It seems fitting to be meeting with Lucifer on this night of all nights, as the blood moon eclipse will be taking place later this night. The incredible alignment of blood moons has only happened a handful of times in the last 2,000 years and is indeed a truly fascinating sight to see. As Overdrive makes our way through the peaceful streets of Dublin towards the Academy, where tonight Paradise Lost kick off their European tour, we are treated to a spellbinding performance from Lucifer, who open the show with their collection of mesmerizing compositions.
Sounding much heavier live than on record, Lucifer proceed to draw the Academy’s attendance into an almost hypnotic state of sonic concentration and proceed to let their performance creep from the venues P.A, like black honey. A truly fantastic presence emanates from the stage, as each band member creates the backdrop to Johanna’s vocals.
Overdrive are let down to the catacombs of the Academy, where we find a refreshed and relaxed Miss Sadonis, who is ready to talk about her journey through the last few years years that has finally led to the birth of Lucifer.
OD – Firstly, I wanted to ask about the circumstances of how you all came together to form Lucifer?
JOHANNA – Well, after my last band The Oath disbanding, I couldn’t live with it just being that, because it was a very premature death of the band, so I thought to myself, I could hang my head in sorrow, or I just march on and try to make it better with Lucifer, which is exactly what I did. So one year after The Oath disbanded, the album Lucifer 1 got released and then we did a short American tour and tonight ( September 27th) you saw the very first show of a long European tour of 36 dates, spread over seven weeks that we are doing with Paradise Lost.
OD – Anubis and Morning Star were recorded at Candy Bomber studios in Berlin, with Ingo Krauss, can you talk a little about your decision to work with Ingo?
JOHANNA – It was the first time for me working with Ingo and the reason that I choose to work with him was because I wanted to take Lucifer to a usual heavy metal studio. I wanted to take it out of context, because Lucifer is taking a bow to the great bands of the 1970’s and usually these bands wouldn’t got to a modern day studio. Ingo Krauss learned to be a studio guy at Conny Plank’s studio, who was the great Krautrock producer of Germany who produced first Scorpions record and all of the big Krautrock bands of Germany of that time. So, Ingo finally opened up his own studio in Berlin and at this point I was working in a record store and my manager of the store at the time said to me “hey Johanna, I have to leave early today as I’m recording with Kristof” (Hahn) who is the guitarist of The Swans. Kristof had a side project with my shop manager at the time and it’s kind of like a really 60’s sounding kind of like Serge Gainsbourg almost.
So the next day my shop manager comes back with five songs that he had recorded with Ingo and played it in the shops really nice expensive sound system. I was just blown away by the sound and remember asking him “you recorded this yesterday?” The sound was just encapsulated that 1960’s feel and atmosphere and was so organic and warm. Takeing it out of the heavy metal context for a minute, I just loved the sound and asked him in which studio they had used to do the recordings and then he told me about Candy Bomb studio’s and I just knew then that this was the place where I wanted to record Lucifer 1.
I wrote Ingo five emails before he finally responded to me, because he doesn’t usually do that kind of stuff. I just said to him to just think along the lines of Black Sabbath and please write back to me and he eventually did. So we finally went to the studio and it’s like this old Berlin Nazi airport and when you come in there it looks like a 1970’s space ship. If you can imagine a really old tube desk and vintage tape machines and everything that you can imaging or dream of, if your into analogue recording, it’s dreamy and beautiful. What I was really drawn to, was the fact that he was not coming from a heavy metal production background at all.
So the first experience we had working with Ingo, was recording Anubis and Morning Star, as a single and for me it was also as a test run to see if it was worth it to go for the full album. Ingo is just amazing to work with and from day one it was the same. We would walk in and play live in the studio, with the whole band playing together, all the while he would be sitting at the desk, smoking one joint after another without seemingly being high. He’s a very relaxed guy to work with and there is just a great balance with Ingo. We would come out of the room and it was like the track had already been mixed as the sound that he crates from the desk is just so beautiful. So for me, it was a no brainer to do the album in Candy Bomb with Ingo.
