A track entitled “Blind” which appeared on the band’s First Demo: Refused released in 1992 has a relevant message that still affects Refused to this day.
By Will Oakeshott
“Chaos Theory”, better known as “The Butterfly Effect” possesses a rather profound and peculiar meaning that strangely becomes suitable in an array of circumstances that would be near impossible to predict. Defined simply as: “When a butterfly flaps its wings in New Mexico it grants the power to cause a hurricane in China”; it certainly reads as a speculation beyond phenomena, but when explained circumstantially, its application has undeniable contention.
See if the butterfly had not flapped its wings at that exact moment in time, it is possible that the series of events which followed may not have happened and therefore the hurricane would have never come to be. It is still a prospect that has a lot of dispute, but what I discovered when I recently caught up with Dennis Lyxzén the vocalist for the prestigious post hardcore outfit Refused, is that if a few minor decisions about their most infamous and celebrated track “New Noise” had been altered, their entire career may have diverged or even dissolved from what became of the seminal band. As he explains:
“It’s very humbling how that happened, because you do NOT expect it, when you write songs, you write songs. It’s very hard to tell what the potential of a song is, when we were recording The Shape Of Punk To Come I didn’t want ‘New Noise’ to be on the record, because we had already recorded it for a compilation back home. The other guys thought I was fuckin’ crazy (laughs).”
He continues – “Obviously we ended up doing it and when we were picking a single for a video to promote the album we really wanted to do ‘Liberation Frequency’ because we thought it was the most probable ‘hit’, you know what I mean? When we asked the film director though he said bluntly ‘New Noise’ and honestly we were shocked.”
The magnitude of “New Noise” to this day is continually felt, embraced and globally adored. Its combination of loud to quiet and fast to slow with visceral bombardment is astonishing; it is the audio version of a fireworks show with just the right amount of audio experimentation thrown in. Since its release, it has been covered as relentlessly as The Beatles hit “Yesterday”, but only one other outfit was able to truly represent the song in a way that Mr. Lyxzén welcomed. Oddly enough the band was Italian electro house outfit by the name of The Bloody Beetroots and Dennis as a result, ended up touring the world on the back of the dance remake of the celebrated song.
“Honestly, it was pretty awesome.” Dennis admits – “I would only do like three songs, so I was only on stage for maybe 12 minutes? Of course I got the full VIP treatment and it was just super fun; it was unlike the usual show I would play, the crowds were very different and ‘green’ to it all. I actually did it for almost a year, the Big Day Out shows though were fuckin’ humungous, I got so into it.”
As aforementioned at the beginning of this article, Refused’s song “Blind” from 1992 opens with the lyrics: “Blind leading blind. Of course they will not find any reason why to give it a try” – without reading too much into that line, its application to Refused and their career is astounding. It would seem that Chaos Theory and The Butterfly Effect could be quite a warranted explanation of sorts perhaps?
“It’s crazy to think just all these little circumstances that were kind of decided on the fly led to this immeasurable stature, I still find it difficult to believe.”
The well-publicized and worldwide rejoice of the Refused reunion was arguably the most anticipated and revered in punk music history. Beginning with a global tour in 2012 which thankfully included Australia, this was thought to be the only live appearances the quartet (but live, the band plays as a five-piece) were to undertake. In 2015, planet Earth was to be rewarded with two more surprises: Firstly and gratefully more live shows were booked, but unbelievably a new album entitled Freedom was to be released. It was official, Refused were no longer FUCKING DEAD.
“Refused are fucking dead” was a biographical DVD named after a track found on The Shape Of Punk To Come; it was released in 2006 which publicized the death of the band in 1998 with in depth interviews and reflections of the tumultuous journey the band underwent before their demise.
There is a scene in the film where the members describe their feeling before they performed their last doomed show in a basement which read as:
“We looked at each other and it was a strange look that I doubt you can exchange many times in your life. We couldn’t offer anything to each other, no comfort. We looked at each other and only expressed confusion”.
Understandably Refused knew this was the end. It plagued this writer however to ask if there was a specific show, song or even look the band members exchanged during their reunion which acted as a catalyst for the outfit to not only carry on but create a brand new LP?
“For me personally, it wasn’t like that, it was more of a process.” Dennis expresses – “I was really set on there just being one year of shows and nothing else. I think for the other guys too, anything more than that it had to grow on them. As that year progressed we were just having more fun than we ever had being in Refused.”
Suddenly as if overcome by a feeling of elation, Mr. Lyxzén’s demeanour and tone changed. After a brief laugh and relaxing breath, he revelled in revealing this next part of the story:
“Anyways we were playing this show… Actually I don’t think I should even be telling you this but I will. A guy from the band Ugly Kid Joe, do you remember that band?”
Unfortunately yes, this scribe does and regrettably most of the world would too.
“One of the members came up to Kristofer (Steen, guitarist) and he said: ‘You are doing it right, you are doing it the good way. No new songs, just play the songs the people want to hear, no new music!’ – Kris was provoked by that instance and said to David (Sandström, guitarist) ‘We have to play more songs and write more music as Refused’. So maybe that was what started it all, Ugly Kid Joe spurred us on to write new music.”
As if a weight had been unloaded from his shoulders, Dennis erupted in laughter which truthfully was as infectious as some of the exquisite lyricism he has crafted in his musical career. He continued but understandably short of breath:
“I love that story so much, I didn’t know about it until later when the idea of writing new music came up. David told me that and that Kris was fuming and he was like: ‘I’m gonna show that fucking guy and write some great songs, fuck him!’”.
The four-to-five-piece are now making their way across our fine nation with hardcore stalwarts Sick Of It All (who Dennis willingly admits played a massive influence on his musical upbringing) and Melbourne metallic hardcore punks High Tension, who Dennis in fact hand-picked to support these iconic outfits for their brief tour.
“I really hope it is one of those bills where people look back and go: ‘Holy shit! I saw Refused, Sick Of It All and High Tension altogether on one night’. In my mind I want and wish for that to happen.”
But the essential question is will Refused “Destory The Plan”? (see track seven on Freedom to understand this quotation and word-play to better value the expression) Or are the four-piece now (fuckin’) dead?
“The next part of my life after Australia is to start touring the new INVSN (Dennis’ post-punk project) record for the next year to a year and a half. Then it will be time to come back to Refused and write a new album with them. It’s certainly going to be busy, but I could not be more stoked or excited on life right now.”
The world will have to wait for Refused and “The New Beat”, but it seems the band would “Rather Be Alive” and the globe thanks them, again.
Refused – Australian Tour
With: Sick Of It All, 30 Years and High Tension
Friday, January 20: Tivoli, Brisbane – 18+
Saturday, January 21: Enmore Theatre, Sydney – Licensed All Ages
Sunday, January 22: HQ, Adelaide – 18+
Tuesday, January 24: Prince Bandroom SOLD OUT
Second and definitely final Melbourne show
Wednesday, January 25: Prince Bandroom, Melbourne – 18+
Thursday, January 26: Metropolis, Fremantle – 18+