean?
“The title came from the recording of the album.” Cristina recalls. “We just went back to our memory of the songwriting and we just analysed the atmosphere surrounding that material. It was a very weird environment, sort of like a different dimension, and we were stuck in the one room trying and trying and trying to answer our thoughts and ideas, and it was just its us a hand. no-one else, and we totally disregarded everything around us, and we forgot all the people around us; family, friends, everyone. So we compared this weird atmosphere to a coma – not in the negative sense of the word itself, but a different dimension, something far away from the rest of the people. And then as soon as we started to play with the word and the title, we just decided to use ‘Comalies’ rather than ‘Comalised’, but it basically doesn’t have a real connection to the lyrics but it reflects the atmosphere around the songwriters.”
Let’s give thanks for happy accidents and tough translation. Somehow ‘Comatoes’ wouldn’t have had the same ring. But if the emotions and the lyrics aren’t strictly personal, where do the hand draw the sensations from?
“I write lyrics when the music is done. I just sit down and listen to the music, and every sound, every melody gives you different feelings. You can get goosebumps and you can get feelings of anger from them as well. But basically as soon as we write the lyrics we use two voices as two instruments, and it’s really important to find lyrics where every word has a specific sound in the song. It’s a very unusual process, because basically you usually have the lyrics before and you try to build a song around them, but that’s not our case.”
And yet do you ever find people reading things into lyrics that weren’t there?
“It happens a lot, because we always try to stay abstract. There is not something completely clear like you could find in an epic metal song for instance, with dragons and warriors. These aren’t stories, they’re collections of ideas that we get from the music. Everything has its own sense, but we like the fact that people can get their own interpretation. That’s really cool, it’s like a trip you can offer to the people. They have to have an opportunity to dream with the music.”

THE DIVISION BELLA

Cristina Scabbia has topped the Terrorizer readers’ ‘Most shaggable female’ poll for two years running, and by the kind of massive margin that suggests her position is unassailable for the foreseeable future. It also suggests that she’s become something of an icon in the metal world. Certainly there are no other women in metal that can portray their sexuality with such awareness and it’s an integral part of the band’s identity as a whole. This
may be because she’s the sole spokesperson for a band, but also, there’s a sensuality running throughout the music for which she is a more than articulate embodiment.
“I laughed a lot when I read it the first time. I didn’t know it was the next year too, but I think it’s a vulgar way to say the ‘nicest’ girl in a way. That shows you what people dream about you just looking at the image. I could be the most dirty, most masculine person in the world, but people just look at I he pictures and they have a special image of you, and I really like to separate the private part and the public part, and that’s why I like to keep the pictures – I like to feel really sensual, but I don’t like to do something vulgar. I think it’s always nice for a girl to be an object of desire. I thank the readers!”

Does she ever worry that people think Lacuna Coil is Cristina Scabbia?
“No. but that’s normal anyway. You have to have someone to represent you in every band. There are very few exceptions, but this is due to a character who is separated from the person. In our case, it’s easier for the people to recognise the image because I’m the only female in the band. I’m the ‘different’ image. I’m glad I can help the band. If I read a magazine I always prefer to see girls – I’m not a lesbian! Don’t worry! [perhaps ‘worried’ wasn’t the first instinct – bad Ed] – but I think they can play more on their image; the make-up, the clothes.”
Which brings us to the unnecessarily thorny issue of style. There are those believe that style and content have an either/or relationship, others, such as your correspondent, who believe that bands are an entity that the visual aspect always informs the way you listen to their music, and the more outlets they have to express themselves, the better, as long as you have the skill to use them properly.
How important is the style aspect to Cristina?
“Well, of course the music is the main thing, always. I don’t think in our case the music covers the image. They have to be mixed. If I use my image and then, for example, it’s not me singing on the CD, I would never like that. The image only works if you can fill it with something important and intense. It’s me singing, people recognise I’m a good singer, so it’s okay if I use the image, because people also know I’m a good singer and that the hand is really good. I like the perfect balance. But I don’t understand when a band says. ‘We do good music, we don’t care about the image’. It’s like to have a wonderful book with a shitty cover. Lf you can have both, why? It’s like a beautiful girl with a shitty dress. You can just add something. The first album I got by Marilyn Manson I bought it because I was intrigued by the image, but through that and the music, you get the point of him. It’s not an easy thing to pull off.”
If the link between the image and the music is so strong, and if the image is so based on her femininity, is there a feminine aspect to the music that sets them apart?
Cristina mulls this one over. “Not really. I just think it’s just a question of a little ‘racism’ in the scene. When people think that if you are a girl in a band, it’s something different. Of course my voice will never be like a man. but music is just about passion, and I think female vocalists could give something that a man could never give. With my voice, I can give my passion, my femininity in music. It’s just a different instrument.”
Okay, let’s try this another way. Lacuna Coil offer an experience that most other hands can’t, largely because men tend to be very categorical. Even if their lyrics are abstracted, they will nearly always still relate to something specific. If they were fundamentally abstract, you’d probably think they were a bit gay. But Lacuna Coil’s power is in the way they create a space to inhabit, a space that takes as much, if not more, precision and attention to detail than a more explicit approach would need. And as many different feminine perspectives as there are, this is surely one of them. Does Cristina believe there’s a feminine quality in the music as a whole?
“I think it also depends on the female in the band” she muses. “For instance, Angela Gossow doesn’t have a sweet voice, it’s very bombastic, and she can use it like a man. But there’s still a lot of, ‘chicks don’t have to sing in this way’. This is stupid racism in my opinion. She’s very good at doing what she does so why not? Because she’s a woman. That sucks.”

Did you ever come across those attitudes in the beginning?
“Not really. In the very beginning we found people were suspicious because there were bands that just a female element to catch the attention, but this female element is not able to play or sing, and I hate that. Just because those few people, a lot of people think the female element sucks. Now I’m glad that people recognise that we’re doing a good job and I’m glad to get compliments about my voice. That was my main goal.
“I think I’ve been lucky. It depends on the way you act with people, the way you talk. I’m very calm, I never say shit for free about people, and I don’t want to be aggressive. If you’re not aggressive, people aren’t aggressive with you. They’re always really kind with me especially the fans. Most of the lime it’s the girls who are more aggressive with the guys. But if you show people you are with integrity, they understand and they respect you. It’s always a question of the way you show yourself.”
It’s a question for which Cristina Scabbia always has the most eloquent of answers.