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Cristina Scabbia Of Lacuna Coil: "Listening To Music Is Like Getting To Know A Person... It's So Beautiful, But So Weird."

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Band Photo: Lacuna Coil (?)

Tuesday, October 14th. I step outside the parking garage across from Greene Street Club in Greensboro, North Carolina, and am nearly swept right off my feet.

Two members of Lynchburg, Virginia-based metal trio Mourn The Illusion, Jeremy McConville and Matt Burks, and I have just kicked off a whirlwind double-header concert trek through our neighbor to the south, braving relentless rain most of the way. For now, the rain has dissipated, replaced by a bracing wind that almost makes me want to perk my ears for the town tornado siren.

Tonight’s show is headlined by none other than Italy’s Lacuna Coil, and I'm set for an early “date” with co-singer Cristina Scabbia. As the first arrivals begin to congregate outside the box office, I punch in the number for the band’s tour manager, Gus, and realize it’s already stored on my phone.

“I think we’ve met before,” I tell Gus as he steps off the parked tour bus. The behind-the-scenes world of metal is a rather small one, after all.

“Some things never change,” he chuckles, “and another thing that apparently never changes is Musicians Forgetting To Check Their Watches. Cristina went shopping and hasn’t returned. Meet us back here in half an hour?”

Fair enough. We discover a cozy bar literally ten seconds around the street corner, the aptly named Stumble Stilkins, and thankfully remember to keep eyes on our own timepieces. After getting loosened up from the drive, we “stumble” against the whistling wind back to the bus and are finally ushered aboard.

With our ears still ringing, Cristina - an embodiment of several endearing Italian stereotypes, including talking excitedly with one’s hands - instructs us to make ourselves at home in the comfy back lounge. As I fire up my recorder, Jeremy and Matt casually inquire about her recent shopping jaunt.

Cristina Scabbia: I love thrift stores. I’m very big on those and vintage shops, ‘cause I don’t like going into a store that has about a million of the same thing. I just want that special thing that fits me perfectly, that feels like the moment - like “this was there waiting for me.” [laughs] And plus, it’s for a good cause, ‘cause most of the time, the thrift store is supporting someone or something. I like that too. You’re donating and getting something super cool at the same time.

Mike Smith (OverkillExposure): And that’s how they get you, too. “I’m never gonna see this again.”

Cristina: “Someone’s gonna snag it, and nobody else is gonna have it,” yeah, exactly. And I’m a woman, too, so come on. Clothes, shoes… never enough! [everyone laughs]

Mike: So anyway, Lacuna Coil has been in the States on this particular leg for… how long now?

Cristina: I believe it’s almost a month now. We have another week, and then we go back home for nine days, and then we’ll start another tour in Europe.

Mike: Do y’all have anything mapped out here for 2015 yet?

Cristina: Not really. The only thing we know at the moment - [exaggerated “hush-hush” face] and it’s not been announced yet [laughs] - is that we’re gonna be on Shiprocked next year. We’re really happy about that. We were supposed to be there this year, but we had to cancel due to some problems we had at home, family things going on. So I’m happy we had the chance to come back again. We can’t wait. Other than that, I don’t know, ‘cause plans are still being made.

Mike: Yeah, it can be pretty tricky, looking ahead that far.

Cristina: It’s just weird, because you can’t ever really make a plan for your life. It’s like, “What are you gonna do in February?” “Well… I have no idea! I don’t know!” I can’t plan a vacation, or go there, or do this, ‘cause I just don’t know.

Mike: Or when your mom asks, “Can you be home for Christmas?”

Cristina: Exactly! I have no idea. And my boyfriend [Jim Root, Slipknot] is American, so I have to juggle between family and friends in Milan and my boyfriend in the States, and who knows where HE is at any time, with him being in a band too.

Mike: Is that hard, doing the long-distance thing?

Cristina: We’ve been together for ten years, [laughs] so I guess it’s going pretty well. It is weird sometimes, but he does have my same job, so he knows how it goes.

