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Refuse To Stand Still: Dennis Lyxzn Returns With INVSN

Thursday, 14 August 2014 Written by Huw Baines

There’s a scene in High Fidelity where Barry, the portly music snob, tears a strip off an Echo And The Bunnymen fan. “How about the Jesus and Mary Chain?” he spits. “They picked up where your precious Echo left off and you’re sitting around complaining about no more Echo albums.”

Music fans tend to cling to the things they love a little too tightly; opinions become truths, albums become benchmarks and the whole carousel keeps on spinning. But, with that said, how do you move on completely from something that reduces your tiny little mind to smithereens? The same question is posed to any artist following the release of a classic. It’s a poisoned chalice.

If you’re Dennis Lyxzén, you just keep moving. His career in the aftermath of Refused’s ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’ has been one of perpetual motion. While that album has become an entry level text for many modern hardcore bands, he’s since put out records with, among others, the (International) Noise Conspiracy, the Lost Patrol Band, AC4 and now INVSN, who make their UK bow at Hevy Fest on Friday.

INVSN's third album surfaced in the US last summer and arrived on these shores last month and, when laid side by side with the ferocious ‘80s hardcore of AC4’s ‘Burn The World’, it’s emblematic of Lyxzén’s varied approach, boasting deep post-punk atmospherics and towering melodies.

“The Cure and some of that stuff has always been around,” he said. “But definitely later in life I really dived into it and got excited about it. When I became a punk rocker in the late ‘80s, I was into hardcore: Minor Threat, Black Flag. And the only girls you could hang out with, they were into the Cure. I’m a music lover and a record collector and I’m always looking for new music.”

Anyone who’s invested something of themselves in punk knows that it can be exhausting. Lyxzén, too, is weary of the boundaries and the fads, of the ethos that captivated him in his teens being co-opted at every turn. His post-Refused career spans just about every label the press uses to categorise punk bands, but that has never infiltrated his creative decisions. If anything, his discography goes some way to knocking over the idea that music must be neatly demarcated.

“Punk has always been more of a mindset and an attitude than a sound,” he said. “If you look at it now, when they talk about punk it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s guys with distorted guitars and shorts or a cool new t-shirt. For me it’s always been that attitude of being different and doing things differently, of having a starting point for everything you’ve done. Punk’s always been with me in life because it’s such an enormous part of who I became when I was a teenager.

“That sense of ‘I’m going to try a different version of punk’ is not really how I thought about it. This is the third record we put out with this band and the first one we put out, in Swedish, was kinda punky. Then we said: ‘OK, let’s try something completely different’. But, being me and André [Sandström], who played drums in DS-13, and Sara [Almgren], who used to be in hardcore bands, it always ended up having that energy and that attitude to it. Though if you stuck this record on in a room full of hardcore kids they might not consider it punk at all. It’s always something that follows you through life; how to do things or how to approach things. That’s the more important aspect of punk than the sound of it.”

In addition to playing in INVSN and AC4, not to mention touring with Refused following their reunion in 2012, Lyxzén has turned provider in recent years with his label Ny Våg. Focusing on bands from his hometown - the extraordinarily productive Umeå in northern Sweden - he has provided an outlet for a scene that thrives on its outsider status. Fukushima’s ‘Invisible Hand’ EP recently became the label’s 134th release.

“Starting a label was all about me wanting to support the local bands, the local scene and my friends, basically,” Lyxzén said. “There are people around me that I think are creative and talented. They deserve to have their records put out. Sometimes it’s hardcore stuff, sometimes it’s ‘77 punk stuff and sometimes it’s more indie stuff. It’s a small town, but considering the number of records I’ve been able to put out on my label and modern music that’s come from up here it’s pretty impressive. If you can in any way be a part of that and help people, that’s a good thing.”

The label’s lifeblood is the punk and hardcore scene, which has been kicking for the last quarter of a century. While Refused may be Umeå’s most famous sons, the current crop aren’t doing too badly despite their geographic isolation. In fact, it’s this very thing that still allows the town to produce local heroes at a time when a new buzz band is born every second online.

“It’s almost eight hours by car from Stockholm to Umeå,” Lyxzén said. “There’s nothing around so people have to support the local bands and the local scene. If you look at Sweden as a country where music comes from, a lot of the good bands come from the small towns. If you live in Stockholm, or London, or a big town, there’s always something going on. We have literally nothing going on. Therefore you have to start bands, you have to start labels and you have to put on shows. If you’re not doing it, it’s not happening.

“When I got into punk and the whole DIY aspect of punk it was so natural. There’s no-one putting on punk shows, there’s no-one putting on hardcore shows, there’s no-one putting out our records, so when we got into it we had to do it ourselves. It just kinda lived on in this environment and this city, that DIY attitude. INVSN, we’re on a proper label, in Sweden we’re on Sony, but our whole approach to how we’re doing it is DIY. We do the videos ourselves, the artwork for the records ourselves. It’s an important thing to admire I think.”

As a label boss, and as a member of several touring bands, the world that Lyxzén inhabits now is very different to the one that he came up in with Refused. With the internet providing immediate gratification for many bands seeking to get their music noticed, it’s a more democratic process than ever before. But, with streaming increasingly noticeable as a major market, Lyxzén believes that change must soon arrive for the bands caught in the industry hinterland between DIY artists and arena stars.

“What happened when file sharing came, and downloading and everything being available on the internet, is that if you’re a super small DIY band, you can benefit from the fact that your music is out there,” he said. “If you’re a huge artist, it won’t make that much of a difference. The inbetween artists, the ones that still need a proper budget to record a record got hit the hardest; the people that want to live playing music. We don’t have hits and we don’t sell out arenas. I think it’s a necessity for people like us to be able to make some money off the music.

“Ten years ago the record industry was in peril. It was chaos. But now the industry is doing fine, but the artists are still not getting any money. It wasn’t stipulated that you were going to get money from your streams if you signed a record deal 10 years ago. Now it is. The industry is doing better than it has in a long time but the indie, mid-level artists are still really struggling. You don’t sell records anymore, so you need to tour to make some money.

“What happens is that there are less venues to play, because everybody is out touring. If we say: ‘OK, we want a thousand quid to play.’ Another band will say: ‘Well, we’ll take just £800.’ You actually get less money, less opportunities to play and you sell less records. I think it’s time for the record industry to take this type of artist seriously.”

When Lyxzén speaks about the subject, it’s not from a position of ignorance. He’s lived and worked at almost every level of the touring hierarchy, hanging on to that thread of being someone who writes because they need to. “A lot of us in this situation, we never got into music to make money,” he said. “It wasn’t supposed to be a career. But one day it was. Our ambition is not to sell as many records as possible, but our ambition is to make great music and to continue to tour and play.”

INVSN Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue September 09 2014 - LONDON Barfly Camden

Click here to compare & buy INVSN Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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