UG editorial team. A group of people who are passionate about guitar and music in general.
Posted on Jun 20, 2014 03:16 pm
When the publicist originally set up the interview with Lacuna Coil guitarist Marco "Maus" Biazzi, it had been scheduled for a Thursday. But then he remembered that Thursdays were the band's off days. When Marco phoned the following day on a Friday, I asked him about his down time. He said the band was in Pensacola, Florida where every went jet skiing and then enjoyed a big barbeque. Certainly Maus and his Italian bandmates have earned some time off. The band has been touring virtually non-stop for years and has been on the road in 2014 since touring in the US as headliners.
At the end of April, the band heads to South America and then several shows in Mexico. They then return to American for more headlining shows as well as appearances at festivals like Rock on the Range and Rocklahoma. "It's a long grind," says Biazzi and in fact it's been such a challenging touring schedule that two of the band's almost-original members - guitarist Cris "Pizza" Migliore and drummer Cristiano "Criz" Mozzati - have opted to leave the band.
Migliore and Mozzati did appear on the band's recent "Broken Crown Halo" album though it would be their last. The record contains all the heaviness you'd expect from Lacuna Coil - growled vocals from Andrea Ferro, double-bass drum grooves and massive guitars - as well as the dark ballads the band has long been known for. Coming on the heels of their previous album "Dark Adrenaline," which marked their highest position ever on record charts in the US and Europe, "Broken Crown Halo" raises the creative bar even higher. "We introduced some screams and some double-bass drums and this kind of stuff on this album," he describes. "The people on the next record are not gonna be totally confused about, 'Hey, this album sounds completely different from the previous one.' Because with Broken Crown Halo, it could be a mix in-between Dark Adrenaline and maybe what's gonna happen in the future."
UG: Did you know that Cris "Pizza" Migliore and Cristiano "Criz" Mozzati were going to leave?
MB: That was kind of new but talking about Cristiano the drummer, it was already on the air. Since he got his daughter, he was in the process of moving away from the band. But these kinds of things happen when you between changes. When you have a new life, you want to change and it's normal. We're still brothers and we're still very good friends because I don't think you can cancel 15 years together in the same band. We shared so much stuff during these years. It's a normal life process.
You knew that after Cristiano had his daughter he was going to leave Lacuna Coil?
Cristiano was honest with us. Because we had a meeting and I remember that day was early December and he simply said, "Well guys, I want to be honest with you - I simply don't want my daughter to grow up via Skype." She was just one-year old and he was already sick about touring. During last fall, we had a very short run like four weeks only in Europe and I don't want to say constantly but pretty complaining about everything and the length of the tour.
Cristiano wanted to go back home?
I said, "Man, it's only four weeks and then you're home." Then he was complaining also about the fact we already had a sort of plan for the new year in 2014. We were going to start on tour in early January until who knows when? This is what actually is happening right now because we missed the Shiprocked Cruise. We had to cancel it mainly because of these problems with lineup changing and we had to figure out what the f--k are we gonna do.
So this is the tour you're on right now?
Yeah, we started in the middle of February with this Hottest Chick in Metal whatever bullsh-t tour and playing with Sick Puppies for a month. Probably just a month and we're going to South America so he was already over thinking about all these dates. So he simply decided to move away from the band and to change his life. I hope he's doing great right now.
What about Cris Migliore?
About Pizza, the other guitar player, he got married with his American girl years ago and I think he wanted to move back to the States because she tried to stay in Italy for six years. She found a job and everybody was happy but even then she said, "Well, if you are always on tour, why should I wait for you here. I have my family and friends over there so it doesn't change much if we move back to the States." So they sold the house and they're now living in Minnesota a couple hours away from Minneapolis.
That would make it difficult having the band in Milan and your guitar player in Minnesota.
It was pretty much the same conversation we had with the drummer. He was a little bit tired of touring and that was it. We're still very good friends because as I said before you cannot delete what happened in the last 15 years together. But everybody chooses different things. I think it's normal.
That must have been incredibly difficult for those guys to walk away from the band.
It wasn't easy at all. I remember when Cristiano was telling us about his decision, he was crying. He was like, "F--k, I'm so sorry but I have to do it." He wasn't feeling like staying in the band anymore but at the same time he said, "I know I'm gonna miss it. I know I'm gonna miss you guys. I know I'm gonna miss even the f--kin' days off in the middle of nowhere." But it's life.
You brought in drummer Ryan Folden to replace Cristiano.
We already knew each other because Ryan in the beginning was Cristiano's tech. So he was staying behind the drums all the time and he was a very good drummer. Every show he was seeing what the f--k was going on with the drum patterns and fills. So he kind of knew already some of the songs. Even before this tour, he did some tours instead of Cristiano on drums. I remember when Cristiano had his daughter, he couldn't make the tour. There was a long run last year pretty much the same time as this period. We started in January until the end of May so we asked Ryan to join us on tour and he was so happy. He just asked, "Give me a list of the songs we're gonna play and I'm gonna learn it."
