Shortly into quarantine, Lucifer released their third album Lucifer III. I was lucky enough to snag a short interview with the wonderful, almighty, enchantress Johanna Sadonis and talk about quarantine creativity, being a woman in a male-dominated scene, and what the future holds for the band.
Schultzie: I see that recently you have done an Isolation Fest. Can you talk me through that?
Johanna Sadonis: The Isolation Fest, Century Media came up with that, because obviously everybody’s tour schedules are being canceled and postponed. That came in quite handy, because we just released the new album right at the start of the COVID crisis. We went into our own studio that we have here at home where I live with Nicke (Andersson). We live kind of south of Stockholm, a little bit out in the wild. We have a house here and a little side house with a studio. That’s where we rehearse with Lucifer. That’s also where we recorded the last album. So we met in there and just set up a little GoPro, or whatever that’s called, a camera. That was our submission for the Isolation Festival. To those who haven’t seen it, it was kind of funny because the bands that were playing, they were all Century Media bands, and they all did it kind of differently. We saw it on the night when it was streamed. Like, some bands were playing in proper venues on a huge stage in front of an empty room. And we opted to do it in a cozy environment because our studio is really small, it’s like a little cave. And yeah, so we did it totally different. Have you seen the Voivod performance?
Schultzie: I did not watch that one, no.
Johanna Sadonis: Yeah, that was kind of funny. They made, like, a whole thing out of it. Well, anyways, I think these things are great ideas, and a lot of bands have been doing it. I mean, what else are you going to do, right? We’re kind of passing our time recording new music now, even though we just put out an album, but we have the time, you know? We don’t know what else to do, otherwise we would be on all our different European tours we were supposed to do and summer festivals and so on. And it really sucks it’s not happening right now. We do the other thing that’s most fun in music.
Schultzie: So, you said you’re working on probably a fourth album?
Johanna Sadonis: Yes, well, we are working on that and we are working on different stuff because our label wants us to promote the album that just came out, of course, for a little bit longer, so I can’t talk too much about the next Lucifer album. That’s more something for next year, but we are working on it and we have a few 7” singles in the pipeline that I just announced today. Nicke and I, we founded our own record label called Riding Reaper Records. And we were using it to put out 7” because our contract with Century Media allows us to release on other labels when it comes to 7” singles. So, we thought that’s a great opportunity. We want to push out a few things, sprinkle them throughout the year, just to keep our fanbase a little bit happy, you know, while we can. Commit to the shows we were supposed to do this year.
Schultzie: What is that like? Can you talk me through how you guys just released an album, and you are promoting it, but you can’t go out there and show the world it? How does that feel?
Johanna Sadonis: Yeah, we thought it would be worse, but it seems when it came out in March, that’s kind of when shit hit the fan. Everybody got into quarantine and was at home in isolation. So, we thought it would be bad for the album, but actually as far as I know about sales, it’s been pretty good. So maybe that is because people have been home and they actually have time to listen to it and spend time with music. That part of it has been okay. It’s a shame about the live shows, but everybody has the same problem and it just is what it is. Maybe it’s also good that we have time to work so much on music now because usually that gets a little bit stressful because when you’re on tour and constantly traveling, it gets pretty hard to go in between and to the studio and so on. Now we’re kind of forced to take a chill pill and enjoy the summer and have an unexpected time off. I’m just trying to see the positive here, but I’m really hoping that things will kind of return to normal. It depends because now the second wave is supposed to come and a lot of people don’t take it so serious anymore. A lot of people used to wear face masks and gloves and all that, and I don’t get it. Don’t you want your old life back, you know?
Schultzie: Yeah, so you would say that quarantine has been a positive thing for creative people?
Johanna Sadonis: I think so. I think a lot of people, a lot of our friends and peers, have been working on music and have been getting creative at home because of it.
Schultzie: Any more quarantine streams in the works?
Johanna Sadonis: Um, not right now, but we are kind of brainstorming about it. I can’t really say right now. I’m not sure.
Schultzie: You mentioned you have your own studio. Do you ever record any other bands in that one?
