As another weird and dark year is coming to its inevitable end, and as winter is finally coming, let’s set The Headbanging Moose on fire and warm us up this month of December with our tribute to the last metal lady of 2021, the unstoppable Johanna Sadonis, also known as Johanna Claudia Platow, the frontwoman for Heavy/Doom Metal/Rock entity Lucifer. Born on January 21, 1979 in Berlin, Germany, but currently residing in Stockholm, Sweden due to being married to Lucifer’s own guitarist and drummer Nicke Andersson, Johanna is not only an accomplished and extremely talented vocalist, but also a DJ, a designer, an art director and a lyricist involved in various metal bands and projects during the 90’s and early 2000’s. Having said all that, are you ready to join Johanna in her quest for dark and doomed music?
A late bloomer in the Hard Rock scene, Johanna started out in the 90’s playing and singing Extreme Metal in the underground scene, gradually moving to a darker and more melodic 70’s-inspired Hard Rock and Heavy Metal style after founding Lucifer back in 2014. But let’s take a step back in time and talk a little about her early days and how she started in music before moving on to her current band. Johanna got into rock music when she was really young with her parents’ record collection, getting to know bands the likes of The Rolling stones, AC/DC, ZZ Top and Deep Purple, among others, as well as Punk Rock from her older brother. Then in 1992 when she was 13 she went to see Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, with her next gig being Danzig when she was 14, setting her first step into the dark side of music and moving on to heavier and darker styles such as Death, Black and Doom Metal.
According to Johanna herself that happened because she was at a summer camp when she was 12 and two of her friends were into metal, and when she was 16 those guys asked her to guest sing on the demo cassette of their Death Metal band (which by the way ended up happening a few more times as that was the thing in the 90’s), getting her more and more involved with the underground scene in Berlin. At that time Johanna said she was very serious about all that. She had black hair, black clothes, her whole room was black, and she got into magic, having worked at an esoteric book shop after school. However, her earliest memory of her fascination with singing and music was when she discovered the song Leader Of The Pack by the Shangri-Las on a Rock N’ Roll compilation cassette that her mom gave her when she was six. As she couldn’t speak English at that time, she said she started writing lyrics to songs down phonetically so she could sing along as a child. Later in her early teenage years she started to write poems and lyrics, and bought her first acoustic guitar, teaching herself to play and to sing.
It was only in 2014 in Berlin when Johanna formed Heavy/Doom Metal/Rock outfit Lucifer, and after a few lineup changes Johanna became the only original member of the band currently comprised of our stunning frontwoman together with guitarist and drummer Nicke Andersson, guitarists Martin Nordin and Linus Björklund, and bassist Harald Göthblad, having also relocated the band to Stockholm, Sweden, as already mentioned. When asked if she’s ever faced any legal problems with using the name Lucifer considering it’s a name other bands have already used throughout the years, she mentioned she wouldn’t have chosen the name if it would have belonged to a larger active band, but so far she hasn’t had any problems with it. In addition, when asked about how dark the name of the band is, Johanna reminded us all that bands like Black Sabbath and Pentagram are not Black or Death Metal, also mentioning The Rolling Stones’ classic Sympathy for The Devil as an example of how demonic figures can also be used successfully in a more Rock N’ Roll way.
Playing what can be called a 70’s-inspired fusion of Rock N’ Roll and Doom Metal, Luficer have already released four full-length albums, those being Lucifer I (2015), Lucifer II (2018), Lucifer III (2020), and Lucifer IV (2021), with Johanna obviously being the lead singer in all of those records, plus the keyboardist and sampler on Lucifer I. If you want to have a very good taste of how awesome the music by Lucifer is, you can stream all of their albums on Spotify, or watch all of their breathtaking videos on YouTube including Dreamer, California Son, Bring Me His Head, Leather Demon, Midnight Phantom, their cover versions for The Rattles’ Devil’s On The Loose and Angel Witch’s Loser, and enjoy several amazing concerts like their ass-kicking performances at the Crossroads Festival in Bonn, Germany in 2018 and at Rockpalast in 2018 and in 2019.
Before forming Lucifer, Johanna could be seen in several distinct bands and projects. She was the vocalist for German Symphonic Black Metal band Cryogenic, with whom she recorded their 1996 demo and the 1998 album Celephais; sang for German Black Metal horde Dies Ater on their 1999 album Reign of Tempests, from 1999; formed the Heavy/Doom Metal/Rock band The Oath with her friends Vincent Wager and Linnéa Olsson in 2012, her last band before Lucifer, having recorded their self-titled full-length album in 2014; was part of the Electronic Indie Pop band Informer along with Rayshele Teige, a former employee of Century Media in the United States, in 2010; and was part of Swedish Melodic Black Metal unity Vinterkrig from 1996 until 1997, having recorded with them the demo Härskare över stjärnorna och mina drömmar (which was just released earlier this year).
Not only that, you can also find our beloved vocalist as a guest musician in different bands and projects through the years, those being the female vocals for the songs Marie Louise and Black Wedding, from the 1996 album Leviathan by a German Death Metal band called Ferox; vocals on the songs Now Howls the Beast and Psychic Visions, from the 2017 album Inside the Skull by American Doom Metal act Beastmaker; and vocals on the song Queen Among Rats, from the 2009 album Privilegivm, and on the cover version for Alice In Chains’ hit Them Bones, from the 2010 EP Them Bones / This Inner Soil, both by German Black/Gothic Rock/Metal band Secrets of the Moon. Not only that, Johanna was also the designer, producer and art director in all of the Lucifer’s albums, proving how talented she is. When asked if all her past experiences with the bands that came before Lucifer had an impact on the way she handles the band, she said that she certainly learned that she’s not putting up with ego bullshit and phoniness anymore, and that with Lucifer it’s all about the passion of creating music and enjoying the ride.
