Being a rock star today is not what it was 25 years ago or even 15 years ago. Very few “rock stars” are able to live off of one album or even two anymore. They have to keep going, touring and making records, and as soon as they stop, most of them have to get day jobs. Recently I caught up with Andrea Ferro of Lacuna Coil while they were on tour with Sevendust to get his take on being a rock star in 2013.
Bob Zerull (BZ): Have you guys been able to avoid the snow?
Andrea Ferro (AF): No, we got it. We got it at least since a week now. It’s funny because we started out in Miami for the Metal Cruise in the Caribbean. It was like summer time and then we went all the way to Northern Texas and back north, and now we are going to South America in two days.
BZ: I was going to ask you who scheduled you guys to be in the Midwest in February? I was going to see you last year with Gigantour in Chicago, and I got stuck in the snow and missed you guys and only made it there for Volbeat. It sucked! How is the tour going so far?
AF: So fa,r pretty good. Almost every show has been sold out. It is a good package. I think people like that there are different bands, but both are heavy and melodic at the same time, so it works pretty well. It’s just the beginning. We’re just on three weeks in this radio market for Sevendust, and then we are going to go to South America, and then back with them for another two weeks, and then the big one with Coal Chamber as well. Then it’s the major cities like New York, Chicago, LA etc.
BZ: Have you guys played with Sevendust before?
AF: We’ve just played in festivals, and I think we did a show once in Illinois somewhere.
BZ: How are the bands getting along? Do they mesh well?
AF: Really good! They are really nice guys, and they’ve been around, so they know all of this touring. They’ve treated us pretty well, and its no problem.
BZ: Last year you guys released Dark Adrenaline, and I’ve just always wondered, with two singers, what is the song writing process like? Do you guys each bring parts?
AF: Yeah, we usually have Marco (Coti Zelati), the bass player, bring in most of the music, and sometimes the two guitar players come up with some ideas as well. Then they just give it to us, and each person works his own idea at home, and then we meet. Then we discuss what’s better for the song. It’s really a free process. We’re not, like, I have to be 50 percent. We just go for the song. If it’s a song that fits Christina’s voice better because it’s happy or core melodic, or it needs very high notes, then it’s going to be more Christina, if it’s more of a powerful, groovy song, then its really more me. We like to play with the very different voices. It will be a more heavy song sometimes or more epic sometimes.
BZ: After all these years, is it ever difficult to satisfy everybody’s influence in the band?
AF: No, I think with every record we have found a better balance on the way we can work songs out. We started as this Gothic metal band from Europe, and we were trying to sound like our favorite band at the time in ’97/’98 when we did the first album. It was Type O Negative, Paradise lost, that kind of darker metal that we were coming from. Then we evolved, and you know the more you grow up, the more you learn how to find your more versatile approach to the music. And now I think we have a unique style. It’s a combination of all of our influences, and it’s more of a modern metal with dark atmosphere, but not as cliché Gothic metal as it was before. So, I think we have found the perfect kind of balance for us.
BZ: That has to help with the writing process.
AF: Yeah, for example on the previous album Shallow Life, we tried to go somewhere else because we needed to shake things up to see where we can go in the future. Some stuff that we’ve done, we’ve done really well. Some other we maybe try, but it’s not the right thing for us. You always have that album that is maybe a little bit different, and then the people say I like it a lot because it is different or I don’t like it because it is too different. But you need to do that step to be able to step forward. I think with the last one we’ve been improving, and making it sound better. It’s a new direction, but it also some more of the Lacuna Coil direction.
BZ: Cross your boundaries and test the waters a little bit…
AF: Yeah, but you have to try. If you never try, then you never know what you can do. If you keep repeating the same record, it could be really cool for some fans because they want you to just sound like when they discovered you the first time forever, but it is not the way for a band like us to become a band that can keep going in the future. We are not Iron Maiden or AC/DC. There is not that classic vibe anymore, so those ones are going to be the last ones that will be so much classic bands. Metallica was probably the last big act that has kept that level and even improved it.
