From their humble days as a gothic metal band from Milan to headlining sold-out venues across the world, Italian band Lacuna Coil have forged out an impressive 25-year career. With the pandemic putting the brakes on their original plans, the band performed a livestream at their local venue, the Alcatraz Club. On June 25th, the group released a recording of the stream, Live From The Apocalypse, and we recently grabbed some time with frontman Andrea Ferro to talk about the show, the early days, the anniversary and, of course, the future.
Hi Andrea, first of all, I really appreciate your time. How’s life been treating you?
Andrea Ferro: “It seems we’re heading in a better direction at the moment. We’re doing really well with the vaccination now here. Places are starting to open up, you can go out, it’s been more of a proper life, you know, lockdown is almost over. It’s much better than then. It’s been a pretty tough year and a half. Not so much the very beginning of this situation, because it was all very new. It was kind of weird at first to experience an almost apocalypse type situation. You know? Going into the supermarket and gloves and masks and fighting for toilet paper and stuff like that. So, it was weird, but kind of funny in the beginning, you know, but then when you realize that he wasn’t going away and a lot of people were dying. It’s been tough, especially the past winter has felt very flat, very lifeless. But now we start to see some light, we start to be more creative and feel a bit more alive. So hopefully we get to head towards a better direction now.”
In terms of your own plans, when lockdown started and everything kicked off, how did that affect you in terms of your future plans?
“We were in South America on tour and we were hearing of the problem getting bigger and bigger. We landed in Milan from Brazil on the Saturday and then on the Monday we started with a softer lockdown, the first version of the lockdown. So, we went straight into the troubles and the first thing we had to do was to just postpone and cancel every show that was coming up. We were about to go to Dubai for a show and then, from Dubai, we’re going to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, and then to Australia and back. We had to postpone all of that right away. The situation in Italy was heavier from the beginning and we realized that wasn’t something they’re going to solve in a month to two. We had already invested a lot of money in flights, you know, for us and the crew so we had try to secure that money and be sure that we’re going to get it back as we’re going to use it in the future.
The first thing was to solve all the logistical problems then make a postponement announcement. We did that but some people were not taking it seriously. They asked why we were cancelling then they find out why. It starts to become serious with every other band either cancelled and postponed.
In the beginning, it was very hectic and busy in terms of just reorganizing everything then it became more about trying to survive by working on side things that we could do without going on tour. It was a little too early for us to work on a new record because Black Anima had only been out for like four or five months. We only toured North America with All That Remains which was just for the two singles then we went into a European tour with Eluveite which was pretty extensive. That was a proper tour, and then just a couple of weeks in South America. And that’s it. Basically, we were done with the promotion of the record and we had to start thinking what we would do now.”
In terms of the new, well, I say new record, it’s been out nearly two years. Are your plans to restart promoting it when life goes back to normal or are we looking at a new record?
“The final plan we have for the moment is we thought about starting to write the new album. We’re very much at the beginning of the process. We’re working on a possible idea for the concept. I mean the overall concept. We’re mostly brainstorming around that. The plan is to go back out in 2022 maybe first with a couple of singles, and then more along the way, in the fall then maybe release the new album. The set would mostly be Black Anima with a couple of the new songs maybe, start from there. We have got some offers to play some shows in the summer, here in Italy, but they were all with limitations and sitting down so we said just skip it and we can just focus on working on other stuff until next year. It just makes more sense. Give it time. The situation is getting better, but it’s still not fine. You know, a lot of people have troubles travelling, so we’ll just wait as I’m sure next year is going to be better.”
In the meantime, you’ve got a live album coming out, Live From The Apocalypse, which is appropriately titled. In terms of that whole process of putting the show together, how challenging was it?
“It’s been complicated, obviously, because we were starting to see that some bands were starting to do these streaming shows. We didn’t know exactly how it worked in pandemic conditions, you know, because obviously, even just rehearsing was complicated as the practice room was locked down. They opened a little bit, still keeping the distances and all the safety measures, so we thought maybe we could put 200 people sitting down, just to add a little bit of a live crowd but then that wasn’t possible because the measures were unclear yet and they were unsure about how to do it. We ended up just playing in this big empty venue which was weird to play, for sure, although there was a lot of people connected online, but still.
So it was a very weird day but, on the other hand, it’s been so great to see the crew and the workers at the venue, having one day of normal life, you know, going back to their life, for one day. They were just happy to push a case, or to load in a van, just the normal stuff. Before they were probably sick to do those things every day, but now they were just so happy they could make it happen again. It was a great day just to reconnect with everybody.
Even with the fans, it felt weird but also great to see messages on the app where we broadcast the show as there was another option to put some messages from the fans. It was so great to see the interaction. We decided to play it live just the one time without leaving it online because we want it to be like a normal concert as much as possible.”