Mike: On the subject of unpredictability… to bring it into the context of Lacuna Coil, which is why we’re all here, of course… I’m sure I speak for all of us when I congratulate you on the “Broken Crown Halo” [2014, reviewed here] album. It really is a killer record.

Cristina: Thank you! It’s my favorite. Not just because I did it - well, it wasn’t JUST me, obviously [laughs] - but it makes me really happy having been around such a long time, and having fans both old and new saying this is the best album we’ve ever done. I think it’s a great accomplishment, because usually you have “THE Album Of Your Career,” and then you tend to… not go downhill, but… it’s very hard to make a new record after that, that gets people to say, “This is the best you’ve ever done.”

Mike: Right. The usual tendency is to make stuff that’s good, but not QUITE like that “perfect album.”

Cristina: Exactly, and it seems that everyone is liking “Broken Crown Halo,” so I’m really happy.

Mike: It took me a while to reach my own conclusions on it, honestly.

Cristina: Which is good, because sometimes albums that are just, like, “in your face” right away tend to make you tired after some time.

Mike: Yeah, I came in on “Comalies,” [2002] and felt that “Dark Adrenaline” [2012, reviewed here] was by far the best ever since that one. And with the new album this year, it took many, many listens to decide whether it was better than “Dark Adrenaline.” I finally decided that yep, it is. [laughs]

Cristina: Good! It’s like knowing a person, y’know? You just see certain aspects and think, “Yeah, this person looks cool… but how cool are they really?” And then you get to really know the person, and they become cooler on a whole different level. It’s really nice. I mean, with every album - and not just our albums, but music in general - I feel it’s a sort of relationship. How you relate to the songs can really depend on what you’re going through. You might be in a specific period of your life, and you might read more into a certain song than another person who’s going through a completely different phase. Music is so beautiful, but so weird, ‘cause everybody reacts in a different way. There is no “Good Song” that everyone in the world likes. There is no band that everyone likes.

Mike: You can’t be everyone’s darling.

Cristina: Exactly. That would be boring!

Jeremy McConville: I think people are scared of change, a lot of the time. They like to stay in the familiar, but if you change it up on ‘em, it takes a minute to get used to it, y’know?

Cristina: Yeah, and if you change, they don’t like you because you changed. And if you don’t change, they don’t like you because you didn’t change. You can’t make everybody happy. The best thing is to be yourself, and SOMEBODY will share your taste. And if some people don’t, then fine. You move on.

Mike: When it comes to change, Lacuna Coil has undergone quite a bit of that, both artistically and commercially. And I think we all know that there are some dissatisfied people out there for that reason. Do you, as a band, deal directly with these types on a regular basis, especially given how connected we are online now?

Cristina: Well, I’d be a hypocrite if I said I don’t get pissed off when reading negative comments. I mean, I don’t trust those people who say they don’t care about that stuff. Sure, I get pissed off. But only for a second. Of course, you don’t let it rub on you too much. It’s just like, “All right, whatever, it’s probably some twelve year old kid who thinks he’s really tough behind his screen.” [laughs] Still though, if you have a temper - I mean, I’m an Italian woman, so I definitely do [laughs] - those things can get to you for a bit. But I don’t really get pissed when people say, “Your records suck,” or something. I don’t mind that. But! If they touch my morals… if they touch the people I love… THEN I turn into an instant beast. I mean, I could literally rip your head off your body, because that kind of talk is something I can never allow. If somebody says something like that, I will reply publicly and not ignore it. I will eat this person alive, and throw the rest of the meat into a cage of lions, [laughs] to let everyone know that I won’t tolerate that.

Mike: Also, being a girl in the global metal and hard rock scene… I mean, it’s bigger now than it was ten or fifteen years ago, but even so, you’re still in a minority. I’m sure you probably run into some real internet creeps.

