Lacuna Coil singer Cristina Scabbia says the band is getting heavierand who would know better than she? Dark Adrenaline, the Italian group's sixth record, is loaded down with massive guitar riffs and arcing vocals and is certainly as heavy as any record they've ever made. Guitarist Cristiano Migliore plays crunching rhythms beneath Marco "Maus" Biazzi's wickedly inventive solos while the keyboards fill in the gaps with cinematic and haunting colors. "Trip the Darkness," the first single, is a plodding, half-time riff that looks to be the band's highest charting song to date. The track was also tagged as a remix for the recent Underworld: Awakening film. Once again teamed with producer Don Gilmore [he did the Shallow Life record], the band have brought together the symphonic and harmonic elements that have been their mainstay, mashed them up in a blender with electric guitars and crushing drums and produced their most significant album to date.
Cristiano Migliore wants to talk about the new record but technology won't let him. Our phone conversation is interrupted five times by the vagaries of Skype and only when this writer calls him directly are we able to get on with the business at hand.
UG: Before we talk about music, a political question: Has the lousy economy in Europe and the U.S. affected the band?
Cristiano Migliore: To be honest with you, I didn't really notice any difference. Fans have always been very passionate about our music but I mean it's probably like that with any band they like. We were afraid that maybe with this crisis and stuff around the world, people wouldn't maybe go out to shows as much. But I think it's really not the case. I mean people really wanna go out and have fun and support their favorite bands and stuff. So we haven't seen a huge difference to be totally honest.
That's great to hear. Cristina had said she thought Lacuna Coil were getting heavier but other metal bands getting, in her words, mellower. Would you agree?
Yeah [laughs]. I do agree. I don't know if it's something intentional of if it's just the way we feel when we write the new songs and stuff. Although we like to experiment a little bit, we just like to stay true to our origins. We all grew up listening a certain type of music and we still like it. Although we like a lot of stuff, a lot of different genres, we like to play heavy stuff and I guess that's what we are gonna do for the rest of our career.
Cristina also said, We'll record anything we like. Would you ever get as adventurous as say, Korn and Mastodon did on their two last albums [The Path to Totality and The Hunter respectively]?
I think that's something you really have to be careful with. We like to record stuff that's different from time to time. For example, on Shallow Life, I think that was our most experimental record with songs like I Like It or Underdog, which actually sound a little different than what we actually did before. And some of our fans didn't super like that you know. I know that people and fans in general tend to be very conservative when it comes to their favorite bands. They like that band because it gives them certain feelings and they can expect something. If you buy an AC/DC record you know exactly what you're gonna get.
I know and I agree that you have to be very open-minded and we always try to be but at the same time you have to draw a line in my opinion. There is a point that you shouldn't really go beyond because otherwise it's a big risk. Some of your fans may not actually really understand what you're trying to do. At the same time I know that as an artist you really want to try to do stuff that makes you move on and really stimulates your imagination and stuff like that and your will to play music.
There is definitely a line between pushing limits and changing who you are musically.
I think if you want to try to experiment more, you may want to try and do it with a side project or something. Although for some bands it actually works very well. I heard the new Korn and it's actually very different and I really like ithonestly it's a great album. But I don't know that all their diehard fans will actually enjoy that kind of change. I didn't have the chance to actually listen to the new Mastodon album.
It's like heavy Pink Floyd; it's an amazing record.
The way you describe it it sounds like something I would really like. But I like those guys and I really like the stuff they have done in the past. I think if that's something you feel like you wanna do, you should definitely go for it. It's a risk and it's something you have no guarantees that it's gonna work. But at the same time we're not in it for the money or otherwise we wouldn't be here anymore [laughs].
You drive around in Ferraris.
Oh, yeah yeah yeah. Absolutely!
Don Gilmore produced Dark Adrenaline and Shallow Life. You said that Shallow Life was kind of a change in direction for the bandwas Gilmore in any way responsible for that?
When Don came in on Shallow Life most of the songs were already written. So he actually didn't really change the band or the way we sounded. That's exactly what we wanted to do at that time. He just came in and he helped us shape those songs and polish em off a little bit. At that time when we wrote those songs that was the kind of stuff we wanted to play. Shallow Life was experimental not because of Don coming in and trying to have us doing something that we were not but it was really like us wanting to do that kind of stuff. He just tried to make it sound as good as it could.
