We’re now just under two months away from having Sweden’s Refused return for their first headline tour in Australia since their fabled 2012 run. From a yoga and leisurely record listening session from his home in the cold darkness of Sweden is where I hear from Refused’s polite and well-spoken frontman, Dennis Lyxzén; who will definitely be enjoying our warm summer very soon. During our brief but insightful phone call, he tells me his thoughts about Donald Trump winning the US election, on the band’s Black Friday sales and the disconnect between band and record label, their fans, the next Refused album, as well as the prospect of The (International) Noise Conspiracy doing another record. My fingers are crossed hard on that last one!
It may be kind of cliché to ask someone like you this, Dennis, but fuck it! Do you have any thoughts on the recent US election?
Yeah, I do. Obviously, Trump is a fascist and I feel that America is going down a fascist route, and it’ll probably happen if he’s not stopped. My biggest problem is that we as humans lack imagination, so much so, so that when someone presents us with two sticks to beat us over the heads with and ask us to pick one. And this is called democracy.
I think that Hillary was a horrible candidate, better than Trump, but we still lack the imagination to see that the system set up is by our own thoughts and ideas. Everything constructed by us humans can also be deconstructed by humans, and if we don’t like the system in front of us, we can change that. So that’s my problem here, it’s never about the ideas and what we can do to change the economic, social and cultural circumstances that are oppressing people. So those are my thoughts.
Well, with Trump winning, a point I’ve heard lately is that a large reason for Trump gaining popularity in voters and his success as a candidate was the left’s constant lecturing and ridiculing of anyone with a different or alternative belief system. Do you anything to say about that notion?
You know, with America, I don’t think it’s a left versus right issue. It was a politician versus a non-politician issue. In Flint, Michigan, a lot of people don’t have clean drinking water, and most Americans are worried about paying their bills, and many voted for Trump, as he was the alternative to the politician option. Politicians are an elite class in of itself and many saw Hillary Clinton bringing no change. I don’t think it was so much a failure of the left; if anything it was a failure of America that Bernie Sanders was not the candidate against Trump. Otherwise, he would’ve been the president now. It’s more a matter of the poor and disenfranchised people who look for easy solutions to difficult problems.
Also, some people just thought ‘Fuck it! Fuck America. Fuck Washington. We’ll elect Donald Trump’. But those people that want something different are going to have it worse under someone like Trump, and that’s just the short sighted nature of a protest vote like that.
An interesting point to make there, Dennis, and if Sanders had been the Democrats pick, then I think we would indeed be looking at a Sanders administration instead. Also, it was ridiculous that nearly half the US population didn’t vote this year. I guess those people loose the right to complain about the result.
Yeah, 46% didn’t vote. Plus, you can’t vote if you’re in prison in America, and something like 20% of all black males are in prison [it’s close to 12–13% of the US prison population is African-American, males, who make up 37% of prison inmates of all 2.2 million male inmates as of 2014, U.S. Department of Justice, 2014]. You can’t take the day off to vote, you have to register and the voting office is never anywhere close. I think that we have to look at democracy and if this is what it really means. As I said, you have two sticks and someone’s going to hit you with it.
Exactly. Besides, the lesser of two evils is, you know, still evil.
Right! Hillary wouldn’t have been a much better pick than Trump, as she was a bad candidate as she didn’t represent anything but the elite. Which is also ironic, as Trump has the richest cabinet in the history of the United States…
Well, on the topic of the band, one thing I wanted to bring up was that I found it funny there was some online backlash to Refused having a Black Friday sale for your albums and merch. Do you have any comments on that? As to me, some people just seem to have a really fragile mindset of what punk rock means that they’re upset when a band gets big or has a merch deal on their website.
In all honesty, between you and me and anyone else who reads this, I hate that bullshit. I hate that label’s cash in on things like Black Friday. A lot of the time, we are in control of our Facebook, but the label also has people working on our Facebook and Instagram accounts. Just the other day, when Donald Trump was elected, someone posted on our Instagram that you can buy a new Refused hoodie. It pissed me off, man. So I do agree with the people who say that it’s in poor taste of a band to do that. It’s something the band and I talk about a lot, as we’re a political band – we’re a socialist band – and sometimes our agenda and the record labels don’t see eye to eye. I think it’s a problem that we as a band are kind of lazy about our social media and so the label does it instead, and it’s kind of awkward.
Fair enough! I think for a lot of Refused fans, it meant that they could pick up something from the store for cheaper than usual, and still dig the music and the message that you put into it.
For sure, I get that too, and maybe I’m overreacting a little. But we are a band and we represent those ideas, but we also need to pay our rent as well. This is our jobs. You have to make a choice when you’re in a band; to just play music or to play music and make a living? I have a tonne of friends who play in weird, DIY punk bands who tour super DIY, hand-screen all of their t-shirts, they sell their records super cheap but they all have full-time jobs; they work in offices and such so that they can play pure DIY. We’re not like that, I’m a full-time musician and sometimes we need to sell shit cheaper to pay the rent. Yes, it can be in poor taste when you commoditize everything that you do, and instead of being a pillar of ideas and communications you become a pillar of advertisement, and I have a hard time with it sometimes.
Well said, and it’s not black and white as you say; there’s a dichotomy between band and label.
That’s right! I also think that a lot of Refused fans are quite angry people, that they’re super opinionated people. It actually bums me out sometimes [laughs]. I’m like, ‘You don’t have to have an opinion on everything!’. We have a following that takes shit seriously and I do really like that, even if they do maybe need to chill out sometimes. We are a very extroverted, highly political band and we attract those people, and there is a discrepancy between that and the commercial aspect of being a musician, and I get that. I love the fact that people that love our band can call us out; it keeps us on our toes too.
Yeah, I’ve noticed that too, and I’m sure it does. But hey, you guys are really angry and opinionated in your songs so it comes with the territory!
Really? What? No way, man! [Laughs].
[Laughs] easy now, Dennis! Speaking of Refused songs, is there anything you can maybe tell me about a new Refused album?
Yeah, I can. We’re meeting up in a week to go over a few ideas. After this Australian tour, we’re gonna take a nice long break and then begin work on a new record. I’m not sure how far away it is, but I’d say that around this time next year is when we may get together to start writing and recording. Next year I’ll be working on my other band, INVSN, and I think we all need some time away from each other. So the next time we meet to write or tour, it feels adventurous and inspiring, and not just a chore.
At this point in your career, after the huge gap in between, you don’t wanna rush things. As you mentioned your other band, INVSN, and my fingers are really crossed here… but will The (International) Noise Conspiracy be doing anything again?
Well… we’re not officially broken up [laughs]. I am pretty sure that we’ll never again record new music but I wouldn’t put it past us to not tour again, as we all talk and are all friends. Everyone except for Lars, we all still play music. I’m keeping that door open, so maybe one of these days. I’ll be sure to let you know, Alex!
[Laughs] Well, I really do hope so. I think I may have to give ‘A New Morning, Changing Weather’ again. With that, we’re out of time and we’ll have to leave our chat there, Dennis. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today, it was greatly appreciated and a lot of fun.
Well now, that is a very good record! And hey, no worries, we’ll see you guys in Australia very soon!
Refused are touring Australia with High Tension & Sick Of It All in 2017. Dates below, tickets here.
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 Of Wales, Melbourne – 18+ (SOLD OUT)
Second and definitely final Melbourne show
Wednesday, January 25 – Prince Of Wales, Melbourne – 18+
Thursday, January 26 – Metropolis, Fremantle – 18+