Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia: "I love to perform in front of crowds that are hostile"

Lacuna Coil (due tonight at The Summit Music Hall) started in Milan, Italy in 1994, but it wasn't until the band recruited Cristina Scabbia to do vocals on an early demo that things started to take off for the band. Shortly after recording with Scabbia, Lacuna Coil signed with Century Media and was touring Europe. The group's brand of melodic metal has been stamped with the "goth" label, but that's more a function of people trying to wrap their head around the act's music, which contains operatic vocals and displays a strong grasp of the proper use of melodrama in its songwriting.

Having just released its sixth full-length album, Dark Adrenaline, in February, Lacuna Coil recently completed a tour with Megadeth, Motorhead and Volbeat, in which Scabbia's native charisma and talent was a hit both performing in her own band and with Megadeth every night. In advance of tonight's show, we recently spoke with Scabbia while she was on tour in South America about working with Megadeth and Apocalyptica, the new album and touring Japan.

Westword: With your opera background, how did you get into singing with rock groups?

Cristina Scabbia: That started years and years ago. Basically, before Lacuna Coil, I was already singing for friends of mine that were DJs that were interested in my voice. I wasn't really giving away my image and name because I wasn't interested in that type of music. So they were using, let's say, other girls for the image and they were playing my voice back. That was my first taste of singing professionally.

In 1994, I met Andrea [Ferro], the other singer in Lacuna Coil, and Marco [Coti Zelati], the bass player, and they had a local band. They wanted to produce a demo to find out if they could get a record deal and they asked if I could do some backing vocals for them. Once we recorded the demo tape, they liked the results and asked me to stay in the band, and that's how we started. We signed to Century Media, and we produced records, and we toured.

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That's interesting you use the term "local" band. Did Lacuna Coil start out playing smaller clubs in Italy, or did you tour and play bigger venues early on?

We never started as a local band, because luckily for us, once we signed the deal with Century Media, which we did a few months after we sent the demo -- because they loved our stuff and came to Italy to talk with us and work out the deal -- we immediately started touring even before the first EP came out in December '97. We had a chance to tour with the band Moonspell from Portugal. They were on Century Media already, and they had a big European tour, and we supported them in medium to large venues right away.

You did a recent interview with Revolver last year, and they asked you about your top five most awkward moments?

Oh yes. And they're all true. They're probably not the only ones, because we've done so many concerts so far. I just told them about the first five that I got into my mind. A lot of weird stuff on tour, that's for sure.

You did a cover of "Stars" by Dubstar for one of your EPs. Why did you want to a cover a song by that band?

I think it's just interesting to cover songs that are completely different from the music you do. I don't think it would make any sense for us to cover a rock/metal song because we already play this music, so if you want to play someone else's song, why would you want to play something that's the same style?

It's more fun to experiment and play songs different from what you usually do. It's more challenging. I just like the original song. I know that Dubstar is not a popular band, but that doesn't matter. It was just a question of picking a song that we like and trying to make it ours. Actually, now a lot of people think that it's our song, "Why don't you play 'Stars'? That song is pretty good!" They don't even know about the original version.

You sang "Á Tout Le Monde" with Megadeth. How did you end up meeting those guys and then get to work with them?

I got an email from my management telling me that the Megadeth camp would love to record a song with me. That was the new version of "Á Tout Le Monde" that they were going to put into their album, United Abominations. I immediately said yes because I really liked that song.

Of course it was a great honor and privilege to record with a band like Megadeth. The funny thing is that I never met the guys up until the festival we did together in Australia after the recording, and that was Soundwave.

That was a few months after the recording. When they did the recording, it was just me and Andy Sneap, one of the producers of United Abominations. So we went to the U.K. in a studio, and it was just the two of us recording my parts. I didn't know what to do, so I recorded everything I had in mind, and they picked out the parts that they liked.

You did a recent tour with Megadeth, too, as well.

Yeah, yeah. We played it every night, and we did it every night back in 2007, when we did Soundwave in Australia together. It's a cool moment, you know. It adds something theatrical to the show.

You and Andrea have different vocal ranges. Someone has described yours as contralto. How would you describe how you work together on your vocal arrangements?

I've been asked this several times but I don't know how to answer because it's something that happens naturally. It's not even planned. We don't sit down and say, "You sing this part and I'm gonna sing that part." Sometimes it happens I'll write parts he'll end up singing or vice versa, just because -- I don't know how to explain it, but it's like there's no ego in the band.

It doesn't really matter who sings what because it's all about the song. As long as the song sounds great as it is, it doesn't really matter if I'm singing the part or Andrea is singing. What really matters for us is the final result. We don't split 50 percent the parts. We have the same tastes, so we never really fight over this stuff at all. That's probably why we've been together for so long as a band. Because we don't fight over the stupid shit.