With Dark Adrenaline you knew where you wanted the band to go?
That's exactly the same thing that's happened with Dark Adrenaline. We always sit down and we don't know exactly what's gonna come out. We just start playing and record a few guitar riffs and keyboard parts and blah blah blah and we just try to mix them all together and then we see what happens. If we like it we just keep going and try to follow that same kind of direction and that'll be pretty much how the album will sound like.
Part of Dark Adrenaline was recorded back in Milan at the band's studio and a portion of it was done at Can Am Studios in Los Angeles. Did any of the American and the European studio vibes get transferred to the record?
The thing is it's utterly different when you have to go somewhere and you'll be recording in L.A. for example as opposed to being in Milan. But to be totally fair since you have to spend so much time in the studio it doesn't really matter where you are because you're not gonna be like looking outside of the window and seeing, I don't know, Sunset Boulevard for example. It doesn't really make that much difference.
The recording gear at Can Am [Guns N' Roses recorded Appetite For Destruction there] didn't make a difference?
The equipment is pretty much the same now everywhere in the world. If you rent a good studio you will have the same ProTools rig or a nice analog desk or whatever. It doesn't really make that much of a difference. That's why actually we decided to record our last album in Milan because we would save money by not having the band fly out to somewhere else in the world and stay and pay for hotels or an apartment or whatever. This way we could actually spend more time at home and be more relaxed. We knew at the end of the recording session at night, we'd go home and sleep in our own bed and take a mental break from the recordings and stuff.
The advancements in recording gear have really impacted on the creative process.
I can see how this would have maybe worked a few years ago where there was probably a difference in the equipment that you would have. But nowadays you can almost record an entire album at your own house if you have the right stuff. I can get my little TonePort by Line 6 and just plug my guitar in and record stuff with ProTools and it'll sound just as good as it will if I go to the studio and record. That's not really a big problem anymore. I think you can actually do very nice stuff anywhere if you have the right people to work with and they know all the ins and outs of how to work with certain stuff.
Then it just comes down to going into the studiowhatever studio it might beand getting the music recorded.
Your thought process and your mental disposition when you are in the studio is pretty much the same. You know you have to go in and record as best as you can and try to get the best sound possible. That can be done whether it's L.A. or Milan or Paris or wherever.
Did you record solos in Milan?
It was funny because we recorded pretty much everything back in Milan. Then Marco, our bass player, Andrea and Cristina went to L.A. to record the vocal lines and part of the arrangements with the keyboard parts and the rest of the band including myself just stayed in Milan. We actually recorded all the missing parts at home using Line 6 TonePorts and then sent the files by Internet email. We actually recorded solos and other stuff at home and sent those to Don at the studio in L.A. and they just edited all the stuff that needed to be done and put it in the song and that was it.
Your solos on the record were amazing.
To be honest those solos were played by Maus, the other guitar player. He was actually the one who recorded all the solos on this new album.
That was stupid.
[Laughs] No worries but I just wanted to give credit to the one who actually did it.
You always play the solos.
I do but on this album there was just no chance to do it. When we play stuff, it's not like a competition between us. It's like whoever can play it better or has the best part that fits the song will actually do it. And for these kinds of songs and stuff, all the stuff he came up with sounded better than what I did. So it was actually pretty easy and democratic. We didn't really go, Oh, no I want to do it. No, I'll do it. So we went that way.
In general, can a listener tell the difference between one of your solos and one of Marco's?
I'm not sure; it really depends on the song. I really like the stuff he did and I think his style fit very well with the songs. For example on My Spirit, the last song on the album, I could have played a solo that could have been very close to what he did and that's the cool thing about it. I usually like to play the slower songs. He's more like the technical guy that plays the fast stuff. I think you would probably be able to recognize it, if there's a slow song on the album and there's a solo in it, 99 per cent it's gonna be me. But this time he was very productive and he did most of the other stuff like arrangements and changing other parts. It actually felt pretty natural that the solos were his.
On the other side, you were the sole guitar player on the In a Reverie album. Did you enjoy that experience?