Cristina: Honestly, not as many as you might think. They’re mostly not disrespectful in the sense of calling me a whore, or anything like that. Of course I use my body, and a woman will get more attention that way just because she’s a woman and brings a different element. The woman always gets more attention no matter what, even in advertisements. You want to make a guitar advertisement? Put a woman in it. This will always happen, and I don’t want to go against it, ‘cause that would be pretty stupid. It’s always been like this, and always will be. But what I like to do is… not confuse people on purpose, but I feel I have different personalities. I like to put, let’s say, a sexy picture online with a beautiful dress, and all made up. But then a second later I’ll put up a picture of myself with no makeup, taken right after I woke up. Or when I’m out doing something and NOT all dressed up. I mean, there’s the Cristina onstage that likes to dress up, but there’s also the nerd who likes Star Wars and goes crazy when she finds some action figure, like a limited edition Dracula, or something. That’s me as well. I love it, ‘cause I found out I can connect with a lot more people, especially now that we’re all connected through internet. Everybody’s looking at me like, “Huh. She’s a person just like us.” And I am. Every artist is a normal person with a normal life, and ups and downs, problems, good and bad moments with friends and family, with breakups, moving houses… everybody goes through the same things. And I like that. I like that those barriers came down. I love it.

Mike: That is one of the great things about social media, for sure.

Cristina: Absolutely. I mean, it also separates, because everybody wants to be your friend on Facebook and maybe they don’t care about the real contact. But with some people, it would be impossible regardless, because I can’t meet a guy in Bangladesh while I’m on the other side of the world. [laughs]

Mike: So you mentioned dressing sexy for a show or advertisement because “that’s the way it is,” so to speak —

Cristina: Well, it’s not exactly, “That’s the way it is,” it’s also the fact that I just like to take a good picture. If I’m gonna be taking pictures, or if I know that I’m gonna be onstage, I LOVE to dress up. I love the theatrical aspect of it all. I’m just saying that I’m not bringing Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil home to where the regular Cristina Scabbia lives. I like… not to separate the two things, but still, there are two parts of me that come up to life in different moments. I would never be totally dressed up two hours before the show, right now, just because we’re talking. [everyone laughs] I’m glad that you can see how I really am, and I don’t mind that I don’t have mascara or lipstick on.

Mike: Again, I think I speak for us all when I say we’re more honored that you wanted to hang out with us looking normal, without getting all made up.

Jeremy: Yeah, you’re still beautiful. [laughs]

Cristina: [laughs] Thank you, thank you. Of course, I’m not saying that the other Cristina is the “fake one,” because I love to be her. But I’m not so worried that everyone needs to see the “character,” Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, twenty-four hours a day. I mean, I’m confident enough in both situations.

Matt Burks: And that’s the ultimate fan appreciation, too. For you guys to allow us to see y’all like that.

Cristina: Of course! I’m happy about that.

Mike: I remember an interview you did WAY back in 2003 with Juliya on Fuse’s “Uranium…”

Cristina: Oh yeah! I saw her recently at Rock On The Range! She’s really cool.

Mike: She screened the video for “Heaven’s A Lie,” and I remember you making a statement that stuck with me - and I’m paraphrasing - “I don’t need to take a bunch of clothes off to be sexy onstage.” Mind you, this was when half-naked pop stars were still being constantly shoved in our faces, and before women in metal were really prominent.

Cristina: Yeah. I mean, everyone is free to do whatever they want, if they’re comfortable with it, but I feel that if you give too much, then you pass the limits of “sexy.” People will not look at you as being sexy, but just as being a slut. And nothing against sluts… [everyone laughs] But to me, “sexy” is to NOT reveal everything. It’s to leave a little bit of mystery.

Jeremy: It kinda cheapens you, in a way, if you go that route.

