I’d like to start with a question that covers broad issues: when you were born, musical genres and subcultures in music were simply pivotal: you were part of the indie scene, or the metal scene, or were part of the electronic music scene – no mixtures or combinations allowed, you had to make your choice, it was quite strict. That was the 90s. Today, the situation is brand different. You’re stil there though, and you’ve brilliantly survived all those changes…
CS: If you look at the metal scene way back when we started, we were quite an exception. Major part of the bands were doing something completely different to what we were doing: there was power metal, then death metal, stuff like that. We were into something else, the dark wave the related to bands like Type O Negative or Paradise Lost, but still we borrowed something from bands like Pantera, Iron Maiden, Metallica as well. Dark was the dominant thing, though. We were outsiders.
And you were aware of that.
AF: Definitely we were. Me and Marco (the bass player and main composer of the band) had our background in the skate scene, it means that musically speaking our visions were much broader than those of the usual and average metal head. We fancied bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Slayer, Pantera… or even The Doors, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Run DMC. That’s a part of the reason why we always thought that, as Lacuna Coil, we were generating something “out of the box” within the metal. Even the fact the we were leaning towards dark sounds, that wasn’t a common practice at that time, it wasn’t fashionable at all – it became so later, with the success of bands like Moonspell or The Gathering, but when their success spread all around we were already in the business since years. Then, well, you know, the gothic thing has always been a strange beast, a scene that has always stayed on its very own, just in order to surface in the metal mainstream from time to time before moving back to obscurity once again. It’s a mistake to pigeonhole us within the gothic movement alone, but in a way we were always used to be the “strange guys” out there, a part of a minority.
A minority that quite soon became well successful abroad, though. And for an Italian band it was quite a thing becoming well known outside of the national borders.
CS: Our success grew step by step, we didn’t skyrocket. Our first demo happened to be the “Demo of the month” for several magazines just because we were something strange, peculiar to the scene, that’s why we were noticed. Same thing when international popularity came into play, when we were included in the Ozzfest bill for the first time: once again, it was the fact that we were something different, something quite unusual.
Were you aware that being part of the Ozzfest was actually an enormous boost of your career?
CS: No way. Being there it was already something literally unbelievable, to us! Being called directly by Ozzy’s sons… surreal, surreal. One of the greatest events in the world for rock music and guess what?, we were part of it. Not as audience. Unbelievable, really.
AF: We did not properly realise what was going on. There’s a radio in Boston, WAAF, they’ve always been real tastamakers for the metal scene: they contacted us and asked us to play an acoustic version of “Heaven’s A Lie” in their studio, and we were like “What?!”, it was hard for us at that moment to even imagine that an acoustic version of that song was possible. We tried, though, we wrote down a new arrangement with acoustic guitars without even knowing if we were capable to deal with such a thing – the original version is almost a doom thing, you know, how the hell you can transform it into something acoust? That was mad. But we tried. And we did it. WAAF then started to broadcast the original version of the song, plus other songs of the “Comalies” album, and suddenly you had that “snowball effect”, radios all around the States started to play our songs. Finally, the Ozzfest came into play. That was huge. Something brand different to what we were used in Europe, a totally different concept: not a three-day festival or so in one venue, but an extended three month tour with so many different, amazing bands. It was crazy: we ended up selling almost 6/7,000 copies a week in the merch tent, that means more than other bands that were on the bill, and I mean greats such as Judas Priest, Slayer, Black Sabbath… Only Slipknot were selling more than us but you know, they were the headliners.
Were you able to keep a grip on yourselves? That should have been damn crazy…
CS: You know what, it was more like living on a holiday. Let’s see: everything was new, everything was a surprise, we were meeting musicians we were fan of and they treated us like mates, like colleagues. Ozzfest is a very peculiar thing: every band travels with its own toubus, but at the end of the day we all gather at the same place, so it becomes a sort of an extended family thing. Like spending holiday on a camping.
After all these years, how much have you changed as persons, as human beings, if you look back at those Ozzfest days?