Was it difficult for Ryan to learn songs from "Broken Crown Halo?"
Before the tour when we knew what was going on with Cristiano and Cris, we sent to Ryan sort of a setlist. We could play about 24 to 25 songs and he was learning the songs at home. The only problem is before this tour we never rehea-sed before. Obviously he is American and was living in Spokane, Washington and we are from Milano, Italy and it's not easy to rehea-se together. But we were trying to find some free time to rehea-se even on the bus. On the previous tour with Sick Puppies we never had a chance to soundcheck. We probably did it once and we spent that time trying to play together the new songs. We wanted to have four new songs ready and now everything is easier because we soundcheck every day and we're spending this little time onstage to practice on the new stuff.
What has that felt like touring without Cris and Cristiano?
It doesn't feel very bad to be honest. It doesn't feel bad at all because we already knew each other. Even before being our drummer, he was on the bus with us and touring with us and he's actually a very good guy to hang out with. He knows how to be on tour and he's not the kind of guy that's never toured before. He's a very prepared guy and very professional and a very good drummer. So from that side we're covered.
But it must have been more difficult not having Cris there on second guitar.
About not having Cris the guitar player? Before this tour started, me and Marco were trying to figure out what to do because obviously the album and the previous albums were written for two guitars. We had always this kind of combination. It was not so much complicated stuff going on but for example when I was doing rhythm parts, Cris would be doing an arpeggio or something.
You had to figure out how you were going to cover two guitar parts?
We sat at a table and me and Marco[Coti Zelati] the bass player said, "Well, what can we do? What the f--k are we gonna do now? Because I'm not Michelangelo that I can play two parts at the same time." We just decided to keep the most simple as possible.
How did you simplify it?
For example I'm doing the rhythm parts because this is the main thing that comes in front. And some solo parts because when we have some leads, I was the guy doing that sh-t. About arpeggios and melodies, we decided if it's a very important melody for the song, I have to play it. Otherwise we started recording some stuff on the hard disk. Ryan is playing with a click anyway so when he runs the keyboard tracks - because we don't have a keyboard player and never had one - there are always some guitar parts. I'm talking about arpeggios or maybe small details here and there like small melodies that obviously I cannot play together with the rhythm part.
So you augmented your guitar with pre-recorded tracks.
We spent some days in his house recording this stuff. About the old stuff like "Heaven's a Lie" or songs from "Comalies," I had to rearrange my playing because in some songs I'm doing my old parts and mix it with what Cris the other guitar player was doing.
How has that been working?
It's working very well live and we had a lot of very positive feedback about the new lineup and the sound in general. People saying it's more straight in your face and you can hear much better what the f--k is going on with the guitar now because before maybe with two guitars everything was too polished. You know what I mean?
The sound is more organic and a bit looser?
Now we have strong instrumental stuff going on so there is clearly a bass line, a guitar line and drums. Plus we have [pre-recorded] keyboards as usual and some backing vocals but just for double voices and sh-t and some arpeggios or very small melody parts.
"Dark Adrenaline" really raised the bar for Lacuna Coil. Did that push you to want to come up with something even better on "Broken Crown Halo?" Or did you just go in the studio with this new batch of songs and a feeling of, "This is what we're going to do."
Yeah, exactly. The second option you just mentioned. I agree with you because "Dark Adrenaline" for me was the best album so far. But with this new record I think we kind of stepped forward a little bit more into using some screaming parts from Andrea [Ferro] and some different stuff again. It's not so much expectations but we just record what we feel like at that time. But I think the people for the next record could be much more prepared about what could possibly happen.
You're planting the seeds for new musical ideas down the road?
If we want to have more double-bass drum or more heavy parts or Andrea screaming a little bit more, the people are gonna be prepared for that. Because they already got something before. This is basically I hope is gonna happen.
You're working with Jay Baumgardner [Sevendust, Three Days Grace] now. Why did you want to work with him?
We had some different options about producers but then we chose Jay simply to have a change. The two previous albums were recorded with Don Gilmore, which is another great guy. But we wanted to have something different this time and that's why we picked up him.
What was that like working with him?
To be honest, he didn't do much on the record because the songs were pretty much done. He was making some suggestions here and there but he didn't want to change so much in the songs because the structures were already kind of good the way they were. We had a little bit of [a conversation] about the mix because he mixed the album and we wanted to have it a little bit more heavy and more straight in your face.
You weren't happy with the way Jay mixed it?