Regarding her idols and influences in rock and metal music, Johanna always lists some of the best, most classic vocalists and performers you can think of, including Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant, Ann Wilson, Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith, also saying that she listens to a lot of 70’s classic Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and early Heavy Metal, and that fictional horror, real life horror and the horror in one’s head also have a huge influence in her lyrics. Furthermore, in one of her interviews she was asked to list ten albums which she feels don’t get the proper attention from the media and the fans, and her list was very diverse, including Hard Attack by Dust, Bloodrock U.S.A. by Bloodrock, the self-titled album by Starz, Electric Jewels by April Wine, Straight Up by Badfinger, the self-titled album by Bob Seger, the self-titled album by Journey, Special Forces by 38 Special, Year of The Cat by Al Stuart, and Lucifer III by “you know who”. Johanna also mentioned that Lucifer do not have a specific formula or concept behind their albums, that they simply think of what kind of songs would make people excited, what makes them feel good, and hope that the band doesn’t lose quality or doesn’t get stale with every release.
In terms of her life on the road with Lucifer, Johanna mentioned that she has already performed hundreds of shows with the band and that each one of those are important in their own way, saying the band plays the same way in front of 20 people in some village or at Helffest in front of over 7,000 people. In addition, when it comes to organizing their setlist, she said that they 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, never putting two songs of the same kind in a row (such as two ballads, for example), maintaining an interesting flow to keep the attention of the audience. She also shared an interesting story that happened on the road, when guitarist Martin Nordin ended up playing ping pong with Ace Frehley on the Kiss Kruise where Lucifer played three sets, and also mentioned she would love to play in places such as Australia, New Zealand and South America.
As a prominent woman in the world of rock and metal music, Johanna believes you have to have a little bit of a thick skin if you’re a woman due to the fact the scene has always been a male-dominated one, saying that things got a little better in recent years compared to when she was a teenager as now we can see a lot more bands with girls, but at the same time there are still weird expressions like “female-fronted”. Johana strongly believes gender shouldn’t be a genre, also commenting about how deep that’s within our culture as you get treated differently as a woman in obvious ways, but also in really subtle ways. Johanna also pointed to the fact that there are still too many sexist and nasty comments on social media whenever a woman is part of a rock or metal band, but that fortunately that’s changing. “I felt it necessary for the first time to post, ‘if you’re a homophobe, you’re a sexist, racist, you are not welcome here.’ If you feel like you have to burn your Lucifer album now, please do so. I don’t care. That post went around quite a lot. A lot of people were applauding it, but then there was also all kinds of people going, ‘you suck anyways.’ Because I’m against sexism, racism, and homophobia? I mean, what side are you on then. I’m really shocked at how much racism is out there. But luckily that’s getting talked about too. We’re still a little bit in the middle ages, unfortunately. It can’t go fast enough.”
When asked about the metal scene in her hometown Berlin versus her current home Stockholm, Johanna mentioned that there isn’t a huge difference between those places as the rock and metal community kind of networks around the world, as people in New York, Berlin, Stockholm, London or any other city in the world are connected and know each other through social media, making it a little bit more globalized and organized. She said though that although she used to go out and DJ quite often in Berlin, she doesn’t do that much anymore in Stockholm not because there aren’t enough clubs or because the scene is not big in Sweden, but mainly due to her busy touring schedule as she feels happier with the quietness of her home nowadays after so many weeks on the road. She still misses her DJ years, though, when she used to run a monthly old school Heavy Metal party at the Kill ‘Em All Club in Berlin, which by the way she started together with the same Vincent Wager from The Oath.
Having founded Riding Reaper Records in 2020 alongside her husband and bandmate Nicke Andersson, Johanna commented that some of her advantages of making music today are her wisdom and experience gathered through the years, but also saying that she can’t really compare it to the music industry in the 90’s when she started because she was only part of the underground music scene as a musician. Also, she considers streaming services like Spotify and any social media as necessary evils because they allow the band to stay closely connected to their fanbase and to feel the pulse of what’s up. That connection was actually very important for Lucifer during the pandemic, as Johanna and the boys also had to stay home in isolation for a long period of time without playing any concerts. She mentioned the sales were pretty good, though, probably due to the fact people had more time to listen to music at their homes.
Lastly, when asked about what she considers the most amazing thing in her life, she answered that musically it’s having met Nicke and marrying him because “he is the perfect partner in crime when it comes to music,” also saying that it’s a luxury that they can do what they love the most together, which is recording music and playing live. And if you want to know more about Johanna and her incendiary band Lucifer, there are countless video interviews online such as this one to Metal Insider’s Newsroom, where she talks about Lucifer’s overall sound and other nice-to-know topics; this one where Johanna and Nicke pick the best albums from 1975; this one to Doomed & Stoned in 2018; the ‘How Well Do You Know Your Bandmate’ for Metal Injection; and this one with Darren Paltrowitz (host of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast) where she talks about the influence of Glenn Danzig, getting through the Coronavirus pandemic, future plans and more. As you can see, there’s no reason not to fall in love for Johanna and her Lucifer, succumbing to the dark side to the sound of her unique voice and charisma.
“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!” – Johanna Sadonis