CS: Changin and evolving as a person, as a human being is inevitable, isn’t it? You learn a lot of things in the process, you get experienced. When the journey starts yes you’re fresh, you’re enthusiast, but at the same time there so many things you literally ignore and are not aware of: you don’t have a clue about how to record properly an album, you don’t have a clue about what does really mean being on tour, there are so many things you simply don’t know – even by the business side of things. You then start to learn how to look after your imagery, how to properly set up your merchandising, how to plan the routing of a tour… all things we simply ignored, when we started the band. Then, your very own life comes through different kind of experiences, sometimes harmful, like for instances losing beloved ones. No way you can be the same human being that you were fifteen or twenty years ago, that’s simply not possible. Plus, if you consider that the world has changed so much since then…
The music scene itself did, and its industry.
CS: Yeah. When we started there was no internet, the musical boundaries between genres were strict, as we were discussing before.
AF: But we were always that kind of people willing to change, evolve, learn through new experiences, call into question every single idea. One thing has to be said: even though we, I think, have our very own signature stylistically speaking, we’ve always wanted to sound “contemporary”, no way we were going to be retro or conservative about our sound. That doesn’t mean we pretend to be the hipsters all the time, but you know what, we don’t wanna sound conservative. Never ever.
I’ve got a feeling: you’re that kinda guy that are quite enough control freaks, aren’t you?
AF: Yes we are!
CS: Sometimes we do exaggerate. Sometimes we put a pressure on us that it’s frankly not necessary. We should remind ourselves, doing mistakes is normal… Especially now, as so many people are working with the band: you’d love to control everything, but sometimes simply that’s not possible, whatever you do or pretend to do. You can carefully plan the promo schedule, than suddenly a Russian website leaks the new album… so what?
AF: Luckily enough, with got different attitudes, and we complete each other. I like to take care of the “bigger picture”, for instance: no matter how things are done, is just important that they get done.
CS: Just as I get a pain the ass about details, instead.
Ok, so assuming that you’re real control freaks tell me something about the process that generated “Black Anima”, then.
CS: It was really peculiar. We had a brainstorming session that really was a turning point. We wanted to check if we were all on the same path. And that was not only about the music, it was about showing pictures, drawings, clothes to each other…
Uh ok, it wasn’t just about the music, then.
CS: Not exactly. Marco, while trying to write down the new material, felt a sort of a writer’s block. Not that he wasn’t producing, but he wasn’t satisfied with the actual outcome. So he was worrying a bit. He came to me, and yes, he realised that we were in danger, ‘cause sure you can take your time to accomplish a new album, but still that time is not endless. You have agreements, settlements, you have several people that depend on you and there are schedules and deadlines you can’t ignore. You have a responsibility, you know. So, deadlines were approaching and still we didn’t have anything convincing to present. So, we thought it would have been a good idea to try a sort of collective brainstorming, all together. All each of us had to do was to do ideas, whatever kind they were, whatever might have served as inspiration. We spent a whole day showing pictures to each other, researching thour Instagram – that’s how we discovered the great Micah Ulrich, that took charge of the imagery surrounding “Black Anima”, see the tarots thing – or finding out which photographer was likely to be the most suitable for us this time (and once we discovered her, we found out she was even a fan of our music, can you imagine that?). That days was a sparkle, that generated so many things. Marco’s writer block disappeared. He became suddenly super productive.
“Black Anima” is an album where also the arrangements are carefully crafted, I’d say.
AF: For sure we want evolve and learn from our very own past mistakes. Every time we try something different: be it the way the drums sound, be it the lead vocals… We do it first for ourselves: it’s a great method in order not to being bored of yourselves. We want to keep up with new challenges, stakes gets higher each time and once you explore new territories, well, you just feel thrilled, and that’s an amazing feeling. Plus, you should well consider that we’ve just gone through the celebration for our twentieth anniversary, and that gave us the chance to finally look at what has happened so far, what we’ve done in the past all these years. Take the track “Beneficium”, for instance: to a certain extent, it’s a sort of contemporary version of what we were trying to achieve with the “In A Reverie” material, that means our debut album. If it wasn’t for the anniversary, we were not being used to look back at what we’ve done in the past – we simply were not having the time to do it. It all happened so fast.
Very final question: who are the bands you feel more tied to? And I don’t mean musically; I mean, as human beings, as friends.
CS: Many of them. If we had to name just one, I’d say Moonspell. They’re great human beings, and also they were crucial in helping us to go on as a band when things looked like were falling completely apart: year 1997, inside the band arguments were occurring, it was our very first tour, some people were simply leaving the band. Moonspell helped us, in every possible way. That’s something that has to be acknowledged, that’s something we will never forget.