Chic And Destroy / Interview with Cristina Scabbia
It’s a sunny afternoon in the middle of September and it’s just our luck that Hammer is locked away in a disused warehouse in north London. But we can’t really complain we’re in very good company. Cradle of Filth mainman Dani Filth, Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen and Lacuna Coil frontwoman Cristina Scabbia have just finished posing for this month’s cover. Dani is prancing around the room like an evil little pixie entertaining us with his amusing anecdotes and berating Cristina for – allegedly – necking his wine.
“Dani I only had sip,” she giggles trying but failing miserably to shoot him a stern look. “You drank the rest of the bottle and you’ve forgotten already!”
“I don’t know, you really can’t leave anything lyiung around here can you?” tuts Dani, slying one of Hammer snaper Johny Mac’s cigarettes in the palm of his hand. Dani stomps off to the bathroom in a faux huff while Cristina reclines on one of the large black leather sofas in the corner of the room. Blue-grey plumes of smoke dance around her face as she takes another long, hard pull on her cigar. She picks up a women’s magazine and thumbs through its page until she arrives at the horoscopes page.
“I never really pay attention to what my horoscope says,” she tells Hammer with a warm smile. “But, I’m going to have a look anyway.”
She drags her index finger down the page until she finds her star sign.
“Gemini,” she announce. “Let’s see what the stars have in store for me: ‘The last few months have been pretty traumatic for you. There have been a lot of dramatic changes in your life. But here is a promise. It’s safe to relax. Honestly it is. All that truly needs to happen, has happened.
“That is just so true,” she gasps in astonishment as she passes Hammer the magazine. While we don’t really instil a great amount of faith in horoscopes as ours says. ‘You’re going to have an uncomfortable experience when Mars comes into contact with Uranus’, in the case of Cristina and her band, theirs couldn’t be more apt.
Nigh on 18 months ago, the Italian sextet weren’t even known outside Europe and even then – bar their zealot supporters in the UK press and at the Brit arm of their label Century Media – Lacuna Coil weren’t even considered a real priority, not even by their label’s other international offices. But four months of constantly touring in the US where no-one had even heard of them, except for marketing people behind Evanescence of course, who we shall say borrowed heavily from Lacuna Coil’s image and sound, has finally paid off for the Italians. The group’s latest album, ‘Comalies’, has now shifted in excess of 150,000 units Stateside and it’s still going strong. As you’re all well aware, success breeds success. The first single to be culled from ‘Comalies’. ‘Heavens a Lie’, was the most played song on US alternative radio earlier this year.
“It’s weird to have sold so many copies of an album which is actually two years old,” explains Cristina. “The fact is the US just discovered it later than everyone else. Last year we started touring there with Type 0 Negative and Anthrax, when it just happened that we got a lot of attention from the radio stations with ‘Heavens A Lie’. Then we did the POD tour, followed by Ozzfest. We did everything step by step, it’s not like everything happened in an instant. We really had to work for it. The US was an amazing experience for us, I love touring there, and playing on Ozzfest was really good exposure for us. We met so many people and we learnt a lot, we really did. No I could never say it sucked because I had a great time!
Having just completed a stint on the mega metal extravaganza that is Ozzfest, Lacuna Coil not only won new fans in the audience, but they also won over some of the biggest names in heavy metal. After a gruelling slog around the arse end of white trash America Lacuna Coil can now count former Pantera/current Superjoint Ritual vocalist Phil Anselmo, Slipknot (Cristina is proudly wearing one of the Iowa nonet’s t-shirts) and the mighty Judas Priest as die hard fans of the band.
“I’ve got a funny story about Priest,” she giggles. “1 was doing a radio interview at the time and the rest of the guys in the band were sat in catering talking to Marta from Bleeding Through. There were very few women on the Ozzfest tour, so I guess you could be forgiven for thinking she was me if she was sat with the rest of my band. We’re both skinny and she’s got black hair like me too, but she’s a lot paler than I am. What else can I say? I always like to have a tan!
Anyway Rob Halford came over and asked if he could sit at their table. The guys in the band were so excited, I mean Judas Priest are really big rock stars and they normally keep themselves to themselves. They only come on site just before they play, so Rob walking into catering was really unheard of. He said to Marta ‘How’s it going? I remember you from the Ozzfest press conference a few months ago. I really like your band. I think you guys are great.’ Poor Marta didn’t know where to look. She didn’t have the heart to tell him she wasn’t me!”
