INTERVIEW: REFUSED TALK POLITICS, FEMINISM & WRITING NEW MUSIC FOR 2017

Legendary Swedish hardcore punks, Refused will return to Australia in January 2017 along with hardcore icons Sick Of It All (celebrating their 30th anniversary) and upcoming Melbourne sensations High Tension. The tour will come to Adelaide on Jan 22 at HQ.

We had a chat with frontman Dennis Lyxzen before they bring new album Freedom to Australia. Dennis opens up about continuing as a band after their 2012 reunion tour and writing together as a band for the first time in 16 years.

“It was a challenge (laughs). We knew we wanted to continue. Then we had to write new music because we’re not really keen on being nostalgia. We decided to do it very secretly, we didn’t tell anyone, we were very quiet and hush hush about it. Which made it a bit easier. It was a bit nerve-wracking, where do you start after 16 years of not writing songs together? It was a good process” says Dennis.

The band didn’t stay in contact much after their original breakup in 1998. However, in 2012 they put their gathered together again for one more tour and the connection reignited.

“David (drummer) was hanging out with everyone, he was kind of that guy, that connection between everyone. But for those 14 years in between, I didn’t see the other members at all. Once we got back together and started practising it was easy. We felt the connection in music and felt the way we connected in the practice place and we said ‘this is going to be great’. We started playing shows and it was so much fun, in our minds we said maybe we need to do this a little bit more. We needed to write new music because we didn’t want to be one of those touring nostalgia acts, we wanted to be a relevant band a contemporary band.”

Refused are known for their politically charged anthems. Their passion in 1998 was extremely vocal and prevalent. When asked by other band members what he thought of the music when recording Dennis used to say “music is just a vehicle for the revolution”.

“[Dennis laughs] No, I have to be honest, I have to admit that was due to my real asshole days, that was one of the reasons Refused broke up in the first place. Because I kept saying shit like that and the other guys are like ‘what about the songs’ and I’d say ‘fuck the song, it’s just a vehicle for the revolution’” Dennis laughs.

“Which is a good sentiment in itself, we love music, we do love music, that’s what gets us together. But, the political ideas and political agenda is never something we faked, that’s who we are as people, that’s what we believe in and that’s what we think about, that’s what we talk about. Every record I’ve put out since A Shape Of Punk To Come has been full of politics. When we got back together with Refused it was quite easy to tap into. From the first days together David and I met and we talked about politics, for days. We met in Stockholm, sat in a hotel room for two days and talked about politics. That became the foundation for the lyrics for Freedom.”

 “Politics has always been important to us but some bands and some ideas have a certain energy. With Refused the politic aspect of it has been very important because there’s so much power to the music. So we said if we want to do this, we want to do this right. We want to write lyrics that are relevant, that are political and amazing. So we spent a lot of time talking about it, talking about philosophy, talking about politics and what it would mean and what we would write about.”

The lineup for the Freedom tour is stacked with Refused being accompanied by Sick Of It All as they celebrate their 30th anniversary together. As a fan of Sick Of It All, Dennis is ecstatic to have them on the tour.

“It’s a bit surreal, we met the guys a bunch of times. I remember me, David and Chris took the train down to a festival in the south of Sweden in 1992. We just started Refused and we just went to see Sick Of It All play. It was one of those Big Day Out kind of things, a huge rock festival, and we went to JUST see Sick Of It All. I saw the lineup and it’s like holy shit we missed out on a lot of good music that day, but we were so focused on seeing Sick Of It All.”

“When someone suggested that they should go on tour with us I said you’re kidding me. Then someone mentioned that they’re not that huge in Australia, so it could make sense. We asked them and they immediately said yes. It’s a bit surreal, and also very, very, very exciting. I’ll be watching them every night and getting really pumped up for our shows, it will be perfect.”

“I’ve been lucky enough to tour with bands that I like, usually as the support band or cross paths on a show or two. It’s pretty crazy to bring out one of your old favourite bands as a support band.”

Refused are outspoken about feminism and equality. Dennis has noticed the lack of balance in the heavy music scene around the world.

“Yeah, we try to do whatever we can. When we started the band we were a bunch of guys. When we got back together, we decided to get other people, our tour manager she’s a woman, we’ve got a lighting and tech woman, and we just try to bring out people on tour to balance out the unevenness of the male-dominated rock culture. When we tour we try to always bring bands on tour with us that have a strong female presence. This time around we’re bringing out High Tension. We try to do whatever we can and we try to talk about it every night and make people aware of the problem with the patriarchal system.”

“It’s very unevenly balanced with how many males are playing in rock bands compared to females. I play in another band called INVSN and we toured in 2014 with 3 girls in the band and 3 guys in the band. People were like ‘what!?’ and it’s like, they’re just musicians, it’s kind of weird that you should be shocked that they’re females. We try and hopefully some people can be like ‘that’s kind of weird’ and they can start thinking about the gender structures and think about what it means. Then hopefully we can all collectively do something better about this. Also in a lot of the patriarchal structures, it’s actually up to the guys to get their shit together. We are the ones taking advantage, oppressing and using women. We need to step up and be responsible and talk about these issues. We try.”

With the success of the reunion tour and writing their new album Freedom, Refused are doing the best they have since 1998. Refused are set to write new music and have learned from their experience over their 17-year career.

“We are working on new music. When we worked on the new music, we hadn’t written together in a very long time. So we wrote all these songs and had all these ideas and the ambition is always for the music to be fucking amazing live. We tried a couple of songs live and it’s like, yeah, it didn’t work out. But the songs that did work out live are songs like ‘Elektra’ obviously, ‘Dawkins Christ’, the bit heavier, the bit more aggressive songs. They fit really well into the set and they make a lot of sense. When we’re writing now it’s taking note of what really works, works out live and we’ll go from there and see where that takes us.”

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TOUR DATES

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, Melbourne – 18+ SOLD OUT

Second and definitely final Melbourne show

Wednesday, January 25: Prince Bandroom, Melbourne – 18+ – tickets on sale Tuesday 11 October, 9am AEDT

Thursday, January 26: Metropolis, Fremantle – 18+

On sale now!

www.tickets.destroyalllines.com