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Working the Big Time

Lacuna Coil Andrea Ferro talks about the band’s new album and why he won’t have anything to do with cucumbers

Deepti Unni Apr 20, 2009
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After extensive tours spread across three continents, a spot on Ozzfest 2006 and even an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, with their fifth studio album Shallow Life Italian alternative-metal band Lacuna Coil have finally completed the move from their fairly obscure beginnings to the mainstream. With cleaner production, arena-rocking choruses and a more radio-friendly sound, they’re moving into the hard-rock space shared by bands like Nickelback and Evanescence and hoping to tap into the growing fan base for the genre.

How did Shallow Life come about? Tell us about the concept behind the album.

Shallow Life is not exactly a concept album but there’s a theme running behind the songwriting and the lyrics. What exactly we mean to say through the album is that while today we’re living in quite a shallow place, in a society where all the shiny things are really important, we need to go back to the more human side of life, to the more normal, natural contact we used to have with other people. It is also good to be shallow sometimes, in a way that you just need to go shopping or to do something more easy like watching a football match or drinking a beer with friends. You need to stand up and fight for your goals and ideals at the same time you need to relax and chill out and have a beer so you have to find the right balance between the situations.

Your last album, Karmacode, and this one have very different themes though”¦

Karmacode was inspired by a book I’d read about the duality between technology and modern lifestyle and the spiritual lifestyle. In this case, the lyrics are way more based on our real life. A year ago, I was experiencing a personal crisis that was started by a small episode. The tenor Luciano Pavarotti had just died, and he was one of those icons in my life right from the time I was a kid; not that I was a big fan or into that kind of music, but he was somebody who’d always been there. And when he died, he led me to think about how life was passing by, how many years I’d been with the band; it got me thinking about the music and the way we were living, whether it was really what I wanted to do. It triggered this long crisis in my life. After the crisis had passed, I came out pretty strong, much more aware of what I really wanted to do, sure that music is really my goal. So, I think as a band, we all had this common reflection and we’re really enjoying what we’re doing even more now because we’re more mature people, we have more knowledge, more experience to make it work, to understand what we’re doing.

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I’ve heard you guys have struggled with English lyrics in the past. Has that become any easier now?

It’s been easier because we’ve been working with an American producer [Don Gilmore] so he’s been helping us a lot also in simplifying our lyrics. In the past we were using a lot of poetry, a lot of complicated words because we thought it would be more interesting to people, but then working with someone whose mother tongue is English you really understand that you don’t really need complicated words or a lot of poetry, you need more to express a precise concept which is strong and which is understandable to people. You need to drag the listener into the story rather than exploring the cause, so we’re learning to rewrite our lyrics, basically.

You’re working with Don Gilmore for the first time. How has it changed your sound from the last album Karmacode to Shallow Life?

I think in terms of song writing he hasn’t really changed a lot, because most of the stuff was already written in Italy before we entered the studio. He gave us some advice, some opinions, some points of view on the direction we were going in. When we sent him the demo he really liked how we were going more upfront with the vocals. He helped us cut a lot of the overload of arrangement that we did sometimes in the past, a lot of the violins and the keyboards that were killing the music, sometimes taking away from the real texture of the song. We learned how to make it interesting without complicating it by adding layers. If you just take off some layers you get more richness on the basics of the music like the vocal arrangements, the bass arrangement or the guitars and  you make small changes when you repeat the same verse, for example you change a note, you take a different approach. So even if the song becomes shorter and simpler in a way, you still have a lot of richness in the music and that, I think, is the strength of the songs.

What is your songwriting process like? Do you compose on the road and set it down later or is it all done sitting down and in one go?

We’re not able to write music on the road, so we have to do it when we’re home. After the tours we take six months off to just relax and get back to normal life for a while, then we start going in the practice room for the rest of the six months, every day. We’ve built a little studio in the practice room with a laptop and a mike and recording items. We just go in there and keep writing. We collect ideas at home and then go in there, rehearse, make it work and change it. It’s been more of a band effort this time. Everybody has really contributed to the album, even the guitar players have been writing songs ”“ sometimes just starting from a vocal line ”“ something we’ve never done before. So, it has been different and the approach has been more open, we just went in every direction possible. We were going for a street song, a pattern rock song, everything that comes to our mind we just did it. Then in the end we were done with 25 songs, and we’d shrink it down to 15, just because some of the songs were pretty different. We tried to go to there [to musically different songs] to see where we could refresh our music, whether we could go in a different direction. Eventually, we chose to keep the ones that were partly different but still appealed to Lacuna Coil, of course.

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You’ve been touring extensively in support of Karmacode. What bands did you enjoy touring with and what bands would like to tour with in the future?

Well, we’ve really enjoyed touring with most bands but the guys in Type O Negative have been really fun. Also Moonspell and In Flames are good friends of ours and they’re a lot of fun too. On a futuristic note I would say it would be interesting to tour with a band that can bring us to a different level, so probably a band like Nickelback, for example, could be a good touring partner for us. I think it’s a band that’s very popular, it’s rock enough to be associated with us and they have a huge fan base so it’d be good to spread our word among them and be more popular on the radio, so it’d be great to share space with Nickelback.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve put on your tour rider?

[Laughs] Well, everywhere we go, we tell them no pickles and no cucumbers. We hate it. Especially in Europe, they put it in everything, in every sandwich in every salad”¦ that’s pretty weird. But we hate it for some reason, maybe because in Italy it’s not really popular. And also we don’t put any butter on bread, like when I make myself a ham sandwich I never put any butter; we always tell people we’ll make our own sandwiches.

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