This week, Refused released their first album in seventeen years, ‘Freedom’. It’s a record that, by simply existing, creates division.
When the band first split in 1998, they bowed out with a final statement – proclaiming they were finished in the kind of terms that left no room for confusion. Six months out from the release of what became a modern classic, ‘The Shape of Punk To Come’, they weren’t the band who enjoyed wall to wall plays of ‘New Noise’ on music TV channels. They weren’t commercially successful. That came later.
But when, in 2012, they decided to come back for live shows, there were rumblings of betrayal. Going back on what they’d said a decade and a half before. When they said there’d be a new album, that only got louder.
“We have a lot of respect for our fans and we work very hard,” drummer David Sandstrom explained to Upset, “but it wasn’t like, ‘Oh my god, the Refused myth! We’ve gotta preserve it at all costs.’ To me, I just felt like Refused was just us.”
“It’s our band, that’s the thing,” throws in frontman Dennis Lyxzén. “I think, for a long time, our band was not our band. It was public property and everybody was a part of that. When we decided to come back and start playing shows, we retook some control of our band. The ball got rolling because all of these things, and why we’re here today is because we started playing as Refused. It’s a special thing. We could play and have other bands, do other things, but once we start playing as Refused, there’s something different that happens. They had songs and they had ideas,” he says, gesturing to his bandmates, including bassist Magnus Flagge, who had begun work on a nameless project before approaching Dennis, “but all of a sudden, it became more like, ‘Maybe these songs should be Refused songs.’”
“The creativity part of it was the least of our problems,” begins guitarist Kristofer Steen, on the subject of their new album. “We always had an abundance of ideas and that was almost the problem. We didn’t have a board meeting about what the direction was; it was just natural for us to be adventurous and experimental.”
“I think we know what Refused is,” Lyxzén continues. “I think 2012 taught us a lot about what we are and how we interact and play, so when we started writing, there was a certain idea as to what Refused is. Even though it is very diverse and adventurous and eclectic, there’s something in the way we play and the way we sound that is Refused.”
Read the full interview in the first issue of Upset. More details on that very soon.
Photo: Sarah Louise Bennett / Upset