OD – Although you spoke about it a little, I believe that you specifically wanted to use analogue equipment for the recording and although the sound of the album is rich and warm did this prove to be a more time consuming process than that of previous recordings?
JOHANNA – We recorded live without click as I like to keep things organic and human if you know what I mean. I like to let the music breath and feel natural. Of course, we had to use some modern technology as I was thinking of a romantic process of putting it onto the old reel to reel tape, to give it this overall grainy warm filter in the sound, however we did not do it, because Ingo, just knew how to get that sound that we were looking for. With regards to the time it took to record the album, we did it really fast. The whole thing was recorded in just ten days, with eight songs for the album and two extra tracks which was for the Japanese release and also the die hard edition from Rise Above Records, so we really did ten songs in ten days.
OD – Where do you draw your influence from when writing the lyrics?
JOHANNA – Everything is really personal on this record for me and I purposely wrapped the lyrics up in occult references. I use a certain symbolism and metaphors, that might come in some sort of dressing, but there are very personal lyrics that are wrapped into these terms and words and so on. Anubis for instance, is the Egyptian God of the dead, and also represents a key figure in my life and one that is very important to me. There are two approaches to this, with one being a very philosophical and spiritual approach of understanding life and certain things in life, and the other is incorporating my personal stories and experiences through the context of these ideas and spiritual feelings.
When you die, Anubis takes the disease by the hand and leads you up to the scale and puts your heart on to that scale, weighing it against a feather. If your heart is heavier than that feather, you will be thrown to the beast and if your heart is light as the feather, you will get to go to the kingdom of the dead. So basically, what it means is how you life your life and if your a good person and true to yourself. Also, Anubis means something very personal to me in my life and specifically during a certain episode, where I was at the mercy of somebody that was deciding if they wanted me out of their life or not, so there are a lot of personal stories wrapped into these symbolism’s on this record.
OD – When did you and Gaz (Jennings, Cathedral, Death Penalty) begin writing for this album and did you have any ideas that you had built up from The Oath that cross pollinated over to the Lucifer project?
JOHANNA – We wrote the album together during the Summer of 2014 and it all just happened so quickly and organically. There was nothing from The Oath at all, that made it on to this record, I wanted it to be a new start and wiped the slate clean. The Oath is a different story and nothing to do with Lucifer.
OD – This album was released through Rise Above Records as was The Oath’s debut, you have had a good relationship with the label, can you tell me about deciding to go with this label?
JOHANNA – Well, I was in The Oath at the time and we had recorded the first single with High Roller Records and were looking for a label. Several labels were interested and were approaching us, because we had the material for an album and out of all the labels that were interested, Rise Above Records was the most appealing to me. At the time Linnea (Olsson, ex The Oath, guitarist Gave Pleasures), wanted to go with another label and I wanted to go with Rise Above. At this time, I didn’t know Lee (Dorrian, Rise Above Records, ex Cathedral, Napalm Death and currently With The Dead ) personally then, but I was a huge fan of his previous bands and he’s a musician and an idealist so I would rather trust somebody like this rather than some label asshole.
OD – The overall aesthetic of the album design is very minimalistic, yet beautifully laid out, can you talk a little about the process of deciding on the imagery of the album?
JOHANNA – I wanted it to be different. Don’t get me wrong, the usual purple and black combinations used on doom / occult / rock albums is really beautiful and very appealing to me, but I really wanted this album to stand out, I wanted it to me minimalistic, in sense of being timeless because even though we are a doom band, we also have a heavy link to the great bands of the 1970’s and that’s why I called the album Lucifer 1. I wanted it to be kind of unpredictable, not like the typical purple and black thing, with crosses in the cemetery.
