Published in Metal Edge Magazine in February 2004
Article By: Mark Kohler
“I’m short,” Cristina Scabbia says with a mix of mock exasperation and adamant pleading. “I am not as tall as I look in the pictures, and I want to make that clear! I am tiny, Really tiny! I’m small… Happy to be small, but I’m small.”
The diminutive singer of Italy’s Lacuna Coil is about six hours from taking the stage at Syracuse, New York’s Planet 505. A small contingent of dedicated admirers has already been on hand outside the small club for hours waiting for their chance to speak with Scabbia. Her band mates start to stir from sleep inside the bus and begin to mill about the tiny college town suburb as if dark clothes, braided locks and goth appeal were as ordinary as the Domino’s Pizza joint across the street.
Some fnas came bearing gifts. Some want a photo. Some just want a chat. All are quiet, well behaved and somewhat deferential in their approach. Once they get over the fact that Scabbia isn’t six feet tall, they also begin to realize she and her band mates are about the most approachable group of rising hard rock stars one could possibly imagine.
Regardless of how she or the band are feeling, a genuine caring for themselves, the fans and the music shines through and reveals just a glimpse as to why this band is starting to grow a genuine following in the United States.
“Sometimes it’s hard, because sometimes the last thing you want is to meet people,” the singer says. “It’s not something against people, it’s just that sometimes you need your moment alone… Then you realize the people came to see you. You realize how important it is for them to see you. And it’s important for you too to see them, because they are always really nice, They bring me a lot of gifts, they are never rude, they are always so cute….”
It’s that kind of refreshing attitude intertwined and applied to Lacuna Coil’s brand of goth-carpeted, soaring hard rock that makes the band’s performances so believable. You see, no one told Lacuna Coil to vamp, preen or present an image for industry consumption. They are still untouched by the machinery of crushing art to fit into product. Lacuna Coil’s endearingly unfettered dedication to their craft puts them beyond reproach from critical detractors looking to say something cynical or mean about them.
Because they believe, so will you.
The long history of Italian drama, theatre and tragic themes expressed in Italy’s artistic past are living representations in Lacuna Coil’s music not by design, but simply by who they are. “I love to be theatrical on stage,” Scabbia says. “Even if I don’t wear special clothes, I think it’s really important to show people facial expressions and how you feel. Sometimes I even cry because I really feel the song I am singing.”
This is why older audience members feel like teenagers again. This is why teenagers raised with the expectation to mosh, suddenly find themselves caught in a confusing swirl of dramatic crescendos and cresting energy. The audience is actually listening, mesmerized by the purity of spirit coming through in the performance, and caught in the air by Scabbia’s intoxicating vocals.
This is why Scabbia seems taller. As a unit, Scabbia, vocalist Andrea Ferro, guitarist Cristiano Migliore, bassist Marco Coti Zelati, drummer Cristiano Mozzati and guitarist Marco Emanuele Biazzi can best be described by one of their own song titles from Comalies, “Entwined.”
Disagreements rarely enter into the process. Once the music is written, Scabbia and Ferro head in separate directions to write their own interpretations of the lyrics. Both singers swear, even though there is discussion, what they come up with is hardly tampered with or squabbled over.
“We have the music,” Ferro says. “It doesn’t matter if my idea fits to Cristina, or her idea fits to me. If it’s the best idea for the song, that’s what we care about. We share, for example, all the copyrights, all the money. I don’t care if I write thirty-five percent and you write forty, or who writes twenty… We never fight about that. We can discuss that, but if the idea really fits, it doesn’t matter. It has to be the best for the song and not my part. That’s why we write songs by Lacuna Coil from a certain time on, because we don’t want to write a song just to have the copyright or show that I am the main writer. We just want to have the best song for the band.”
Scabbia, not surprisingly, agrees that everything just fits together because of the bands’s aforementioned genuine caring. “We are like a family,” she says. “We’ve known each other for a long time, so we basically have the same ideas about life. If not, it would be impossible for us to stay together for seven years. Even if we are at home, we are not just session men,’ just meeting up when we have to tour. We are really friends. So basically, we have the same point of view. And yes, we have a different approach, but I think it’s interesting.
“Our vision about the vocals is to have another two instruments to freely use in the compositions. It’s something to add, but we don’t pretend to be philosophers or poets. We don’t care, because we are not. We are just normal human beings talking about normal things, we are not interested to give a message to the people or to teach something because, actually, no one can teach you something.You have to learn stuff by yourself, with experience.”
While most bands in the goth or goth metal genre use female vocalists as basically a window dressing to set a mood, Scabbia is the mood. Her ambient vocals stick out but, at the same time, also seen submerged. That holds true with Ferro and the rest of the band. No one part is greater than the sum, and the music is, well, entwined.
“When I sing,” Ferro says, “I sing certain things that fit to male vocals, more energetic vocals. We try to fit the words and she sings the more atmospheric parts. The words have to flow in that type of mood and part.”
