Unwinding with Lacuna Coil
By Naughty Mickie
Photos by Jason Mills
What started as a simple pitch has turned into my latest passion. Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to get close to my subject, but one listen to Lacuna Coil's effort, "Comalies," and it was too late. I was drawn in by their lush orchestrations and the vocalists' balance of hauntingly melodic and just-right raw tones. The sound could be called atmospheric goth, heavy metal or underground rock, whatever it may be, I can't seem to stop listening to the album-- not just the cuts I like best, but all the way through from beginning to end.
Lacuna Coil consists of male vocalist Andrea Ferro, female vocalist Cristina Scabbia, guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazzi, bassist Marco Coti Zelati and drummer Cristiano Mozzati.
Hailing from Italy, the group has issued a self-titled EP in 1998, "In a Reverie" in 1999, "Unleashed Memories" in 2001 and most recently "Comalies," all with Century Media.
They have toured with the likes of P.O.D., Moonspell, the Gathering, Seigmen, Opeth, Anthrax, Type O Negative, Danzig, Dimmu Borgir, Bleeding Through and Blindside. And were beginning Ozzfest 2004 when I caught up with Ferro-- I had to know their story.
"Basically it was me and Marco, the bass player, we started the band because we were skateboarding together and we just played for fun in our spare time," Ferro recalls. "And we started to get more into music, we liked it more and more. Music became our big passion because we were getting older and skateboarding was destroying our bodies. We had to stop. Then we met Cristina and we learned that she could sing, so we asked her to join the band in the beginning to supply some background vocals. It worked very well."
In 1996 they released a demo and got offers from several labels. They decided to sign with Century Media.
"We never thought in the beginning that we would become professional musicians. We were in the right moment and right place," Ferro says.
Before going further, I ask Ferro to clarify the meaning behind Lacuna Coil and how they came up with the name.
He explains that they were originally called Ethereal, but discovered that there were two other bands already using the name, so they had to change the name when they signed the record deal.
"To avoid the same problem again, we decided to create a personal name putting together an Italian word with an English word and the meaning, the closest we could get to the meaning is like empty spiral and it still has a meaning close to ethereal," Ferro explains. "We found something that sounds good, that we like it and also it has the same type of meaning."
Ferro came to music as a teen.
"I started playing the bass and I was singing. I started just for fun in the band, but it became more and more natural to learn and take some lessons and improve," Ferro says.
In school he studied computers and accounting. He also speaks Italian, English and Spanish.
"Not excellent Spanish, but I can speak it. I've been to Spain many times and I talk with people," Ferro adds.
When he's not working on music, Ferro enjoys video games, comics and films, as well as some outdoor activities.
"I like to play soccer and mountain bike. When I'm at home, I always go around with my bike because a little bit outside of the city there is gardens and parks and places you can go. I try to keep myself in shape because sometimes in the winter I'm too lazy, I don't want to go out," Ferro laughs. "I also spend a lot of time on the road so it's not easy to keep good health and lifestyle."
Ferro tells me that he stopped skateboarding because he tore the ligaments in his shoulder when he fell while training for the Italian championship. He is interested in returning to skating, but only as a hobby, not for competition.
We return to music and the band, starting at the beginning-- how Lacuna Coil writes their material.
"Basically Marco and Maus (Biazzi) write the music and all the keyboard parts too," explains Ferro. "Me and Cristina, we work more on the vocal lines and all the lyrics and the vocal arrangements. But I have to say that everybody can give their opinion. It's a free kind of process. If somebody has a good idea, I don't care if it's my idea or somebody else's. We are very open-minded. It's about the band, it's not about who had the idea. It's what is good for the songs that's what we really care about, we care about good songs."
Ferro notes that Cristina is very melodic, while he is more powerful and they decide their parts as to who sounds better in which section of the song. But either way, most interestingly, they don't pen much in their native tongue, opting instead for English, which is more universal.
"We write in a sort of English because sometimes it's not 100 percent correct. English sounds very good, especially for fast songs." Ferro goes on, "We have always worked with English. We are more unable to write a song in Italian because we're not used to it and it sounds too much, I don't want to say cheesy, but something like that. It sounds too much like other bands in Italy. So we find it more personal to sing in English. Of course I understand the point where people are out of Italy, say, 'Oh Italian songs work very well.' And a lot of people have come to us asking 'Why don't you have more Italian songs?' Even if they speak English or another language. We will try to do another song in Italian for our next album, but it's very tough."
As a vocalist myself, I am aware that Italian is usually used for voice students, as it has very pure vowels. English, on the other hand, has vowels that do not always sound as they appear and are often much harsher. We discuss this and Ferro agrees with my point, stating that Italian may work well for melodic tunes, but English is better for power.
"I like it (writing and singing in Italian), but it's very difficult and we don't want to force it. If it comes in a spontaneous way, we will do it for sure, but we don't want to say 'Oh we're Italian so we need to have an Italian song,'" adds Ferro.
Next, I hit him up to compare the music scene on both sides of the big pond.
"In America, I am noticing a lot of those emo bands sound the pretty much the same," states Ferro. "They even have the same names. It's like a joke. They're all good, it's not that they cannot play, they can play and they have good vocalists, but they all sound the same. It's like the same band keeps going and going. I don't really like this, I think it will strangulate the market because we cannot buy 10 records that sound exactly the same.
"I understand when people come to our show and see us for the first time, 'Oh you sound so original,' I understand why. Because the other bands don't sound original at all.
"I like a lot of American bands," Ferro continues. "I grew up with a lot of American rock bands, but today I see a lot of bands sounding the same in the American market. That's why many European bands are standing out now."
I remark that I often hear that European tastes are considered more developed than Stateside folks'.
"I think there are different ways in Europe, like more different styles compared to America," Ferro responds, adding that the underground scenes on both sides of the ocean have much to offer.
Doing my duty, I learn that Ferro doesn't have a lot of time for the Internet, but he does check e-mail and visit news and sports sites.
The future looks promising for Lacuna Coil.
"Every day we have something new. Everything is moving very fast," says Ferro listings off tours, another cut from "Comalies" slated for radio release and a new album.
"Our plans after Ozzfest were to maybe go back to the studio or the practice room and write a new record and come out with another album, this one is already out a couple of years. But you never know what could happen because things are taking off so fast." Ferro clarifies, "We have a lot of new music, but not a lot of vocal lines. We'll try now to work during Ozzfest because we'll have a lot of free time as we play only an hour a day. We have a little laptop so we can write down our ideas and when we get back home we can concentrate on it a lot."
I ask Ferro if there's anything we haven't discussed that we should and he thanks me for not comparing Lacuna Coil to Evanescence, something that happens all too often. Yes, the bands both have female vocalists, but they also have clear differences. Ferro remarks that he gets a little tired of the comparisons. He also doesn't consider it a big deal that they have a Scabbia, she has a definite place in the band and works well with the men in the group.
"We're glad to be here and promote the album. We just want people to give a chance to our album," Ferro concludes with a grin.
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