Internationally renowned Swedish hardcore punk band Refused are returning the UK for a short tour in October and play the Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow, co-headlining with American band Thrice. Refused’s previous visits to the UK have included the major festivals at Download and Reading & Leeds and they also have a new album War Music released on 18 October.
Vocalist Dennis Lyxzén says he and the band are excited to be back in Britain. ‘Yes, I’m very excited. When I was a young kid the only reason you put out music was so you could go on tour. It’s a bit different now – we actually spend a lot of time focused on the record – but I’m one
of those guys who feels that I’m at my best when I’m on stage. It’s going to be fun. We’re gonna play some great songs and talk about politics!’
Formed in Umeå, Sweden in 1991, Refused are one of the most influential rock bands of the early ‘00s. Artists including Linkin Park and Blink 182 have cited their 1998 album The Shape Of Punk To Come as being a fundamental influence on their musical styles. After a 14-year pause, the band reunited in 2012 and released their fourth studio album, Freedom, in 2015. The current line-up is founder members Dennis Lyxzén (vocals), Kristofer Steen (guitars), David Sandström (drums) and bass guitarist Mattias Barjed who replaced Magnus Flagge in 2014.
Lyxzén says that growing up in a remote town in northern Sweden shaped his music and his outlook on the world. ‘We grew up in an isolated small town and it forced you to create your own fun, your own scene and that helps to influence what you become. We weren’t even remotely close to a big metropolitan city and that, ultimately, affected the way we made records. Half the band now live in Stockholm and half the band still live up north but it definitely affected us a lot and it shows in the way we view the world, small town kids.
‘The core of the band have been friends since 1991 and it’s been a long run together, you create something special. When you grow up in a small town like that and there’s not a lot of others doing what you’re doing, that creates a very strong sense of camaraderie. There were only four punks in the city, you know!’ he laughs. ‘You have to stick together and that affects the way you approach the world.
‘There was a time when I was walking down the hall of my high school and there’s a guy with a punk shirt who walked by me and he screams “You got a Ramones shirt! Do you like punk?” I said yes and he said, “OK then, we’re friends!” We were the only two punks at school, so we became friends.’
Whilst Lyxzén grew up, as most kids do, buying records, he admits that his musical talents were not of a good enough level to meet his aspirations to play metal.
‘I discovered punk and hardcore and, with the sociological aspect of that, I thought “Oh, wow, someone has created this music just for me!” I was listening to bands like The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, the American hardcore side of it. Bands like The Dead Kennedys were very, very political and they speak of how you can view the world in a different light.
‘That was a big deal for me. I felt like an outsider and this musical movement came into my life and it was like “No, no, that’s how it was supposed to be,” like a world where it’s OK to feel like an outsider for a change and you could, actually, be a good person. That was something that affected me enormously, it changed the whole future of my life and made me the person I am today.’
Refused have released Blood Red as the first single from their upcoming album War Music, and it has captured ‘something’ that was missing when they toured with their previous album.
‘At a soundcheck somewhere on the road,’ he explains, ‘Kristofer started playing this riff and we all got into it. After a while we noticed that our crew had stopped working and that the people working at the venue were standing around watching us play. Now, people at venues usually hardly notice you, they’ve seen a thousand bands more famous than you fool around with their precious ditties as they’re re-stocking the bar or setting up barricades. So, as we were settling into the riff proper and it started rolling and bouncing the way you’re hearing it today, whatever we felt had been missing, it was clear that we had begun to fill that gap. The riff turned into Blood Red, the first song we finished for the new record and the first song we played live off of it.’
And given the current political turmoil in Europe and further afield, Lyxzén adds that finding topics for the new album was easy. ‘A lot of inspiration for the new record is looking out into the world and seeing what is happening around us and the political situation in Europe and
‘If you open your eyes there is a lot to sing about, there’s a lot that goes on. When we grew up there was talk about solidarity and equality, a lot of core values that were really important for us when we were young, and still are. A lot of what goes on in the world, like the rise of Fascism and stuff like Trump and Boris Johnson, are the opposite of these core values that we have. This time round it was just easy to speak with an energy on what is happening, it was easy to write the songs.’