Interview with Cristina Scabbia by Malcolm Dome
Cristina Scabbia is a little mentally dishevelled. Her band, Lacuna Coil, are about to take a flight to Mexico – and she’s about as keen on the journey ahead as a diabetic in a sugar plantation. “I hate flying at the best of times,” says the Italian beauty. “But the thought of a 12-hour journey…what do people do to pass the time? You can only sleep so much. You can only eat and drink so much… no, I’m not looking forward to getting on that plane.”
Lacuna Coil are about to make their first foray into new territory, playing shows in Mexico City with Norwegian band Theatre of Tragedy, and it’s further proof that the word is slowly spreading planet-wide on one of the hottest young bands on the European continent – this is a form of global warming of which we would all approve.
“I’m looking forward to the experience of playing over there,” continues the singer. “And we do get time off in Acapulco, so I can’t really complain, can I? It’s very warm out there and we’re freezing in Italy!”
Some folk have all the luck eh?
For Lacuna Coil, this could be a crucial year. Their second full album, ‘Unleashed Memories’, is about to be released (following on from 1999’s ‘In A Reverie’), and it will certainly add considerably to their growing fan base. At last it seems that the band are coming of age…
“Well, I don’t know about that,” opines Cristina in her sensually lifting, yet relaxed manner. “For me, we have always had our own sound, and I don’t believe that the new album is so different to what we’ve done before. I know people have always tried to explain our style, and come up terms like ‘Goth Metal’, but whenever somebody’s asked what type of music we make, I’ve said it’s Lacuna Coil music.
“But I do think that our producer [Waldemar Sorychta] has helped to refine and define what we do this time around. And we’re definitely happy with the results.”
The “we” in question are Cristina, fellow vocalist Andrea Ferro (he’s male, by the way), guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazza, bassist Marco Coti Zelati and drummer Cristiano Mozzati. But it’s clearly the sultry siren who gets most attention. Not only is she a welcome breath of style in a world where foul-mouthed, tattooed female oxen have inexplicably become sex symbols, but she has an attractive wit and bright-eyed intelligence. So it comes as something of a surprise to hear her explain what inspires her lyricism.
“It’s depression or sadness. Seriously I’m normally a happy person, but what can you write about with happiness? It’s so one dimensional. If you’re happy, that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with that emotion that makes you wanna write a song. But sadness…that can come in so many shades right? And that’s what makes me sit down and write lyrics.
“One of the songs on the new album is called ‘To Live Is To Hide’, and that comes from the fact that everyone is out in situations where we have to hide away something of the person we are and confirm to what’s expected. For me that happens when I am forced to work in an office to makes ends meet while the band take a break. I have to dress slightly differently and behave a little less enthusiastically. It’s OK, though, because all the people in the office know that I’m in a band and make allowances for my eccentricities!
“I’m also inspired to write by fear. If you listen to the song ‘When A Dead Man Walks’, then you’ll hear a dark side to nature. It’s about how you can try to deal with knowing exactly when you’re gonna die. I got the idea because there’s an Italian guy right now waiting on death row in America. It’s caused an outcry over here, because he’s Italian, not because of what he might, or might not, have done. But I’m not trying to make a point about the pros and cons of the death penalty. I wanted to get inside the mind of somebody who knows their moment of death. How do you deal with something like that? I cannot possibly conceive of how I would react to that situation. Can you? But I’ve done my best to put myself in that position. It’s an awful thought. One of the things that protects us in life is not knowing something like that. It is a blessing for which we should all be grateful.”
Heady and heavy stuff, but it is the dark, dank side of life that brings out the poet’s sould for this pleasant, bubbly personality. It’s what drives her onwards, and makes Lacuna Coil so exacting, demanding, yet ultimately fulfilling. And the tone of the album even suggest – gulp! That is a concept album? Er, no…
“Absolutely not!” exclaims the singer in horror. “I hate that idea. We will never do anything like that. Each song is self-contained and deals with a different subject. The title of the album itself comes from the fact that writing these songs allows me to bring out my memories and share them with other people.”
Yet for all the talk of how dark and depressing the mood of ‘Unleashed Memories’ can be, there is definitely a lighter side, one that is linked to acclaimed cartoon The Simpsons!
“I love The Simpsons. It’s so cool. And when we first came up with song titles, we used working ones based on characters from that show. We had songs called ‘Maggie’ and ‘Homer’…The album itself was called ‘Springfield’, after the town in which everyone lives. We had much fun doing it, and it might seem a little odd given the heavy subject matter of some of the tracks, but it’s our way of bringing a little humour into our lives…My favourite character in the series is Mr Burns – he’s just so nasty! What song on the album was originally named after him? I’m not telling you…people will have to guess! Right now, I’m really getting into another cartoon series called Futurama [created by Matt Groenig, who ‘discovered’ The Simpsons]. You never know, maybe our next album will have working titles based on that series.”
Using characters from a TV series as a basis for titling songs-in-progress is just one of the charming quirks that sets aside this band from so many. Another, of course, is their nationality. But this is slowly becoming less of an issue as Italy, hitherto a wasteland for indigenous rock music, is starting to create a scene of its own. Apart from the Coils, epic symphonic metallers Rhapsody and hardcore crew Linea 77 have both been getting international attention. And more are certain to follow. It’s something of which Cristina herself is proud.
“We are starting to get noticed. There’s a lot of good music coming out of Italy right now. What’s changed over there? I don’t know really. Perhaps people are more willing now to listen to what we have to offer, whereas in the past Italian bands were just dismissed as a waste of time. There’s a healthy diversity, which can only be good for the music scene. We are not like Rhapsody or Linea 77, apart from sharing the language. But at last, Italy is getting noticed for something apart from food…and football!”
Well, she had to mention it right? Italians are arguably more passionate about their football than almost anything else. And Cristina herself shares this obsession…
“I follow AC Milan – we win everything!” she exclaims with glee… until it’s gently pointed out to her that if AC Milan win everything, then how come they’re not champions of Series A, and they’re not in the Champions League?
“Well, we win ALMOST everything,” she laughs.
Nice to know there’s at least one flaw in this talented woman’s personality. But then what do woman know about football anyway? Cue a flood of irate mail.