First there was the The Kinks, the MC5, Primal Scream, and Gang of Four—great bands that made you think as you kicked out the jams and said "To Hell To Poverty." And now there is The (International) Noise Conspiracy whose mix of dirty 60's garage, punk rock, soul, and radical politics will have you tossing your Nuggets comp and Clash records by the wayside.This Swedish sextet are expanding the limits of a "rock band" by making music that is as smart as it is rocking. Their second record, A New Morning, Changing Weather, will hit you in the gut with its big sound. The first song "A Northwest Passage" sounds like a V1 engine hovering over the streets. Strikingly idealistic, most of the band's lyrics deal with questions about freedom, capitalism, and love. Songs like "Born Into A Mess" and "Capitalism Stole My Virginity" make you want to dance and ponder political philosophy.
Who said that the youth of today are lazy and apolitical? INC are ready for revolution in the street.
The (International) Noise Conspiracy is not an easy group to define musically or politically. In lyrics often borrowed from popular culture they speak of defiance and resistance. They are against globalization. They are conceptualists. They embrace The K Foundation, Guy Debord, Bob Black, Michel Foucault, Noam Chomsky, and George Orwell. They are out of control. They are fighting the power. When I heard their debut Survival Sickness in 2001, I sensed the the potential for something greater. The songs "Smash it Up" and "The Reproduction of Death" made me want to hand out Mao's little red book. Noise Conspiracy has since conquered the USA and Europe. We know the truth. As one of their lyric says "There is a light in everyone." Pass these words along. There are enough things said in their liner notes to keep us busy for years.I spoke with lead singer Dennis Lyxzén in January 2002. He was in his homeland, Sweden.
Listen to the music
AL: The new record came out in October. You were in the United States for about three months. Now you are back in Sweden. What are you doing?
Dennis: Right now we aren't doing anything. We have had a month off since around Christmas, which has been really nice. Next week we start a tour of Scandinavia. After that, we are doing at least two European tours. We will be on this continent for a while.
AL: When did the record come out in Europe?
Dennis: In October. Right before we came out to the States we did a tour in Europe right around when the record came out. Now we are doing a tour here since the record has been out a while. That is the way to go about things, I guess. We recorded the album last summer.
AL: Survival Sickness came out about a year ago. Now you have several records out. Things are moving quickly for you.
Dennis: Yeah. We just want to be a band that keeps things flowing and the energy going. We get easily bored so we write a lot of songs because we want to play new songs. One day we thought "Hey we have 20 new songs, let's do a new record." We just went for it. I think there might be a longer time span between this record and the next record we do. But you never know. In six months we might be really tired of touring and will want to make a record. We want to keep the creativity going. When we have ideas, we get together and jam and play. That's how we do it.
AL: You started out in China and released records there first, before you were signed to Burning Heart Records. How did that happen?
Dennis: A friend of ours saw our first show. He is a Swedish kid who has lived in Hong Kong most of his life. He thought we were great. We started joking to him "You should take us to China." And he started joking: "Yeah, you should put out a record on my record label." We ended up doing both of those things. We started by joking about it and then we ended up making that trip to China. It meant putting a lot of energy into it and a lot of our own money. It didn't matter. It was a mission that had to be done.
AL: What is the music scene like in Sweden and how does Noise Conspiracy fit into that?
Dennis: The music scene in Sweden is really good. There are a lot of good bands. Bands that come from here, and play music, many of us really mean it. I think that is a really good thing. There are some bands who talk about political issues, and we actually feel connection and kinship to that. We know most of the people in the Swedish music scene. Sweden is a really small country. I don't know how well we fit in with other bands. Some bands we like to play with, others we don't.
AL: Most Swedish bands sing in English. Do you think that rock and roll and capitalism are related in that way?
Dennis: I think that it relates to the cultural implications of rock and roll. We all grew up listening to the universal language of rock and roll. That language is English. My first band started when I was 13 years old. We sang in English. There was no question about it. That was the culture of music. Most bands in Sweden don't plan it out. They don't sing in English to make more money. There are a few bands who are really big in Sweden who sing in Swedish. Obviously they are not going to make it out of Sweden. It's not a scam. More interesting is how the cultural imperialism of America spreads across the world, so that bands in China sing in English, though they don't speak or know English. It's weird to see. It's amusing in one sense that you have to sing in English to become accepted. For me it has never been a question to sing in anything other than English. It's the most natural for me. Swedish is a tricky language to write lyrics. I didn't think about it when I was a kid. Now I do.
AL: What is the situation with your old band The Refused? This is a really popular band in the punk world in USA. Are there any plans to reform? Many people who like Noise Conspiracy are people who are also fans of The Refused. They still play videos on cable channels here as if The Refused were a new band. The band has been defunct for a while?
Dennis: Yeah it has for over three years. It's so much part of the past. When that video of The Refused came out in the States, the band had already been broken up. Many people didn't know that. I think that if people enjoy Noise Conspiracy because they liked The Refused, that they are off-base there. This is how I feel: If you like the politics of The Refused, I can see you liking The Noise Conspiracy. But if you like the music of The Refused, and base that on liking The Noise Conspiracy, that's fucked up. The two have nothing to do with each other. There will never be a reunion show. There will never be anything else coming out by The Refused. People get into the band now, but it doesn't exist. The last record was done over four years ago. For me, I don't even think about it, ever.
