INTERVIEW: Johanna Sadonis and Nicke Andersson of LUCIFER (October 2021)

After releasing its third album, “Lucifer III” (review), in March 2020 near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Swedish/German heavy rock band Lucifer, like all musical acts around the world, found itself unable to tour. With nothing else to do, work began on the next record, which is due just in time for Halloween, on Oct. 29, 2021 (via Century Media Records), and titled “Lucifer IV.” The band also has a long-awaited European tour set to kick off in November and more live dates scheduled into 2022. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with frontwoman Johanna Sadonis and multi-instrumentalist Nicke Andersson to discuss the new album, the return to touring, dreams of ditching social media, fake(?) blood and more.

LIVE METAL: You played your first show in quite some time at the end of August. How did that go? What was it like being on stage again?

JOHANNA SADONIS: It was a little bit strange, because when we left off the last tour in January 2020 in the States, we were really on a roll because we’d been playing a lot. And when we returned to the stage one and a half years later, you get live rusty. It doesn’t matter how much you play as a band in the rehearsal room. It’s not the same thing when you play live.

You’ve got tour dates starting next month in Europe. Have you started rehearsing for that and getting ready?

JOHANNA: Yeah. We have plenty of new material to rehearse, and we want to deliver.

I guess things have opened up enough throughout Europe that the tour looks like a realistic possibility at this point?

NICKE ANDERSSON: It does. I think we’re prepared to see maybe one or two shows that won’t happen, but hopefully every single one will.

The new album, “Lucifer IV,” comes out Oct. 29. Obviously, you didn’t have the normal record cycle for “Lucifer III.” Without being on tour and having all that direct, immediate feedback from fans, did that have any effect going into this album, on how you approached it or the writing or anything like that?

JOHANNA: No. (laughs) We just kind of follow whatever gut feeling we have. I think it’s really important that you don’t do things to please anybody. I think you have to be able to look at whatever you’ve done and you have to feel that’s right for yourself first. Because if you’re not convinced yourself, then it’s hard to convince other people.

We had actually just watched, to check out this other interview we were supposed to do, and we saw a snippet of Dee Snider talking about how it is, the long phase—you write something and then you get really excited about it, and then you still have no feedback, because the cycle until the record company presses this into product that goes to people and people actually hear it is quite long. He said then you start questioning—is it really that good? But then you get the feedback and then it’s like ah, everything’s OK now. But of course you want the spark to fly over to an audience, and if other people like whatever you’ve done, of course it’s gratifying.

And these days, it’s not like it was years ago where you don’t have any feedback at all. With social media, you can hear from fans directly all the time.

NICKE: It’s too much feedback. (laughs) Johanna uses social media to promote the band. But it’s too much information. As fans, where’s the mystique in knowing what all your favorite bands have for lunch every day? It’s weird. You have to adapt a bit, but I’m not a huge fan of how it turned out. (laughs)

JOHANNA: Actually, I think every day about wanting to delete my personal social media. But at the same time, we are not a big band, so I can’t really afford not to be in touch and network. And also, it keeps you in the loop with what your friends are doing all over the world and what’s up, what do people listen to, what’s a cool movie to watch and stuff. So it’s very hard to get off that train. You need it as bands. I hear artists completely killing their social media. I think lately Lana Del Rey has done that, and Andrew W.K. completely vanished from social media. I am so jealous. I would love it, but we are too small for that and nobody would ever know anything about us. (laughs)

NICKE: I think that would be the main goal of Lucifer, to become so famous that maybe we send out a newsletter by regular mail twice a year. And then we’ll see everyone on tour. That would be ideal. I know it’s a utopia, but one can wish. (laughs)

JOHANNA: Maybe like an old-school website with a blog on there and a newsletter, where people can sign up and then your fans actually see it and you don’t have to fight some algorithm. (laughs)

You released “Lucifer III” pretty much right at the start of the pandemic, and obviously you couldn’t go on tour and promote it. Did you start writing for the next album immediately?

