Johanna Sadonis is somewhat of a late bloomer in the Hard Rock scene. She started out in the 90s playing and singing extreme Metal in the underground scene, but she has found commercial and critical success in recent years with her own band, Lucifer. They are one of the most interesting bands right now, playing that kind of 70s Hard Rock and Metal style that groups like Black Sabbath made popular back in the day, but a somewhat darker and more melodic approach at the same time.
Now all the years of hard work and dedication are paying off for Johanna, with Lucifer’s third album, simply titled III, is another landmark for the band and their recent singles, Midnight Phantom and Leather Demon, are spreading the word of this phenomenal Swedish band.
And so, I had the opportunity to talk with Johanna during this lockdown situation and we discussed her career, her influences, her sognwriting process and a lot more. I hope you enjoy it.
Thank you for the possibility of doing this interview, Johanna. First and foremost, how are things going on with you and your loved ones during this pandemic?
Thank you too! Luckily on our end all is ok and we keep ourselves busy working on new music.
How much of a toll did this situation took on your plans with Lucifer?
We had to move our EU spring tour and all summer festival dates to next year. We do have two Shows in Russia in October and another EU tour coming up in November which hopefully will take place, if the world will start turning again.
Hopefully things will get better soon. As far as music goes, I always start from the beginning in these interviews: How did you get into Rock music when you were younger?
We hope so too. It all started with my parents record collection. There was a lot of Rolling Stones, AC DC, ZZ Top, Deep Purple and stuff like that.
And what prompted you to become a singer?
My earliest memory of my fascination with singing and music was when I discovered the song ‘Leader Of The Pack’ by the Shangri-Las on a rock and roll compilation cassette that my mom gave me when I was six. I keep rewinding and listening over and over again. I didn’t speak English then, so I started writing lyrics to songs down phonetically so I could sing along as a child. In my early teenage years I started to write poems, lyrics and I bought my first acoustic guitar, teaching myself to play and to sing. I stuck with the singing.
Which vocalists influenced you the most?
There are quite many. Some main ones are Ozzy, Robert Plant, Ann Wilson, Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith.
What are the aspects of being a vocalist that you think are not discussed enough?
Good question. It’s nothing I’m really thinking about apparently. I just do what I love best.
Based on my research, you started your career playing Extreme Metal. What can you tell our readers about your early days?
After my initial love affair with classic rock and heavy metal I got heavily into death, doom and black metal at the age of 16 and sang on a variety of demo cassette tapes of local death and black metal bands in Berlin. I had black hair, black clothes, my whole room was black and I got into magic. I worked at an esoteric book shop after school. I was very serious about this all. My mother thought it was just a phase but look at me, not much has changed!
This is a fun question we always do and I think it would be even more interesting considering your eclectic tastes: Could you suggest ten albums for our readers that you feel don’t get enough attention?
Dust – Hard Attack
Bloodrock – Bloodrock U.S.A.
Starz – Starz
April Wine – Electric Jewels
Badfinger – Straight Up
Bob Seger – Bob Seger
Journey – Journey
38 Special – Special Forces
Al Stuart – Year of The Cat
Lucifer – Lucifer III
Let’s talk about your band’s third album, Lucifer III. Was there any particular difference in the writing process of this album compared to the previous two?
Actually not. II & III was written the same way between Nicke and I as was Lucifer I between Gaz and me. All three albums were demoed between two songwriters. Those demos were then taken to the band to learn and then properly recorded in the studio for the albums.
I have noticed that you have a stronger 70s Hard Rock vibe in this album. Would you say that was by design or is it something that was done organically?
By design I wanted to steer Lucifer already with ‘II’ back toward a heavier leaning into 70s influences as it was my initial idea for Lucifer before Gaz joined. I see the new album as a continuation of II.
Do you see the band branching out to new sounds and styles in future releases?
Anything is open. I can’t say how I will feel in the future but I sure as hell want to keep things interesting for us and the listener. We have already started working on new stuff and I am excited to see where the muse is leading us now.
Which songs do you think define the spirit of the album the most for you? One where you go “This is what we were aiming for!”?
But that’s the whole thing. All songs represent Lucifer. Lucifer has many faces and nuances and we have just started to explore some of the depths that make this band. It would bore me to death to pinpoint this with one song. The body of work should be eclectic, unforeseeable and exciting.
Of course, only you and Nicke Andersson remain from the previous album. Did the change in lineup have an influence in your writing process and musicianship?
We were only three people recording the last album. Robin left because he became a dad and couldn’t juggle our busy tour schedule, with his full-time job and baby. But since Robin wasn’t part of songwriting nothing has changed about these things.
