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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It’s a cliché that English is the language of rock and roll, and except for a brief interlude nel’italiano in final track “My Spirit,” Lacuna Coil’s English-only policy hasn’t put off their countrymen. More importantly, it points to their Evanescence-hunting, world-beating ambition. “For rock music, the U.S. and England is number one,” Mozzati says. “I don’t necessarily wish it was that way. We want to please our Italian fans of course, but if something is good the language of the lyrics shouldn’t matter. And the Italians feel like that too.”

With a European tour underway by the time you read this, Mozzati will still be acclimating to the new songs. As with any new release, Dark Adrenaline will be showcased in dribs and drabs at first so he’s not sweating that some of the drum parts are still hazy. “Were just going to play a couple of new songs and I’m pretty sure I have to rehearse a lot before the other tour in the U.S.,” he says referring to Gigantour. “This is going to be our third time with Megadeth. I’m always thrilled to play with them, and I’m happy M...t...rhead is on there too.”

But if night after night of punishing sets playing six albums and two EPs worth of material is no problem for Mozzatti then what is?

“Staying away from my wife at home.”

Like his fellow paisan, Mozzati’s just a romantic after all.

Vitals

Band Lacuna Coil
Current Release Dark Adrenaline
Age 38
Birthplace Pesaro, Italy
Influences Stewart Copeland, Terry Bozzio, Tomas Haake
Web site lacunacoil.it

Gear

Drums Pearl Reference (Camo wrap)
Cymbals UFiP
Heads Remo
Sticks Vic Firth
Pedals/Hardware Pearl

Quick Licks

Mozzati has a solid strategy for the studio: unpretentious groove metal punctuated by the occasional and brief flexing of serious chops. Check out the chorus in “Upsidedown.” The fill he drops at the end of the phrase comes as a bit of a surprise compared with the groove it follows, yet not so much that it seems out of place or gratuitous. Then, instead of wastefully introducing more new fill material, he takes this idea and expands it into a measure-long beast toward the end of the track (@ 2:50).

DRUM! Notation Guide

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Inside Tracks

"Lacuna Coil"
Dark Adrenaline
Century Media

That cliché about “less is more”? That applies to clichés, too: The less often you hear them, the more resonant they can be. Even so, it’s appropriate to trot it out one more time when assessing Cristiano Mozzati’s work with Lacuna Coil. The sound of his kit alone brands him as part of the nü-metal school. But unlike many of its practitioners, he seems determined to never overplay. Only here and there does he unleash a zippy, quick fill. Always, however, it centers on his kit; the double kick resists nearly all temptation to erupt in pointless display. He even locks onto a four-on-the-floor groove during the bridge of “Give Me Something More.” And when he takes a solo moment in “I Don’t Believe in Tomorrow,” Mozzati concentrates more on working within the structure of the 4/4 meter (3+3+2) than on razzle-dazzle for its own sake. In fact, given the looseness he brings to an often unbending idiom, it might have been good to hear him show off just a bit more.