Not that I’m a big Alan Parsons Project fan, but they have an album called Eye In The Sky (1982) and it’s an Egyptian all seeing eye on that cover, with a turquoise background and I just thought it looked so beautiful. I’m a very visual person and have ideas happening all the time, which I scribble down in a notebook for song ideas and visual stuff and that just really appealed to me.
OD – As I mentioned earlier, the Anubis track was released earlier in the year and the other split 7” with Looser & Devil On The Loose, yet these songs did not make the album, this leads me to ask if there was any other material that you had recorded that has yet to be released and if so what?
JOHANNA – No, we didn’t record anything else properly from that session. I have some stuff recorded that are demos but noting else apart from the ten songs.
OD – There are still many people that are mystified about the sudden and abrupt end to The Oath, however from one situation comes another hence; Lucifer. Do you believe that certain things happen for a reason to open up new possibilities and experiences?
JOHANNA – I look at it this way. When something really terrible happens in your life and you think it’s the end of the world, but you don’t know that sometimes it’s a gate leading up to something else that might be very fortunate for us and can lead you on a path to something better.
OD – With every new band there is always a sort of journey in their sound from the debut through to the follow up albums, do you feel that there are new levels of sound and musical arrangements that will appear on the follow up to Lucifer 1?
JOHANNA – Yes, absolutely! This is the beginning of our sound where we are finding out the sound and language of the band. Whenever you have a new assortment of musicians together, it’s new chemistry and you kind of have to learn each others ways. If you take one member out and put another in, you again have to adapt and learn to that new chemistry. The first album is always trying to find yourself, which is why I named the album Lucifer 1, was to also make sure for myself. The writing is on the wall that there will be a follow up album and with the next album I would like to add more male vocals as I really like the Uriah Heep kind of harmony’s and would also like to add an organ into the song writing.
OD – Are there plans for another video from the album to follow Israel?
JOHANNA – Most like it’s not going to happen with this album, as it’s just so expensive. When we did the video for Israel, I was the happiest person in the world as I’m just so morbid and I got to drive that hearse. I’m really into funeral stuff like crazy, not necrophilia or anything like that (laughs) but I just am fascinated by the process of death. So for that video I got to drive this hearse Cadillac around some forest in Berlin, it was one of my bucket list things to do and on that day I was the happiest person in the world! So, to answer your question, the next video we will do will most likely be from the next album.
OD – I understand that you have been very hands on with everything in Lucifer from the writing right through to the design and the video production, it must be very liberating for you to be able to see your visions and ideas becoming real tangible things?
JOHANNA – I really enjoy the process and it gives me a lot of pleasure. You have to understand, that when I was growing up as a metal chick amongst the boys and in the 1990’s, I started off playing in death and black metal bands and a lot of people that I was working with at the time, didn’t really take it seriously and now finally, twenty years later, reached a point where I get to actually see my visions and ideas happen and become a reality and it’s so gratifying and so much fun. I fucking love it! I’m so used to putting my own feelings behind and being so humble. For me growing up as a teenager in the metal scene, you have to develop a thick skin and as females are somewhat considered, as a sort of side dish and if you open your mouth it’s not important what you say. It sound horrible I know, but it’s true. Now I’m at a point in my life where I actually have an idea and I get to do it and it’s amazing that I have all these guys around me that really support me and I’m really grateful for the situation that I’m in now.
OD – What are the plans for the band for the remainder of this year and into 2016?
JOHANNA – So we’re doing this tour with Paradise Lost until the middle of November and then after that the plan is to write at least two songs because we want to release a new 7″ early 2016. There is also a gig in Japan planned for February and then hopefully, we are going to return to America for the second U.S tour, bring out the single and work on the next album as well as play some Summer festivals, so really it’s all to be continued…..
WORDS / INTERVIEW – ORAN O’BEIRNE
*LIVE PHOTOGRAPHY – STEVE DEMPSEY DOWN THE BARREL PHOTOGRAPHY © 2015
© OVERDRIVE 2015
GALLERY OF LUCIFER FROM DUBLIN’S ACADEMY 27TH SEPTEMBER
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