Italian goth-metal band Lacuna Coil has been melting faces playing their melodic, fierce music for 20 years now. Their newest album Black Anima is a record that displays the ease they’ve found in creating music that allows a listener to thrash while also experiencing moments of brilliant symphonic construction. mxdwn had an opportunity to speak in person with the band’s two lead singers, Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia. The pair talked about their inspirations for this album, spirituality, bringing out the darker sides of theirselves and of course, Jacuzzis.
mxdwn: Black Anima marks 20 years of Lacuna Coil. In that time, how has your creative process changed?
Cristina Scabbia: The general approach is still the same. We still need to be in our own environment. We are still working in Marco’s basement and that’s where he’s set up his studio. He’s the main composer of the music and Andrea and I jump in with vocal lines and lyrics and then everybody contributes with bits and arrangements and everything. The old creation of music is pretty much the same. Of course the idea behind the songs and the concepts are completely different because we are a couple of years older. A lot of things happened so of course you put everything you went through and process it and put it into your music. So this time we thought about something more serious because we wanted to talk about every feeling that human beings have that sometimes they are trying to hide and we just wanted to squeeze them in the record It’s part of being a human being — you’re not always nice and good and sometimes you have bad feelings, you’re angry, you’re pissed and you have to accept it. It’s part of the fragility of a human being. So we built a lot of stuff around it, visually as well to convey the idea of Black Anima and we thought about a book, our book, called the Black Anima that conveys all of the elements.
mxdwn: When you are creating music do you have a process or rhythm that you slip easily into? Is there a discussion of what direction you want to take the record in?
Andrea Ferro: One thing we’ve learned in the process of writing music, writing different records, is that we represent a certain side of the music and as much as we can be open to do more rhythmical stuff or melodic stuff or heavy stuff, there’s no need to go anywhere else because those types of music don’t belong to us. We’ve tried sometimes, but at the end of the day the result is never great. When we went a little further away from what we are, it never worked.
CS: We never try to stretch our presentation or our image in a way that we are doing something different from who we really are. Of course, we love to play around with makeup and with different clothes, but it’s all stuff we like very much and it puts us in a mindset of ‘okay the show is happening and the costume will make the show better,’ the interaction with have with the crowd and what we feel from the crowd is no different because we are not different people.
AF: Sometimes talking about the music we are questioning if this is something we would put on our record or not. Most of the time spontaneously we write stuff that’s already in our style. That’s what we’ve been for many years and our music taste has changed, but not so much. Overall, what we like is melancholic tones, or heavy tones or rhythmical tones. If something comes out very measured or positive it’s rare that we’re gonna use it for the record. Sometimes we do if it really fits, but I think this is a natural direction that we have inside ourselves when we write music to go more towards the darker side.
CS: We know what Lacuna Coil is and never surpass that thin line that defines it.
mxdwn: There is such a great balance between male and female vocals on your records. How do you go about finding that balance?
CS: We think about ourselves as two instruments. We can add to the composition. We don’t sit down and say “Oh I’m gonna sing more than you do.” Our ultimate goal is to give balance to every song and this happens with what fits perfectly for a song. If it’s an atmospheric part it makes more sense if I sing it. If it’s an aggressive part it makes sense that Andrea does it. You know that’s exactly how you use the bass and guitar. This is what happens with our music. Sometimes he gives ideas of what I’m gonna sing or vice versa. My guess is there is not much ego with the band and that’s what kept the band together.
AF: Obviously we do have completely different voices so what I can do she can’t and what she can do I can’t. It’s also something that we learned early on. We had to find a way to make it work and we had to learn because sometimes the balance wasn’t perfect.
CS: We also think of live shows and how it doesn’t really matter who sings what. During the show, we’re all gonna have our parts and do our thing.
mxdwn: Are there any songs from this record that you are excited to perform live?
CS: Usually, we like the most aggressive ones. Just because we like to move a little bit more on stage, but there are some other songs that are very intimate and they will work very well with a good visual. But definitely “Layers of Time.” It’s the first song we decided to put out. We think that it represents perfectly the new Lacuna Coil. It has a great balance. It has a little bit of the old sound as well. It’s still modern and we’re both singing.
mxdwn: Cristina, you’ve mentioned that you all experimented a lot on this record, both instrumentally and vocally. In what ways have you both experimented and has it changed your approach when performing?
CS: I almost interpreted a different character for different songs. My voice changes a lot in between songs. There are songs where I sound really weird. Even if I listen to it, it’s so strange. Whoever listens to the record says, “It looks like you’re a different character on every song” and I think it’s cool. Sometimes we don’t put in stuff that we are able to do because we don’t need to show off, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not able to do it. That doesn’t mean we’re not able to scream even louder or go even higher with our voices, so we pushed the limits a little bit more.
AF: It’s a solid record, but also I think personally I experimented more on a rhythmical side. I think she (Cristina) did more of a change and more stylistically-challenging stuff and going more, I don’t want to say operatic, but more symphonic.
CS: I think we are in that state of mind that we don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
AF: Whatever the song was calling for we just tried to follow the music instead of thinking “Be careful we have to sound like ourselves.” If it was fine to do a more powerful vocal, Cristina would do it or I would do it. Just follow what the music is calling for instead of overthinking it.
mxdwn: Would you call it improvisational?
CS: Not really improvisational, but we’ve always been really free with composition. We realize 100 percent that all of the decisions we make are the best ones just because we were loving what we were deciding. With this record, we decided we were gonna do it our way.