Aw bless! Rob has never really had an eye for the ladies has he? But it’s not all fun and games being in a touring band. You really have to work your ass off to get anywhere. As Cristina puts it, “you really need a lot of balls to get somewhere in this business”
“It’s not easy being in a touring band,” she explains. “Everyone whose tries to start this kinds of career thinks it’s all sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. But in reality that’s nowhere near the truth. It’s not easy to be on the road, far from it in fact. You have a lot of spare time hanging around doing nothing. You’re away from home and you really start to miss your parents and your boyfriends and girlfriends. You never really get to eat a proper meal and you can go for days and days without something as basic as a shower. You might think you’re seeing the World, but you’re not really. Even if you stop in different places you don’t really get to see any of the sights of the city. Plus sometimes you’re tired or you’re sick and you still have to get up there and play and give 110 percent on stage. It’s not like, ‘Hey I’ve got a record deal, I’m instantly going to be famous’. You really have to spill blood to get where you want to be.”
Yes ladies and jelly babies, life on the road is helluva tough. And even being in as tight a unit as Lacuna Coil are (they’ve been together as a band since 1996) tempers can begin to fray.
“You see each other for months and months at a time and there’s just no privacy on the road, Cristina continues. “Your only privacy is your own bunk. And I’m quite lucky that I’m tiny and don’t really need that much space, but you only go to your bunk to sleep! We still love each other to death and we’re really tight and I think you can see that on stage, but after a tour you just need some time to chill out on your own. But that’s never too long because we’re all friends outside of the band. We’re always going to the same rock clubs in Milan and hanging out.”
Cristina’s mobile phone buzzes.
“See, I’ve just got a text message from one of the guys in my band,” she beams, and then she giggles. “Ha! Typical. He hasn’t bothered to ask me how I am or how things are going, he’s just asked me to pick up some root beer when I go to the States on holiday tomorrow. Charming!”
All joking aside, professionally Lacuna Coil the most successful they’ve ever been. But unfortunately for the band, in a personal capacity, things really came to a head on Ozzfest. While Hammer aren’t the ones to gossip(!), it wasn’t the best kept secret in the world that Cristina and Lacuna Coil bassist Marco Coti Zelati were an item and had been even before the band started. But after 10 years together, the couple split up on the Ozzfest tour, fuelling Internet rumours that she is now dating Slipknot guitarist James Root.
“I’d prefer not to get into this,” sigh Cristina. “Please? Not now. Maybe one day I’ll talk about what happened. It’s my private life. People might want to know everything about me as an artist but my private life…It’s my private life y’know? And people I care about are going to get hurt reading this.”
Okay, moving swiftly one…being a (recently) single girl in the predominantly male Ozzfest, Cristina was the object of desire for pretty much all of the male members in all of the other bands (except Rob Halford of course). She was a real hit with The SOC (for the uninitiated, that’s The Shirts Off Crew).
“I don’t even know who started it,” she explains. “But the original Shirts Off Crew basically consisted of Corey from Slipknot, some of the guys from Bleeding Through, Randy from Lamb Of God, and Keith from Every Time I Die too. Basically it was a bunch of guys from the second stage who, in the evening after everyone had played, would take their tops off and run around doing stupid things to let off steam. They’d charge onto each other’s buses and pull pranks on one another or all get drunk around the barbeque. As the tour went on there were about 50 of them in total and, one night, they decided to storm the main stage while Black Sabbath were playing. Security tried to stop them, but there were judt too many members of The Shirts Off Crew for them to handle. Anyway, they stormed the main stage and got the whole crowd chanting ‘Shirts Off! Shirts Off!’ and even Ozzy joined in from the stage! It was amazing to watch.”
Some of the more debonair members of the SOC even had the audacity to ask Cristina if she wanted to ‘take her top off and join in the fun!’.
“At one point they asked me to become a member which really made me laugh,” she grins. “I told them that I might be a tomboy, but I have two brothers and there are five guys in my band, so I’m not naïve enough to fall for those kind of lines! I did however teach them all how to say ‘senza maglia’ which is ‘shirtless’ in Italian.”
Aside from her seeing her walking around backstage every day, her invitation to join the gang of bawdy boys came shortly after pictures of Cristina posing for a US men’s magazine were posted online. The SOC got hold of them and instantly heralded her as THE Ozzfest sex symbol.
“That was so funny,” she recalls. “Those shots came out really, really good. But y’know what? I just look at them and think, ‘Hey, that’s not me!’ I don’t wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, ‘Wow! I’m not’, but I do like feeling sexy. I think it’s a state of mind y’know? I don’t go out in high heels all the time, and even though I play in a heavy metal band I’m a woman. I don’t want to act like a man, I want to keep my femininity. And that’s really great. It goes to show that even if you’re not tall, and you haven’t got blonde hair and blue eyes and you’re not super perfect, that you can still be sexy.”
After a couple of months off, Lacuna Coil are set to hit the studio to record the follow-up to the highly acclaimed ‘Comalies’. And, judging by the waves this band are making right now, they’ve got the style and the substance to make it huge.