"That had to be one of the best photoshoots ever.”
It was hard not to notice then just how happy they were to be there. Cristina didn’t hesitate to change into her linen, her cohorts happily took seats around her and just let the minutes and hours roll by. Maybe they just couldn’t get enough of the quiet, albeit photographed, calm?
But then again, spending five hours last night in the hellishly tourist-friendly confines of Dublin’s all-too-famous Temple Bar and sampling the finest of Irish exports probably didn’t hurt either. Given the demands of participant observation, there’s no way for Hammer to accurately tally the amount of Guinness consumed by Lacuna Coil, minus precisely one Cristina Scabbia on account of some paper-thin excuse to do with, ‘wanting to be good for the show tomorrow’. But even excluding the Herculean portions of free whiskey samples that were being doled out, it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of their own body weight.
Andrea’s eyelids will gradually lower, shut completely and then pop open as he wages a battle with consciousness and says, waving his arms and swaying his body for dramatic, quintessentially Italian effect: “Things for us have been crazy. Video shoots, photo shoots, interviews, it’s all a lot more than we’re used to. Flying to America, shooting videos, coming back, doing more photo sessions, flyyying… .”
He lets out a growling sigh. His eyes cross slightly. If he was a horse you’d shoot him. But then, if – hangovers aside – these Italian minstrels come across as something less than exuberant today, it’s with good cause. Their autumn tour of the UK comes off the back of a summer spent plying their musical wares via the gargantuan promotional stage of Ozzfest, which itself was just a footnote on appearances at Download and throughout Europe, another US tour supporting Rob Zombie, and… you get the picture.
They’ll be playing their 99th show of 2006 tonight. Put another way, that’s nearly a hundred renditions of Heaven’s A Lie, the standout track of 2002’s rapturously received and heavily-toured Comalies, now in its fourth year of airplay. So you’d think a question of whether they could play any such thing sincerely wouldn’t be out of place. But then, Lacuna Coil are nothing less than professional with regard to their music. As they tell it, they’re grateful for the chance to still do it.
“You can’t complain about something like that,” blurts the suddenly perked-up guitarist Cristiano Migliore, sounding not unlike a parent who’s just been told he has a stupid baby. “Once that started getting requested by radio stations and getting stuck on MTV, everything went to a completely different level. Before it was more like a regular life. But this last tour, which was just a regular tour, it’s like the best one we’ve done. Things are always getting better for us, it’s just really slow getting there.”
That’s in no small way related to the long wait for the release of March 2006’s Karmacode, a thunderous statement of gothically-tinged intent that left little doubt as to Lacuna Coil’s staying power. But before that Lacuna Coil waited – unnervingly to some fans – to continue touring for four years on the steam of Comalies, an album that threatened to be their solitary defining moment. Judging by their status as festival mainstays, it was a move that’s definitely paid off. But today they’ll admit that in hindsight, their fortunes don’t rest solely on the toil they’ve committed themselves to since their formation in 1997; that it’s no coincidence that their explosion in the States is also thanks to comparisons, however obscene, to a very superficially similar platinum-selling band known as Evanescence, who released their major-label multi-platinum Fallen debut just a year after Comalies dropped.
“Oh, but it’s always the same band!” Cristina chuckles. She isn’t incensed, by now she’s come to expect the almost obligatory, thumb-screwing mention of that Amy Lee-fronted, so-called ‘goth- metal’ pop behemoth. “I don’t care though. In a way it opened a lot of doors for us, the comparison, because a lot of people who would have never touched the underground Lacuna Coil discovered us because of that. I just think that people forget about the fact that in Lacuna Coil we have two singers. It’s just that we have a female with black hair in the band, and that sucks! It’s a different approach not just to music but to life. It’s really sad and ignorant to compare us to bands like that, but you can’t fight ignorance…”
“It isn’t just the music,” adds Andrea. “We’ve never been some overnight sensation. We’ve been working at this for nine years without writing a hit single. We want to do it on our own strength. Our way is more like a classic rock career, you grow a little and you get better, not with some big first album with a hit single. We’re not that band. We’ll get bigger but we’ll do it in our way. We’ve never gone out thinking, ‘We need to sell a million records’. And personally I didn’t like Call Me When You’re Sober. I didn’t call her. Who knows, did she write it herself? Is that really her music?”
But flip through Karmacode and it’s hard not to scratch your head at the decision to include a cover of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence.
“It’s kind of a controversial story,” says Cristina haltingly. “Everyone thinks we wanted to make a commercial single, when we really just wanted a song everyone could sing along to in the live shows. There was this big reaction and we were like, ‘Oh come on, it’s just a cover song!’.”