But the problem was we recorded the album in Milano at the Officine Meccaniche, which is a very good studio full of vintage stuff. So in the process of recording album, they wanted to try some analog stuff. Probably that's why it didn't come out the way we were expecting. Don't get me wrong - I like the album itself and I like how it sounds but I think it could be better than that.
That's refreshing to hear you say that because most musicians wouldn't admit it.
We had deadlines and you cannot remix the album three times. Jay and Kyle Hoffman, his assistant, flew to Italy but then when they were mixing the album we were so far away from each other because they came back to LA. As you can imagine there is a gap of time in-between the jet lag so it sucked to communicate in real time.
If you're not in the studio with hands-on, it's almost impossible to do a mix from long distance.
By the time you finish mixing one song and you send us an mp3 to check it out, another day is passing. Then when we collect ideas about, "OK, I would change this here or there" and we'd make a list of it and send it to him, it's gonna take an extra day. For example when he opens the email with all the suggestions from the band and all the little changes here and there, it takes another day to reopen the song and blah blah blah. So it's a process that takes a little while.
"Broken Crown Halo" was a very heavy album but the ballads like "Hostage to the Light" were some of the best moments on the record.
I love "Hostage to the Light." Usually I'm more like the heavy guy. For example my favorite band is called Meshuggah so if you know Meshuggah you know what I'm talking about. Or Lamb of God or this kind of stuff. I really like heavy sh-t. But "Hostage to the Light," which comes as the third song out of the track list is probably one of my favorites from the album.
Why do you like it so much?
I don't know. Probably for the vocal melodies and the chorus. I don't know but I love it.
Ballads typically have less instrumentation than the heavier songs and are obviously played at slower tempos. Vocals and guitar parts are so much better defined on these types of songs?
I agree with you. That song is an easy to play and there are probably two or three guitar parts in the entire song. It's catchy but it's f--kin' great.
Are you in the studio with Cristina Scabbia offering suggestions when she's doing vocals?
Yeah. We spent a month-and-a-half in the studio. Everything starts from the drums and then comes the bass and then the guitars. When the work is going good with the guitars then you start with vocals. At the same time Cristina and Andrea cannot sing all day long otherwise their voices are gonna get f--ked. So we were alternating recording guitars and lead vocals. For example, I was working on guitars in the morning and then in the middle afternoon they were starting with vocals. Basically everybody was there during the recording process.
Typically has Cristina been working on the track at home and then comes in with lyrics and melodies?
Usually everything starts from Marco's basement because he has a studio in his house. He starts making the songs and sharing the ideas with everybody and then everybody comes back with some other ideas for a song. Then when we have a song pretty much done, we start with vocals. But they start singing on the tracks without real English or real lyrics because it matters just the vocal lines.
They're just putting down scratch ideas?
How the melody from the voice goes. Then sometimes they come up with some great ideas, which don't really fit with the music so we gotta go back and work on the music and see what fits better with the vocal idea. So it's a process like music and vocal lines and sometimes vocal lines and music. Then when we pretty much have a song done, they start working on the lyrics.
After a song is written you'll go back in and rewrite a section to accommodate a new vocal line?
That might change. The music or some little parts might change in the studio because maybe you figure the bpm [beats per minute] could be a little bit faster but at that point the verse doesn't work anymore with the speed so you have to rearrange something. It's a long process but - how can I say - a cooperating mode.
You played Schecter guitars on the album?
I have a Schecter, which is my endorsement for guitars. I recently a couple years ago got a Signature guitar [Maus C-7]. I'm very proud of it. Usually my guitar comes out with EMG pickups like 717 or 807[Maus probably means EMG 81-7]. But I wanted to change it so I asked the guys at Schecter to make a guitar with passive pickups just for a change and just to see how it goes with the new stuff.
How did that work?
I think it's coming out very well. We're still working on the sound because every day we don't have so much time to spend adjusting the settings and blah blah blah. But I wanted to have it a little bit of a fat sound but more in the face. Especially right now because I'm the only guitar player in the band, it has to be a good sound. We're still working on it.
You mainly play 7-string guitars?
Yes, I'm playing my 7-string guitar. I just got a nice present from Schecter and they gave me an 8-strings guitar to try. It's very different; the neck is different and it's very big but I love it. I'm getting used to playing that sh-t as well but I don't know if Lacuna Coil will ever record an album with eight strings. We might but I don't know yet.
A huge part of Lacuna Coil's sound is built 7-string guitars. If you played everything on 6-string guitars, would it be the same thing?
We played some 6-strings on the album. All the choruses are played with 6-strings guitars. Because we wanted to add more crystal and bright tones. We had a huge variety of guitars in that studio because they also have some very vintage stuff as I said before. We were trying to mix the 7-string guitar sounds in the choruses with more of the six-strings guitar tones coming out of a Stratocaster or something else.
