Unbreakable – Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil
Originally published in Ghost Cult Magazine Issue 18 – June 2014
Currently weaving their way across the U.S. on the Revolver sponsored “Hottest Chicks In Rock” tour, Italian Gothic Metal act Lacuna Coil and co singer Cristina Scabbia in particular, has forever received plenty of attention for their passionate and dramatic music and high energy live shows. On the phone from Reno, Nevada Cristina is remarkably chirpy considering the gruelling tour schedule the band have lined up in support of soon to be released new album Broken Crown Halo (Century Media).
“It’s a long tour, people don’t see that it is a lot of hard work to do this, being away from our families and friends for most of the year is difficult but this is what we do. I’m not complaining about it because I love playing live and connecting with our fans but it’s not all glamour.”
It is this fearless work ethic that has propelled the Milan act to the forefront of gothic and mainstream metal scenes. One look at Lacuna Coil will tell you how important family and togetherness is for them. From the uniform stage gear the band dons each night to the way the band interacts with each other it is clear that friendships between the band members run deep. A fact that made the recent announcement by drummer Cristiano “CriZ” Mozzati and guitaristCristiano “Pizza” Migilore that they were “retiring” from the band after sixteen years, all the more shocking.
“We have known this was happening since December (2013) really. We sat down to discuss the tour schedule this year and they let us know it was time for them to do something different. It was readily apparent that they were not into the touring lifestyle and that’s fine. There was no fight or anything like that. We are continuing on our path and they are on theirs. It did not affect the album and there was still a very friendly atmosphere when we were recording the album together. Cristina recalled. “Marco our bass player is our main songwriter anyway so nothing much will change writing wise.”
As anyone who follows LC across various social media platforms can attest, Miss Scabbia is an avid user of social media helping promote her band but also to give fans a real glimpse behind the veneer of magazine covers and photo-shoots into the real world of a touring rock band. She may be characterized as the glamorous and sexy diva of Gothic Metal but a pampered princess she is not.
“People think you are becoming a millionaire touring all the time but bands have to tour now more than ever just to pay their bills! I posted a status on Facebook the other day looking for an outlet to buy something and some girl wrote “Why don’t you get someone to bring you that? You are a millionaire you can afford it. People seem to think you get on a couple of magazine covers and all of a sudden you are super rich but it is really not the case. The fact that people seem to think things like that makes me want to post more on Facebook and Twitter and show people what our lives are really like. It is a luxury to have this job but we also spend a lot of time working our asses off! That’s a reason why I wrote a column for Revolver Magazine so I could show people what life was really like for bands.”
Sadly just a couple of days before this interview took place we learned of the tragic passing ofGWAR front man Dave Brockie a.k.a. Oderus Urungus a moment Cristina acknowledged on her Twitter account. “That was really sad. He was a very cool guy with a sarcastic sense of humour. I loved their cinematic style and he was a very cool guy when I met him.”
Considering she grew up in the glare of media attention, one could hardly blame Cristina if she was bored of the Metal “Sex symbol” tag she inherited. While the she may be wearing similar attire to her male counterparts onstage these days there is no doubting the 41 year-olds charisma and ability to turn heads where ever she goes. “I think it’s cool to use social networks to show people your real personality. I can be a tomboy on the tour bus! I don’t ware high heeling and make up all the time and I want people to see that. A teeny tiny girl from Italy, a size three! I’m not perfect and I’m not a model. I think if I can give any message to the younger generation it is that you can be confident without having to fit into that mould. I’m not surely what people mean when they say hot. For me someone needs to be more than just good looking. For every photo of me all dressed up there is an image of me in jeans and a hoodie. I like to show the real me online but I like to keep the lives of my family, my friends and my partner private. If you show too much then you don’t have any privacy. I take the sex symbol tag with a pinch of salt because it doesn’t affect my life. I know who I am and I would never do anything I was not comfortable with. I don’t feel doing tours like this (The Hottest Chicks In Rock) as anything other than empowering for women. I am showing that you can be successful on your own terms. I’m 41 and have an album in the charts and make music with people I love. I can’t think of anything better than that.”
Being sexy and provocative is something rock bands have been doing for years, yet strangely it’s only remarked upon when the protagonist is a female. “The funny thing is bands like Mötley Crüehave been taking their shirts off and selling an image of sexuality for years but no one pays attention to men doing that!”
Lacuna Coil have yet to choose a replacement guitar player, but the drum stool has seen the rapid appointment of former The Agony Scene sticksman Ryan Folden. As Cristina explains this was an easy choice. “He started as our drum tech and filled in for Criz when he and his partner had their baby girl. He’s a great musician and a perfect guy to have on a tour bus. It was really important for us to have someone we felt comfortable with and who understands the touring lifestyle. As for the guitarist we are carrying on with just Maus for now but the response from musicians expressing interest in becoming part of our band has been phenomenal. As soon as we put a status online we were inundated with emails and video auditions. We really appreciate it but we aren’t auditioning anyone right now. It’s going to take some time for us to decide on what the right thing to do is. I think it’s really cool with one guitar too. It gives the band a more rock vibe which I think is really interesting.”