Cristina: Yeah, if you take a picture where you show just a little bit of shoulder or something like that, it’s way more intriguing than just to go out with your boobs out. People would be like, “All right. I’ve got it all. Now I can go.” [laughs] It’s like being hungry, and somebody just gives you a piece of candy, and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m happy… but I want more.” If you’re given a full meal, then you’re like, “All right… I’m done.” [laughs] To me, it’s pretty much the same idea. I mean, it’s like when I see a male stripper, with those stripper abs. [laughs] Not my thing at all. I like a more intriguing personality, or the way a person looks at you, their gestures, and everything. But that’s my thing, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable going around naked. I’m not saying that it has to be the same for everyone.

Mike: Face it, you probably knew this whole part of the conversation was coming. [laughs]

Cristina: [laughs] Yeah, yeah. I’m fine with it, though.

Mike: It does lead to something I’ve been curious about, though. Here in 2014, in the metal and hard rock genres, we have this entire apparent subgenre that’s officially been labeled “Female Fronted.” [everyone laughs] I get why some bands like Nightwish, the operatic bands, deserve such a description, but for the most part it feels pretty much like a marketing tool and little more. And when Lacuna Coil first broke, you were one of a tiny minority of female singers in metal. As one of the “originals” of the so-called “Female Fronted” category, what do you think about what that whole trend has become?

Cristina: Honestly, I was always way more used to it, because in Europe, it was very, very normal to have different subgenres. It’s always been like that. Even if it wasn’t a “Female Fronted” band, there was black metal, power metal, heavy metal, death metal, speed metal… so many different categories that didn’t “officially” exist in the States. Here, it was… rock and metal, basically. Everything is called “rock.” So what they’re calling “Female Fronted” metal is probably something pretty new here, but in Europe, I’m very, very used to it. So I’m not surprised.

Mike: Some people get pretty religious about it all, too.

Cristina: Yeah, some people keep calling us a “gothic” band just because when we started, we said that we were inspired by bands like Type O Negative and Paradise Lost. Bands that were obviously in the gothic metal genre. And then we always dress in black, so it became, “Oh, the gothic band from Milan.” [laughs] But we’re not REALLY just a “gothic” band, especially now. Our music is not typical gothic music. So people will always go through the stereotypes just to find an easy description of the band, and you just have to take your time and go with it. Obviously, Lacuna Coil is very different from Nightwish, which is very different from Halestorm, which is very different from Arch Enemy. We’re all female singers, but with different personalities, different looks, different voices. And the music is all different. But as soon as people see a female, that’s the element that brings all the bands together. Nobody would say, “Hey, this band has a male singer and that band has a male singer - they must sound the same!” [laughs] It’s all because of the greater attention toward the female.

Mike: Because, let’s face it: metal is mostly for dudes. [laughs]

Cristina: But everything has changed so much! I don’t know about tonight; I don’t know who’s gonna come. But the tour so far, including the four months we did earlier in the year… We have so many ladies coming to the shows that sometimes it’s almost fifty-fifty. And the support bands are always really happy. They say that we bring the pussy. [everyone laughs] You can censor that if you want!

Mike: We censor nothing!

Cristina: [laughs] OK. But yeah, we have a lot of females in our audience now.

Mike: Any jealous girlfriends in the crowd?

Cristina: Actually, there’s usually a very strong spirit of camaraderie with the girls that show up. They might look at me as the auntie, or the big sister, or the younger sister. There’s a good relationship. They don’t look at me like, “My boyfriend’s looking at you, so I’m pissed at you.” It’s more like, “Yeah, you’re cool, and we all know that you’re taken, so you’re not dangerous… so you rock.” [everyone laughs] It’s that kind of relationship.

Mike: That’s a vibe that I’m really glad to know exists. I saw Lacuna Coil opening Megadeth’s Gigantour in 2012, and then on 70,000 Tons Of Metal in 2013…

Cristina: That was so much fun! Did you check the jam, the All-Star jam that Jeff Waters [Annihilator] put on?

Mike: Yeah, I was there, for one of the days, anyway. I think I missed you, though! I saw Doro Pesch, and Petri Lindroos, [Ensiferum] and a few other people sing.

Cristina: I sung a few songs with Doro, and by myself. I went both days. But yeah, they were both pretty long, a couple hours each.

