In the 1990s, in a place the world wasn’t aware of, Refused created music that challenged peoples ideals and reshaped peoples thoughts on how hardcore punk was meant to be. At the time, the band were just making the music they wanted to, not what anyone expected them to. As a result they stand as one of the most influential hardcore bands of all time.
It’s now 15 years later and Dennis Lyxzén is still challenging the ideals of the modern day music community. Dennis was in Australia recently on tour with the Bloody Beetroots (WTF I hear you say), and he was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to talk to DyingScene about what Refused created, what punk rock should really mean to you, the good, the bad and the ugly of the internet, and his straight-edge and vegan lifestyle choices. Read the full interview here.
What is your association with the Bloody Beetroots?
They did a remix of one of my old songs [New Noise] and then they asked me if I wanted to sing on a new song. So I tried it out and it was fun. So I guess I’m their guest singer.
Do you get into that kind of music [Electronica]?
Not really. It’s fun to do it and it’s fun to be a part of it because for me it’s a very new experience. I’m not going to start to start buying those kind of records or start creating that kind of music but it’s fun.
Do you find yourself out of comfort zone doing that?
I’m always out of my comfort zone. It’s kinda cool to be part of something where people don’t know who you are. They have no preconceived notions of why you’re there. I meet people and they start talking about this music and I’m like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about right now, leave me out of this discussion because I’m useless right now’, so that’s a bit weird sometimes.
Refused are considered such an influential hardcore punk band. What’s that like for you?
I try not to think about it too much. I’m always concerned with what I’m doing right now and I’ll always worry about what my new projects are and what they will entail. It’s important not to dwell on the past for me. It’s pretty amazing that we started this band when we just wanted to create music and express our ideas and then all of a sudden your a part of musical history. It’s kinda nice.
AC4 came about when you wanted to play hard and fast again. Is this something you’ll always want to do?
Yeah! I always used punk and hardcore as a starting point for all my ideas no matter how it ended up sounding. I’ll always love punk and hardcore, it’s the music I listen to till this day. When David started talking about we were like ‘yeah, it’s about time’, but I don’t know if I want to be playing hardcore and jumping around when I’m 50 years old. I fell in love with this music 22 years ago and I still love it, it’s still a big part of my identity and who I am.
What is it about hardcore that you identify with?
I think it’s the energy and the attitude. There are a lot of punk people who use punk as an excuse to be pricks. For me punk came with an open world of possibilities. It liberated me from what people thought I would become. That was punk for me, that energy and that attitude towards the world. How you walked, how you talked and your attitude towards things, that was punk rock for me. A lot of people in punk rock did the opposite thing and it made them narrow-minded and unimaginative people.
Punk rock has become commercialized since then. What are your thoughts on that?
It is what it is. When something’s been around for this long someone is going to figure out a way to make money out of it and it becomes deluded and bland. I don’t think that matters, I think you decide. That’s one of the great things about living, you decide what it means to you. I refuse to let someone dictate what punk rock means to me. I get people who come up to me and say ‘your band is NOT punk rock’, defined on maybe my pants, or the sound that we had or something that I said. It’s up for me to decide that this is punk rock to me. That’s an important attitude.
That’s kind of how people are. We are not as free of the mind as we want to be. We see other people and we want them to fit into our box of how we perceive things and when we abide by those little rules, which are mostly in our own mind, we’re not as free as we think we are. In 1994 people were calling us sellouts and we never cared about it. If your true to what you want to do and who you want to be then your true to yourself and that’s the only thing that matters.
For me, coming from a background with Refused and Noise Conspiracy I’m a political person and a lot of people have expectations about how they want me to be and how they want me to live my life. It’s not how they want to be and how they want to live their lives it’s about how I’m supposed to be because of my background and it’s just bullshit. No one can dictate that for you. It’s the way of the world. We’re unsure and we like to put things into little boxes so we can define them. Boring people do that. I try not to be one of those people.
You spend a lot of time in Australia. What is it about the country that keeps you coming back?
I love Australia. It’s really far away and it’s pretty much the opposite of everything in Sweden as far as the nature and environment. It’s really interesting to be in a country where everything can kill you when you come from a country where nothing is dangerous.
In northern Sweden it’s cold, there’s a lot of snow and a lot of darkness. Anywhere where there is isolation and you don’t have to abide to other peoples rules then certain scenes can grow out of it. You have to make up your own rules and your own scene. That’s what we did in Umeå. We weren’t close to Stockholm or any of the cool cities and that became the cool thing and becoming very, very real. I think that if you feel very isolate then that’s how you should do it. Don’t rely on the other countries or other city’s to provide it for you. That’s applies all over the world.
