We’re getting super close to the release of Refused’s new album War Music on the 18th of October, and in anticipation we spoke with frontman Dennis Lyxzén to discuss the new album, playing live, politics and the lasting legacy of The Shape of Punk To Come.
Congrats on your new album. Can you tell you what fans should expect from War Music?
What fans should expect? I don’t know… a great record? (laughs). It’s one of those [things] that is hard to put into words. It’s more focused and more of an aggressive record than the last one. So, I think that’s what people can expect.
The album seems to have the harder more chaotic elements of The Shape of Punk To Come, whilst maintaining the maturity and focus of Freedom. Is that what you were going for?
To an extent, yeah. When we did Freedom, the process of making that record, was the process of us trying to find our footing, to find the essence of Refused, it was quite an experimental record, as we were trying all these different things to feel out. When we done Freedom and we were playing it live, it felt like there were a few tracks that really resonated with us and with the crowd, that was the starting point for this record. So, if you’re a fan of The Shape of Punk… or the record before that, there is definitely stuff on this record (War Music) that you can link to the past. But when you are a band, you always want to move forward, the whole band has a reference of where we are going cause you always have to look at what you have done, but the general idea was to create something that we have never created with Refused before.
With that in mind, how is the process of writing a Refused album different to when you first started out?
The biggest difference is when we started out in the 90’s, Refused was everything we did 24/7, 365 days a year, which is not the case now. In that sense a Refused record takes way longer to write than it used to, because people have families, kids, a lot of other bands projects. I think that is the biggest issue, it takes more time to finalise records because Refused is not everything in our lives. Sometimes that’s frustrating, sometimes that’s a good thing because it gives you different perspectives and different ideas, but we were working on War Music for two years, so sometimes that is the problem with that.
You mentioned about a lot of other band projects, you currently and in the past have been involved with lots of different musical projects. How do you decide if an idea for a song is for Refused or INVSN or The (International) Noise Conspiracy or many of the other bands you are involved with?
(laughs) Yeah… Usually I try to make it so the creative processes don’t clash. So, whenever we are touring for Refused, I write for INVSN. Or when we are writing for Refused, I tour with INVSN. I try to make the process a cycle process. But sometimes you will do something in your mind and think, this is a cool line for a Refused song, and then there is no Refused song happening in the next six months and it ends up being thrown somewhere else, or the opposite way, you do something and write some lyrics and think this should work for this band but when you try it… you think I’ll try those [different] lyrics. There is a little bit of a crossover, but not so much, I try to keep them pretty separate.
Speaking of keeping your musical acts separate, how do you deal when fans and interviewers keep bringing up The Shape of Punk… and Refused when you’re trying to promote your other bands and even the newer Refused stuff?
With new Refused, if people talk about old Refused I think that’s fine. I mean, it’s a reference point to what we are doing now and it’s a reference point of who we are. That’s fine. It can be frustrating when you have a new INVSN record out, particularly when people do reviews and they are like “this is not at all like The Shape of Punk to Come”, of course not, it is a different band and its years later, that can be frustrating. But if we are doing an interview about the new Refused record, it makes sense to talk about old Refused records, especially since The Shape of Punk was such a defining record for us and for a lot of other people. In that sense I don’t really mind it that much.
Politics and social consciousness is a theme throughout all the music you have created, including, obviously Refused, in your opinion what do you think is the biggest issue facing our world today?
I think it’s capitalism, as an economic, social, cultural structure. With everything going on with the planet, with young people not being able to find places to live because everything is too expensive, with everything that goes on with the far right, the alt-right and fascism, it’s all connected to the economic system that we live in. I think that is the biggest issue, but it is also the hardest to deal with because it is everywhere. There is no end to capitalism so it’s not like we can say we aren’t going to be part of it. That is the biggest issue. When you talk about the climate strikes, which I think is fantastic, it is going to be tricky because a lot of politicians, their hands are tied because the economy is what controls the world we live in.
You can see that when you have Trump in power and Boris Johnson in the UK and the Hong Kong riots, all that that with fascism and rich people getting richer, however, you’ve mentioned the climate strikes, there is a lot of protest movements around the world regarding these issues, does that give you a sense of hope for the future?
Yes of course. If you look at everything that has gone on, everything you mentioned, everything I mentioned, there is a lot that is happening right now that people find incredibly frustrating. People feel we are living in a world that isn’t defined for us basically. I think it’s great that people are protesting and they are out in the streets, it’s fantastic, but I think that capitalism, as a system, is going to reach its breaking point very soon, and hopefully out of that something will come, something will happen. I think there is a sense of hope, and if you listen to the new record, it is a very violent record, it is very angry, but there is always a sense of hope in it, there are bits and pieces in it where we do believe in a better future for all of us.
Moving on to something lighter, you are about to tour the UK and announced a US tour for 2020, any chance of coming to Australia anytime soon?
Yeah, I hope so. In the near future. We love to tour Australia, it’s always been really kind to us. It is definitely in our touring plans. I don’t know exactly when, but yes it will happen.
Talking about your live shows, you are a heck of a performer, where does all that energy come from?
It comes from inside of me, which is crazy. I have always had this energy in me, when I was a kid it caused a lot of problems, cause I couldn’t sit still in school, I couldn’t focus or concentrate too much (laughs), but when I discovered music it was the perfect outlet for this energy. As you get older there is a sense of, if we are going to do this, if we are going to travel around the world and play songs it’s important to prove to yourself that you are worthy of this opportunity that has been given to you. I work really hard to keep my body in shape and to keep my mind in shape and to keep that energy level focused, but it’s from within. (laughs)
It really does show you work hard. Thanks so much for talking to me today and we hope to see you soon in Australia.
Interview by Carys Hurcom @CarysWos
Refused’s new album War Music is out Friday, October 18th
Refused – War Music tracklisting
1. Rev 001
2. Violent Reaction
3. I Wanna Watch The World Burn
4. Blood Red
6. Turn The Cross
7. Damaged III
8. Death in Vännäs
9. The Infamous Left
10. Economy Of Death