In case you somehow missed it earlier today, Refused are coming back to Australia next January, which is bound to be a great kick off to 2017. Now, the band’s upcoming headline run will be with Sick Of It All and our very own High Tension, which is one pretty kickass lineup if you ask me. Regarding this Aussie tour, KYS chatted with singer Dennis Lyxzén about feminism, the band’s charity work, older, purist fans, and on ‘New Noise’ having appeared in everything from T.V. films, the UFC, and even the new Doom game.
The last time you played in Australia, a lot of, if not all of the shows sold out. With a band of your caliber, are you expecting similar sales? Or is that not something you don’t give too much thought to?
I don’t really think about that, I just want to play music. For me, a sold out show is great for many reasons, but for us, we just wanna play. Back in 2012, the circumstances were very different, cause we were the band that no one had seen. We actually had an Australian tour booked in 98’ but we cancelled it and then we broke up. But now we are a band with a new record, but with this tour lineup, it’d be great if there were some sold out shows.
And that love of playing music you have is just so evident, as right after Refused you were in The (International) Noise Conspiracy, then AC4, and INVSN. So you’ve been writing and touring ever since Refused broke up and reunited.
Yeah, I’ve always been creative, you know? When Refused broke up, two weeks later I was in The (International) Noise Conspiracy. A month after that I was playing shows again. I just love to be in a band. It’s never about how big we get, or about how many records we’re selling. I mean, when David and I were in Australia with AC4, we played in front of a hundred people each night and we thought that was awesome. The mere privilege of playing music live is just fantastic.
Well said, man. With Sick Of It All supporting, they have been around for so long now. What’s Refused’s relationship with Sick Of It All? Is it just a matter that you both listen to each other’s music, or is it much more personal than that?
Refused started in 1991, and in 1992 some other dudes and I took a train for 12 hours to go see Sick Of It All play because they were one of our favourite bands. At first, we were just those dudes that hung around their shows when they came through Sweden, but we soon became friends. In 2012, when we did the Refused reunion, we had Lou [Keller, vocals] come and up and sing a couple songs with us. They’re actually a big influence on us. You can’t really tell now with how Freedom sounds, but when we started, they were a seminal band for what we wanted to become.
Actually, now that you mention it, some songs off ‘This Might Just Be…’ and ‘Songs To Fan The Flames…’ do carry that harder, NYHC sound.
Yeah, that New York hardcore sound was a big influence on us! But we were never tough enough for it, so that was a problem [laughs]. We still loved that music, though, and we are a progressive band now. But when we started playing shows, there were definitely some Sick Of It All and Gorilla Biscuits song thrown into the sets. As a band, you usually start with the reference points, and as you grow and if you’re lucky, you’ll become your own band. Sick Of It All are a band that started right out of the gate as Sick Of It All and have stayed that way for 30 years. Which is fucking amazing!
They are very consistent. So what’s your favourite SOIA song then? I’ve always loved ‘Step Down’ and ‘Uprising Nation’ myself.
Hmmm, it’s probably…Scratch The Surface. That’s the pinnacle of their shit for me [laughs].
Good choice! Now, you’re also playing High Tension, which is also a good fit for the tour I think. Are you aware of High Tension? Have you checked them out yet?
I actually book all of the support bands for our tour. That’s my other job in Refused [laughs]. I do listen to other people when booking bands, but I have the final say with whom we bring on.
Oh, cool! Well with High Tension, they supported Deafheaven in Australia recently and at the Melbourne show I attended, there was an altercation when a male punter groped a female audience member. The woman called the guy out and the band and the audience basically told this guy to fuck off and leave the venue, as he was public enemy number one. Do you have any thoughts on incidents like this occurring in the alternative music scene, in a community that prides itself on equality and on welcoming people from all walks of life?
Of course, that shit needs to be called out. It’s something that we talk about onstage a lot. We talk about gender issues, feminism, the patriarchal system and more. We have a song from Freedom called Destroy The Man, which is about singing from a male perspective to men, about men. It’s not up to women to change men, it’s up to men to change men and up to us to form a better male identity and thus a better world. As you said, we are a part of the alternative music universe, but the male structure is still very strong. As men, I think we do produce a culture of violence and rape, and so we as men need to get our shit together. Us men need to talk about why some of us see abuse women and why some of us see women as property. Every time we tour, we always try to bring along bands with a strong female presence and can talk about these issues. I think that the metal and punk community is quite political and open-minded, so we need to address these issues.
My other band, INVSN, half of the band is female so you get confronted with this a lot. You really see how people treat you differently when there are females in a band. It’s quite a wake-up call, honestly.
That’s rather sad, dude. It’s such a shitty thing that kind of still happens in this scene. Another big question I had was Refused’s work with Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), namely the ‘366’ coffee blend/cassette tape from last year and the VIP meet-and-greets for your recent headline tour. I remember seeing some backlash as some older fans said that this was the band selling out and being corporatized. Yet, you’re donating 100% of proceeds to help immigrants and refugees in need, which is a pretty punk rock thing to do. What are your thoughts on that?
With the concept of people paying to meet the band, I can see how that can rub people the wrong way. But we were able to make thousands of thousands of dollars for this organization by hanging out with people before and after the shows. Years ago when we were a small punk band and there were only 100-150 people at the show, it was easy to hang out with everyone. But when you have a 1,000 people at the show, it’s not as easy. So after these shows, we had fans come into the dressing room, we’d give ‘em a beer and we’d shoot the shit. They pay a little extra and ALL the money goes to something really good. That’s our way of trying to hang out with the fans and do something good in return.
No, it was a good move on your part, so credit where credit’s due. Finally, Dennis, I found it quite funny that ‘New Noise’ was used in both the online and T.V. ads for the new Doom game earlier this year. Was that a bit of a…”political” move for the band/your management?
[Laughs] you know, it’s honestly one of those deals where some decisions are made over your head. Somewhere along the lines, someone has said ‘Do you want to use this song for this T.V. ad?’ I totally forgot about it until some friends told me about it, which is kind of crazy to me, as I don’t play video games at all. But it is what it is. It’s not easy to be a musician and just solely live off your music in 2016. In crass terms, you can make a little money and can pay your rent from this. I think there are worse things to do than being in a Doom ad, but what do I know? [Laughs].
No, good point, Dennis – make money where you can. In fact, that song has been used in many T.V. shows and films, and I even remember that it was on the original Tony Hawk’s Underground game.
Oh yeah! That was a big thing for a lot of people back then. It’s also kinda weird because while we wrote the song and own the song to a certain extent, that song is within the collective conscious of so many people. I was watching UFC years ago and this fighter’s walk-in music was New Noise. The first time I saw that I just went ‘Holy shit!’ This guy comes out screaming and pumped up to New Noise – it’s insane! That song has gone to a lot of different places, and we just do our best to tag along for the ride!
Refused are touring nationally in January 2017. Tickets here and dates below.