Do you like the solo guitar playing aspects of Lacuna Coil?
Well, there's one in "Zombies," the second song off the album, which is more like a shred bullsh-t or whatever. I'm still learning and I want to improve more about the technique. That's why I recently started studying again like the cycle of fifths, modes and that kind of stuff, which I totally forgot during these years. Because when you go on tour and keep playing the same music and the same songs every day, you kind of lose the memories for what you learned in the past.
You've been working on your guitar chops?
Now I am in the process of re-studying again older stuff because I want to improve. I think I'm spending a lot of time with the guitar right now on the bus and in the back lounge like playing and doing different exercises every day. So it's always a process of trying to learn more about the instrument and it's never-ending.
Who would you put on your list of favorite guitar players?
Oh, man. I have so many names because I used to listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I was not only metal but I liked jazz for example and I really liked blues. Some of the names? For the metal scene still my legend and my hero is Dimebag. I really like f--kin' Megadeth and Marty Friedman and these kinds of guys. About jazz, I really like Joe Pass, which is for me unique in his stuff. I like everybody. Stanley Jordan and Allan Holdsworth. I like a lot of phenomenal guys. I discovered on YouTube recently there are tons and tons of huge and great guitar players. Very good people out there like even f--kin 15-year old guys shredding like crazy.
Do you go back to any of the classic guitar players like Jimmy Page or Ritchie Blackmore?
Obviously, yeah. I'm a huge fan of Led Zeppelin.
You dig Zeppelin?
Yeah, yeah. I love them. Even AC/DC because right now I'm wearing a f--king AC/DC shirt, hah hah hah. I love this kind of stuff.
A lot of the lyrics on "Broken Crown Halo" have to do with vampires and horror imagery. Where did that come from?
Umm, probably that is a question you have to ask Cristina or Andrea about it, hah.
Everything is going well?
It's gonna be a little bit long tour but yeah, we're having fun.
You're also playing at the Monster Energy's Welcome to Rockville Festival with Rob Zombie, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold. Do you feel a musical connection with those bands?
We toured with all these guys before. We toured with Zombie probably three times. Zombie, Lacuna Coil and in the beginning it was Bullet for My Valentine so we know each other. Rob is a great guy. And I think with some of our songs, we kind of connect to each other with some of the Zombie stuff and Lacuna Coil fit together. We toured with Five Finger as well and we like Korn. Obviously you can hear some influences from Korn in our music.
Lacuna Coil is arguably the most successful Italian rock band of all time. Do you feel any kind of responsibility for opening the door for new bands coming out of Italy?
Well, maybe PFM back in the day?
Their focus was much narrower.
They were sort of an Italian Rush. I hope we can open doors for some Italian bands. But the problem is still the same - Italy is not a country of rock or metal. It's full of very good musicians and very good bands but they will never probably come out as an international band because there is no scene in Italy. It's very hard to play a show and there are always promoters complaining about stuff. Maybe the bands want to be rocks stars immediately instead of...
Working at it.
Yeah, working at it. That's probably the main difference because after so many years you're still the same guys living in the same neighborhoods. We're still very honest in-between ourselves and the rest of the people that we every day meet. With the rest of the bands, we're still very friendly and normal people. There are bands that just pretend to be somebody else and they didn't even start yet. If that's the attitude, you are never gonna go anywhere.
That's my opinion but it's a fact also.
I totally agree. There are musicians who get into music for the fashion or hipness of it and aren't willing to do the work.
But then when he comes to go on tour and they're complaining about staying 10 days away from home from their families and their girlfriends. They don't understand what it really means to be on tour. Because a tour of course for the rest of the people is awesome and it's fun and blah blah blah. But then in the end when you have to stay out from your country for nine or 10 months a year? Then we talk. Most of the new bands don't understand this - they just wanna pretend to be somebody else. But they don't even want to experience this. It's like, "No, I don't wanna tour because I miss my cat or my girlfriend." They don't know what does it mean to deal with different toilets every f--king day, man.
Fans and people who buy tickets to Lacuna Coil shows probably don't realize how much incredibly hard work goes into being a successful band.
Yeah, the success of waiting for the club to open to go take a sh-t. Yeah, it's success man, hah hah hah. But that's a fact. But if you've been on tour before, you know what I'm talking about.
I know exactly what you're talking about.
Every single band is gonna tell you the same thing. From Korn to Lamb of God to whoever - that's the reality. It's probably the most beautiful work and most beautiful job in the world. But you have to sacrifice something in your life. What you see is not always super bright. It's another kind of job and there are positive and negative things at the same time. It's about you if you want to deal with that or the other one.
Thank you for your insights.
Thank you, Steve.
Arrivederci. Ciao, Steven.
Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2014