AF: At this point in our career, I don’t want to say we do whatever we want, but we can be free to experiment and people aren’t gonna be afraid of it.
CS: They know that the core is still the same regardless if we go in a more melodic direction or heavier one.
mxdwn: What is the ideal place to listen to this record?
CS: I would enjoy it alone. You can enjoy it alone. We are one of the bands that are still thinking old school and think about the whole record. We still like the fact that you have to listen to the songs one by one to get the complete idea and vibe of the record. I would take an hour out of your life to just sit down and enjoy the record without doing anything else and really enjoy every layer of every song and every little detail that you might not hear if you just put it on while you clean the house.
AF: My favorite place to listen to music is the car. I think this record is really good if you’ve ever been on a long trip. It has more energetic parts.
CS: Or on a train!
AF: Traveling! Any time traveling will be a good spot. Not with closed eyes if you’re driving of course.
CS: If you’re in a Jacuzzi that will be fine as well. Just be careful with the electricity.
mxdwn: On your previous record Delirium, you were inspired a lot by sanitariums and mental asylums. What inspired you on this record?
CS: It was more about feelings. Not a specific situation and it came out more visually. At first, sometimes it’s really hard to describe to other people about the creative process when you create music. You don’t sit down. It’s not like writing a book where you have to know exactly where you’re gonna start, where you have to finish, you have to split everything into chapters because it has to make sense with music. It’s like a painting. You start drawing and you don’t where it will take you until you get the final product. For us it was more like that. Everything was going forward, step by step, the music then the visual, the music, the visual and Marco created this logo inspired by Milano
AF: It’s an ancient emblem of the city with a dragon eating a kid which is a symbol of one of the medieval families of Milan, but it’s still very famous in the city.
CS: So the album started from that. We thought about the dragon and then we thought about the snake and we thought about betrayal and stuff like that and it all connected so quickly that everything came out and it was all there in front of us.
AF: We started with the title of the record. We write a little introduction that can be thematic and we give it to Marco so he can have a vision to write the music to and then we brainstorm together. We start writing, we have some music, we have some words, we have some titles, then we visualize the logo and we put the logo on a book and we imagine the record like a book with all of the stories of the angels and the spirits and then we retrace them. We thought about how we lost a lot of dear people in the past three or four years, but we still feel that they are here with us or we understand how they left a mark on us and we’re gonna carry them forever.
I started to buy some books about ghosts and spirits. I bought one called The Spirits of Angels which is an analysis of the figures of angels and spirits explained by two people. One is a scientist and the other is a priest and they analyze these characters in history and how they wound up in religion and how they wound up in science and what they mean for both religion and science. It was interesting and it gave us even more ideas to go further. So we put together all of these elements along with visuals and we start thinking about the stage costumes while we work on the music and the lyrics. Obviously this isn’t a concept album in the classic sense. There is not one story that starts and ends. It’s just a common topic that we use for a flavor in all of the lyrics and every song is about a deeper, personal story that we have.
mxdwn: Cristina, you’ve said that this record is “a fogged mirror we are peering into in search of the truth.” What truths did you two pull from this?
CS: That part of being a human is looking at the cool and uncool aspects and we have to accept the fact that we are yin and yang. Sometimes you might have great feelings and you might be super happy and sometimes you might even be hating something or someone and it’s not good, but it’s how humans are. We will be adding something cooler visually, adding a set of tarot cards, our own tarot cards and each one will be put together with a song and they’re there as reminders that we are all fragile, that we are not perfect and we have failures and sometimes we tend to hide from those things. Especially with social media. Everyone wants to show the best part and everybody is super filtered and happy and maybe under the surface everyone hates each other and they have the worst life, so it was the realization that those sad parts are a part of life.
mxdwn: And that’s okay.
CS: That’s okay! You just need to accept those parts of life and yourself.
AF: Otherwise it’s going to cause a lot of internal problems if you don’t realize that life is made up of both positive and negative. The fact that people don’t accept failure anymore, even though it’s a very important part of life where we can learn.
CS: In a lifetime, you are going to face some shitty moments and it’s hard and you will face it, but then there is so much more after that.
AF: To learn and grow you have to go through the process and there are no shortcuts.
mxdwn: You’ve called yourselves the Anima for this album. Did you find yourselves going inward more and exploring the more feminine side in order to create?
CS: We think of this Anima as a heritage and what will come next from that. We really thought about it as something that creates a sort of legacy because when you’re not on this earth there is something that still stays there. You know that thing that keeps you alive that nobody sees. We see it as a unity now that we are tight and alive as a band. We see it as being in an army, but we also see it as something that we can pass along to others.
AF: But femininity also fits because of creativity, creation. The female image is all about creation and giving birth. Even the word for earth in Italian, “terra,” is feminine. So the feminine aspect fits for us because of our process and the creation of a record.
mxdwn: Is femininity more important on this record than on others?
AF: Lacuna Coil has always been about balance between femininity and masculinity not just because of being a man and woman, but because in our music there has always been a more intimate and delicate side, but also very brutal and heavy and we always represent the balance of the two figures in an abstract way.
CS: I also see femininity in a way that is a strength. We are always represented as being fragile, but if you think about mothers and all of the responsibilities that a mother has, it’s really hard and it’s not for everyone. I’ve seen so many women carrying problems on their shoulders and they’re being stronger than men on several occasions.
AF: I think it’s also something that’s been missing especially nowadays. There’s always such a strong separation of male and female roles and I think there needs to be more of a balance between the two.
All Photos by Raymond Flotat