Daniel Cadwallader sits down with one of punk rock's biggest icons, agent provocateur Dennis Lyxzén
"Well, we shouldn't just read Wikipedia when we do interviews."
These are Dennis Lyxzén's opening words to me, and it's not the best thing to hear from one of your heroes'. I've just mistakenly implied that his current musical incarnation, the post-punk/power pop inspired INVSN, is actually a new incarnation of his previous solo project Lost Patrol (information I embarrassingly did get from Wikipedia). Thankfully he takes it as an honest mistake.
"INVSN started in 2009. A couple of us used to be in a power pop band called the Lost Patrol Band but decided that we needed to try something new. We released two records in Swedish under the moniker Invasionen. The latest incarnation of INVSN, singing in English and a new line-up has been active for a bit over a year. After we were done with the record we decided to add two new members to our line-up so now we are a 6-piece. 3 Women and 3 men"
It's important for me to backtrack a little bit to explain that I do actually know a few things about my renowned interview subject. Lyxzén formed the massively influential hardcore punk, Refused, in Umea, Sweden in the early 90's. The band brought a game changing mix of post-hardcore, metal, jazz time signatures and left-wing politics to a scene that was slowly stagnating and changed the face of Punk music forever. The band's final album "The shape of punk to come" (a nod to free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman) proved hugely influential on the Screamo/Metalcore scene that followed in the early 00's.
After the band's split Lyxzén took his radical brand of musical Marxism in a new direction with the formation of the (international) Noise Conspiracy, a storming psyche/garage rock outfit who took inspiration from the likes of the Make-Up and Nation of Ulysses. The band had a minor alternative hit with the song "Capitalism Stole my Virginity" in 2001.
Now Dennis has taken his song writing in yet another new direction with INVSN, and the band's self-titled UK debut. The new band has remained true to both Lyxzén's previous projects political stance, as well as to his determination never to musically tread water.
Dan Cadwallader: Did you consciously want to change your sound and approach to step away from hardcore a little bit with this project?
Dennis Lyxzén: I've always been interested in expanding my ideas and the music that I've been doing. Noise conspiracy (where Sara also played) was an attempt to use the political ideas of punk and hardcore but use a different sort of sound. No matter what music I am doing it is always the attitude.
DC: The new album's sound is very different from your previous bands, what were the major influences in your song writing?
DL: This record was really influenced by the region of Sweden where we live. It is a remote and isolated part of Sweden that is being de-populated and destroyed by capitalism and urbanization. The metallic and desolate sound of post-punk fits very well with lyrics.
DC: The lyrics seem to be a little more ambiguous than they have been in the past, 'The Promise' could be a critical look at either the state or a relationship, Did you want to be a little more open with your lyrics on this record?
DL: Not really. I think the biggest difference is the fact that I am writing the lyrics first in Swedish. That tends to put them a bit closer to my heart and maybe not as extrovert and aggressive as with some of my other projects. The battle tends to go more inwards as you grow older. Also, most people know what I stand for and what type of ideas that I have and of course 'The Promise' is about the economic and cultural structures that we have i.e capitalism.
DC: You've been a musician for the better part of 20 years, what first inspired you to form a band?
DL: Isolation, boredom release and revenge. The usual things when you are a misfit and a freak. I did not fit with the jocks and the kids that studied so I had to find my outlet in other ways. I got into music at an early age and then punk rock came and saved me. It was like someone had designed punk rock just for me. I started my first band back in 1987 just because I had to. I Never thought that it would become my life and that it would be something that would be my occupation 27 years later.
DC: Your politics have been always been an integral part of your writing, where do you see yourself in the current politic climate? Do you still feel the need to be an agitator?
DL: Yes, maybe more than ever. I might not be as fully enraged all the time as I used to be but I still pick my battles and I still have the same motivation as I had when I first got into punk rock. I don't really think that music as a social factor outplayed a lot of its role but I still think that music and art has an ability to change the trajectory of people's lives. It is still a powerful and direct medium and it is still the only thing I know.
DC: Do you think there are enough musicians out there speaking out socially?
DL: No, not at all. Music has become a safe game for people talking about careers and social strategies. Music used to be in its essence rebellious and revolutionary but now it has turned into a cheap commodity of the lowest common denominator. And the sad truth of the matter is that most musicians don't really have anything to say. We tend to uplift them to a status that few of them deserve. I think most musicians should not even do interviews.
DC: Would you ever consider running for office in your native Sweden?
DL: No, never. Politics is a game of compromise and reason. I think that art should be neither. I am a musician just because I would never want to be a politician.
DC: Having released albums with four critically acclaimed bands (Refused, (i)NC, INVSN and AC4) what musically do you still want to achieve?
DL: Just keep on making music that I like and that challenges me. INVSN is just getting started and I think that we have many years and records left in us. To write better lyrics, to sing better, to dance better and to play even more shows. That is also a great thing about being a musician in the outskirts of popular culture, you are never done and you are still hungry.
DC: What's next for you?
DL: INVSN will play festivals this summer and then we head out on European tour in September. We are also writing new music and hopefully we will record a new record early next year. For me it is the same old, to write and record and play music and maybe some football as well.
INVSNS Debut album is out now on Razor & Tie