Just going back, from the outside, it looked like at the beginning the lockdown in Italy was very brutal. It seemed very harsh. In terms of the music scene, in the UK that has been decimated. You guys were very vocal about the industry in Italy, what’s the effect been like on like venues and, shows and promoters in Italy?
“A lot of the small clubs, they’re gone. Yeah, a lot of the local acts that were surviving with the concerts, they’re gone. Obviously, the ones that are more structured with a big company on their shoulder like Live Nation or whoever, they have a higher possibility of survival as do the big clubs who are all surviving and they’re starting to do some little conferences and things like that. Slowly, they are reopening with all the limitations and everything but they start to use the venue for some stuff like TV. It has been very tragic for small promoters or the other people that were also organizing the metal nights or the rock nights, the more alternative stuff. It’s all gone because of the lack of budget, the lack of help from the government.
We decided, together with some of the biggest venues, to do the protest called L’Ultimo Concerto, which means The Last Concert. We announced a free live stream that actually didn’t really happen, instead, we stayed silent to protest against the government not doing anything to help the collapse.
Yes, it was brutal to do that because, obviously, for the fans, it was a very unpleasant surprise because they were expecting to see a show, but there was no chance for us to tell them in advance. It wasn’t meant to strike against them. We couldn’t publicize it because Lacuna Coil is an international band so we tried to keep all the info in Italian. We tried not to spread it out outside the band because it was something that can easily appear everywhere. It was tough to do as somebody waking up at 6 in the morning in South America to see the livestream and then not getting the show, but we had to do something to get their attention and sometimes you just have to do these things. You can do it without harming anybody.
When you’re having a strike, you go and block the motorway. You don’t go and do it in front of the building where nobody cares. It definitely got the attention of the media and everybody. In the end, we obtained a little budget for all the clubs, it was small but still better than the zero that was before we did that, you know? We thought that if it only happens to help ten clubs, it is ten clubs more than before. So it worked. Obviously, it’s been drastic, and we knew we’re going to get backlash from the fans and it wasn’t meant to hurt the fans, but there was no other way to do it.”
I wanted to take you back. It was your 25th anniversary last year. I wanted to take you back to those early shows. What was it like? What do you remember about them? For example, we met for the first time at The Borderline in London in 2000…
“I remember very well. I remember the catering. We had like three or four cans of beer and a pack of ten bars of chocolate. Yes. That was impressive catering but we were so happy to go and play our first headline show in the UK. The UK has always been for us the mecca of rock and metal music together with the States so obviously being a little Italian band from Milan, it was a pleasure to be there and be able to do our own show. It felt really special just like the time we played the Roxy in LA and we sold it out for the first time. We thought we made it. We sold out there even though it’s only, what, 700 people, but we sold out The Roxy on the Strip you know and the Borderline in London so, obviously, at the time, this was something massive for us then we went into much bigger things that we never ever thought possible.”
When you started playing shows like the Borderline in London, how did your ambitions as a band change from those of a “little band from Milan?”
“The more we went forward in our career, the more we understood that we could do something bigger. When we went to the United States, we did our demo and we knew we had interest from labels so we knew we could go somewhere. But no, we never expected it to be possible to become what we then have gone to do around the world for more than 20 years. Nine albums. That’s something that was completely out of our expectation. Back then, we were aware that maybe we could do a couple of records, maybe we do a couple of European tours supporting someone, then maybe we have some chances to do some cool stuff, but we never really considered it to be possible to become successful.
Internationally, that’s something completely unexpected, because it never happened to an Italian band before especially in our style of music. If you take, for example, besides the UK or America, countries like Germany or Sweden, they always had some bands that made it internationally successful, like Scorpions, or Helloween or, you know, Rammstein. There was history about bands building up international success from Germany, but not from Italy, not from Spain, and not from France, not from Greece, for example. It was always more underground, local acts who never really became as big as those names.”
What was the point, though, where you could see the band starting to get some momentum going? Was there any particular tour where you thought it was actually starting to build into something now?
“I think that the time we realized this was at OzzFest in 2004. Being invited to a festival where you were alongside Judas Priest, Slipknot, Black Sabbath, all those bands that we only saw in the magazines, and be one of the bands, you know, was unbelievable but, actually, we got a lot of success and we ended up being one of the best selling CDs. At the time, Slipknot had just released the Subliminal Verses. Slipknot was Number One, and we were number two right behind them with all those names, you know, Black Label Society, Hatebreed, they were all there, Slayer and we ended up second best selling after Slipknot.
We then started to understand that something was changing for us. Even before that, our song ‘Heavens A Lie,’ had been picked up by a radio station in Boston which was sort of a trendsetter for active rock. Once they got on board, our label knew that it was going to spread out because they were always the ones that launched the bands. We had like, 150 radio stations around America playing the song so we felt that the band was moving onto something else.”
