The world is in the grip of a pandemic. The coronavirus has upended lives, business and entertainment around the globe. Who are we to turn to at a time like this? We suggest Lucifer—the band, that is. The multinational act, led by German singer Johanna Sadonis and Swedish multi-instrumentalist/songwriting partner Nicke Andersson, unleashed its third record—appropriately titled “Lucifer III” (review)—on March 20, 2020, and its ’70s-influenced occult rock is perfect for anyone looking for a quick escape from this increasingly dire situation. Live Metal’s Greg Maki spoke to Johanna and Nicke about the album, the pandemic and more.
LIVE METAL: First, where are you guys right now, and how are you making out under these circumstances?
NICKE ANDERSSON: Well, we’re home, like half an hour outside of Stockholm. We live in a house kind of in the country. So that’s good. That’s really good.
JOHANNA SADONIS: Things don’t seem that different here at home, but of course I’m reading the news every day, and I’m on social media, and I see what’s going on. And it affects us, of course, as well, because we have to postpone our next tour, for example. We see it all around with our friends who are in bands and who are crews, and so on. It is difficult for everybody. I just hope people stay at home so the numbers go down and this thing passes somehow.
What do you plan to do with this unexpected downtime you’re getting now?
NICKE: Oh, there’s so much to do. That would actually be one of the few positive things about it. There’s music to work on. We’ll never get bored. (laughs)
JOHANNA: That’s true. We do work from home anyways. With the album release a few days ago, there’s plenty to do, for us, at home. But if there’s more free time, give it to us. There’s always a book to read and new music to write. We’re already talking about the next album and so on.
I guess the timing didn’t really work out. It’s maybe not the best time to have a new album out, but it is out. It came out last week. Were you able to do anything to mark the occasion? I know you had to cancel the release show you had planned.
NICKE: No, there wasn’t a show. We were gonna have a release show just to celebrate it, but we had to do it at home instead.
JOHANNA: It was just the two of us and a bunch of cocktails. (laughs)
NICKE: Which was great.
JOHANNA: That’s the only thing. Other than that, not much has changed from what we were planning to do for the release. Of course, if feels a bit wrong and mundane to post and promote your album on social media, but then again it seems like people are somewhat appreciative to have something while they are stuck at home.
Yeah, it kind of takes them away from everything else for a little bit.
JOHANNA: Yeah, exactly. And we do the same thing as music fans. We spend a lot of time listening to music.
This is the third album, obviously, “Lucifer III.” You’ve established a sound on the first couple albums, so what kind of challenges come with making the third album?
JOHANNA: We actually haven’t thought about it at all. It’s more that people are saying this now, that this is so crucial. And we have absolutely not given it a thought. For us, it’s not any sort of milestone or make-it-or-break-it or whatever. I think it’s just the third album, and then there’s gonna be the fourth album.
NICKE: I’m just dreading the difficult 10th album. (laughter)
You started, on the second album, moving away from the doom sound that was a lot of the first one. Has that been just because of who has been involved in the writing, or has it been a conscious decision to go in a different direction? Or both?
JOHANNA: Yeah, both. When I sat down and had the idea that I wanna have this band and it’s gonna be called Lucifer, the idea was it’s gonna be a band that takes a bow towards the great bands of the ‘70s, and to also incorporate a dash of doom and proto-metal and this and that. Then Gaz Jennings joined as the guitar player, and we started writing together, and of course it was a lot more doom-laden. But that was not really the original idea for Lucifer. So when Gaz left and I ended up finding myself writing with Nicke, that was the perfect opportunity to pick up on the initial idea that I had for Lucifer. Nicke was exactly the right person for that, because we are very much on the same page when it comes to music and what music is supposed to sound like and the stuff that we like and so on.
NICKE: I was trying to end up not moving too far away from the first album.
JOHANNA: Yeah, I think I was like, “Yeah, maybe now we don’t even have to tune down.” And Nicke was like, “No, no, no, let’s keep it down-tuned.”
NICKE: Maybe we embraced more of the other facets of Black Sabbath than just the heaviness that was more audible on the first album.
JOHANNA: So I think the ingredients are the same. They just are in different proportions now. You still have doom elements in there, as well—not as much as on the first album, but I think the influences are still audible and the ingredients are there.
As you’ve moved in the direction you’ve gone, it’s really opened the songs up to focus more on the hooks and the melody. Is that harder or is there more pressure to come up with those hooks?
NICKE: I think, isn’t it a little bit like the way you and Gaz wrote—that was actually a little bit more difficult, because there were so many riffs piled up?
JOHANNA: The difficulty of writing with Gaz was—Gaz is a crazy good guitar player who has riffs that are standing alone, and they don’t need an extra vocal melody on top. I guess that’s because he is kind of used to writing for people who more growl. There’s not a lot of room for a singer to do a lot of crazy hooks or melodies or whatever. While Nicke is very used to writing with in mind to keep room and air so you can actually have the space to make a vocal melody that’s a little bit more elaborate. So in that sense, it’s easier to find space for myself.