“We grew up with 1980s music,” interrupts Andrea. “We might have done Soundgarden or Duran Duran, but that was the one that worked the best. There’s always going to be people who liked the first single better, the production on the last album, the first demo, you know, us before we sold out. Those people will always be there. You can’t win with them.”
But it’s not as if you’re a mega-platinum band yourselves. You were only supporting Rob Zombie earlier this year.
“Oh super guy!” says Andrea, laughing. “He was so cool with us. He’s such a funny guy and he was really welcoming with us. He could have picked a thousand bands to go on that tour with him.”
He also picked Bullet For My Valentine.
Lacuna Coil’s eyes collectively turn downward, the same way you might expect if you’d just walked into the room with your equipment hanging out. Earlier this year, Bullet were unceremoniously jettisoned from the Rob Zombie tour, on account of Matt Tuck posting some less than jubilant comments on his band’s website complaining about, among other things, no dressing rooms.
“Er… maybe they’re a little inexperienced,” offers Andrea. “They’re still nice guys. And with the internet now, you say anything and it’s all over the world. I don’t think Rob had much choice to be honest…”
“Maybe it’s because Bullet had high-level treatment in the UK because they’ve gotten so big there,” adds Cristina. “They were really cool though. They were really stupid for what they did, but they were probably just frustrated. It just isn’t the same reality over there. Maybe we’ve been helped by how long it’s taken us to get to where we are, because we just don’t have those kind of expectations.”
“Yeah, but we got the whole dressing room after that!” blurts Cristiano. His smirk betrays the lie, but it’s a potent reminder of just how humble Lacuna Coil seem about their successes, even after breaking America. It throws other bands into contrast.
But there’s far more to Lacuna Coil than questions of record sales or sincerity. As the band get up to leave for soundcheck, Cristina heads over to a modest pub around the corner for a pint. She was keen on visiting the Guinness museum today but as the afternoon draws to a close, time won’t allow for it. Undeterred, she’s determined to see for herself whether the black elixir really is better in Irish climes. But if she was slightly reticent to chat earlier, her conversation blooms rather noticeably. She smiles as she explains, taking a stool at the bar, how being in a band with six guys is an isolating experience, and that as close a unit as Lacuna Coil are, it isn’t easy being the only girl when you’re on the road.
“It’s actually kind of flattering,” she says. “They’re all like brothers to me, really protective, but outside of the music we don’t have the same interests. Sometimes it’s like I just miss a girly chat. Talking about shoes and make-up, y’know, talking about nothing. I can’t play video games all of the time, so I feel awkward a lot of the time. Not a lot of women would be interested in a job like this. People just see the shiny part of the job, this glamorous life. They don’t realise the work that’s behind it or the sacrifices that you make.”
What are those sacrifices? For starters, your boyfriend Jim (Root, guitarist for Slipknot and Stone Sour) must feel part of the strain, too.
“It’s going to be a long-distance relationship whether he’s on tour or at home anyway, but you do miss family. You’re far away from home all of the time. Some days you’re on top of the world and the next day you’re so low. You might be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world but it’s like you’re trying to tell yourself to enjoy it, because you can’t.”
It seems clear that she’s dressing up an obvious downside. She’s hardly complaining, but it does beg the question: is there an end to it?
Cristina doesn’t hesitate. Where some frontwomen might take the suggestion that their band may see an end to their days as an affront, it’s clear that Cristina’s been thinking about it. The answer is, not anytime soon. Taking a hefty swig of her Guinness, she says:
“I don’t think there’s ever an end. Just an evolution. It’s not an end of something, just a change. OK, I don’t party because now I’m into thinking about the show the day after, and the one after that, but I’m doing a job that a lot of people would pay a shitload of money to do, but it is a job. OK it’s a passion too, but I know that I’m really lucky. I’ve never forgotten that. You get older, you evolve; but this band is always going to be a part of me.”
With that she downs the second half of her pint and orders another. She’ll ask the barman if she can pour it herself. He guides her hand on the pump and she smilingly slaps it away, telling a story of how she used to work in a bar most days of the week when she first started with her band all those years ago. What it really sounds like is a tale of humility and – as she happily poses and smiles long enough to have her picture taken – gratitude at the chance to still sing for a living.
This was published in Metal Hammer issue 162
Lacuna Coil play the Ronnie James Dio Stage at the Bloodstock Open Air Festival on August 9
Read about there band’s recent line-up change here.
Pick up your Bloodstock tickets here.