Johanna Sadonis: That was the original plan for the studio. Nicke always had his own studio, and when we bought the house that we live in together now, we built a studio here together. The plan was that when he has time to record other bands, but he just never has time. He has a small son. He has a six year old son. We are so busy, but he is recording his own band, so there is other bands. I’m not sure how much I can give away, but Nicke is involved in several other bands that have quite a big fanbase, and I know that there’s work going on in all of these. Since it’s not my place to give away any info about these things, I’m gonna shut up!
Schultzie: Absolutely! Alright, so let’s talk about the new release. The third album! I’ve listened to it quite a lot. It has a lot of very, very, very catchy songs. I’m just curious on what the inspiration was, if there were any inspirations, for this album?
Johanna Sadonis: There’s always plenty of inspiration. I mean, musically with all the stuff we listen to, you know, we have a lot of music around us. I think maybe, what I always say is, that it’s kind of a continuation of the second album. Maybe heavier leaning into horror themes because, um, I love cemeteries. Ha! There are so many songs always about death because this has always been the big mystery to me in my life. I spend almost a little bit too much time thinking about death and people that I’ve lost, so that has been a main topic in the lyrics for this album. Yeah, I think we are influenced by a lot of very classic 70s meat-and-potatoes hard rock, but then of course there’s other influences too. Nicke and I, we both come from extreme metal, so you’ll always hear weird, odd chords or solo. You can probably see that we love horror films and spooky stories and stuff. I think influences are always so many different things, you know? It’s not always just music, but everything that you kind of feed your brain with.
Schultzie: When you say ‘extreme metal,’ was there a push from your parents or was it more of a friend group that got you into that?
Johanna Sadonis: Well, my parents were more into classic rock. Deep Purple, AC/DC, ZZ Top, and Rolling Stones and stuff. And then I had a big brother who was really into punk. So, I started out first with a little bit of my parents’ stuff, like the 70s stuff, but then when I was 13, I went to see Guns N Roses, and then I saw Metallica the same year in ‘92. And the next thing I saw when I was 14 was Danzig, and that was the first step into the dark side. That totally pulled me over, you know? I love that. Everybody was wearing black and that really impressed me. And then shortly after, maybe when I was 15, then I stepped my foot into extreme metal, death metal, doom. That kind of happened because I was at summer camp when I was 12 and I met my first two friends that were into metal. Two guys that had a death metal band in Berlin, and when I was 16, they asked me to guest sing on two songs on a demo cassette. And that’s where it started for me with singing. I was one of the very few girls in the extreme metal scene in Berlin. I got asked by quite a few different bands to sing on their demo cassettes because that was the thing in the 90s. I ended up doing that in the underground scene and it was kind of the start for me. But to be putting out actual, proper records, I guess I’m a little bit of a late bloomer.
Schultzie: That’s still really, really cool though. You said you were about 15-16 when you started being in the local scene. What is the local scene now? Are you still based in the same place?
Johanna Sadonis: No, so I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. For the past three years I’ve been living in Stockholm, Sweden because I met Nicke who is our drummer and my husband. I moved to Sweden to join him and we live here together. We record together and produce together. I’m based in Sweden. I’m an exile. A German exile.
Schultzie: Would you say you’ve seen a shift in the kind of music in the local scene? Like, when I think of the local scene around me, I would imagine it is going to be more punk. Moving from Berlin to a different area, how has the local scene shifted?
Johanna Sadonis: Well, in Berlin, it’s funny it’s still kind of the same because I’m still friends with a lot of people. I used to, up until I moved to Stockholm, run a metal club night in Berlin. I was DJing once a month, sometimes more often that once a month, but I do miss that sometimes because I had old friends that I’d known for twenty years stop by and then a lot of young kids listening to metal. I love DJing. When I moved to Stockholm, I had to end that, but here it’s quite a similar scene. There’s a huge metal scene in Sweden, and they have club nights. I don’t go out so much anymore because I’ve done it so much, also because we’ve been touring so much that I’m kind of happier when I’m home out in the wild here at our house. I’m also, it might not seem like it, kind of an introvert. I love going out on tour and I love partying, but I also really like to be at home and see nobody except for the few deer that run through the garden. But yeah, the metal scene here is pretty similar to the one in Berlin. I think that’s the thing with rock and metal. It’s a community that kind of networks around the world. A lot of people are really connected. Everybody knows each other. There’s people in New York, Berlin Sweden, and London. They all connect through social media. It makes it a little bit more globalized, the metal scene.