Going onto the visual side of the band, that’s changed a lot over the years. Do you feel it is easier to develop your ideas, concepts, and visuals as you’ve grown as a band?
“Yeah, I think we also change a little bit, as people, we understood more about how this business works and also probably we became more aware of taking chances that sometimes are just the right thing to do. Also when you’ve had a little bit of success, and you never experienced it before, you’re also afraid of losing that success. In music, the taste can shift really quickly. There’s a moment where everybody wants you or you’re more fashionable, more involved, but then there’s that moment where people grow up and listen to something else. It’s not so complicated to reach a certain amount of success, but it’s very hard to maintain that success for 20 or 25 years. We understood that the basic secret to doing that is just to, to dare, you know, and to go and do what you feel. As an artist, obviously, it’s no guarantee that it’s going to work, but people recognize the real you.
The last two albums, Delirium and Black Anima, we pushed things on the heavy side, we put a lot of hard work into the videos, on the makeup, everything has been more extreme. We also changed the lineup in those two records so we knew that we needed to do what we were like, as a band. If we stopped and worried that it was too heavy or not radio enough, or we don’t have a song for the radio, then that’s the moment you’re going to die. When we released ‘Heaven’s A Lie,’ we never thought that it was going to be a radio single. For us, it was just a European gothic metal song, like Paradise Lost or something like that. We never expected to become successful on the radio in America. Coming from an independent label from Germany, there was no way it would have happened, you know, but it happened. We discovered and understood that you just have to go with the flow. I’m sure people will recognize if there is quality.”
I think you touched on it earlier, you’ve had that hardcore fan base from the early days. You look at the last London show you did the 119 Show, those fans on the barrier, they’ve stuck with you from day one. I mean, how does that make you feel to see that support every time you put a record out?
“Yeah, it’s important to have your fanbase that you know, whatever you’re going to do, they understand what you’re what you do and support it. That being said, it’s also important to have that refresh in the crowd. You need to also add the new fans otherwise, it shrinks, and shrinks and shrinks because, obviously, people get older, they get a family, they get older responsibilities, they can’t spend as much money on the music, or they change their taste or they feel too old to go to a concert. You need to be able to have the hardcore fans as well as some new kids coming on board.
Sometimes though, the new kids are not kids, you know? Sometimes the new kids are 60 years old. What we are seeing nowadays with the music is that sometimes people that are 60 in 2020, they say they are here at a concert, in the crowd, just like the guy who is 20 years old. They just feel like the guy in the crowd, he doesn’t matter if I’m 60, 50, 25, whatever, they’re just here, singing along, doing whatever they want to.
We’re noticing that we have three generations of people coming to our shows. We’ve got people our age, that have been following the band from the very first EP, and then we got their kids. And then sometimes we get kids that come to us and tell us that they were born because of us because their parents got together at our show. It’s crazy, but then you also have the older people that just found out about the band because they have more time and they want to listen. They’ve always liked hard rock and music like that and they find they liked the band as well so they come to the show. It’s important to have a variety of people when you are a band for more than 20 years.”
Absolutely. Just going back to the concept then you’ve talked about the new record and you’ve started talking about the concepts and things like that. Do you try to change it up with each record, or is there a running theme, or is it just something you start from scratch with a blank piece of paper?
“Yes, we start from scratch. It’s a hell of a job because we always want to find something that is cool, something that is interesting for us. This year has been especially tough because, being home all the time for a year and a half, we’ve written zero because there was just no inspiration. Every day the same life. Our inspiration is always driven by life experiences. So the fact that we do an album then we travel for two years, a lot of things happening in our life and on tour. You meet people, you listen to new bands, you eat different foods, you experience different adventures, all that then comes to us as inspiration. Once you sit down, and it’s time to write an album, we’re still in the same mind frame. It took a long time to clear our minds but now we feel we’re looking at something that could be interesting but it’s really been a very flat, flat year, in terms of inspiration and even just the fact to, to sit down and write. We didn’t feel it.”
As you said, curfews lifting, in a couple of weeks or a couple of months, hopefully, life will start to get back to some kind of normal. Are you looking forward to that, to get back out on the road?
“Oh, yes, absolutely. We can’t wait. That’s why we’ve decided to move everything to 2022 because there are just more chances that the situation will be closer to normal, you know, and that’s what we want to do. We want to go out and play, but we don’t want to do it with all the limitations. Some limitations are ok, but not crazy limitations. We’re lucky enough that we have a career that allowed us to wait a little bit, we don’t need to go out and play. We were going to use this time to write and work on the album, and then come back with something new and still play most of the last album that we haven’t had a chance to play.”
Andrea, I really appreciate your time. It’s been great catching up with you. Hopefully, we’ll get to catch up with you when you come over to the UK next year…
“We can’t wait to go back. Thanks for your time, and we’ll catch up soon. Take care.”