Lacuna Coil may cautiously be soldiering on with one guitar player for now but this is not the only change in the LC camp. After working with producer Don Gilmore for a few years, the Italians felt it was time for a change drafting in Jay Baumgardner (Papa Roach) to helm the mixing desk forBroken Crown Halo. “Jay owned the studio we recorded the last couple of records at so again it seemed a natural choice. We met Jay through Don but they are completely different. Don is a really hands on guy who wants to get every aspect of the recording right where as Jay stands back and looks at the whole picture. Our engineer Kyle also was really helpful. He has a lot of great ideas and plays many instruments. I am very happy with the results.”
Indeed Broken Crown Halo feels like a very natural progression from Dark Adrenaline. There has even been talk of Lacuna Coil taking inspiration from legendary horror director Dario Argento and soundtrack masters Goblin on this new record. “Yes very much. We grew up with these movies. They left a mark on us as kids. We wanted to combine those atmospherics with our music as a lot of themes fit well with the record. We haven’t written about Zombies and Vampires, but only used them as a metaphor for the destruction and horror we see in the world today. I think the record has such a spirit of defiance. We have been through a lot of things as a band in the last couple of years, couples splitting up and other conflicts, but whenever you touch the bottom you always rise to the top. It’s about facing all the adversity over the last fifteen years and still coming out on top. The song we released the video for “Nothing Stands In Our Way” is a great example of that. It tells of how we overcame the adversity life has thrown at us and we are still going strong today.”
July 2, 2014 | Categories: INTERVIEWS/FEATURES | Tags: active rock, Broken Crown Halo, Century Media, Cristina Scabbia, Dario Argento, Dark Adenaline, Don Gilmore, getting old, Ghost Cult Magazine, Goth metal, Goth Rock, horror, Jay Baumgardner, Lacuna Coil, Ross Baker., sex-appeal. | Leave a comment
Here’s a sneak preview of my interview with Neige of Alcest for Ghost Cult Magazine Issue 15!
Wait to you see what he has to say about new album “Shelter” and the musical direction he has taken.
The Purest Form Of Art – An Interview with Ihsahn
Originally published as the cover feature of Ghost Cult Magazine Issue 13. October 2013
One of the most inscrutable and softly spoken characters in all of metal, Vegard “Ihsahn” Tvelitan made his name as the leader of a seminal Black Metal act before now releasing a collection of grandiose and experimental, not to mention acclaimed, solo material. Polite, articulate and focused while his band mates were being convicted for murder and arson, this virtuoso musician and husband of fifteen years was more concerned with changing the face of extreme music through bold experimentation. Ihsahn’s forthcoming fifth solo release is “Das Seelenbrechen” and the return of Emperor to the live arena in 2014. Ghost Cult’s Ross Baker caught up with the man himself to find out what drives this master of progressive black metal.
It has only been a year since your last album “Eremita”. What inspired such a rapid return to the studio?
Almost immediately after finishing one album, I begin compiling ideas for the next one. After the first trilogy of albums, “Eremita” was a bold step but on this album, I wanted to reset the creative parameters and not fall into a formula of writing. It was exciting to record an album quite quickly to get that live vibe. It was unnerving but a very liberating experience for me.
“Das Seelenbrechen” translates to “The Breaking Of The Soul” in English. Is there a particular story or concept behind the album?
“The whole point of having the German title and the tracklist of songs being atypical was a way of taking a very deliberate side step from what I have been doing. I am very inspired by people like Diamanda Galas and Scott Walker. Their music is much more intuitive, expressive and open to interpretation. Metal these days is too much about editing and polishing everything. I felt the need to do something vaguer and abstract, straight from the soul. The album title is taken from a Nietzsche aphorism where he talks about the purest form of art. It is the only Nietzsche reference on the album but it expresses the feeling I experience when creating this music. All music lovers will realise that feeling when they listen to a piece that mirrors how they feel. It fits with the improvisational feel of the record. Creating the purest form of art is also one of the driving forces in my own life.
Speaking of improvisation, “Tacit 2” in particular seems to have a strong freejazz influence. What made you record that track?
The freeform elements allowed me to work more intuitively. That song is just the one lyric and a freeform structure. Both the “Tacit” tracks were recorded in just one take. Tobias, my drummer and I worked on those songs together. It was not about making freeform jazz, more making sound to fit the atmosphere I wanted to create. My love for Diamanda Galas influenced these songs. She can play Black Metal with her voice alone! She would do with her voice what some acts would try to achieve with a symphony orchestra. I wanted to capture that live feel she has on this record.
After years of playing Metal and music with many layers, I wanted to do something rawer and stripped down. It was very scary for me but very liberating at the same time.
Why have you chosen to explore more progressive sounds in your solo career? Did you ever feel restricted by Emperor in the sense that some fans would only accept heavy Black Metal from you?
At the end of Emperor, I felt restricted by people’s opinions of what the band should and should not be. We were writing as a band on the first album but “Prometheus…” was composed by me alone. I was restricted by the parameters of what my band mates would stand behind and consequently I found my place was in a solo venture as my musical ego is too big to cope with that! (laughs).