It was a lot of work [laughs]. At that time I just joined the band. I mean I knew the guysI've known the guys for a long time even before I joined the band and we were friends and used to hang out at the same barsand when they needed new people because half of their band left they contacted me right away. I was like, I'll do it. Before you know it we were in the studio recording all these songs and I was the only one there pretty much recording everything. It was crazy and back at that time we had to record everything analog so it was on tape and we did a lot of takes and stuff like that. It was very hard and it was fun for me because it was the very first time I would actually record a record professionally.
You were learning on the job.
Waldemar Sorychta [producer] was very understanding and very patient with me. One of the phrases I still remember today is One more time. He would say that like every five minutes and that's not even a joke. It took a long, long time to record all those parts and I did everything. I co-wrote most of the songs with Marco; I recorded all the guitar parts; I did the solos and everything. It was cool but it was too much and I'm really glad that Maus is part of the band. When we're in the studio, there's no ego problems with uswhoever can record and nail a part down will do it. There are some parts I can play better and some parts he can play better and whoever can get it done the quickest that's ithe's got the part.
"We were afraid that with this crisis and stuff around the world, people wouldn't maybe go out to shows as much."
When Maus came into the band and recorded on Unleashed Memories, that was a completely different experience for you?
Absolutely. We always try to learn all the parts; the both of us learn all the parts and we try to see, OK, who can play what better? as I said before. It really makes a lot of difference because you don't have all that pressure on you. You're like, OK, I'll try and if it doesn't work then he can try it. And I'm sure that one of us can actually get it right.
Could you sense a change in the music from In a Reverie to Unleashed Memories?
Yeah, for sure. I think there's been a growth in every album we released. It all comes down to touring and the bands you like; what you listen to; the movies you watch. There's a lot of stuff that changes you as a person and also as an artist. When you sit down and write new music that gets all reflected in it so there was definitely a difference. When we did In a Reverie, we wrote all those songs in a little over three months. I still used to have a job at that time so I'd work all day then go to the rehearsal room. I'd meet with the other guys and Marco and I would sit down and try to work on some of the stuff that he maybe tried to do and so.
By the time you did Unleashed Memories, the process must have changed.
It was little more relaxed. I would still work here and there to pay my bills and everything but I had a little more time to actually write songs. And the fact that Maus was also in the band was a good thing because we could actually exchange all those ideas and try to make things better. I mean three people working on music is better than one if you can agree on what direction you wanna go to. Yeah, it was good and it was different because Maus brought his own ideas to the table and I think that's always a good thing.
Certainly as you kept recording albums more and more people contributed to the writing process.
When we did Shallow Life, we all contributed like heavily on every song. I think I wrote like one-third of the album basically so it was really good. It was the way it's supposed to be and that's probably why it's the most diverse album we have. But then again it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes you don't have the same creativityyou just sit there and nothing comes out. It's good that we have so many people involved and it doesn't really matter who does what.
Where did the cover of R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion come from? Are you a R.E.M. fan?
We are but I'm not personally a huge R.E.M. fan. I like most of their stuff but it's not like I own all their albums or anything like that. But when we were recording Karmacode back in 2005, we had several songs we wanted to try and cover. We ended up doing Enjoy the Silence and actually Losing My Religion was on the list at that time. We then really never had the chance and never really sat down to try and do it anymore after that. We were like, Oh, let's see what happens. When we started recording stuff for Shallow Life and writing new songs, we actually didn't even think it was necessary to do it. And then finally for some reason Marco sat down and started working on it and he actually was very creative and started coming up with really nice stuff.
Covering iconic songs can be risky for a band.
When you cover a famous song you need to do it rightyou need to feel like you're doing something special and if not you might as well drop it. We also thought like that back when we were doing Karmacode to try and cover Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. It didn't workit sounded too similar to what they already did.
A song like that doesn't lend itself to interpretation.
How do you change it? It's very difficult. We also tried to do A Question of Time by Depeche Mode as well and it turned out like almost like a thrash metal song [laughs]. It really didn't fit at all. We liked it and it sounded pretty good but it didn't sound like us so we had to drop it. This time when Marco came to the rehearsal room and let us listen to what he did, we actually got very excited. It sounded really good and it sounded like one of our songs although you could tell it was still Losing My Religion.
Do you listen to alternative bands like My Morning Jacket or the Black Keys?
I try to stay up to date and listen to as much stuff as possible and I like to listen to really any kind of music. I don't actually know the bands that you mentioned but I really like bands like Volbeat and newer bands like that. I also like other stuff that has nothing to do with rock or metal. It's a good thing to try and really find out if there's new stuff. Sometimes you actually lose your perspective on where the music is going towards and it's true.
