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REFUSED Visceral and almost violent

Four years after the release of Freedom, Refused are back with new album War Music and it is pure violence. Ahead of its release, TONY WESTWOOD had a chat with frontman Dennis Lyxzén about the new tunes, what in the world is pissing him off, and when Aussies can expect to see Refused down under again.

How would you describe War Music, your new album?

I would say it’s a no-nonsense type of record. It’s very succinct, to the point, and I would say it’s wildly aggressive, especially if you compare it to Freedom. It was funny, because when we were doing this record, we were doing vocals and the songs are so… you know… almost condensed? And it’s pretty wild, a lot of times when I was doing vocals I’d look at David (Sandstrom, drummer) and I’d be like “Am I going to sing the whole way through in a screaming voice?” and he’s like “Yes” and I’m like “Howwww?” Especially now we’ve started practicing the songs I’m like, oh, there’s a lot of work for me to do here.

I’m sure it’s going to be appreciated. There’s a lot of passion there that really comes through. What can you tell me about the artwork?

Well, we started out with this artist called Joseph Beuys. He’s a German political artist from the 60s and 70s. We started using his ideas kind of as blue prints, and I think we wanted to create a tie-in with the violence of the record and the chaos of the world today. I have a friend called Hugo, and he’s done a lot of work with me before, he’s done a lot of (International) Noise Conspiracy work, so he’s an old friend of mine and we came up with this concept together. One of the things that was a reference point, is when you’re a young kid and you wrote your favourite bands in your books, like your text books and stuff, or you carved it on the school bench, that’s kind of the vibe we were going for. Visceral and almost violent.

I like it. The artwork has this feel of revolution about it…

Yeah, I mean, we’ve always been about that. That’s been our agenda since pretty much day one. I think with Freedom we made quite a different record. There’s still tons of songs about revolution and anti-capitalism on Freedom, but it was a very different process and on this record… just the way the world looks today, the state we’re in, we felt that we needed to create a record that’s incredibly confrontational almost, and to the point. I think we managed to pull that off pretty well.

So, what is making you angry at the moment? What inspired this album?

Well, I mean, just the way the world looks right now – the rise of the alt-right and neo-fascism and neo-nazism, and the polarisation of the world. And also, how we allow ourselves to become stupid in a world that’s very shallow. It’s a quick fix all the time. I mean, if you look at all that, you think this world is messed up you know? In a way you never thought it was going to be. You always hope that things are going to get better, but it hasn’t really. Populism in politics is rampant and power views, the way that capitalism dictates every fucking aspect of our lives. Here’s my take on it – if you look at the world right now, and you don’t see how problematic everything is and you don’t see how messed up everything is, then you’re super privileged… or you’re an idiot. Which maybe is the same thing, I don’t know!

Fuck yeah! OK, so technically, when you go back to writing these songs – there were 17 years, and in that 17 years the tools available to help you write and record songs have evolved with technology. Have your song writing methods evolved as well because of that?

I think we’ve been pretty good at moving with the times. Me and David were still putting out music and recording even when Refused wasn’t a band. So, we’ve been following everything that goes on. In a sense, we are a bit of a modern band because there’s a lot of demos that we do at home that have been sent back and forth and we all have our little set ups at home so you can get a riff, and then you send back a vocal idea for that riff and you’re like “oh that’s cool” and then you arrange it. It’s definitely a modern approach to it. At the end of the day we have to get into a room and play together and actually arrange the songs so they make sense with the way we play. But a lot of the demos and the early production is happening in our own little demo studios. This record is recorded in five or six different studios, and it’s been a patchwork. So you have to get with the times because you have to have Logic or Pro Tools and you have to send tracks back and forth, you know… it’s definitely a more modern approach to music than the last record, for sure.

A lot of people I know are huge Refused fans, particularly because of the unstoppable live show. Listening to the new album, War Music, there’s just banger after banger that I could picture you guys playing live. Do you think about the live show when you’re putting songs together on a new album?

To a certain extent you do… when we did Freedom our whole agenda was to create music and see where it takes us, because we hadn’t done music for so long, and when we started playing songs from Freedom live, it was quite obvious what songs we like to play and what songs resonated with people live, so I think that was kind of the starting point for War Music – what worked with Freedom, what were the best parts of Freedom. I mean, first of all, you have to write songs for yourself. The person that you need to please when you write music, is yourself. As soon as you start pleasing other people, that’s a slippery slope, like “OK we have to do a song like this for the fans” you know? I don’t like that. But that being said, when you’re writing songs and you feel it, I mean, the ambition is always that the song is gonna destroy the room. That should always be the ambition. So when we write and we’re like “ahhh yeah, this is gonna destroy, this is gonna fucking kill” and when you have that in the back of your mind and especially with this record because it’s a very efficient sort of condensed record, and I think that a lot of choruses, we just felt like OK, this is gonna be powerful when we play it live. That’s not why you write it but it’s definitely part of the feeling going into it.

So, just as we’re talking about live shows… can we expect to see you in Australia as you’re touring the new record?

Yes! Australia is one of my favourite places to tour. I think it’s everyone’s favourite place to tour. We definitely wanna come to Australia sometime in 2020. Right now, we’re trying to put together the schedule for next year and Australia is definitely a huge part of that conversation. So, we will be down there, and we will play these songs live for you and it’s gonna be very exciting.

You’ve come back to a band that you wrote with in your late teens and early 20s, a time when it’s pretty easy to get pissed off about things, but now that you’re older is that a different process? Is there a different place you’ve gotta go to?

Yes, of course it is, you always grow and change, I mean, it is a very different process. It’s funny because it’s one of those things where it’s a very different process, and then there’s some things that are just as they were when you were a young kid, like how much of your own self you put into it – how much energy and effort you put into it is the same. But I mean, you change, and when we were young in the 90s, Refused was everything we did. Everything. It was like 24/7, and now it’s not like that. We all have different projects, we all have different lives and families, etc, etc. The focus gets a bit different, but then when we do focus, a lot of it feels the same. A lot of it feels like you’re still learning, you have all these ideas and how do you get that across. It’s interesting because creative energy is something you have to almost harness at times. You have to be like, OK, where is this creative energy going? And it’s been an interesting process with this one because it has been a reaction to Freedom, and in the best possible way. You create something, and then after a year or two you look back at it and you think, OK, next time we’re going to try to do it like this.



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