Former Refused Singer Dennis Lyxzen on New Band INVSN, The Evils of Capitalism + More
Dennis Lyxzén is Sweden’s hardest-working rock musician. Throughout the ’90s and again last year, he fronted hardcore game-changer Refused, thrashing audiences all over the world with brutal operas of noise. He’s also presided over punk outfits AC4 and the (International) Noise Conspiracy, and now, the 41-year-old singer has turned in a softer direction with INVSN, a Swedish quintet that melds ’80s pop with post-rock melodies.
Now, INVSN’s eponymous U.S. debut, due out Sept. 24, isn’t that soft. There’s still plenty of moments where reigning guitars take over, and Lyxzén spits political hellfire that’s both stinging and poignant. Diffuser.fm sent Lyxzén a list of questions before INVSN’s upcoming U.S. tour, and he responded with his thoughts on thriving from hate, writing lyrics in Swedish and the evils of capitalism.
You wrote your two previous albums in Swedish. What was the impetus for crossing back over into English on your newest record? Is there a Swedish word or phrase that you often use that doesn’t quite translate into English?
There are of course numerous reasons for this. First of all, Sweden is a small country with a lot of small minds, and our language is not spoken by anyone besides the 9 million people living here. We actually did an English-spoken version of the last record that got us signed to Razor and Tie, but we opted to record a new record instead of releasing it.
When I sing in Swedish, I sing a dialect which is, of course, impossible to emulate or translate into English. We recorded a Swedish version of this record as well, and when we write, we start with the Swedish versions and then we translate them into English. Some things get lost in the translation, but there are also phrasings and lines that came out better in English. It is a tricky thing to do but also the premise of writing in my own language and then translate it means that the writing comes off very different and the themes of the songs end up being something other than if I would start with English!
Tell us about ‘The Promise.’
‘The Promise’ is a song on the record that is pretty much the same chords over and over again. Our idea was to work with melodies and texture to make it varied and dynamic.
‘The Promise’ is also an attack on the cultural, political and economic landscape that we are still living under. Capitalism has proven itself completely useless in building a better and more equal world, time and time again. In the words of the Redskins (the band): “We never had it so good, the favorite phrase of those who always had it better.”
For a long time, Swedish bands looked to American indie rock for inspiration, but now it seems that the reverse is happening. What changes have you seen in the Swedish rock scene lately?
I think that the Swedish reign on Indie music has died down a little. At least when it comes to rock-oriented music. Swedish bands and artists are usually too busy kissing each other’s asses these days to actually accomplish anything of value.
Sweden has, however, managed to produce a good amount of decent music, considering how small and isolated we are. The rock scene is dying out a bit; there are some new up and coming bands, but people are more interested in going to clubs and listening to DJs and such.
Vasterbotten is known for its cheese, but what else does the Swedish province mean to you?
It is our home. It is an isolated part of Sweden that got hit really hard when urbanization hit. Vast parts of the county [were] deserted and left for dead. We have the natural resources, but we get very little back from the rest of Sweden. It is a beautiful but f—ed-up place. Much like the people that live here.
Your new album has many different themes: hate, abandonment and redemption. What does this new collection of songs mean to you?
They are songs. I’ve written about these themes more or less my entire life. Just trying to find new angles and ways to write about it. The existential issues haunt us no matter what age or location. Punk rock taught me to write about what you know and I always have. Music for me is resistance and reaction/action. Music for me [it’s] life and death. It is art and revolution.
I think that people worry about too much nonsense, about shit that won’t matter in the long run, and I think that most people that write songs are cowards and/or they have totally different motivations or reasons then me to write.
Dennis, you’ve written a lot of political songs. Are you moving away from that, or are you reinvigorated by current events?
Everything I write is based on my political understanding of the world. It always has been and it always will be. It is not a pose or an idea to sell more records (horrible idea to sell records, haha); it is who I am. I think that current events are unfortunately more proof that we were right all along. I mean, Detroit went bankrupt, and people still believe in that system!
Politics does not always have to be slogans; it is also matters of your own life and existence.
‘Distorted Heartbeat’ is a real standout track on ‘INVSN.’ The combination of airy guitar work and the catchy chorus make us want to listen to it on repeat. What’s the song about?
One of the biggest disappointments of growing up was the realization that you were not going to change. You were stuck with the idiot that you wanted to outgrow. All the promises of “it will be better later on” was just not true. I mean sure, we learn, and hopefully we won’t make the same mistakes that often, but the s— that we carry with us is the s— that we carry with us, all the way.
On ‘Hate,’ you talk about “not belonging.” What do you value about hate? Are you a hateful person?
No, the song is not really about blind hate but more about revenge. I grew up not fitting in, and I still don’t. But the hate I felt towards the others and towards the world gave me strength and energy to become the person that I am today. Without it, I would have succumbed to the pressure that the world applies on you. I am not a hateful person at all, and I think that hate as your only motivation and driving force is idiotic. But when I was young (and still to some extent today) I’ll take that energy and try to create something of value with it.