CRISTINA SCABBIA (Lacuna Coil): “I always thought that it was very important for me to look at the world with kids’ eyes“
A week ago, Lacuna Coil finally returned to Budapest on their short run of concerts that included several shows in Central Europe. The concert was held on boat A38, a popular Budapest club that gives you very unique concert experience on the waves of murky Danube waters. I met with Cristina Scabbia on the deck and we chatted watching the river seagulls flying in the distance.
Interview and photo: Martina Šestić | email@example.com
Next year Lacuna Coil celebrates twentieth birthday with series of special shows. Couple of days ago even Italian national television aired a documentary about the band marking the big anniversary. Lacuna Coil’s success is after all a big success for Italian metal scene.
Last year the band released their eight studio album “Delirium” that redefined the band’s sound and showcased Lacuna in a darker mood all the while pushing the limits of band’s musicianship. It is especially obvious in Cristina vocal parts where she is effortlessly hitting some of the highest notes she ever did in her career.
“It is my voice after all. Fact that I didn’t use some of the techniques or types of voices on previous records, doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to do it,” she begins and continues: “I agree with you, I think we redefined our style through the years and with Delirium it is even more our style because it was the first time we produced our own record so the package is complete. We are always determined to keep our sound Lacuna Coil sound. We don’t want to do something too weird that would change our nature. With type of record we did right now and the thematics it made perfect sense to use very high pitched vocals, crazy screams or do something different from the previous records.”
With records as dark as “Delirium” it always makes me wander how does that darkness influence the artist and how much it takes out of them emotionally. Especially when it’s based on something from the artists personal life. Cristina agreed that it was a bit hard and weird to perform it at the very beginning but eventually she overcame the uneasiness.
“At first it was really hard for me to preform, it would remind me of the reasons why I wrote those lyrics.”
Seeing her perform makes all this very clear – the way her eyes seemed to tear up, the way she touches her face and smears make up provoking the emotional reaction from the audience.
Mental illness as a theme appears quite often in music, there are many artists who never hesitated to admit they suffer from mental disorders – some of them fight the stigma, many of them just need to let this darkness somewhere to free themselves or even to see their fans getting stuck in that said darkness. This is not case with Lacuna Coil’s music.
“I think that you can always turn something negative into a positive force so it was like a therapy for me to ease all this pain and suffering I was going thorough when I wrote the lyrics. Now I’m OK with them. I can continue.
“Pretty much all our records reflect our, my, real life and motives like sanatoriums, mental illness are something really close to me for private and family reasons.”
Dealing with such hard subjects every evening on tour can be exhausting and some artists choose not to tour longer that several days in a row.
“That would be the ideal. Not only for mental reasons but also because of your own health. I would love to do like two, three shows and then take a break. But sometimes it is not possible to do this logistically. In the middle of the tour you can not take many days off because you’re still paying a lot of money. Even if you don’t play you still have to pay the crew, the bus, hotels,” commented Cristina which brought us to the problem of living on a budget and that sometimes how you feel isn’t the most important thing when looking at the bigger picture.
“So of course if you keep an eye on the tour budget, it doesn’t make sense to take too many days off. It’s a question of something like this more than mental health. If you love to sing and perform, you love to do that too. It’s not like you have to take a break because you don’t like it anymore. You take a break to just rest yourself to be even more powerful for the next shows.”
When I asked her if you need to be a little crazy to create good art, she smiled and said openly:
“I agree. Not necessarily crazy, you can be a little weird if you relate this weirdness to regular society where everybody is considered normal. I think that we are all crazy in our own way. I always thought about it. The most of, so called, normal people might have something to hide or maybe they do something strange in the four walls that nobody will ever find out about. I think it’s part of human nature and that’s why I think that a lot people are curious to dive into darkness, weirdness, insanity because it is something mysterious that you can’t always explain and because you don’t know much about it, it becomes attractive.”
Artists, not important of which media, tend to be a little more sensitive to the world surrounding us because they see through it, they understand everything at some different subconscious level and in many cases it makes a giant gap between artist and the rest of the people. Some of them fall into darkness and have hard time getting out. Some of them don’t even want to.
When discussing women in metal, I notice that many women tend to be labelled by media, fans or even other band members as hysterical and psychotic as we saw in how the press and social media has been burning with Tarja’s split with Nightwish, Liv Kristine’s with Leaves’ Eyes and most recently Alissa and The Agonist.
Cristina answered candidly that “maybe it is still strange for metal world to open up to women,” and further explained her standpoint that “metal is very masculine world. And to be a woman in it you need balls because it is not easy.
“Not because you have competition with the guys but just as a lifestyle. It is not easy to be on a tour-bus – sometimes not to be able to shower, sometimes you have to sleep in a bunk, you travel a lot, stay far away from family and this is not for everybody. It’s a lifestyle that only few women can take. Maybe some of these women are very controlling which is not wrong sometimes. It can happen that you can clash with other people and then never believe rumours.
“If there would be a case that I have a fight with the band, I am sure there would be something nasty from both sides. Usually when there is a split or some drama, only whoever was in the story knows exactly how it is and the rest is… It happens with guys as well but it doesn’t make such a big resonance because there is more of them than women. I remember even when Guns ‘N Roses broke up there was many drama, Gene Simonns is regarded as weird, Dave Mustaine unpredictable so it happens in male scene as well. But of course when it happens with women it gets more attention because there’s not many girls on the scene.”