NICKE: Kind of. We couldn’t tour, so it was like let’s do that. It wasn’t super thought out, but since we can’t tour, let’s do this then. That kept us alive in terms of mental stability as a band, I think, because if you are just waiting to tour and not doing anything else, I’m not even sure we would’ve survived that.

JOHANNA: I have actually heard, because we’re friends with a lot of bands and so you hear a little bit what everybody else has been doing, and it did go either way. Some people got extremely creative and started new bands and projects or recorded more music than usual. And then there are the ones that didn’t do anything, and they got really depressed and kind of estranged from each other, because then you have no reason to work on anything, because you’re not playing any shows, and then what is the other thing that bands do? That’s recording. So I think it’s good. We did the best that we could for the horrible circumstances.

How did it affect the writing and recording? Were you able to all be together for all the process?

NICKE: Yeah. Johanna and me, we live on the outskirts of Stockholm, so we don’t see many people anyways.

JOHANNA: We’re hermits.

NICKE: So that was pretty much the same as before the pandemic. (laughs) But since Sweden never had any hard restrictions—there were curfews, but other than that, it was mostly recommendations, which we can talk about at another point if that was good or bad.

JOHANNA: It was too lax.

NICKE: Yeah. But we basically just saw the other guys in the band. As I have a studio, and Linus (Björklund), the guitar player, has a studio, that’s where we met and recorded the album. That would have been a problem if we were to book a studio. They were pretty much closed down, too. So we were lucky in that department. We had those things covered.

JOHANNA: Yeah, so we weren’t affected by the pandemic in that sense.

NICKE: And songwriting, too. We did not think about that.

JOHANNA: No. It’s funny because we’ve gotten the question, because right now we have to do a lot of interviews, and apparently people perceive the album to be darker than previous works. We’re kind of surprised by that because we think that they’re all dark. (laughs) So we get asked if the pandemic is the reason for the gloom, and it’s not. I mean, yeah, it sucked that we couldn’t tour, but I think we are pretty lucky because we live in a house, like Nicke said, where we’re kind of secluded, and out here, things don’t look that different from pre-pandemic days.

NICKE: It has a lot to do with perception. Since people are listening to this album now and they’ve been through the pandemic, maybe that seeps into their perception of the gloominess.

I was reading that your two guitarists were involved in the writing this time. Why did you decide to do that, and what did they bring to the table?

JOHANNA: Actually, the door has always been open for them, but for some reason, they didn’t use it. So this time, Linus came forward with four demos, sketches, and two of them ended up on “Lucifer IV,” and that is “Crucifix,” the one that just got released as a single, and another song called “Nightmare.” And Martin (Nordin), he delivered that really small interlude, “The Funeral Pyre.” He needed some nudging from us.

NICKE: It was kind of like Linus had done these songs with Johanna, and then it’s, “OK, Martin, what about you?” We kind of had to say it like that. And then he came up with this thing. But we had to push him.

JOHANNA: Yeah. “Hey, Martin, have you done your song yet?” (laughs) “Eh, not yet.” “Send it over, man.” And it was great. It was awesome. Here’s a good guitar player, and we asked him, “Do you write stuff sometimes?” “Yeah.” “So what do you do with it?” He’s this kind of guy where you have to kind of pull everything out of his nose. (laughs)

Are you going to continue to encourage them to contribute in the future?

NICKE: I don’t know about encourage. (laughter) We need to think about our income here. (laughter) If it’s good, then we’ll use it. That’s the only rule.

JOHANNA: I think our rule is that the music is always the greater good. So if it’s a good song and it sounds like it should be on an album, and it sounds like a Lucifer song.

There have been, in the past, quite a few lineup changes in the band, and I was wondering if their participation was maybe a sign of more stability in the lineup.

NICKE: No, the next album we’ll kick everyone out. (laughter)

JOHANNA: Yeah, I’m gonna do Lucifer solo. (laughs)

NICKE: Yeah, OK. Then I can chill for a bit. (laughs) I think, before I joined for “Lucifer II,” the band members were scattered all over the place.