BZ: Even they want to change their sound here and there.
AF: They also change. I think they are the last band that made it so big to become not just a trendy band that makes one record and then go down.
BZ: Do you think with the music industry change there will ever be big bands like that? Stadium bands?
AF: Nowadays, as things are right now, it is impossible for me in rock music at least. There is just not enough time, money invest to let a band become that band. You need at least three records for a band to become developed properly, their style. Metallica, if you think about it, their first record was great because it was new and fresh, but then their best album came later, Master of Puppets and …Justice for All, those big records. It’s the same for all the bands. You know sometimes you have a band that has a great debut and then they go down. It usually takes at least three records to develop a personality for a band. There is not that kind of time anymore. If you don’t make some attention in the first year or two when the band comes out, the label is not investing in you because they’re going to lose it. The kids are not buying the albums anymore. Everything is changing and moving to digital. It is hard to say where it is worth to invest in a band. Even a band like us, we have a name and we can tour Europe, South America, Japan, or America here, and it is still tough for us. We have built a name in the years, but it is still very difficult to make a living out of it. We live with it, but we don’t make a lot of money out of it anymore.
BZ: I don’t think a lot of people realize that a lot of the bands now don’t make what they use to make.
AF: It’s a job, for most of the bands. Even for a band like Sevendust. They sold some gold records and stuff. Nowadays it is a job for them. They have to go out on the road to make some money. The market has changed so much. It’s not true that it is easier now. It’s easier to get attention for one day, but tomorrow there will be another millions band on You Tube. You can put your band on YouTube and everyone can watch it for free. But then, tomorrow there are another twenty bands that just move your video somewhere else.
BZ: So where do you invest all of your efforts? Is it touring?
AF: Touring a big part because you still make some money out of touring. But the problem is, everybody goes on tour now because they don’t make money from the records anymore. The market is saturated. Even South America., before nobody was going to South America. Now everybody is going to South America, or India, or Japan, or Thailand, or Indonesia. I don’t know. I don’t see a clear way out in the immediate. Maybe there will be in three years there will be a new technological innovation that will move to a new spot.
BZ: There is no jackpot in the future? (laughs)
AF: I feel right now, if you believe in what you do, you have to all the time. It’s the only thing you can do all the time, do these kind of packages as we do with Sevendust, and fill up places. Offer something more for the people like the headline tour we did where we were playing two hours with an acoustic set and it was also 15 years of the band, so we celebrated that. It’s also important to offer something more than just a concert to people. Otherwise you’re just playing to 300 people. If you want to make something more affordable, you have to make much more work. But it is not the solution; it is a temporary thing because everybody will do that.
BZ: The touring festival seems to be the new big thing.
AF: Those are great, but you can only do them for a certain amount of time because it costs a lot of money outside. They can’t have all the bands in there. It’s one solution, but it’s not the only solution. We still sell a good quantity of records considering the market, but it’s not as good as it used to be.
BZ: How do you separate the business side, because I know you didn’t get in this for the business, you got in it for the art? How do you keep the creative and business separate?
AF: At this level business is a part of it because it’s your job. You can’t say, ‘whatever, I don’t care!’ I care because I have to pay my bills when I go home, so we need to make sure we do a tour with profit and not a tour where we break even. Even if it is great promotion, nowadays if they offer us a tour, and we’re going to break even, we have to think about it because it’s going to be two months of work and then you go back home. Yeah, you promoted the record, but where’s the money? So, you need to think about it, but not maybe as much when you write a song. Maybe you can think about it when you try to write a radio song. Maybe you can think that the structure has to be simpler, but there is no recipe for that either. Sometimes you never think that that song could be a hit or whatever. So, I think you really have to have passion for music still. It has to be the main thing. Then you have to try to do VIP meet and greet, t-shirt, whatever you can do to try to squeeze money wherever you can.
BZ: I know the money, the AC/DCs, the Metallica’s, it’s not going to be that ever again, but in terms of the performance side, it’s way more intimate. You’re more one-on-one with the fans. Which would you prefer, just in terms of an artist, is more the intimate or the big….
