“IN ITALIAN, THE WORD ‘PIPPA’ basically means ‘somebody who sucks at something,’” says Lacuna Coil guitarist Cristiano “Pizza” Migliore. “They started calling me ‘pippa’ because of my terrible performance at a soccer tournament, and, eventually, it got distorted to ‘pizza.’ Luckily, it didn’t mean that I suck at guitar.”
Migliore, along with co-guitarist Marco "Maus" Biazzi are the lynchpins of the band frequently pigeonholed as “The Italian Evanescence.” Formed in Milan, Italy, in 1994, Lacuna Coil recruited Migliore and Biazzi in 1998 and 2000 respectively to flesh out a lineup that features both female (Cristina Scabbia) and male (Andrea Ferro) lead singers. The yin and yang vocal dynamic is just one way Lacuna Coil explores the darkness by flooding it with light. Seamlessly weaving between pounding guitar riffs and ethereal ambience, the band juxtaposes the best of both worlds by pitting harsh guitar tones against sweet ones, and pairing gloomy atmospheres with optimistic resolutions. For the group’s fifth full-length release, Shallow Life [Century Media], Biazzi and Migliore added another element to the Laguna Coil experience—the sound of 7-string baritone guitars.
Reading forum posts from your fan community, it seems there is some debate as to whether the band’s sound is changing.
Biazzi: Maybe it’s the baritone 7-string guitars we’re using now. I think the heaviness those instruments produce has definitely changed our sound, because the first three records were all recorded with 6-string guitars. We were also lucky to get Doug Gilmore as a producer for the new record. He has worked with Linkin Park and Pearl Jam, and he had great ideas for layering amp sounds. However, it has always been a characteristic of Lacuna Coil to blend melodies with heavy parts—not Lamb of God heavy, but heavy enough to create a totally different mood from the lighter parts. But whatever else we do with arrangements or audio production, you’ll still recognize a Lacuna Coil song when you hear it.
Did not releasing any new music for three years inspire the evolution of the guitar sounds?
Migliore: Perhaps. We took a long break—almost one year—at the end of the touring cycle for Karmacode to just sit and write. This meant we were able to spend more time focusing on all the little details that you usually leave behind because you’re running out of time or money. Everybody in the band participated and exchanged ideas, and we wound up with enough material to record about 20 songs. But one of the main reasons we switched to 7-strings is because of bands like Meshuggah and Korn. We saw how the 7-string guitars really give you a wider range of choices. We’re not fast players, and our music is different from theirs, but listening to them, we started to hear in our heads how something would sound being played on a different type of guitar. This was of critical importance because our song ideas always start with a chord progression or a melody from the guitar. Our bass player, Marco, always uses a guitar when he writes music, so we basically have three guitar players in the band writing music. All of our music is born on the guitar.
Biazzi: With a guitar, you get the complete vision of a song. You can get the lines, the rhythms, and the melodies at the same time.
What kind of 7-strings are you playing?
Biazzi: ESP—We’ve been with them for about four years now. We use the ESP LTD SC-607B baritone, which is one of the models they made for Stephen Carpenter of the Deftones.
Do you experiment with alternate tunings?
Migliore: Normally, we don’t want to mess with alternate tunings. We need to be able to play the older 6-string stuff live, plus we have two singers, and we have to consider what types of tunings will work with their voices. So, the 7-string tuning is normally B, E, A, D, G, B, E, [low to high], but we sometimes drop the low B string to A.
What type of strings do you use?
Migliore: We use Dean Markley Blue Steels gauged .010-.056, and the low B on the seventh string is a .060. It took a few weeks to get used to tuning a 7-string, but now it’s very natural.
What other gear appeared during the album sessions?
Migliore: We mainly play through Line 6 Spider Valves—especially on tour. They’re great, because you can get so many different sounds straight from the amp. I still think it’s amazing that they’re digital amps and sound so good. For Shallow Life, we did use a variety of amps to mix it up—like a Bogner Shiva for some heavy rhythms—but we kept going back to the Line 6 amps for clean sounds. Don had so many good suggestions for different amps to experiment with, and we went a little crazy, because it was so easy to rent gear in North Hollywood, where we recorded the album. We didn’t use many effects, but we did try the pitch shifter on a Line 6 Floor Pod for the whammy-style lead on “I Won’t Tell You.” Normally, unless a part really needs something, we try to keep the tone as dry as possible. If we change our minds, we’ll add effects during the final mix, but most of what you’re hearing is just the amp.
With so many tonal and creative options—as well as multiple songwriters—how do you know when a song is finished?
Migliore: You need to know when to stop. If you over-think songwriting and production, they can become processes that don’t really pay off. You can always find more stuff to change, and you can go on writing and arranging forever. If your first thought is that something sounds good as it is, then you should stop.