JOHANNA: Yeah. That made it very difficult, because the band was in Berlin and London and everywhere, and now everybody’s in Stockholm. That also makes us hang out more. We became friends. Linus and Martin, they joined right after “Lucifer II” got released, so they’ve been in the band for a while, and yes, the lineup is stable.

NICKE: It’s just Lucifer and bass players—that doesn’t really gel. (laughs)

JOHANNA: But it does not have to do with us. The last of the many bass players that was in Lucifer, Alex (Mayr), he had a burnout, and he couldn’t work anymore, and he couldn’t tour anymore. So it’s not my fault. (laughter) It’s hard, because bands in our size—Nicke and I, we don’t have regular jobs because we keep ourselves busy with the music, but everybody else in Lucifer, they have to maintain regular jobs, and it’s hard to juggle. Before the pandemic, we were touring quite a lot, so if you have a full-time job, but then you have to go to the States for two weeks, and you don’t get any sleep, and then you come home, and there’s no day off, and you have to go straight back to the 9 to 5 thing.

NICKE: Most bands do that. It’s not for everybody.

The first video from the album, for the song “Bring Me His Head,” I thought was a lot of fun. It’s, obviously, inspired by “Carrie.” Why did you decide to go with that? Were you just big fans of that movie and book?

JOHANNA: Actually, I have to confess I don’t think I’ve read that Stephen King book. I’ve read some Stephen King books, but not that one.

NICKE: Come on, I saw the movie. Why should I read a fucking book? (laughter)

JOHANNA: But it’s such a cool movie, and it’s such a striking image. That really struck me when I saw that as a teenager. It makes such a big impression, and it was just there, ready to be taken by me. (laughs)

What was the blood made out of that they dumped on you?

JOHANNA: Virgins’ blood. No animals were harmed. I prefer animals over most humans.

NICKE: It smelled like strawberries.

JOHANNA: Shhhh.

NICKE: The real blood smelled like strawberries.

JOHANNA: You’re killing the mystique. (laughter) Like real blood, it was extremely sticky.

What is that song about?

JOHANNA: That’s my revenge song. The great thing is when you write music, you can utilize it. Instead of going to therapy, you can just write lyrics and work through stuff and then be done with it. It’s out there, and you’ve written it, and then you can move on to something else. A lot of Lucifer songs are that, and “Bring Me His Head” is that, also. It’s kind of a fun and ironic take on revenge, because I think humor is always the best tool to deal with grim stuff.

NICKE: Can I ask Johanna a question?

Sure, go right ahead.

NICKE: How many heads were decapitated in that song? Or how many people were decapitated? Is it countless, or is it a specific number?

JOHANNA: No, no. No, it’s not countless. Then I would maybe look in the mirror and ask myself what’s wrong with me, if it would be countless heads. I think I have a healthy amount of heads that I want to be brought to me—two very specific ones. I think you can imagine. (laughter)

The new video for “Crucifix” picks up after the first one. Are the songs connected at all, or is that just something you wanted to do for the videos?

JOHANNA: No, the songs are not connected. It was more we had to make up our minds what could be singles. Then the record company wanted to do two videos in our case, and since Lucifer is not a huge band, we are on a budget. So we shot two videos in one day with a vintage tube camera, an old video camera. And yeah, it was a long day and lots of fun.

Was it a challenge to do it in a single take like that? Did you have to do it a few times?

JOHANNA: Yeah, we did it three times or four times. Something like that. I think three or four times, and that was probably the last time we did it.

NICKE: It was also my favorite video of any band I’ve been in because I’m not in it. (laughs)

JOHANNA: It was actually very funny, because obviously I’m not an actress, and when the camera is only on your face, it is a little bit uncomfortable. And you have to, at the same time, remember every word and think about what you’re doing, and in front of you is a cluster of people holding things and running backwards. (laughs) It was actually quite hilarious.

I want to ask about a couple of my other favorite songs from the album. Who is “Louise,” and what was the inspiration for that song?

