Half an Hour With Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil
Before the main acts of the Music as a Weapon IV tour kicked off at 1st Mariner Arena last Tuesday, I had the chance to sit down with Cristina Scabbia, frontwoman and one of two lead singers of Italian rockers Lacuna Coil. (She's pictured above performing a couple hours after our interview – more photos from the show here.) Lacuna Coil are U.S. label Century Media's top-selling band, and have a new album, Shallow Life, coming out tomorrow. Shallow Life has gotten mixed reactions so far, as the band continues to move away from its gothic metal past into a more straightforward hard-rock mode.
We chatted for about half an hour about Shallow Life, Scabbia's thoughts on being "the hottest chick in metal," her involvement with a water-accessibility project in Kenya, how "Japan is like being on Mars," and more. Die-hard Lacuna Coil fans may want to read the full unedited transcript (PDF), but the highlights are after the jump.
Have you gotten a lot of feedback on the new album yet?
Uh... I would say that a lot of comments are absolutely positive, and I love the fact that a lot of our fans are able to grow up with us. We've been around for more than 10 years now, and it's great to see that our evolution was their evolution as well. They completely understood that we don't want to get stuck in the same formula over and over. Um, so a lot of positive comments, a lot of people love the album. Probably the most traditional fans that are still thinking about the first demo tape we put out 13 years ago hate the album, but I feel this is the most honest way for us to do what we really want to do instead of following the market.
Yeah, I know a lot of metal fans have...
Yeah, some of them might think it's easier. Some of them might think that, yeah, okay, having a big producer will put us on the mainstream right away and we'll become millionaires in a second. But it's actually not like that. It's actually a bigger risk for us to try to change. Because you can be comfortable doing the same thing and be sure you're going to sell those half-million copies and be okay with it, but we just want to communicate a different thing with our music.
But the new songs have gotten a good reception on the tour.
Yeah, very good. Very, very good.
Now, with the new album, did you write most of the lyrics?
Yeah, me and Andrea [Lacuna Coil's other vocalist].
Is there sort of a concept behind...
It's not really a concept, but there's definitely a line that inspired the album, which is, I mean, it says in the title, "Shallow Life." Not every song is talking about the same thing, because every song has a specific story by itself, but it's definitely a very positive album that talks about the strength that every person should have in terms of relating themselves with life and standing up for their right whenever it comes to the point that they have to be focused on important things. But at the same time they should learn, as well, to be relaxed; sometimes it's okay to be shallow just because you need to leave your problems at home for an afternoon and enjoy yourself, not take yourself too seriously. That was kind of the spirit, but it's not a concept album.
One of the things I've noticed about you and your band is that your promo photos often have you in these kind of sexy outfits and sexy poses, but then—
I love to play, but yeah, I'm completely different—
Yeah, but then when you're on stage it's completely different, it's not your image at all.
No, I just love to change. In a way I love to provoke thoughts in people's minds, I love the fact that they expect me to be in a [certain] way and then I'm completely different and they're like, whoa, I was expecting something different. Because you can play in a picture, you can play – like being an actress, you're impersonating a role. If you look at my pictures, I always look different, you know, hair length is changing, the makeup is changing, the dress is changing. In the last photo session we did, we were actually interpreting "The Shallow Life" so I'm the pop princess, you know, big boobs – fake boobs – tiara, all shiny... and Andrea is dressed up as a pimp... we did it on purpose, but a lot of people didn't really get it, and were surprised and like, "oh my god, they've changed their look." Jesus Christ. Shallow Life... new pictures... you know, I love to stimulate any kind of thoughts in people's minds, so it's fun, you know, when they expect you to be dressed up all the time and then they see me and they don't recognize me, which is awesome. [laughs]
And then when you did the Hottest Chicks in Metal tour... that's a certain kind of marketing, right—
Yeah but that was ironic, still, there's a magazine, Revolver magazine, and it was the main sponsor of the tour, and they just released an issue that was called "The Hottest Chicks in Metal"—
—and you were on the cover—
...and in this issue, there were the bands, so we just kind of did it for that, but honestly we don't really mean that we're the hottest chicks in metal. But everybody was like, "oh, that's how you want to market?" but people are going to do it anyway. They see a band with a chick and there it goes, you know. I don't care anymore about what people think.
So you don't see any problem with marketing yourself as...
Not at all... the fact that being a woman, it's even harder, because no matter what you do, you're going to be the focus point. No matter what. You look at a commercial on TV, they're trying to sell tires, and there's a naked woman anyway. So as long as I never do anything in a not-classy way, it's not a problem with me. I never showed my boobs, I never did anything that could be considered... bad, or anything, so I don't care. I mean, it's a representation of art. If I want to take a sexy picture where you don't see anything, but you can imagine something, then why not? I'm still a woman. And they will talk anyway, so who cares. [laughs] I can't prevent that, so I do what I want, as long as I'm comfortable with it and I know what I'm doing and nobody's forcing me to do stuff. I'm fine with it.
What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you on this tour?
On this tour? Hmm. [long pause] I can't think of any... No nothing really, besides the fact that Maus, our guitar player, had his birthday and we surprised him onstage. It was funny, because there was this song where all the band starts together and there's like a wall of sound, everybody is doing something. We just counted, you know, the drummer was like "1, 2, 3, 4!" and he started to play by himself, headbanging, and we're just standing there just looking at him, with all the lights on him because of course the light guy knew. That was absolutely hilarious.
How long did he play for? Did he keep playing?
No, no, he just started to play for a few seconds and then he noticed that there was nothing else, so he just turned on our drummer with this face like "what the fuck is going on?" It was just priceless to see that, and then one of the guitar techs came onstage with shots and a cake with candles and he realized it and was like, "oh no." And all the crowd sung happy birthday... but they are the party guys, you know, I'm not really like that. Not at all.
You do a sort of column for Revolver, right, and you've been on their cover at least twice. How did that get started?
I think that it came out because... let me think... I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I think it started because the singer of Lamb of God, Randy, was talking with me on tour and he just found out that I was really good at giving advice and listening... you know, I'm a woman. So he probably spoke with somebody at Revolver or something like that. It's funny, because it's on the same page as Vinnie Paul, and he gives completely different answers. You know, it's all about [in hilarious Vinnie Paul voice] "yeah, get her pussy, yeah fuck that!" And I'm the opposite, you know, I'm like, well not the wiser part—
Probably the wiser part.
[laughs] But I give the romantic touch, you know, you should do this and that. It's awesome, especially when you get messages from very young people, and they have problems that are absolutely solvable, but it's all a question about growing up. It's so sweet, because I could totally see myself like, oh wow, ten years ago I was like that, so I know what you're going through. It's pretty cool, I love to do that. I hope I'll continue to do it.