Lacuna Coil have been a part of the rich tapestry of heavy metal for over two decades, and have gone on to define what it means to be a gothic metal band in the 21st century. From their photos and album imagery to their live show, the Italian heavyweights do everything with a clear vision and passion for all things metal.
We caught up with vocalist Cristina Scabbia to get her thoughts on theatricality in metal, the genre’s appropriation by the mainstream and the chances of heavy bands headlining the world’s biggest stages.
Will we ever see metal bands get big enough to headline the biggest festivals in the world?
“It’s hard to say. Now it’s way harder to have a career as a band, which I think is the main problem. You get bands who appear, get very successful and then disappear after a few years. They don’t have time to build up a strong base of fans who follow them throughout the years and help the band get bigger and bigger. That’s why you see all these headliners who have been around for years; we know the name, we know the logo. It’s hard for new bands to follow the same path – everything is so quickly consumed. I think that there are some bands who are relatively new who are making it as a headliners, for example Volbeat and Five Finger Death Punch. So there’s still a chance for new bands but it’s going to be harder because they have to hold on long enough to have a career, build up a lot of fans and make it as a headliner.”
Do festivals need to adapt?
“There are a lot of festivals that are working even if they’re smaller, just because they have a good package. They’re not dependent on one big band’s legion of fans, it’s more about the diversity and the amount of bands instead of that one big headliner. People can go around and check the booths with the t-shirts and jewellery as it’s more of an event. If there’s a big headliner, awesome, but at the same time fans like to see the smaller bands and just enjoy the event. Look at Wacken, nobody knows who’s playing the year after but everyone gets tickets and it’s sold out in a day. They just want to go there and have a good time. That should be the mood of festivals. I think it’s more about the fun and having a good time united by the love of rock and metal, and if there are bands playing that you like, you’re going to have a more pleasant time spending your money.”
If it’s good music it doesn’t really matter where you come from
Is it important to keep showmanship and big stage productions alive or does metal not need to worry about it?
“It’s very important for a band to keep the core very strong, keeping in mind that without lights and pyro in the middle of the day you’ve still got to put on a show. Being a performer you have to consider a lot of things: you might be tired, you might be hot, you might be sick; but it doesn’t matter because there are people there who came to see you. For me it’s more important to have fun in my own performance.
“I noticed that as soon as I stopped thinking about what people might think about me I started to have more fun, and people react more naturally in a better way. The crowd aren’t stupid; they can tell if you’re faking it. I tend to move a lot on stage and interact with the crowd, and that’s me. I’m not there to pose, I’m there to bring my energy on stage and I love to share my positive vision of life. I think this is way more important than fireworks and explosions. Of course if the budget allows it the show’s going to be even better. I love to see visually-strong shows, but you have to offer a great rock ‘n’ roll show even if it’s just you, a few amps and your instruments.”
Do we need to support the bands who ramp up the theatricality element?
“I think about In This Moment. It would drive me crazy having to change for every song, but I think they’re all beautiful in their own way. I think every band should have its own personality. We like to put make-up and costumes on as well, but we also like to offer a different kind of show. No one says we’re not going to change. The beauty of this job is that you change your image and the way you play on stage. That’s the beauty of music.”
Do we need to dump the stereotype of what rock and metal fans should look like?
“No, why? It’s less of a stereotype, it’s a lifestyle. I look at my clothes I’ve just worn to the gym and it’s all black, my t-shirt has a cat and a pentagram. I dress like that every day because I like it, not because I want to be recognised as being metal or part of a family, it’s part of me. If you want to wear denim because you like it, why move away from that? If the clothes describe your personality you shouldn’t change because it’s time to move on. It’s nothing negative, it’s just imagery.”
What do you make of metal shirts in high street shops?
“H&M have Ramones, Slayer and Iron Maiden t-shirts. People don’t even know what they’re wearing but it’s cool. It’s not disturbing to me, I don’t get protective and think ‘Oh my god, they don’t know what they’re wearing’ or ‘Iron Maiden sold out giving away their rights to the logo’. To me I think it’s a way for metal to get more popular and people not thinking that metalheads are strange. It’s just music, it’s not for everyone but it’s a type of music that should be the same as hip-hop – it’s just that everyone has different tastes.
“I don’t get angry, I’m happy when I see this around. If they don’t know what they’re wearing I think it’s even funnier, because they’re still wearing it. I guess it’s weird if you go to a black metal gig wearing an Armani suit it’d be weird, but why not?”
The crowd aren’t stupid; they can tell if you’re faking it
Where are all the scenes?
“Now everyone has a computer they can make a record, and I think that labels are just looking for someone who is eventually going to become successful – it’s way easier. When we started it was recording on analogue and trying to find a label who would support you on tour, it was completely different, and there was a lot less competition. Now it’s easier to record and go on tour in smaller places and there’s a natural selection of bands who can make it and others who can’t handle the touring life. Everything has changed drastically.
“It’s true that there’s more attention if you come from the US or the UK. It’s still harder for a band from say north Africa, South America or Italy, as rock and metal isn’t as much in the culture. Of course you can get everyone to listen to your music because you can post in on YouTube, but at the same time you have to fight a little bit harder as you’re coming from a market that’s not exactly familiar with rock and metal music. You just have to look at the numbers of bands who come from the US and the UK compared to other countries – they have a better starting point than others who don’t get the chance because of logistics. I’m sure there are lots of amazing bands who are still completely unknown, but if it’s good music it doesn’t really matter where you come from.”
In Metal Hammer 300, we gathered the biggest and best names in metal to debate the genre we love. Is metal in danger of stagnating? Do we take ourselves too seriously? What is metal anyway? Find out in Metal Hammer issue 300 – in stores and available to buy online now.
You can also read all of the issue 300 on TeamRock+ right this second.
Lacuna Coil are playing a special 20th anniversary show at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on January 19, 2018. Tickets go on sale September 8.