The Changing Face of Lacuna Coil
Cristina Scabbia on being one of the few women in a male arena, Lacuna Coil’s new sound and her thoughts on a solo career
It’s been a little over a year since the release of Lacuna Coil’s fifth album, Shallow Life, and that saw the band move towards a more rock-oriented sound abandoning their earlier goth-metal roots. While the record was greeted with mixed reviews, it was the band’s highest charting album to date, peaking at number 16 on the Billboard Top 200 charts. “The most conservative metalheads didn’t like that we changed our sound a little bit but a lot of people loved it because they didn’t really like our metal stuff,” said vocalist and frontwoman Cristina Scabbia. “But 16th place on the Billboard charts, it’s great if you consider that we are a rock/metal band coming from Italy. Nobody’s ever done that in Italy, so it’s fantastic.” The band is continuing to tour in support of the album and will also play at the UK edition of the Sonisphere festival alongside heavyweights like Rammstein and Iron Maiden.
When you guys started out, metal bands from Italy were quite a rarity. What was the metal scene like back home?
Well, we met each other in 1994, but we started to write stuff for the promo CD that got us our first record deal in ’95 and the promo came out in ’96. Back then, everything was completely different. There was no internet, so there were not a lot of demo bands that now publish a song that they wrote the night before and think they’re god. The attitude of the band was also different, because when we started we weren’t really looking for a record deal and thinking that everything would have ended there. A deal with a label was just the beginning of a long, long trip. It was the beginning of years of hard work, a lot of sacrifices ”“ especially economic sacrifices ”“ because you basically have to give yourself to music. You literally have to sell your soul to rock because you have to leave your job, concentrate on your music, work your ass off. In the beginning, it was even more difficult because everyone was listening to and loving power metal. We started as a goth metal band because we were more influenced by bands like Type O Negative or Paradise Lost, the more obscure bands. We always liked that dark side of metal, not strictly the heavy metal side. So basically, when we started we were the white flies on the scene but that was our luck because nobody did the same thing in Italy and that’s how we got noticed and got our deal.
Your sound, like you mentioned, has also evolved considerably from your first album which was more steeped in metal up until Karmacode (2006) when you moved towards a more radio-friendly sound. Shallow Life was easily your most accessible album. Was this intentional or a natural evolution of your music?
I wouldn’t say radio-friendly sound; I would say more of a rock sound. Sometimes people confuse this, the fact that a song can be more radio friendly with better song structure. If you consider it, the greatest successes in music are the simple songs but with good chords, good lyrics, with a lot of energy. I think that’s what we wanted to do and I think with the help of a new producer, working with a new attitude in a new studio and working a little harder than before, we did it. But our roots are still the same; we’re still the same people we used to be before. We’ve never been heavy metal, so it’s not that we drastically changed and went into something really different. We’ve always had lots of melody in our songs and I think we’re still the same, just that our latest album is more rock than in the past.
When we compose, we just go with the flow. I mean, when we started to write for Shallow Life, you should have listened to the songs we wrote. From Southern rock to metal, even punk and hardcore ”“ we literally went everywhere. But then it comes to the point where you have to put together some songs that are making sense with each other and so we selected these. These were the ones that we thought were more appropriate for our taste, from the way we arranged the songs, from the way we thought about these songs in a live territory. Live territory is completely different from recording. It’s way more powerful, and we just saw the reactions during the live shows and they’re fantastic for the new songs.
You’re also one of the principal songwriters of the band. So what kind of themes do you, as a band, explore?
We don’t like to write about sensitive stuff. We are really grounded; we want to talk about real life and from personal life experiences. So we’re talking about love, hate. There was a very strong inner self-confidence within this album; there are a lot of positive messages coming out. The whole album tells you that if you really want, you can do it. We are the perfect example ”“ a rock/metal band from Italy conquering the world! And to do that, obviously, you have to be open to be loved by somebody, to be hated by somebody. I guess that’s a good way of looking at things, because as I said, you can’t please everybody but at the same time you can be happy with yourself and you can be happy about your followers. Most of the time, haters are the ones who haven’t been able to reach your result.
You’re also one of the few women in a predominantly male arena, not just within the band but with the kind of shows you play, the bands that you play with and the audiences you play to. What’s that like?
Honestly, it’s probably been easy for me because of my family. I’ve been raised with balls, even if I don’t have them [laughs]. I’ve always been really confident with myself and I never really thought of myself as the woman in a male business. In this case, sex is not important because music has no sex. So my only thought was that I have to be professional as much as I can. I have to do my best to improve myself and make my fans happy during our performances. I want to be honest with them. I don’t really care about criticism because if you start to listen to criticism, you will never improve. There will always be people who will try to bring you down but if I’m still here and an example to other girls who’re trying to do the same thing, that’s all that matters to me. I mean, I’ve already reached where I wanted to reach, I don’t care about the other things.
But you’ve also got a lot of attention for the same reason. Has the rest of the band ever felt overshadowed by it?
Not really, because they’re not stupid. A woman will always get more attention anyway because I am a different element. Even if you look at advertisements in magazines, a woman is always featured whether you’re promoting chewing gum or tiles. So they know that, but they don’t really care because they know that I can sing. They look at it like this: “She can be a cover girl and get all the attention but she’s our singer first and if she can do her job that’s all we care about.” And without them I am nothing, because a voice without music is nothing. I don’t think I’m a great singer but I’m pretty good at communicating emotions. I know that I’m not the most perfect vocalist. I’m not super-technical and I also make a lot of mistakes during live performances, but because I put so much heart into what I communicate, I don’t care about technique. And plus I’m a lazy bum so I don’t think I will ever take lessons to improve that [laughs].
Have you ever considered a solo career for yourself?
No. Honestly, no. Because I love different kinds of music, it would be great for me to try something different but I like it better when I’m collaborating with other musicians, because I’m not a person who likes to walk alone. I love to be surrounded by people and to me the band is like my family so I don’t really feel the need and I don’t have the ego to say that I will much better if I was alone. So it would be cool to collaborate with other people but I am absolutely not thinking of leaving the band at all. There’s a lot more work to be done in Lacuna Coil and I want to be completely focussed on that.