Johanna Sadonis has a lot to be excited and happy about. After the split of the short lived but much acclaimed The Oath, Johanna Sadonis opted to use this split to make herself stronger as opposed to letting it knock her down. From the ashes of The Oath comes Lucifer featuring former Oath (and Angel Witch) drummer Andy Prestidge, bassist Dino Gollnick, and the legendary and former Cathedral guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennings. The band has just released their debut album Lucifer I and it’s one of the finest pieces of modern occult rock to melt your face in years.
On a very busy press day (and the night before a gig with Pentagram) I had the awesome pleasure of talking with Johnna about the debut album, what it’s like working with a master like Gaz Jennings, and how having formed Lucifer has changed her outlook on performing live; something that she wasn’t all that crazy about doing in her former outfit. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know more about Johnna Sadonis and her outstanding band, Lucifer!
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview today, Johanna! So this is our third interview! I feel like I should’ve sent you flowers or something or a box of chocolates!
[laughs] Thanks, Don. It’s great to talk to you again. You’re a great supporter of my music and I really appreciate it.
Busy day for you today I’m sure!
Yes, very busy today. I just had lunch with the other guys in the band who are in town. They came in yesterday from London and we started rehearsing today because we are playing with Pentagram tomorrow.
That sounds like an epic fucking gig. How excited are you about this one?
I am very excited. I can’t wait to meet Bobby Liebling.
After everything that happened after the break up of the Oath, it’s so great to see that you have come out of it all so amazingly.
Thanks, Don. I’m very happy that I managed to turn the whole thing around.
The last time we talked, Lucifer was a pretty new thing and you were pretty much into the writing process of the album. How does it feel to look at it now as a finished product?
I feel accomplished. It’s been a lot of pressure and stress, especially with the band members being in London and just getting it all together but it all worked out. It’s been a lot of hard work behind this and I’m really proud of the record.
The legendary Gary “Gaz” Jennings has hopped on board as guitarist/co-songwriter with Lucifer. How was this connection made?
Well, that came about because I’ve been in touch with Lee Dorian and through the whole process of The Oath dying he was always there for me to talk about it all. When I told him that I wanted to do a new band instead of hanging my head low he was very supportive. He told me I should do it and he really believes in me as an artist. I already had Andy, the drummer, with me from The Oath and Dino the bass player was in talks for being the bassist in The Oath so I already had those guys. I just needed a good guitar player who could writing with us so Lee said, “Why don’t you ask Gaz?” Gaz was all up for it. I had only met him one time before when The Oath played at the Rise Above anniversary in 2013. When I asked Gaz he said yes right away.
How was it working and co-writing with Gaz?
Oh it was really fun to work with him right from the start. He’s such a music fan and we would just talk music all the time. He’s such an amazing person to work with and he has so much to give. When we started writing, he sent me so much stuff. He wrote so much stuff so fast that I kind of got to pick. It was pretty amazing.
So is Gaz a full time member of Lucifer and will he be touring with you?
It’s hard to say. In the beginning, I just asked him if he wanted to write and record with me. I didn’t want to take him away from his other stuff like Death Penalty which is his own band. I figured I would find someone else to play live with me but it turned out I couldn’t really find anyone that could play his stuff because he’s so good [laughs]. I asked him if he would do the first few gigs with us and he said yes. I asked him if he’d like to tour with us on our American tour and he said, “Of course I would.” I mean, I haven’t popped the question to Gaz yet: Gaz, will you take Lucifer as your musical bride?” [laughs] I’m really hoping, and I think, that this is the lineup.
You have your first big US tour coming up. What are you looking forward to the most about touring the US?
I’ve always wanted to go on a road trip in America so this will a great opportunity [laughs]. It’s going to be so exciting. We’ll get to play shows every day for a whole month so it’ll be great. When you actually start living in your own songs, they take you into some sort of different sphere. We put life into the music and we’re really excited about it.
One of the things you told me when we first talked was that you really didn’t like playing live so much. With a successful run of shows including a slot at Roadburn and a tour coming soon, have you changed your mind about playing live?
Yes. Absolutely. It completely changed my mind about it all. I used to always dread playing live but I loved being in the studio. I noticed the past few shows that I really love playing with Lucifer so now I’m extremely looking forward to playing live with this band. Playing with this band has definitely changed my mind.