“It’s like I said, we are two instruments to add to the composition,” Scabbia adds. “We are not the main thing. Of course, me and Andrea appear more in the pictures because that’s normal for the lead singers, but talking about the music during the gig, people will not just come up to me and Andrea with compliments, but to all of the band. It’s an ensemble, it’s all together, it’s something more compact.”
There’s something about this approach that obviously works. Since the late 2002 release of Comalies, Lacuna Coil have made two trips to the U.S. in 2003, all based largely on the strength of the single “Heaven’s A Lie.”
This is a rather rare commodity for a European rock band of any genre. Thanks also to the whetting of American appetites from the band’s second full length, Unleashed Memories, and a subsequent brief U.S. tour with Moonspell in 2001, Lacuna coil are one of the lucky few bands that have been able to generate sustained swell in the U.S. in conjunction with an already solid European fan base.
“We didn’t expect to have this success for Lacuna Coil here,” Scabbia says, “because it’s a really far country and it’s really expensive to come here and play. So, of course, the label has to support you a lot. We are totally satisfied about the job we did so far, because the sales are going up every single day. There is a lot of buzz around us. A lot of bands contact us to play with them, even very big bands form big labels. So, we are very satisfied.. Of course, it’s been easier for us to get popular in Europe because it was closer and we had the occasion to play in the main festivals. We got a lot of promotion.”
Promotion is starting to build here, as well. Lacuna Coil are shooting a new video for “Heaven’s A Lie” because MTV’s demand for the song required something more stylish than the original video. “We did it like an experiment, because a lot of people were requesting a video to rotate because we were getting a lot of attention from the radio,” Scabbia says. “When we did this video, it was very low budget with a friend of ours, but it actually came out very well for the budget we had. It just doesn’t make sense to do another song right now, with ‘Heaven’s A Lie’ getting a lot of attention.”
Word of mouth stemming from the delayed tour with Opeth, dates with Anthrax, selected headlining shows, and an extended tour with Type O Negative have also boosted the band. For Scabbia, touring with Type O Negative is reward enough. “Type O was perfect because we’ve been big fans for years,” she says. “In the old interviews I said I would love to go tour with them, but it was something I didn’t expect to happen. It’s something that I will never forget. With Anthrax, it was a challenge. They have very old-school fans who are suspicious about us. We are a new band playing a different style, so we had to push out all our energies. It was worth it, we got a lot of new fans.”
Winning over Anthrax fans is quite a challenge indeed. Even though Lacuna Coil doesn’t seem to “fit” with what’s going on in mainstream metal, the band’s growing success is proof that they are up to any challenge.
Comalies is speaking for itself as the most cohesive and distinctive record from the band to date. Lacuna Coil have graduated from the more “melancholic” (as Scabbia puts it), mellower Unleashed Memories, into more defining harmonies and melodies on Comalies. “It’s something that came out really spontaneously,” she says. “This time, with Comalies, for the first time we co-produced the album. So even with sounds, we choose our own sounds with guitars and drums. We really wanted to have the guitars and drums front, not like the previous release where the vocals were more in front like a lot of gothic bands. We just wanted something completely different. This is something we’ve wanted to do for years and years. This time we said, ‘Okay, now we’re going to focus on the choice of every sound.’ And the sounds are completely different. I believe the songs came out in a positive way, in a positive vibe. More dynamic. This is something you achieve year by years and being on the road listening to a lot of stuff.”
With the demand growing for more Lacuna Coil appearances, Scabbia says plans for a new Lacuna Coil album have been pushed back until later next year, possibly the summer. But that doesn’t mean that they haven’t already started thinking about the next progression of entwinement.
“Everything is postponed,” Scabbia says. “Actually, we have a few songs but they are not ready, but at least we have some ideas of music. We still have to do the vocal lines, but we have something. I believe next year…”
“We’re not perfect musicians,” Ferro adds. “We just like to improve album by album. We have never come out with the perfect album since the beginning. There will always be things you can do better. I can improve as a singer. I’m taking some vocal lessons, because I started more growling and screaming. So now I’m learning how to sing the normal way, like Cristina. She’s a natural talent. Not to compete—-because it’s not a competition, but I have to at least share a similar level. I can’t be behind her too much. She’s really good, and it’s not easy to be on the same level as Cristina. She didn’t study for it, she’s just an amazing talent… I am already thinking of the next album. I see improvement in my vocals, so I think on the nest album I can do more. More melodic, energetic, better…”
Success has also had another side benefit for Scabbia, as she’s been able to quit her day jobs in an office and at a local pub. “I quit months and months ago,” she says. “We’re not millionaires, but we can survive now.”
Still, without that little extra income, she’s relying on the kindness of her fans to feed her knick-knack obsession. “I am a big child,” she says. “I love all the stupid stuff like the Simpsons stuff, the Family Guy stuff….” She is also actively soliciting anything to do with Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. “And diamonds please,” she adds, laughing.
Charming and disarming, Scabbia shouldn’t have too many problems fulfilling her wish list. But, with what Lacuna Coil give in return, she might have a hard time getting people to listen to the pleas about her stature.
“We say the good wine is in the small bottles,” she says with a smile.