JOHANNA: Louise is also a real, live person, and this song is me from one woman to another woman. It’s a comfort song for somebody who’s in a not so good relationship situation, and I feel that it was easier to speak to her through a song.

It has a different sound than we’ve really heard from Lucifer. It has a Southern rock feel to it. What brought that about?

NICKE: You’re one of the few people to actually pick up on that. I think it’s super obvious that it’s us trying to sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd. So I’m glad to hear that. We do like Southern rock a lot in this household. We’ve been blasting Outlaws and Blackfoot and even some Atlanta Rhythm Section here and there. We had to see if that worked in that context. When I started riffing about for it, I thought it could be a Skynyrd meets Sabbath kind of thing. But I think it’s more Skynyrd.

JOHANNA: Maybe that’s what also saved us in the pandemic.

NICKE: Southern rock? (laughs)

JOHANNA: Southern rock, yeah. You know, chill and good vibes, sitting around on whiskey barrels, singing about women.

NICKE: That’s our European take on Southern rock (laughter), because we obviously have no idea. (laughter)

Another song I wanted to ask about, and I think you brought it up earlier, was “Nightmare.” What is that song about?

JOHANNA: It’s the fear of loss. I’m at an age in my life where I already went through different situations of loss, severe losses. I think I’m in a pretty good place in my life right now, but that also makes you—maybe that’s my German side, to always expect the worst to happen. So yeah, the song is literally about the nightmare of something that’s very precious to me to be taken away from me.

The album cover has a very striking image on it. What was the thinking behind that?

JOHANNA: Yeah, we come back to using music as therapy. And not that I want to make this one of the main topics about Lucifer, because Lucifer is mainly about music—and I wish it would be something that wouldn’t have to be spoken about, which is equality. So being a woman in music, but also just being a woman alive in the world, has its challenges. Just like any other woman, I had my share of sexism or being talked down to or being treated differently, and especially being in a band, you often put a target on your back, just by daring to put yourself in the spotlight, just by working with music. Sometimes you feel a little bit like a witch being put—just as a crass metaphor—a witch that’s being put up on the stake. And that’s what the cover is. So it’s a little ironic. It’s a little bit my “fuck you” to the people that have tried to hold me back. So it’s my “fuck you” to the patriarchy. That felt good, and now I have it out of the way, and I can move on and focus on music.

Over the past year or so, I’ve enjoyed the single releases you’ve done through your Riding Reaper Records. Obviously, the new album’s coming out and you’re going on tour, but when you can, do you plan to do more stuff with that?

NICKE: Yeah, we do everything in house for the band here. I think if we had more time, we’d probably do more 7-inches. It’s mainly time, because we think it’s fun. It’s a cool format, and if you listen to music—”Oh, we could maybe have a go at this song and do a cover of it,” then that’s perfect for a 7-inch.

JOHANNA: Yeah, I think the problem is that the whole process, because the fun is to do it and to record it, but then the gap in between having the master and to come out, that is such a long time. It’s such a drag. It would be great if we could just like every two months, release something and somebody else takes care of all the boring emails and everything else and makes it happen.

The tour is starting next month, and you have dates into next year. Are there plans to come to North America sometime next year?

JOHANNA: Yes. We couldn’t plan anything before because of the travel ban that you guys had. But one visa came through already, which was mine. (laughs) So now we’re waiting for the rest of the visas. It’s really weird. This whole visa procedure has been always very expensive and very long, but now because of the pandemic, I guess the system is fucked in a whole different other way. So it’s a little bit strange that instead of getting all five visas, we got one. So hopefully they’ll come through, and then we can start booking.

Awesome. Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?

JOHANNA: No, but if you need to find out anything about Lucifer, then people can always go to lucifer.church.

LINKS:
Buy “Lucifer IV”
www.lucifer.church
www.facebook.com/luciferofficial
www.twitter.com/lucifertheband
www.instagram.com/lucifertheband
www.youtube.com/lucifertheband

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