NICKE: And I personally wouldn’t know how to do it any different anyway. I guess I’m a pop fan at heart, even though I like heavy stuff, too.
JOHANNA: Me too. I’m a sucker for catchy melodies, and it’s a lot easier to try to get there on the stuff that I work on with Nicke.
It’s obvious listening to your songs that the occult is an influence, at least on the subject matter. I was wondering how seriously you take that kind of thing. Is it more for entertainment purposes, or does it go deeper than that?
JOHANNA: I used to be very serious about it when I was starting as a teenager in the ‘90s. There is some seriousness there, but there is also a lot of room for humor and to also take these things as metaphors for personal stories. Certain figures in my life get some sort of different branding, (laughs) depending on what fits. There’s a little bit of both there.
Have you ever had any experiences you would consider supernatural or anything like that?
JOHANNA: I have not seen a ghost. But when we get to that song “Ghosts,” that is actually, also, a metaphor for ghosts that you live with, as in people that you were close to that passed on and kind of still live with you as ghosts, where it’s kind of hard to grasp that they will never return and that’s why they’re lingering around your mind.
Of course, there’s things in life that sometimes can’t be explained, whether or not that’s some sort of supernatural connection you have with somebody—like you have a dream about somebody that something happens, and the next day that person calls you up and something has happened—maybe not exactly what you dreamed about. But these kind of coincidences make you question your more scientific view of life. There certainly are things that are hard to understand, or at least I wish there would be, and that’s why it’s so often a theme in Lucifer. Because music is a tool to paint your own world, and I use that, certainly, as a tool for myself.
Who or what is the “Leather Demon”?
JOHANNA: (laughs) It’s so funny, because everybody asks that. Let’s just say, the leather demon represents your average, cool rocker that loves to smoke cigarettes and hangs out on the cemetery.
NICKE: I thought it was me, but then I realized it wasn’t.
JOHANNA: No, it’s actually me. (laughs)
You have a song called “Lucifer” on this album. Had you been wanting to write a song about that for a while? How did that come about now?
NICKE: That one is about me. (laughter) Oh, no, I was wrong again.
JOHANNA: It was about time. We do like the very classic approach to things, like the numbering of the albums, like Led Zeppelin, for example, did. Classic bands often have a self-titled song, so it had to be done. It was very high on the to-do list, and it just kind of found its place here and now, finally.
The band definitely has a retro feel, in the influences, recording techniques and visually—like the photos, I feel like I’m looking at a Black Sabbath photo from 1972, which I think is really cool. What is it about that time period that really draws you to it?
JOHANNA: That’s when rock music and metal music sounded the best.
NICKE: Personally, sonically, the ‘70s—OK, let’s put it this way: There were no bad recorded sounds in the ‘70s. And it doesn’t matter what genre it was. This is my opinion. Then the ‘80s came, and it got really weird. And then the ‘90s came, and it got weirder still. So people call it retro. We don’t call it that.
JOHANNA: I think it never went away. I had it in my household when I was a kid because of my parents. It has always been there, so it’s rather timeless than some sort of revival thing.
NICKE: Yeah, it’s classic, not cliche.
JOHANNA: And there’s a reason why people celebrate 50 years of Black Sabbath. Who are these bands gonna be 50 years from now? I don’t think there’s anyone. They’ll all be gone then. That’s a pretty sad thing.
NICKE: It’s gonna be Red Hot Chili Peppers (laughter) Or Nickelback. (laughter)
No, no, don’t say that! How do you feel about the worldwide success of a band like Ghost, that also has kind of a throwback sound and relies on the occult? Does that have any impact on your band, commercially, creatively or anything like that?
JOHANNA: Not creatively, first and foremost. I think it’s awesome that they can go so far with what they’re doing. Actually, I used to be a local promoter in Berlin and I had put on a Ghost show before the first album came out, so I saw them really small. It’s great how far they’ve gotten. They play stadiums now. I always tip my hat, and I’m happy when peers around us are super successful. That’s really great. If rock ‘n’ roll is doing good, great. But it’s not a personal influence, because we don’t look around at contemporary music. We are really boring, and we listen to old stuff, so that’s where it’s coming from. But we have very similar influences as Tobias (Forge) in Ghost. Whether or not that’s catering to our record sales—I don’t know.
NICKE: Maybe a little. There’s a big band that likes Satan—that can’t be bad.
I’m sure you had a lot of plans for this year, but everything is kind of on hold for now. But whenever you’re able to get back up and running, will the European tour be rescheduled and can we expect to see you over here in North America?
NICKE: Hopefully North America in the next year.
JOHANNA: Well, the thing was because we’ve been to the States for three tours lately, we have to focus on Europe this year. Yes, our May tour is postponed, but we have another one coming up in November. But we have been planning to go back to the States next year, and right now, we’re working on new visas, because that’s a whole beast in itself.
I think that’s all the questions I have right now. I don’t want to take up a ton of your time. Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?
JOHANNA: My name is Lucifer. Please wash your hands.