For most, the name Dennis Lyxzén is synonymous with hardcore punk, serving as the frontman of such trailblazing acts as Refused, The (International) Noise Conspiracy and AC4. However, since 1999 Lyxzén has also fronted (in one carnation or another) post-punk outfit INVSN. Pronounced "Invasion", the quintet take a far softer, more refined approach than the frenzied energy of their previous bands. Last month, INVSN released their debut English-spoken release, a self-titled full length through Razor & Tie/Shock Records. Killyourstereo.com chat with the prolific vocalist about the new album, his frustration with the current "musical and political climate", and Refused’s reunion tour last year.
You’ve just released your debut English release with INVSN, a self-titled LP. There’s a lot of quite poppy post-punk and new wave elements – did you deliberately set out to make INVSN a seperate entity musically to your other bands, such as Refused or AC4?
I don’t think it’s deliberately that we wanted it to be different, it’s just different by nature. I’ve been playing together with a couple of these people for a long time. When you start playing together and you find your own voice and sound and expression, you just want to go with that.
Okay, so it came through a lot more organically.
Exactly. I mean, if you follow my trajectory through my life, every record I’ve done is always a little bit different even if it’s the same band, so it was a natural process. I mean, a band like AC4 has a pretty specific purpose as far as what we want to do, and a band like INVSN has a different purpose.
In one way or another, INVSN has been a project for you since 1999. You put out a couple Swedish-spoken albums before releasing ‘Down in the Shadows’ – when you knew you were going to be releasing your first ‘global’ release with the band, was there a shift in the way you would approach the album, knowing it would be for a more universal audience?
Of course you think about it and you think about the way you present yourself – we switched the name around a bit so it would fit a bit better internationally. But, I mean, at this juncture in life, I’ve released plenty of records and I’ve done this song and dance a lot of times. It’s in the back of your head, but not when you write music.
It doesn’t come into the songwriting process?
Yeah. At this point, I have to prove to myself that I can still do it, and I think that’s the important part, not so much whether “this person who likes Refused” likes this band. I don’t really think about stuff like that. Once you’re in the writing mode, or the recording mode, or the performing mode, you just try and make the best out of it. Sometimes you put out a record and in hindsight you’re like, “Yeah, that wasn’t that great”, but you always go with the assumption you’re going to make it as good as possible.
Absolutely. I was reading that you wrote the lyrics for the album in Swedish and then translated them back into English. Did that affect the way the lyrical content was presented, were there crossover issues?
Yeah, very much so. Even though my English is good, I still have to translate it. I mean, when I talk to you, I’m pretty fluent, but there’s still a little gap of translation. When I want to describe something I feel, in English, I have to kind of think about it. In Swedish I can describe it straight-up. So, it changed the way my lyrical approach was. It became a bit closer to the chest, and a bit more natural. I think the most exciting part about it was that the melodies in Swedish, the way we talk and sing, are different to melodies in English. So, if you do melodies in Swedish and then translate into English it becomes a different melodic language. I sing in a different way. If I wrote the lyrics in English I’d sing them in the traditional “rock and roll” sense, but now I sing in the more Swedish melody, but in English.
Oh okay, that’s interesting.
Yeah. It made it very challenging. It was a horrible process! (Laughs) At times I was like, “Why am I doing this? This is fucking stupid” but at the end of the day I think it turned out really cool.
On the point of lyrics, what were some of the thematic ideas you wanted to get across lyrically on the album?
One of the things that I was really thinking a lot of about and just experiencing a lot of, was that I’d grown up in a time where politics and revolutionary ideas were very viable and valid – we were going to change the world. And then, all of a sudden, you look around 20 years later and there’s all these people in Sweden that voted for a right-wing government, there’s racist right-wing parties in the government. I looked at the world and I thought, this is what happens when you just go along with shit. This is what happens when you just accept and swallow all the stupidity, and I think that really affected the lyrics on the record. I’m sick and tired of people keeping their mouth shut, I’m sick and tired of people not speaking out when they see injustice. I’m sick and tired of the musical climate in Sweden, I’m sick of the political climate in Sweden. But it’s not as in-your-face as it used to be. It’s a bit more restrained anger.
There’s an interesting juxtaposition there, where the music on the album is quite poppy but the themes are fairly intense.
Yeah. I think a lot of people get tricked – the music is poppy, so the content has to be poppy. But in a lot of ways, it’s a very heavy record, even if it’s not heavy musically such as a band like Refused. There’s a lot of depth to it.
You mentioned the current musical climate in Sweden earlier. Talking about the musical climate both in Sweden and on a more global scale, what sort of things do you take issue with?
I should say, not everyone who plays in a band or plays music has to be a politcal commentator… but, it is kind of weird when not a single song has anything to say and music just becomes this really bland escapsim. It kind of bugs me. Music used to be an artform. It meant the world, it was life and death. Now, it’s literally the most boring, bland, mundane escapsim we have out there. A lot of kids grow up and they think that’s what music is supposed to be; a playlist on your computer of songs that have very little meaning. In Sweden, if you want to have a career playing music, you have to be on TV on some fucking game show, because that’s how it works. I’m sure you have the same thing in Australia with the “musical celebrities”. They’ll be on TV to sort of work their brand name, and then they become famous because they’re on TV, and people go see them play. That’s what’s happened in Sweden, it rubs me the wrong fucking way. It should be about the music, not about being on a game show making an ass out of yourself.
Absolutely. So, just to touch briefly, last year you guys revived Refused for a bit of international touring – including a leg down here in Australia. How was that?
It was fantastic. I’m not gonna lie, for huge parts of my life it’s always been kind of an uphill struggle. Not necessarily in a bad sense, but it’s always been hard work – and then we did the Refused tour and it was just fantastic. Those Australian shows were some of the best shows we did all year. The reception when you walk onstage and people are fucking pumped and excited, it’s a good feeling. I can see why people get addicted to that, it was a cool thing. But on the other hand, I’m old enough to know that it is what it is. I’m old enough to know that once I got home from that tour, I was going to get in the van and play a show with INVSN for 35 people that might be indifferent at first and THEN they might get excited. I didn’t let it get to my head but at the same time it was a great year, we had a lot of fun and it was a great ride.
Back to INVSN, you guys have a run of dates coming up in the US with Minus the Bear. Is the way you approach a live performance with INVSN different to how you might prepare for playing with say, Refused or (International) Noise Conspiracy?
Yeah, of course. The way I think about playing live is never really that different, it’s just going in there and putting all the energy I can into it. Even though it’s not as chaotic or manic as those other bands, everyone in INVSN used to play in hardcore bands. Everyone. We all come from a hardcore background. So when we play these songs live you can see that. I think one of the boring aspects of it is that when we did the Refused tour we could bring a lighting engineer, we could work with the stage setting, stuff like that. When you work with a band like INVSN, it’s back to basics. We’re touring with six people in the band, and we’ve got a tour manager, and that’s it. There’s no roadies or crew or anything. But it is what it is. Even though the songs are slower or not as aggressive, we try to bring the same level of energy and excitement to it.
Just to wrap it up, any plans for you guys to eventually get out to Australia?
I hope so. I was saying to someone earlier today, there’s a reason I’m doing around fifteen interviews with Australia this week. I definitely want to come down there again. I love touring Australia, so I hope so, I hope it’ll be a possibility.
‘INVSN‘ is out now in Australia through Shock Records.