AL: It's good to move on. How would you describe the politics of The Noise Conspiracy? Are you anarchists or left wing?
Dennis: If you check out what we are doing, you will realize that we are radical leftists. That is as far as we want to go to define ourselves. But if there is anything we have learned it is that ideology is the enemy. You can't define your political ideas to a certain setting. You can't say "this is what I am" and define people from that. That is a weird thing to do. In this band, what we do, is say here are some ideas that we like. Some of them don't make sense together. They are contradictory. They are a paradox. We throw them out to people. Here are some good ideas. You figure it out. It's not up to us to be the leaders. We just try to inspire people to get their own reactions and ideas going. Every time you try to define your politics and try to make your ideas fit for everybody, it's just not going to happen. We are radical leftists, anti-capitalists, and a good mix of socialist, anarchist and communist, and Dada Artists, and Situationists, and so on and so forth. When people come to see us play, we take the opportunity to talk about political ideas. That has been true of every band I have been part of. We bring flyers and books to gigs so people can look into it for themselves and not just take our word for it. We don't need more leaders. We just need people to inspire each other.
AL: What do you think about the punk scene in America? There are magazines like Maximum Rock and Roll and Punk Planet that discuss what is punk and what is not. There are a bunch of rules of conduct. How do you feel about it?
Dennis: I have been part of the punk and hardcore scene for ten years. Why this band doesn't have anything to do with the punk scene is because the punk scene is petty. I think it really focuses on the wrong issues. Punk rock politics are political ideas for the privileged kids. They don't have anything to say about the real big issues of the world. There is a definite lack of analysis when you are worried about what label puts out what records. What bands are signed to what label. Or what venues you are playing. There is a lack of an overall view. Maximum Rock and Roll is one of the first punk rock magazines I read. It taught me a lot about bands, punk rock, and politics. But if your main goal is the preservation of punk rock as a subculture or youth culture, then of course it's important to you who's signed to what label. It's important for you how your ideas of punk rock are being perceived to the outside world. But for Noise Conspiracy that is not important. We are not interested in youth culture or subcultures or punk rock. We are interested in the political ideas that we are talking about and playing music. For us, it doesn't matter if punk rock sells two million or two billion records. It doesn't matter if punk rock is the biggest commodified music genre of all time. Political ideas are far more important to be confined to a certain scene or a certain time.
AL: Is the band a collective? How do you go about writing material?
Dennis: We all write the songs. It may sound like the 1970s, but we are one of those bands who go into a practice space and jam. We start out with an idea and then we jam for a couple of hours until we have a song. We can't do anything or practice unless the whole band is together. We are a collective. There is a reason why these five people are in the band. We function really well as band. We have known each other for a long time and we come from similar backgrounds. I have known Lars Stromberg almost all my life. We had talked about doing a soulful punk band. We never got to do it because we were all in other bands. I was still on tour with The Refused. When The Refused broke up, we finally got to see this vision through. We already knew who was going to be in the band. We had actually practiced before The Refused had officially broken up. We felt each other out. It was very natural.
AL: What do you think of Atari Teenage Riot?
Dennis: They are a funny band. I have been following them for a long time. Their approach is less finely tuned than ours. They are more about "Deutschland has got to die!" We try to analyze it a step further. Any band that is part of the protest singer music tradition is a cool band. Any time I turn on the TV and I see any band talk about politics, it makes me excited, even if I don't like the politics too much. Even if the politics are not as radical as I want them to be I still appreciate it. There are so many bands out there who seriously don't say anything at all. It's sad that it's come to that.
AL: Are there any writers or philosophers that you like and would like to share with us today?
Dennis: Yeah. There are tons of them.
AL: What are you reading now?
Dennis: I think that I am reading six or seven books right now. I think that reading is why I have an interest in politics as well. Reading is more radical than playing in a band or playing punk rock. The Situationists are really interesting. I read Guy Debord, and his sidekick, Raoul Vaneigem. The Revolution of Everyday Life is my favorite book of all time. I am into other French philosophers like Georges Bataille. He's really good.
AL: Bataille is from before.
Dennis: He was a little bit earlier. He was part of the Surrealists. His political writing is the main thing. There's this Algerian guy named Franz Fanon. That's the kind of stuff I am reading. I am also reading a lot of literature from the north of Sweden. That is where I am from. It's stuff from 150 years ago. It's around the turn of the century too. It's all about when the farmers and settlers came up here and tried to use the land. They tried to live in the harsh conditions. I am reading that right now. I am picking up on my heritage.
AL: What is The Noise Conspiracy going to do for the rest of the year 2002? Are you going to come back to the States to do another tour?
Dennis: Yes, we are. Probably in the late summer. Right now we are going to focus on Europe. We were in the States three times last year which is pretty impressive. We are going to put out a new single pretty soon. We are putting out an EP this summer. It's a rock routine...put out an EP, and then tour and play some festivals. We have never been to England before and in two months we are going to England and we are going to open for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.