More than anything, Cristina Scabbia is incredibly aware. While many musicians seem content to live in the contained world of their practice spaces and tour buses — and given how long and storied her band’s history is, one might assume that Cristina would be similarly insular — the Lacuna Coil vocalist has an almost startling grasp on how her band, heavy metal, and she herself relate to the broader world around her. When speaking to The Pit about Lacuna Coil’s upcoming livestream event, the conversation inevitably turns to how Italy is dealing with the latter echoes of the coronavirus pandemic, especially as their numbers finally dwindle while America’s are still ballooning. For Scabbia, the rising curve abroad is baffling — especially with how hard her own country was hit by “this bastard COVID” in the first place.
“It feels really weird to me, because the rest of the world has examples — which we didn’t, when the virus first hit Italy,” she explains. “We left for a South American tour, and we had the news of a couple of Chinese people being positive, and we were like, Oh, there’s a new virus, they don’t know what it is. Then we landed back in Milan and they were taking temperatures from our foreheads, and were like, What’s going on? Everything had gone insane in less than a week. I have a lot of friends in the medical industry who were not going back home or sleeping or eating or seeing their families. My brother and my nephew worked for a funeral home, and they told me stories you wouldn’t want to hear. So if I was in another country, knowing what happened, knowing what this country did, I would be at least a little bit more selfish and say, I don’t want this virus. The only thing being asked of me is to wear a damn mask in public and try to keep a little bit of a distance. It’s kind of stupid to me, because you’re not thinking about yourself, or even more, someone close to you. We all have a parent, a grandma, a friend who has some health conditions, who have to avoid anything bad happening to them. Just think about the others as well, think outside of your little box. We’re a community.”
This sense of community is in part what inspired Lacuna Coil’s upcoming livestream, Black Anima: Live from the Apocalypse. Featuring a performance from Milan’s Alcatraz Club, complete with interactive features and songs played live for the first time, the show is a way for Lacuna Coil to vent some of their frustration at having to cancel their many touring plans for last year’s Black Anima by providing their fans with an experience like no other. Cristina acknowledges both the exciting and worrisome challenges of playing to a distant audience, but believes that fans should treat Black Anima: Live like any other metal show — even if they’re watching it from their couch.
“For me, the perfect way [to watch the event] is to grab a friend, put on your favorite metal shirt, drab a drink and popcorn, and boost up the volume,” she says. “It really depends — I’d really enjoy a livestream concert even if it was myself on the beach. The cool thing with how we’ll be streaming the concert is that it will be extremely interactive, so fans will be able to write to each other, text each other, chat with each other, and — I’m not 100% sure, but I think they can comment on the show as well! You can even send us applause! It’s weird, but I’m open to new things!”
What is the vibe like in Italy currently, now that COVID is slightly more under control?
Everything is really weird right now. Things are almost close to being normal, in that places are open — restaurants are open, malls, shops, though of course with different rules. Everyone is trying to practice social distancing. And it’s yes and no — sometimes, masks are on the forehead instead of the mouth or nose. But I have to say that we’ve been pretty good in respecting the rules, because we had all eyes on us. Not only from the rest of the world — we could get very heavy fines for going out during the lockdown without permission. So if we didn’t have to go out to get groceries with a self-certification, or go to work, or go out for an emergency, it was very, very strict. And even though it was extremely annoying, I have to say that its helped the situation to ease. And that’s why now we have relatively low numbers. There have been way more positive [cases] in the last few weeks, because everybody went on vacation, so if you look at the map of Italy, the virus is moving. But it also has to be said that a lot more tests have been done. So now I think we’re around 1,000 positive a day, which is nothing compared to the situation that we had in April or May. We can go out, and go on with our sort-of normal lives. Of course, with me and all the musicians, it’s different, because we don’t know when it will start again. But I’m here, I’m alive, I’m healthy, and at the moment I couldn’t ask for anything more. I know people who got heavily involved with that bastard COVID, so it’s okay that I’m alive telling you this story.
It’s interesting, because there’s that stereotype of Italians being fiery, in-your-face poeple–
And that’s true!
–but in the face of this virus, that manifested as a passionate stance of, Stay inside, wear a mask, we’re all in this together.
I remember that when this all started, after a while Italians were trying to find a way to comfort each other, because we all had to stay home. So there was a whole trend of people starting to sing from balconies and play music from balconies — which, to be honest, I found really cheesy, because I was like, This is not going to solves the problem. But thinking about it now, I think we were still able to finally find something good to come out of this. We have seen a positive outcome from it all. We have been forced to stay home, so the law told us to — we needed to be tamed, in a way. Because sometimes, if you don’t tell people, ‘You HAVE To do this or you’re going to get a ticket,’ people will just do it anyway. So after all this, it was a very difficult choice, but it was necessary back then. And if you don’t want to stay home, don’t throw a COVID party. I cannot understand that.
This is US thinking about the fact that we will finally get back on stage together on September 11th, in a real venue…
Was this how the Black Anima: Live from the Apocalypse livestream came about? Were Lacuna Coil so bored and cooped up that you thought, ‘Well, we have to do something?’
It was a combination of things. We were really missing playing together as a band. I know that a lot of bands decided to record separately, putting parts together, combining them and editing them, but for me it was really missing being together. We were also really frustrated because we had to cancel a lot of gigs — we had to cancel whole tours, first in North America and Canada, and another one in Asia with a lot of places we’ve never played before. So we started thinking, Okay, what next? What can happen? We started planning other shows for October and November, and they got canceled again as the pandemic continued. So we started to think about livestreaming, but we didn’t want to do anything from the rehearsal room or our homes, because it didn’t feel right for us. So we said, Why don’t we organize something that’s like a real live show? From a real venue, with a real set-up, with a backdrop and lights and effects and new outfits. Something that’s one of a kind, something really special, that people can watch from home. So the ideas started to come out, and we thought about a show related to our last record, so we decided to make it more special and focus on the last record only. It was a mix of, we want to be back on the road, let’s do something cool for the music community, let’s send a message that things are restarting somehow in a different way, but music is not stopping.
Are there things you can do with Lacuna Coil’s stage show or production for this livestream that wouldn’t be possible with a real crowd in the venue?
To be honest with you, it’s going to be completely different. When you have a crowd in front of you, you’re interacting with this crowd. And in this case, you know that there is a crowd, but you don’t see them. At least for me, it’ll be kind of live on Instagram or Twitch — knowing there’s an audience, even when there isn’t one — and kind of like shooting a video. Creating a good image to watch, trying to interact with someone on the other side of the screen, and having fun. Because it would probably be weird to have someone filming you for a livestream and focus on both people at home and people in the crowd. I would probably be split in two and not be able to focus on one or another. So in this case, I’ll know that our community will be out there watching us. Let’s see how it goes having someone else onstage filming us, because that will be very crazy.
Do you think it’ll feel weird — performing to an empty venue?
Honestly, I’m even more nervous [for this] than a regular show. Technically, it’s the same thing, with someone watching from home and watching form the venue. When someone is there, watching a show from a venue, there’s a different vibe, because they’re completely embraced by the show, the sound, the noise that other people are making around you. At home, you’ll probably be sitting on your couch with a drink in your hand and your pets around, and that’s completely fine, but the mood will be different. That’s why I’m very, very nervous, because I want everything to be perfect, and I want to sound the best I can…but I’ll probably be shitting my pants!
Lacuna Coil’s Black Anima: Live from the Apocalypse goes down Friday, September 11th. Tickets are currently available for purchase.
Words by Chris Krovatin