Occult Rock seems to really be having quite a renaissance these days. Why do you think we’re seeing this kind of revival of sorts?
I think that with hard rock and heavy metal you can’t really re-invent the wheel. Everything has been done. I grew up with all these phases of metal but I find that the older I get, the more I return to the roots and the forefathers of metal. I think that it’s just because as a musician and music fan you realize that these bands have been around for 50 years because they’re good. What I do with Lucifer isn’t because it’s en vogue at the moment; it’s just the kind of music that I and the rest of the band listen to and love. We’re all just complete music nerds and we all have the biggest passion for the originals. I’d rather listen to those bands than to listen to copies of copies of copies. I think that this kind of music is having a renaissance is because everything has pretty much been done. When you have seen it all, you just kind of filter everything out to get to the good stuff; the quality music that lies in the roots.
With this music being so popular these days, there are a lot of bands playing it. Is it easy for you to weed out those that are sincerely playing this music because they love it from those that are playing it because it’s trendy?
Absolutely. I mean, the thing about music is that you can sense when something is sincere and when people really mean it and feel it themselves. You can recognize that a band that is sincere is not only trying to imitate something but they know how to find their own identity so they do have something original to offer. There’s a kind of honesty. That’s the thing with music in general. You can find great bands in every genre that is honest and sincere and done with passion and you can sense that. If someone is just full of shit you will sense that right away.
Are there an contemporary peers of yours that you hear and say, “Yeah, they’re doing it right”?
I think Uncle Acid is a great band. I think Blood Ceremony is great. I also listen to all kinds of other stuff. I love Goat. I think Goat is a great band but they are something completely different. They are so unique. I appreciate contemporary bands but I’m not really looking at them for inspiration in Lucifer. I’m really looking back to the originals for that.
The video for “Izrael” has been making some waves on the internet these days. It’s a great video with lots of cryptic imagery. Is there a story in there or is it just cool to watch?
There is some sort of concept there. “Izrael” is alternate spelling to “Azrael”, the angel of death. I had a dream where he was standing at the foot of my bed and he was collecting me and taking me under his wings and taking me out of this world. I woke up from this dream and it was so vivid that I had to write the lyrics about it. The song is about my relationship with death and also the comfort in death. In the video, there’s a lot of imagery around that like when I’m diving the band through a cemetery in a fucking hearse [laughs]. You end up at the end were a door gets opened into another world, a world beyond this life. I tried to put as much imagery that was in my head into the video. I mean, a lot of stuff you see in the video isn’t meant to be completely understood because I think that would take away from the mysticism of it. I think everyone should use music and visual art as a way to open a door inside you. I think it’s good to keep a little bit of mystique to it.
In your opinion, what is one hard rock/metal album that nobody should live without hearing?
I think that nobody should go without listening to ZZ Top’s “Tres Hombres.” [laughs] I love that album so much. I also have to say Scorpions In Trance. I used to think the Scorpions were a shit band from when I heard them as a teenager in the 90s I thought they were so cheesy. “Wind of Change? What the fuck?” [laughs] When you go back and you discover In Trance and Virgin Killer and it’s really amazing. It’s so good.
What was the first metal concert you ever attended?
I have to admit, it was Guns N’ Roses at the big nazi stadium in German when I was 13 [laughs]. That same year I went to see Metallica in ‘92.
Did those shows inspire you to do what you do?
Yes, basically, they took me away from being and urban girl and dragged me into the dark pits of rock n’ roll [laughs].
If you could sing for any band for just one night, who would it be and why?
Danzig. I mean, that would be more realistic than Black Sabbath [laughs]. I’m a huge Danzig fan. I want to sing those songs. I’m so influenced by him.
Finish this sentence, If I wasn’t a musician, I would be _____________________ .
I couldn’t be anything else.
Johanna, thank you so much for doing this. This was fun. We’re three for three now!
[laughs] Yeah. Thank you so much for hitting me up again and I’m really looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta. It’s going to be so much fun. Thanks again and we’ll speak soon!
For more on Lucifer, head over to The Official Lucifer Facebook Page!