And Cristina is on point with this and we also touch the topic of many of girls related to the scene are mainly groupies. Even today, when there are more and more women in metal getting creative and pushing their way with creativity, their talents, situations like this still happen. Women will often be regarded as an accessory to men in the band, groupie, fan-girl, girlfriend what ever the arrangement. “Exactly, it happened to me as well when would stop at a truck stop and somebody would come to me and ask if I’m either the wife or girlfriend of someone, or a groupie. They don’t even consider that I could be a part of the band. But I think it is all part of the game.”
With this topic we turn back to Lacuna Coil and band’s projects. One of which was the latest video for a song “Blood, Tears, Dust” in which we saw the band members as actors and I dare say, they did amazing job in living their personalities. Cristina’s eyes light up with joy when I mention it and she tells me humbly about her experience with making the video.
“It was fun, I never thought of actress career or anything but it was fun. It was creative, artistic and there is always something to learn. We did this video with very popular Italian director so it was cool to see how it works on daily basis as actress and it actually isn’t easy at all. I mean, it was easier for me because I didn’t have the pressure and I tried to give my best performance. I know that I am not an actress, I didn’t study to be one. It was fun for me. But also tiring. And actors need to be on point every day.”
The video itself is a part of a bigger story and what’s it all about we’ll know in the next video that will be aired pretty soon.
“We will post something about it in the next days that will clear up what happened in the previous video. Basically we did the same thing two times but it will explained better. There are many personalities coming to surface.”
In the mean time we get interrupted by the tour manager who came to inform us that we have only five minutes left and I ask Cristina how is she fighting the trend of frontwomen becoming a brand that is overshadowing the rest of the bands. Which is what happened, when I think about it while I’m writing this article, to Epica and Simone Simons. Her name resonates more than the band’s name. But, on the other hand, Lacuna Coil was and still is a strong homogenic unit.
“This is a choice we made years ago. We always took care of our image from day one. Even when we were no one, when we just started the band and nobody knew us. I remember clearly that even after taking first photoshoots, maybe more, I don’t want to say controlled by the label but more piloted in a way more into gothic clichés. We said, we don’t want to do this, we are a band, this is not Cristina and the band, we are not interested to put focus on Cristina only. We are on the same level and all of work equally for the band. We did it in different ways – dressing in the same way, of course I was more feminine, but there was nothing like me being over the top and others being overshadowed. We didn’t want something like that happening.
I remember that it came clear to me when I saw a picture of us and there was this poster where there was me in the front and the other members in the back (it was taken by the pool) and they were in the pool and you could see only shadows. It was very disturbing for me, it was wrong, this is not Cristina solo… I mean I will always have my slice of attention because I am a woman, but I am not interested in doing it that way to be a diva. And that is how we continue with our career. We are a band and not Cristina’s project.”
When asked if she would ever do a Cristina solo, she tells playfully: “Maybe one day. I’m not in a hurry. I think that it’s interesting to do you solo project when you don’t have chance to fully express yourself in the band. And in the band I’m in, I could always do what I wanted and they never put barriers on my vocals. They are always happy about my work and I was always able to be myself so never had an urge to put out a solo record. Maybe I will one day and it will be something completely different. Not even metal. It wouldn’t make much sense to me to make a metal record as a side project. It would have to be something completely different.” And by saying that she continues explaining her music background: “I am in love with music, not a specific genre. Obviously rock and metal are my main style but I can listen to everything. I am the last child of four and my brothers and sister always listened to everything – classic rock to rap to dark music to electronic to Italian. So my background is so various that it taught me to keep opened mind. Because there is always something cool that comes from a different music genre. I am still like this. If something is cool, I don’t mind whether it’s metal or techno. I don’t care. I would never say ‘no you can’t play that, it’s not metal’. I am not like that. That’s something completely different from what I sing…”
Many bands that are coming from non-english speaking countries choose not to sing in their native language. There are many reasons to this, one being music accessibility and reaching wider range of audience. On the other hand, I feel that when you sing in your own language about topics Lacuna Coil covered with “Delirium” it’s easier to do it in a foreign language because it makes things less real or put it in a better way, it allows you to detach from the topic when you sing about it in another code, to be more precise, another language. And Cristina explained when I asked her if there is a possibility of Lacuna Coil releasing an album that’s completely in Italian:
“Honestly I don’t see it happening but mostly because I feel more comfortable singing in English. I like it when I say something special like ‘amico mio’ which can happen randomly but I don’t like to sing in Italian that much. If it was any different, we would have started from beginning. For our genre and my taste, I prefer to sing in English.”
And so my time was up with the interview and I asked Cristina about her geekiness and what kind of video games she enjoys. She was happy to say that she’s “totally geeky”.
“I have top three that I always play which is Final Fantasy, the final episode, but 7th is my favourite. The first Silent Hill and Resident Evil, especially the first three. These completely change my mind. The games now are way better, the graphics, and they got a lot harder because I remember that it was easier when I started. And with the news ones, I see this five-year-old boy that can kick my ass any time. I’ve seen it with my nephews and friends’ children. It’s so changed… But I’ve always kept with it. It was very important for me. I have a young spirit, I always thought that it was very important for me to look at the world with kids’ eyes and enjoy the little things. It’s not like a Peter Pan complex that I don’t wont to grow up but it helps you spirit to be positive in life and be happy. And after all enjoy life as it is.”