In 2012, Swedish hardcore pioneers Refused reunited unexpectedly, playing together for the first time since the band broke up after releasing seminal record The Shape of Punk to Come in 1998. Several weeks ago, the group revealed another surprise: a fiery new song called “Elektra” produced by pop svengali Shellback, which will appear on new album Freedom, due out June 30. We caught up with Lyxzén on the eve of the band’s headlining slot at Punk Rock Bowling, May 24 at 10 p.m.
Your bandmates had been writing music for several years with no vocalist. What did they have to do to make room for you on this record? It was very dense, instrumental music, so there wasn’t a whole lot of room for vocals. Then when we started touring in 2012, I guess [guitarist] Kris [Steen] was impressed by my stage presence, but also the fact that I became a singer. We hadn’t been in touch that much over these past 14 years, and along the line, I learned how to sing. And he was like, “Wow, Dennis can actually sing. Maybe we can use some of these riffs to turn it into a few songs.” And that’s what happened. They had to rethink some of the structures of the songs, some of the arrangements, and actually leave some room for the vocals. They showed me some riffs, I started singing and that was it. We were on our way.
There are plenty of musical detours on Freedom, but when I listen to the album, there’s something about the songs and the lyrics and the songwriting that makes it identifiable as Refused. When we get together in the practice space, it becomes Refused. Even though “Servants of Death” is a weird amalgamation of a Michael Jackson song or something, it does sound like Refused, but in a weird way. Once we got into the mind-set that we were going to make new Refused music, it was very important that it was going to be new Refused music. If it wasn’t going to sound like Refused then it didn’t make any sense to label it Refused. We could’ve started a new band, which in hindsight would’ve been the safe way to do it—like, “Let’s start a new band, build our reputation, and we will have a lot of free leverage, because we used to do Refused.” But then we decided, “Let’s do it as Refused. Let’s f*ck with the past and sort of kill ourselves and rise up as this phoenix from the ashes” (laughs).
You’re headlining Punk Rock Bowling on Sunday. Are any of you guys good bowlers? Not at all. I mean, we do bowl once in a while, and it always ends on a sour note, because everybody wants to win, and then it gets really competitive. We’re not very good, but it still gets very competitive. It’s not good for us to bowl (laughs). It’s not good for us to do sports together. Me, [drummer] David [Sandström] and Kris get very competitive very fast. We’re going to stay clear of bowling as much as possible.
Punk Rock Bowling May 23-25; doors at 3 p.m. Saturday & Sunday, 2 p.m. Monday; $120 three-day/$45 single day. Downtown (entrance at Stewart & 7th), punkrockbowling.com.