Was it hard to get that scene in Umeå going?
We were just lucky to be a time, place, setting and environment where we could make people happy. It also took a lot of hard work and dedication. We were very lucky because we created something very special. Looking back what happened in the nineties, 15 years later, that was very special. We didn’t think about it; we didn’t know. We didn’t have the experience to look at the rest of the world and think that’s how it should be, we just did it.
I think that thought process is lost a bit today.
When you compare today to when I grew up, we did it together and we did it with each other. Now a lot of people do a lot of stuff for themselves. We started bands while we were young and now people start companies so their entrepreneurs. Fuck being an entrepreneur. Be a creative person and create something that’s worthwhile. It’s strange how the world just ended up being about how much money you can make out of it.
The ability to turn a quick buck off anything has taken that creative element out of a lot of things. A lot of stuff these days is just self-centered. It’s not a community based idea anymore, it’s just something that you do, for yourself. I’m not a fan of the year 2011.
Then internet came along and just..fucking changed everything.
It did, it did. Some aspects of it are really good and some aspects of it are really bad. It made us come closer because hey now everyone’s on Facebook and everyone can communicate but when you used to meet your friends you met them in a cafe, now you just talk to them online. We’re closer than ever, the world is smaller than ever but we’re pretty far removed from each other at the same time.
That’s given rise to people who voice opinions, not to be heard but just for the sake of voicing an opinion.
On the internet, where you can be anonymous, your actions have no repercussions. With T(I)NC we had a forum that we had to close down because the only comments we got on the forum were people telling us how much they hated us. They would never come to our show and walk up to me and say ‘hey, you’re an idiot’ but the online bullying is pretty sad.
Do you still hold fast in the straight edge lifestyle?
Laughs. I’m a bit more loose in my straight edge lifestyle than I used to be.
I’m 38 years old. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs but I don’t need to distance myself from people around me. When your young, it’s a powerful stigma because it sets you aside from the fox and I don’t have that need anymore. I’m a pretty mellow guy, I hang out and if there is a big celebration I might drink a glass of champagne to celebrate with my friends.
Are you still rocking the vegan train?
I am. Very much so. I became a vegan before I appreciated food. When I was young I was from a working class family and we ate the food because we had to eat. Our family didn’t give a fuck what food basically. I didn’t care about food till much later and I’ve been vegan for a looooong time. I never tried fetta cheese, I never tried haloumi cheese, for me it’s a world I’ve never been exposed to. For me, I’m living happy and oblivious.
Do you find that being vegan, your more creative with food and have a greater appreciation for it?
I’ve been vegan to 18 years so I don’t take food for granted. There is a little element of struggle trying to get food which I like. It keeps you on your toes and you don’t get lazy and I start cooking a lot of home. I like the challenge of being a vegan.
What originally lead to the decision to become straight-edge and vegan?
With the vegan thing, I’d been vegetarian for a couple of years and I connected the meat industry and the dairy industry. I was an animal rights activist and it just made sense to me so I am not going to use anything from animals, that made sense to me.
As for the straight-edge thing, I was into punk rock. I was the full on mohawk punk rocker and I discovered the straight-edge thing and politics. I put two and two together. Where I grew up if you drank and did drugs you weren’t that rebellious because everybody did it. It was almost expected of you. So I was like ‘fuck it’, I’m going to have a clear mind, I’m going to be sober, I’m going be focused. I realised that it was much more controversial to claim to be drug free and straight edge than it was to do drugs.
You are involved in so many projects. How do you do it?
I’m restless. I have a hard time standing still. As a I kid I think I had one of those combination of numbers, letters when your crazy and I’ve kept that with me. I have all this energy, I’m always curious. One of my talents is that I get things done. I don’t talk about stuff, I get it done. I guess that’s why I’ve done so much music because I make it happen.
Do you ever feel like you need a break?
YES. Yes, I do. I literally work too hard. The rewards are great, I get to travel a lot, I get to hang out with cool people. Financially it’s a strain and sometimes I need a break. If you live this lifestyle it’s hard. I haven’t yet made the millions and millions of dollars that are due to me (laughs) so I have to work to make ends meet. I think sometimes I’ll get a break, that’s just not now.
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