AF: To be honest I like both situations where I play the big festivals in the summer, especially in Europe. They are really really big. But also the venues are cool if you can pack a nice decent size venue, it’s a cool show. It’s not a [problem for us to play a smaller venue. If people are there. I don’t care about that, but you need to make sure you’re going to have some money at the end of the tour to survive. It’s not that we don’t like to song write or we don’t like to tour it’s just that we need to make sure that we can make a living out of it. And then I don’t care if I play for a thousand or three thousand, it’s cool. Of course the more people come to see you the better, but I think one thousand people is the right amount of people to have a great show. Sometimes more can be too much of focusing on the production or people are too far away. I think that size, like a thousand people, is the right size to have fun and have the right quality. Then of course if you can play five thousand it’s better for the band and I’m not going to complain. Nobody complains to play for more people.
BZ: Do you think you guys came out at the right time? Because you guys came out right as it was starting to go to hell.
AF: I think if we had come out like ten years earlier, we would have made much more money for sure or sold much more records.
BZ: But, compared to some of the other bands now, Like Sevendust and Lacuna Coil have name recognition value now, where people will still come out and see you guys when you come around, do you think that you just barely got in before…
AF: Oh yeah, sure. It was Comalies record around 2003/2004. We were still selling albums and the Internet was there, but it was just the beginning of it. If you come out today, you really need to have a lot of passion to do it because you don’t know where you’re going to end up. You might be lucky and get a radio song or you can open forever for like a thousand bands and never make any because nobody’s going to invest in you. It’s tough! I have some friends that are trying right now, but I don’t know what to say when they ask me. I cant compare my situation to theirs because we have had time to build a name at least, and to do some stuff. Now, it’s really a completely different world. How are you going to start? Now it’s all about the touring, or it’s the YouTube or the Facebook, or the Twitter. I don’t know. Some bands got signed because they saw their video on YouTube. Some bands because they see them live at the shows. I don’t know. So even touring for one year and opening for everybody, I don’t think it’s a good idea. It could just be a waste of time, because in the end of nobody is there to catch you, you know.
BZ: Is it different world-wide?
AF: No, it’s not that different. In Europe it’s the same problem because the economy is not very good. People are downloading. It used to be much better in Europe. For us it’s okay because it’s where we started. Some territories are really good. In Europe it’s a different story because every nation has a different culture musically. So, you can do really well in the UK or Germany and then not in some others. So it’s not like America is one big country, it is more or less the same taste.
BZ: It probably doesn’t help that rock music doesn’t get the attention it deserves nowadays.
AF: Also in Europe, there are not any many radios as you guys have here. Rock radios I’m talking about. There are not as many music channels on tv. Even in Europe MTV is all reality, stupid Jersey Shore or whatever.
BZ: Rock radio here is all AC/DC, Metallica, More classic rock.
AF: Those are big everywhere. Even in Italy if Metallica comes, they’re going to play a big show, or Linkin Park, or Iron Maiden, AC/DC. Those are big everywhere. It’s the same story.
BZ: How do you prepare for a live show?
AF: Usually, since we are not sound checking on this tour, it is three bands, so the set up is too complicated, we just go and play. We have the same monitor guy every day, so it’s not bad. We just warm up on the iPod, I’ve got some exercise to lightly warm-up, but something light because you have to sing every night, and it’s a long tour so you don’t want to burn yourself out. Yesterday was a good show, and we really push a lot physically, so I really feel like my neck hurts, my back hurts, my voice is tired because yesterday was so great.
BZ: In South Bend, Indiana?
AF: It was over sold out and people were crazy. There was moshing and crowd surfing, so it was a very intense show. And today you feel it, but we still have three shows, this one and two in Illinois.
BZ: Then you get a small break, or…
AF: No, we have two days to travel because we fly to Uruguay in South America, so we have one day of long flights, and then kind of a day off, before we start the South American tour.
BZ: How long is that tour?
AF: That’s two weeks. It’s not too bad. We do four shows. Two shows, a day off, two shows, and a day off.