I think I am easygoing in all parts of life except for my music. The only person who has any influence on my work now is my wife. She is my sparring partner in many ways. She will tell me when I am on the right track.
You have spoken of your wife Heidi as your “musical sparring partner”. What does she bring to your writing process?
She is very practical and has this sense of quality not just within music. She provides an objective view and helps me find what I am after. If I have a song that I was working on e.g. my “After” album that had many clean vocal parts, she told me, it was very cheesy and too sweet so she suggested I have a saxophone part there instead of a vocal line. That song became my favourite moment on the record. She helps record my vocals and we discuss all my ideas before I start writing an album. She helps me realise the direction I want my records to take.
You have chosen to reform Emperor again for the 20th Anniversary of “In The Nightside Eclipse” why did you agree to this when you have refused to do any shows since 2006?
The 20th anniversary was the sole reason we wanted to do this. It seemed an appropriate way to celebrate our legacy. There have always been offers for us to do something but we turned them down flat. I have been very reluctant to do stuff like this because I wanted to give my own music a chance. I want to be very clear that my solo work is priority now. That is why I waited to record three albums before I did live shows because I did not want to mix in Emperor songs with my material. I wanted to be a 100% solo artist and it would be fooling my audience and me if I presented my new music as second best to the songs I wrote as a teenager. I feel my best is yet to come and I was not interested in the cliché of just playing the old classics. I am still young and have a few years in me left.
I am proud to mark the occasion of the anniversary and celebrate the starting point for us. It made more sense to do this than a “best of” set list. I feel we will perform the songs authentically and with 100% conviction because people would notice the difference. Our fans would know if we were trying to fool them.
Why have you decided to not produce another Emperor album?
We want to be very clear about this. There will never be another Emperor album. The solo work is not a fling; it is the most important thing for me now.
The reason there will not be a new Emperor record is that I do my best work as a solo artist. The end of Emperor was when I came to that conclusion. In practical terms “Prometheus…” was my first solo record. There was an open door for the others to pitch in material; I play more instruments on that one than I do on some of my solo albums.
This is with no disrespect to the other guys but if you listen to my stuff or Zylkon or The Wretched End they are very different in direction. If it were up to me, Emperor would sound like I do now. This is how I write Metal.
The duality of my work with Samoth worked so well for so many years but I feel it has played its part. In addition, many fans would expect different things from an Emperor album in 2013.
If I genuinely thought we, could get together and sparks would fly I would do that in a heartbeat but it would mean many compromises because I would want things to be more experimental. You would never have an Emperor album with saxophone on it!
The line up for these shows will feature your original drummer Bard “Faust” Eithun. Have you decided on the bass player for the live shows?
It will be Secthdamon (Tone Ingebrigtsen) on bass and Einar (Solberg) on keys. The reason we choose Secthdamon rather than Mortiis was that Secthdamon joined when we became a more serious band. Mortiis came into the band when his bass parts were already written so he had very little input in the direction the music took. He even left before that album came out so his involvement was very small.
“Das Seelenbrechen” takes its name from Nietzsche’s famed “Human, All Too Human: A Book Of Free Spirits” You have referenced Nietzsche as far back as “Thus Spake The Nightspirit”. What fascinates you about him?
“Thus Spake The Nightspirit” was written when I had only discovered Nietzsche. I shied away from his work for a while when people started telling me he was a political figure. I did not like the ideas he had been associated with. He hated everything about fascism.
Having Leprous as your backing band has clearly paid off in terms of how cohesive the lineup is live. Will that be a permanent arrangement?
I hope so. Tobias has been inspiring and can relate to playing the more freeform stuff. It’s a win win for both of us. I get a great backing band and they get more exposure. Einar (keys, vocals) is my brother-in-law and both the guitar players are students of mine.
I just give them the score for songs and when I come to rehearsals, we work the magic. Whether this will continue or not depends on if this continues to work. Promoters also get two bands for the price of one!
Where will your muse guide you in the future?
After the Emperor shows next year, I will be working on ideas for my sixth album. I admire acts like Radiohead that have retained their own atmosphere and character whether they have made rock or electronic music. Regardless of how their songs are arranged, you can tell it is them. That is what I want to achieve with my own work. I want to create something pure and individual.
December 30, 2013 | Categories: INTERVIEWS/FEATURES | Tags: black metal, Emperor, Eremita, Extreme metal, Ghost Cult Magazine, Ihsahn, In the Nightside Eclipse, Ross Baker Journalist, Samoth, Scott Walker | Leave a comment
Monday the 11th of November will be an extremely busy day for me. It appears I will be interviewing both Ghost and Ex Guns ‘N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan for Ghost Cult and Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine!
Also I am in the process of working on interviews with Avatarium, Monster Truck and a big feature on Damnation Festival! Stay tuned for more!
November 7, 2013 | Categories: NEWS | Tags: Avatarium, Duff McKagan, GHOST, Ghost Cult Magazine, History, Monster Truck, Paranormal, Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine, Ross Baker Journalist, Shopping, YouTube | Leave a comment