Mike: I guess the point is, every time I’ve seen Lacuna Coil, there’s been an incredibly good atmosphere in the room, and I’m hoping it’s gonna be the same tonight —

Cristina: I think it will. I got a message from a guy this morning, a guy that came to the show in New York two days ago, and he wrote me, “I’ve been to a crapload of concerts, but this was the first time I’ve gone home with a REALLY good vibe,” a different vibe, y’know? I thought that was amazing. You can get the usual, “Yeah, it was a good concert.” But knowing that somebody left with a huge smile, and a different kind of energy, it was just the ultimate message. I felt, “Wow. I have no idea how to respond!”

Matt: This’ll be the fourth time I’ve seen y’all. I saw you in Raleigh when you came through in April, and that was my first headlining Lacuna Coil show, and it was pretty amazing. You could feel that energy moving through the crowd.

Cristina: The only thing we’re missing tonight is our bass player. [Marco Coti Zelati] [laughs]

Mike: Yeah, and on that note, y’all have had some lineup changes recently. Can you tell us about what went down with all that?

Cristina: Well, long story short, in December, our ex-drummer [Cristiano “CriZ” Mozzati] and ex-guitar player [Cristiano “Pizza” Migliore] just decided to retire. Being on the road all the time was getting hard on them, and our drummer had just had a baby girl, and he wanted to spend more time at home with her. Our guitar player had moved to the States with his wife, so it would’ve been a logistical problem. They decided it was just the right time to leave. And we all agreed on that, because we need motivated people in the band, to do a job like this. We need people who REALLY want to do it. If not, you’re gonna drag everybody down. So now, Ryan Folden is our drummer, although it’s not one hundred percent official right now. He was CriZ’s drum tech in the past, and he also played a couple of tours when CriZ couldn’t come. So he knew the songs, and was already part of our family and knew how everything was with all of us, and was the obvious choice. And he’s a great drummer, so he’s not missing anything. [laughs] The look, the style, the talent. Just the perfect person. And now we’re only playing with one guitar, which we like very much, because it makes everything more raw, in a way. I like it better. Our friend Daniel, one of our guitar techs, is filling in on bass for Marco. He’s home recovering from some trouble with his intestines, and he’s doing much better now, but still, being on the bus can be dirty and you can’t always have the proper food. So for that problem, we kept him home and said, “Eat good food and stay in bed.” [everyone laughs]

Mike: I suppose it’s pointless to ask you about tonight’s setlist, since we’re about to find out… [everyone laughs]

Cristina: Surprise! [laughs]

Mike: So instead, for my own personal curiosity: what kind of music are you really into right now, whether it’s metal or rock or anything else?

Cristina: Honestly, I don’t listen to a lot of music! That might be surprising, but every time I listen to music, I listen to a lot of the old stuff. Not because I think it’s better than what’s out now, but because I’m more attached to it. And that goes back to what I was saying about certain periods of your life attaching you to certain songs and bands. So I still listen to some Type O Negative or Pantera or Paradise Lost, or some Maiden, Metallica…

Mike: You’re still denying the roots, but they’re still there!

Cristina: [laughs] Yeah, I still love to hear some good metal, but I also like stuff that has nothing in common with metal. Even classical music. I’m a very random listener. Sometimes I just turn on the radio, and we have an iPad with random songs on it, which we just connect to the speakers in here, and whatever comes on, comes on. I’ve always been like that. I’m not even really coming from a metal background. When I was a little girl, my brothers and sisters weren’t listening to metal, so it’s something I discovered later. But because of them, I listened to everything from Genesis to Led Zeppelin to The Beatles to The Cure. I grew up with this mindset: “Music is beautiful. Of course I’m not gonna like everything, but every genre is interesting, no matter what.”

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Mike Smith is a native Virginia writer and a diehard metal and hard rock fan. As a music journalist, he is a staffer with Metalunderground.com and Outburn Magazine.

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