Where do you find new bands to listen to?
I think the way you discover most bands at least for me is to go on tour. When you go on tour and you play with other bands sometimes you actually listen to bands you never heard before and that's how I discovered most of the bands I like. There are other times where you go to the store and listen to the radio or Internet or whatever. But sometimes you play with bands that maybe you never heard before and you're like, Wow, these guys are great. That happened at Ozzfest and we played with a lot of metalcore bands like Atreyu and Unearthed and I never heard those guys before and that was right when the metalcore scene started booming. Most of those guys are great and I really like what they're doing. I think that's a really good way to actually find outpeople should go out and see shows even if they don't really know those bands.
In 2012 you're doing the Gigantour with Megadeth, Motorhead and Volbeat. You feel a kinship with those kinds of bands?
I think so. At first when we started touring the U.S. and I'm gonna mention Ozzfest again when we did it in 2004, the second stage where we actually played pretty much only had metalcore bands playing. Slipknot and Lamb of God were headlining and we felt like we were gonna be out of place. We're like, Oh, man, we're gonna be the softest band on the bill and people are gonna throw stuff at us and they're gonna hate it. And we ended up being the second best-selling band at FYE that year after Slipknot who just came out with their Subliminal Verses album. It totally blew us out and we were like, Wow, we didn't expect this to happen.
"There is a point that you shouldn't really go beyond because otherwise it's a big risk."
You think it's good to have concerts with different kinds of bands performing?
So yeah, I think no matter what the bill is, no matter who the bands you are gonna be playing with are, there's always place for you. Especially in the U.S., people are a little bit open-minded when it comes to listening to different bands. It doesn't have to be a bill where all the bands sound the same. I think it's also a little boring if you will. If you have different bands and they play different kinds of music, it's gonna make it all the more interesting.
Trip the Darkness was remixed by Ben Weinman and appeared in the Underworld: Awakening soundtrack. You talked about liking what Korn did with remixes so you were up for a project like this?
Yeah. A couple years ago we had a competition online where people could actually remix To the Edge that was on Karmacode. It was just fans who could actually get the tracks and do whatever they wanted and the stuff we got back was just unbelievable.
It was really good?
Some of that stuff was amazing. I remember at that time we sat down and we started listening to like hundreds of remixes. Some were OK and some were very different and maybe too different; some were cool and some were band. But it's incredible what people can do with your stuffsomething you wouldn't even think of. They would totally change the song around and make it sound like something else. We were huge fans of the Underworld movies and when they told us they wanted to try and remix Trip the Darkness we were like, Wow, yeah, let's do it.
What do you think of the remixed track?
I'm really happy with the result. I mean it sounds very different and it fits the movie atmosphere and everything and I like when that stuff happens.
Did you know Ben Weinman?
Yeah, we knew him because we once toured with Stolen Babies, this band from L.A. and their drummer Gil played in the Dillinger Escape Plan for a while. So we met those guys a few times and I actually didn't know before he did the remix that he was gonna do it. It was like, Wow, that's cool when I actually heard it was gonna be him. I was like, Oh, that's interesting and that's awesome.
It's still the ESP and Line 6 gear for you?
Yeah absolutely. That's a winning team for us and it's been for a few years and there's no reason to change it.
Can you hear a difference in your guitar sounds back in the days of analog and now recording digitally?
You can. I can but that may also be because we developed a certain sound over the years. I think that if you used different equipment, if that's the sound you liked, you'd probably find it anyway. But we just get very comfortable with what we have. ESP and Line 6 have been amazing with us and they gave us tons of stuff. We actually like using them live and in the studio because live it's so easy with Line 6 stuff you just save all your sounds. You just have your floorboard down on stage and you get your sound wherever you want. You save them on your laptop and if you fly somewhere else you get a rental one and boom you put it on and there you go you have your same exact sounds. That's pretty handy and I must say we're really, really happy with the way they treated us.
Everything else is good with you?
Yeah, the album's gonna be released in a couple days and we can't wait because it's been ready for a long time. We can't wait until it's released so we can play some of the new stuff.
Photo credit: Katja Kuhl
Interview by Steven Rosen
"Fans in general tend to be very conservative when it comes to their favorite bands."