Schultzie: Can I ask how you made your way from being in local bands, guest starring on people’s tracks, into your own band Lucifer?
Johanna Sadonis: Well, I had a band. I lived in L.A. for three years. There I had a band with a girlfriend of mine. She used to work for Century Media in the U.S. She ran Century Media Black, so that was the first proper album that I did. Then I moved back to Berlin and then I founded together with a friend of mine. He was a New Yorker called Vincent Wager, and we used to run my Kill ‘Em All heavy metal club night together in the beginning before he kind of dropped out. We founded The Oath, which is my previous band before Lucifer. We founded that band together and then we found Linnea (Olsson), the guitar player, but then that band broke up. Then, because it broke up kind of prematurely, right when the first album got released, I was like, ‘no, that’s not the end of it for me. I need to make music.’ So, I sat down at my desk at home and was like, okay, I want a band that sounds like this and like that and looks like this and it’s going to be called Lucifer. So, I just founded a band because I already had a deal with my previous band The Oath with Rise Above Records. They offered me a deal for Lucifer and I met Gaz Jennings, the guitar player that was first in Lucifer, that I wrote the first album with. I think that sometimes you just gotta do it. Things are possible if you want them.
Schultzie: That’s great! That’s really, really cool to hear. I’m sorry, I should probably talk more about the album, too.
Johanna Sadonis: It’s okay, I’m up for anything.
Schultzie: One of my favorite songs off the new album would probably be Pacific Blues, just because I love that wailing guitar. With the riffs, is there someone that comes up with them and then you kind of work your way around it with lyrics and vocals. What is the songwriting process?
Johanna Sadonis: That’s the usual way that Nicke and I, we write all the songs, discuss the kind of songs we want to do. He plays me a riff and that’s great, and he makes a demo and he plays drums and bass and guitar, and then he gives that to me and then I sit down with my Garageband and I kind of compose the vocal melody and write lyrics and record that. And I give that to him and we discuss if that arrangement is good or not. We’ve had also two songs on the album where we did it the other way around, where I just took a beat and I sang the verse, the chorus, the middle eight, and he wrote the music around it. Then we give it to the other guys and they practice, then we meet in the studio to record it properly. It looks like for the, well, I shouldn’t talk about the next album yet. I’m not allowed. I’m zipping my mouth over here.
Schultzie: I notice that a lot of the tones for the album – you mentioned death earlier, and a lot of your lyrics seem to lean that way. Would you agree?
Johanna Sadonis: Oh, yeah. You mean on the last album?
Schultzie: On the third album, yeah.
Johanna Sadonis: Yeah, totally. I’ve had so many different experiences with death, and it’s just an overall theme. I would say I’m someone that probably thinks a little bit too much about death, and that has several reasons. I’ve lost some people in my life, and also death has so many different faces. It can be a comfort. You know, when shit gets really bad in your life, then you can say, ‘well, what does it matter, then I croak.’ Death kind of puts things in relation, so that things are maybe not so heavy. It can be a comfort or an emergency escape. It’s also really scary because I really love life and I’m really emotional. I wish life would last four times as long as it does. I’m 41. Life, at that point, goes really fast. Like, fuck, this is half my life already. Or who knows? Maybe I’m dead in two years. I hope not. I love life so much and I’m so interested and curious. I love trying new things. It’s just not going to be enough. Death is also a big fear of mine. I’m very obsessed by the theme of death. Then it’s also to cope with understanding that some people have died. It’s really hard to grasp that someone is not coming back. I mean, I know they’re not coming back. My consciousness knows that, but the subconsciousness is kind of – it’s so weird. You know, you look at an old phonebook and there’s a number and you want to dial it, but that person is never going to pick up again. It’s just, I don’t know. It’s a mix between romanticizing death and condemning death and being scared. It will probably follow like a thread through the next album too. So overwhelming for me.
