Cristiano Mozzati: Italian Gothic

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While Italians are known for many things — cuisine, sports cars, shoes — metal isn’t one of them. With Dark Adrenaline, Lacuna Coil is about to change that. Fronted by the tag team of Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro, the Milan-based band’s metal-gaze romanticism has evolved into ear-candy melodies tucked neatly into a guitar-driven atmostphere pitched between ethereal and brutal.

More to the point, Lacuna Coil’s tunes are catnip for drummer Cristiano Mozzati. Given the band’s mid-tempo song structures, there’s lots of room for him to work in the acrobatics that make metal drumming so much fun. “Actually, the whole album is meant to be more modern metal, that’s the main difference,” says Mozzatti from home in Milan, his country’s capital of banking, fashion design, and opera. “Shallow Life was more rock-oriented. But that’s our style anyway, so it’s only a slight difference. We try to mix the gothic thing with aggressiveness.”

Produced by Don Gilmore, Dark Adrenaline is the kind of lush aria we have come to expect from Europe’s leading goth metallers, but at the same time it’s taut, defined, and tough. Mozzati played what he always does: crisp pocket studded with double bass work just the right side of off-kilter. So what’s different? Gilmore, an A-list producer who brooks no nonsense, kept the Milanese slayer on his toes (or would that be the balls of his feet?). “I don’t want to say he gave me advice,” says Mozzati. “We arrange everything together, but the song is the rock star.

“Sometimes there are so many ideas it’s hard to find the right one,” he continues. “So he was helping me with that. I was composing different patterns and stuff and they were all right with the song, but Don was helping to find the right part.”

Conventional wisdom says the lead single is always the most accessible song on an album. If that’s true, the beats should be pretty straight ahead. In the case of Dark Adrenaline, hook-laden opener — and Active Rock chart climber — “Trip The Darkness” is the track that challenges the drummer most. “It doesn’t sound like it, but it’s got three beats on the bass drum that follow the snare and it’s hard to keep it going,” he says. “The bridge and the chorus have a similar pattern but it’s different … I succeeded much better with some other songs like ‘Against You’ or ‘I Don’t Believe In Tomorrow’ or the faster songs.”

It makes sense. On the faster songs Mozzati can rely on double pedal but “Trip The Darkness” is all single foot, and the three consecutive beater strokes that Mozzati is talking about work almost like a triplet. But whether it’s one foot or two, it’s not all metal-type beats on Dark Adrenaline. Appropriately, the cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” is a 2/4 so big and wide you could drive a Lamborghini through it. “Give Me Something More” sports a propulsive disco beat, which Mozzati did to brilliant effect on “I Like It” from Shallow Life. “We like to use that beat to change the mood of the songs and also to make the people move a bit more.”

Generally speaking, the recorded drum parts usually suffice in getting fists pumping and heads bobbing. “Ninety-nine percent [of the time] I try to play what is exactly on the album but with the live show sometimes you can get excited and you change a roll and I won’t even remember if I changed something, [laughs] or, like, I don’t even remember which one was the original one I’ll be so used to playing the [newer version of] one.”

“Intoxicated,” a song that features some of Scabbia’s most piercing and intricate phrasing on the album, is exemplary of the drummer’s penchant for layering and spacing in intriguing ways what could have been pedestrian beats. The track is still so new, however, that to describe it exactly Mozzati has to slip on his iPod for a second and listen to it. “No, I think it’s on 2 and 4 but then I try a Police thing,” he says before adding: “I say try because Stewart Copeland is a genius in my opinion — he is one of my favorite drummers. So I tried to do some small stuff that reminds me of him.”

Mozzati recalls his days just after university when he was kicking around Milan. Back then he started taking lessons from Roberto Miso, host of Italian satellite channel Rock TV and drummer for Rezophonic, a music collective whose album proceeds help to build water wells in Africa. Scabbia is one of the vocalists. “He introduced me to the real drum world,” Mozzati says. “The rudiments, learning to read, proper ways to roll.” (He can still read but it’s not required for Lacuna Coil.)

Mozzati’s first band was a funk outfit. They had a few gigs in Italy but nothing serious. Then there was Time Machine, which he likens to “a prog-rock band but kind of Queensrÿche-style,” which he played in for a year.

He states with evident pride that Lacuna Coil is his first professional job. He had to audition but the invitation to join was so casual it was sort of anticlimactic. “We were friends,” he says of the other members. “I knew Marco [Zelati, bassist] and Cristina; we used to go to the same club and we loved pop music. I had my funk project and they had Lacuna Coil, and since they knew me, they wanted me to come for a practice and then they just asked me if I wanted to join them.

“I’m pretty sure they tried out five, six different guys,” he adds. “But then they just stayed with me.”

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