Dennis Lyxzén is one of modern punk’s greatest frontmen and a hero of mine.
Not only has he got one of the most fearsome, paint stripping screams around, but his stage presence gives you goosebumps. Lyxzén’s different to most punks – he’s the well-dressed silhouette could’ve Jagger been… with some practice. I’ve seen this man strut, somersault, shake his arse and conquer worlds across many stages, with ’90s futuristic punks Refused and garage rockers The (International) Noise Conspiracy.
Recently he’s been focusing on his band powerful synthwave rock band, INVSN. They’ve been carving out a name for themselves in true Lyxzén style, with relentless touring and huge creative output. I managed to catch his ear for a few questions ahead of their upcoming Berlin show, where we discussed Berlin, Lana Del Rey and ditching the guitar.
Dennis, INVSN is the only band you’re in where guitars aren’t prominent. Do you find more creativity in electronic/synth sounds?
There’s still guitars in the music but when we did The Beautiful Stories (INVSN’s 2017 album), we decided that we wanted to make music more based on rhythm and percussion than guitars. It was a way to challenge our creativity and the way we usually write. Working with electronics, backing-tracks and keys is just like any other instrument – it’s more about how you use them and what you can do with them that matters. It also gives our music a bit of a modern sheen, which is great.
Have you found your fans have kept open minds about your projects? Are you in a position where you can lead them down new creative paths?
When you’ve never really made it mainstream, you need to work hard to be able to do this full time. That means a lot of touring and recording and a lot of music. It’s hard to say, I would like to think that people that are really into music and not just scenes and sub-cultures, and that they are always curious about what I/we are up to. I get that if your favourite bands are Refused and Hatebreed, that INVSN might not be for you, hehe.
If you love music then I think that I’ve done some really cool things over the years. I never saw myself as a leader in that sense, and that’s an important part of punk rock. No gods and no masters!
Where did the EP ‘Forever Rejected’ appear from? Did you hit a spark of creativity and dive back into the studio?
Well, it was a bit more simple than that. We wanted to give the Beautiful Stories a bit more life, and then we realised that we had a couple of songs unreleased. So with some creative work, we all of the sudden had a pretty great EP on our hands. Two of the songs were recorded during the album sessions, then we did the Lana song a while back and we looked over our demos and ended up recording two new songs that, in my mind, are the core of the new EP.
What made you think Lana Del Rey’s ‘Love’ was a suitable song to cover?
I think that there are certain aspects of her idea of America that are really fascinating. She tells stories about the underdogs and the misfits and the outcasts in a pretty relatable way. It felt like an interesting idea to record a cover tune of a track that was contemporary and a bit unexpected, especially for someone that grew up in an environment similar to her stories.
I love Berlin and it is one of the few cities that I ever have been tempted to move to.
It’s not always obvious that you’re in the band. You work hard to build the band’s name without using your own name to sell it. How easy is that?
Well, we see that people talking about INVSN as a side-project of Dennis from Refused. Which it is not. INVSN is a proper band. Me and Andre and Anders have been playing together for a good 15 years in different projects, and me and Sara have tons of history together.
I think that it’s important for people to see that it is very much a band in its own right, made up of the sum of our parts. Everyone in the band has so much experience and knowledge of music that it’s unfair towards all us to see it any other way.
Sometimes my name and my history can get people to take notice, but we do want the band to stand on its own as far as the music and the ideas that we have are concerned. I think that we’re a pretty original band, and that might be a bit hard to define for people. Sometimes that’s to our advantage and sometimes that makes it tricky.
Also, since we’ve all had years and years of experience, we’re not new and hip in that sense. But, all in all, we are a work in progress. A band that is slowly building and finding our audience.
Berlin is rich in history, music and radicalism.
You’ve been playing shows in Berlin for decades. What do you like about coming here?
I love Berlin and it is one of the few cities that I have ever been tempted to move to. It’s rich in history and music and radicalism. It’s a true multi-cultural city and I love that.
The shows are usually pretty good, and Berliners have always been pretty kind to me and my different projects.
What do you make of the changes Berlin is currently going through? Should Berlin be protected from developers who are modernising the city? Or is good that Berlin is finally ‘growing up’?
I think the world should be protected from developers that are only interested in modernising things just to be able to make more money. Berlin is a city that’s defined by its character and I think that it would be terrible to lose that for monetary gain.
You’re playing dates with Protomartyr. Are you a fan? What music are you listening to at the moment?
Yeah, they are a cool band, so that should be tons of fun. At the moment I am listening to a lot to ’80s/’90s indie rock that I missed out on by being way too punk during that period of time. Like Pale Saints and the Wild Swans and Josef K etc. etc. I might have to make a playlist!
Speaking of which, your Spotify playlists from 2016 opened my eyes to many bands. Who do you turn to when you want to discover new music?
Well, that is a science in itself. I listen to tons of music and I love to discover new songs, bands and artists everyday. I am insanely curious. I ask my friends. I Google. I go to record stores and take wild chances. I spend a couple of hours a day dedicated to music discovery.
What’s coming up for you in the future?
INVSN has a bunch of shows, festivals and tours coming up. We’re going to keep touring the album and EP, and then, after the summer, we’ll start working on new tunes. We don’t want to wait another three years before bringing out a new record. Then I’m working on a new Refused record and some other projects, so just trying to stay busy and creative. Keeping my mind and body in constant motion.
Will The (International) Noise Conspiracy ever return?
Who knows!? My door is always open to INC. I loved that band and it was such an important part of my life. We are all still in touch and are all still really close. Sara and I play music together. Ludde lives in Paris and plays with mega-band Indochine. Inge lives in LA and plays with Against Me. Lars lives in Stockholm and is a very fancy sommelier. If time and circumstances make it so, I’ll be there!