Your latest record, Dark Adrenaline, where did the name of the album come from?

We just created it after we listened to the old songs. We imagined this sort of dark liquid and this medical surrounding. We tried to explain more of the concept in one of the special editions of the albums. There is a DVD with six mini-videos. It starts with me being injected with this dark liquid and starting to trip and having visions about the other members of the band in different situations.

We liked the titled because with the word "dark," it fit with how the album is the most obscure we've ever written. We all went through particular moments in our life that weren't exactly happy, and this is, of course, reflected in your songwriting because what you write is what you are. At least if you write honestly.

The "adrenaline" represents the rush of energy that came up during the recording and during the songwriting because we were so excited about this album. We wanted to push the negative things out, and it turned out we got this huge amount of energy, and again, adrenaline going on during the recording. So we thought Dark Adenaline would be a cool title for the vibe going on with the songs.

Those titles on the record certainly reflect that someone was going through a tough time.

Yeah, but if you look at the lyrics they're not really reflecting the titles. For example, "I Don't Believe in Tomorrow," if you read it, it sounds like it might negative, like it means we won't believe there will be a tomorrow or anything like that. But that's exactly the point. We would like our listeners to go beyond the surface and to go deeper into it, because the song makes it pretty clear you have to face your problems and not postpone the solution of them. The chorus says, "I want to say it now because I don't believe in tomorrow." That means it's happening right now. You have to face it. You have to face the truth and the problem at the moment. It doesn't really mean we don't believe in tomorrow.

Obviously, you've toured all over the place. What do you like about touring the U.S.A., and what do you like about touring Japan?

About the States, I like the fact that we feel really comfortable because we've been there so many times, so we have a very strong base of fans. Some of them have become friends, so every time we go to the same place and they come to say, "Hi," and they sometimes bring homemade food because it's more of a familiar environment.

About Japan, I like the culture. It's one of the most polite places I've ever been. The fans are so nice and kind, and they don't want to bother, and they're even afraid to come to you if they see you because they don't want to bother you. I think it's magical. It's so rare. Sometimes way too much. Because it's like, "Come on, I don't bite. You can come and talk with me. No problem." They're very respectful and that's something fantastic.

How did you come to work with Apocalyptica?

The same kind of thing as Megadeth. Management asked me to do it, but this time, the guys were in the studio, and it was kinda cool, because we recorded everything together, and we could hear the results while I was doing it. They're great guys, and it was a pleasure working with them. I liked the songs very much, they suited me.

Is there anything you miss at home while you're on tour?

Oh yeah, absolutely. The job is really rewarding but you don't really have a private life anymore because you kind of have to forget seeing your loved ones for quite a while. That's what I miss the most. Of course my boyfriend, my family and friends, but also the small things you don't realize you have until they're gone -- like taking a shower in your own shower, sleeping on your own couch, using the stuff in your own kitchen. Sometimes it's such an automatic gesture that you don't realize you miss them until you're gone.

When you're at home do people bother you as someone who is at least semi-famous?

To be honest, I don't think I have that much of a recognizable face, especially when I take my makeup off and go out and don't dress up. It's not easy for people to recognize me because I don't want to be recognized. I think it's easy if you don't want to be recognized to get around with no problems at all. Of course, if I got to a metal bar or a rock place, people will come to me and ask to take pictures. But if I go to a grocery store, I would not go in full makeup and full stage clothes, so I think you can pretty much escape from all of that if you really want to.

Sometimes it's funny because people expect me to be dressed up all the time so much, Sometimes, we go to concerts and I enter the venue, and I have no makeup and sports shoes, and I'm in a completely different outfit. Then maybe a fangirl shows up dressed like me and the fans go, "Oh, it's you!" It's fantastic. It's just a great thing for me.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging performing in front of people after all these years?

It's always challenging because it really depends on the crowd you're playing in front of. Let's say, for instance, the small tour we're doing now in South America with Lamb of God and Hatebreed: In South America, it's even more different, because even if we're playing with bands more extreme than us like Lamb of God and Hatebreed, the crowd wants to see bands playing. So we had a shitload of fans coming to the shows waiting to see us, but they're going to be happy to see Lamb of God and Hatebreed because nothing really happens in those places.

But if the same show would have happened in another country, let's say Europe where the fans are more divided in terms of tastes, we probably would have been booed because we were absolutely different. At the same time, this would be a bigger challenge for me because I love to perform in front of crowds that are hostile.

Because you give 100 percent and you show them what you're capable of doing, and it's the biggest reward when, at the end of the show, they're cheering for you and asking for one more song and all their hands are in the air. I think that's great. The day that I won't feel excited to be on stage and not a little bit afraid of the result, that will mean I'm not interested in this thing anymore. I still love to death what I do.

Lacuna Coil, with Otherwise, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April18, Summit Music Hall, $23, 303-487-0111, All Ages

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