Schultzie: That’s awesome though. I feel like a lot of the music I listen to, a lot of people take inspiration from being scared of death. It kind of pushes you forward to just do what you want to do because you never know how much time you have.
Johanna Sadonis: Exactly, yeah.
Schultzie: I’ve heard that a lot of your influences are 70s bands, specifically one of them being Heart. Two very strong, powerful women in music. You are also a strong, powerful woman in music. What is it like being in this field?
Johanna Sadonis: Thank you, first of all. Well, you have to have a little bit of a thick skin. I think you have to have that as a woman, period. No matter if you’re in the scene or not. The rock and metal scene has always been male-dominated. When I was a teenager and coming of age in the scene, I was one of the very few girls back then. Nowadays there’s a lot more girls in the rock scene. Especially these days you have a lot of bands with girls which is awesome, you know? But then you have weird expressions like “female-fronted” and so on. Two years ago, people used this like a normal word and I would always say to the males that interviewed me, ‘why did you have to call it that?’ It shouldn’t be – gender shouldn’t be a genre. Sometimes it feels like in general, in business situations, especially when I was younger, that you would get overpowered a little bit by guys. A lot of people didn’t even notice that they do that because it’s so deep within our culture, you know? Like you get treated differently as a woman in obvious ways, but also in really subtle ways. That’s luckily changing right now and there’s a lot of talk about it, which is unfortunate that there has to be a talk about it, but I guess it’s important. I wish it wouldn’t matter. But you have to have some sort of humor and there’s some things that go below the belt. Especially on a lot of social media, people feel like they have a free pass to just blurt out anything like they’re in the Wild West or something. On YouTube, if you look – I mean, I’m not reading comments anymore. In the beginning I did a little bit because I was curious, but I don’t do that anymore because there’s some nasty people out there. That goes for all my peers that are girls in the music scene. If you look below their videos, there are horrible comments sometimes. Like, super sexist and nasty stuff. What I don’t get is that a lot of people don’t say anything. It seems to be okay. To me, that’s like if you grope somebody. You don’t do that. I don’t understand how this is not regulated more. That these kind of like sex offenses, even if they’re just verbal, are still tolerated. I think people should be sued. I saw the other day that somebody posted about our album and some asshole posted, “her ass, my face, let’s rock.” And I’m thinking it’s so nasty, and he probably means it as some very twisted compliment or whatever, but it’s so nasty. That’s sexual harassment, I’m sorry. That shouldn’t be okay anymore. Why does nobody say anything? I mean, a lot of people say something, but not all the time. Especially when they get to be anonymous on YouTube. I hope things will get a little bit more regulated; that those kind of comments can be removed right away. Because you always have the option to mark somebody’s comment that is hate speech, but it doesn’t always work, especially when it’s sexism. I just hope that gets a little bit better.
Schultzie: It’s wonderful hearing someone like you use your voice against that though. I think that’s great. I think that’s really great.
Johanna Sadonis: That’s really funny, because I had posted on the Lucifer social pages because I had seem some comments that were racially horrible – I’ve seen all kinds of stuff that’s not okay. I always, because I run the social media pages, ban those kinds of people. I felt it necessary for the first time to post, “if you’re a homophobe, you’re a sexist, racist, you are not welcome here.” If you feel like you have to burn your Lucifer album now, please do so. I don’t care. That post went around quite a lot. A lot of people were applauding it, but then there was also all kinds of people going, “you suck anyways.” Because I’m against sexism, racism, and homophobia? I mean, what side are you on then. I’m really shocked at how much racism is out there. But luckily that’s getting talked about too. We’re still a little bit in the middle ages, unfortunately. It can’t go fast enough.
*** Johanna was scheduled for another interview around this time, so our talk had to come to a close ***
Schultzie: Thank you so, so, so much for talking with me.
Johanna Sadonis: Thank you so much! That was awesome.