This is the second time you record an album with Nicke. What can you tell us about the experience of working with him?
Our work together is very laid back. We share the same vision with most things so I feel very lucky to have him in Lucifer. Nicke is my husband and best friend, so what better person to work with? I learn a lot from him during our recordings in our studio.
Lyrically, I know that the occult has played a certain influence in your lyrics. But I was wondering if horror fiction influenced you as well?
Yes, fictional horror, real life horror and the horror in ones head are all part of my lyrics too.
And how do you guys react when there are disagreements? What if he wants to do a certain thing in a song and you don’t want to? How do you deal with that?
Between us the song is always the greater good. There is no ego nonsense. We just do what’s best for the music. We bounce ideas off each other and it’s all very relaxed and if there is two or more ideas for the same thing, the best one wins.
I have to say that I personally like a lot the video of Midnight Phantom, with that strong 60s vibe. What can you tell us about the making of that video?
Thank you. I always wanted to emulate old 60s TV performances that groups like the Stones did back in the day, so we had a set built in Gothenburg and shot ‘Midnight Phantom’ as well as some studio footage for ‘Leather Demon’ in one day.
Considering that you were in many bands before forming Lucifer, I wanted to ask you if those past experiences had an impact in the way you handle this band. Did you live things in previous groups that made you much more prepared to do things right now?
Absolutely. I certainly learned that I am not putting up with ego bullshit and phoniness anymore. All the members that are in Lucifer are genuinely good hearted souls that just love to play music, like me. No games. No nonsense. Just the passion of creating music and enjoying the ride.
You have been playing in bands since the 90s and nowadays the music industry is quite different to what it was back then. What are the challenges and advantages that you have while making music in 2020?
I have the advantage of age and a healthy amount of wisdom and experiences under my belt. I know what I want and what I don’t want to put up with. Managing the band and having the trust of our record company Century Media to go our own chosen way means total freedom. I can’t really compare to the 90s as I was only part of the underground music scene as a musician. Today one has to utilise streaming services, social media etc. Which are necessary evils if you will but it also allows one to stay closely connected to the base and to feel the pulse of what’s up.
One curious question: Did you ever have legal problems with using the name Lucifer? Considering that it is a name that other bands have used throughout the years.
No. But I also wouldn’t have chosen the name, if it would have belonged to a larger, active band.
Obviously, 70s Rock music is a huge influence on Lucifer’s sound. Do you share the same opinion as Homer Simpson that Rock music reached perfection in 1974?
Sort of. Honestly you’ll find great records even up to 1982 ha ha!
Have you ever felt worried, especially in the early days, that you guys are going to be labeled a “retro band”?
For me this type of music was never “retro”. It’s timeless. Meat and potatoes. But I really don’t care much about labels. I just do what my heart tells me to.
Let’s talk about touring now: What do you think have been the biggest landmarks Lucifer has achieved while touring so far?
Really all of it. I have played nearly 200 shows with Lucifer now and they were all important in their own way. We perform the same way in front of 20 people in some village as we do at Hellfest in front of 7000 people.
And as a singer, what do you do to keep your mind in good shape?
Not exactly sure what you mean but here is something about mindset: It’s important to stay grounded and to not get full of oneself. Be humble but take no shit.
How do you guys organize you set list for every tour?
We usually like to start off the set with a mid tempo number to get into the groove and end the set in some sort of sonic eruption, a musical orgasm if you will. In the sequence of a set list you also never want to put two songs of the same kind in a row tempo wise, in regards to the key a song is in and what type of song it is. No two ballads for example. You want to keep an interesting flow to keep the attention of the audience. It’s like a story. It should have twists and turns. We incorporate stuff the people want to hear but also what we enjoy playing live out of our catalogue. We also really dig throwing in a cover or two.
Do you have any fun anecdote of your time touring so far?
Phew there are many. A great one is when our guitar player Martin Nordin ended up playing ping pong with Ace Frehley on the Kiss Kruise where we played three sets.
Is there any place you would like to visit on tour?
We still haven’t been to Australia, New Zealand and South America and I can’t wait to play there.
Finally, what goals do you have for the rest of the year, taking into account the virus situation?
At the moment it looks like we have our first summer off in a while which is perfect to recharge batteries and work the next album. Hopefully in fall/winter our tour dates go as planned, so we get to finally play the new stuff live. Hooves crossed.
Thank you for doing this, Johanna. Any last words for our readers? Where can we follow you on social media and buy Lucifer III?
The pleasure was mine! Our album is available here: https://Lucifer.lnk.to/III and all our social media links can be found at www.lucifer.church . Thank you. And to say it in Keith Richards words: “Say stafe!”
You can find the band Lucifer here: