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For those too young, twelve years ago a band named Refused released an album titled, The Shape Of Punk To Come. The band was so punk that they had to break up and the album stands on many lists as one of the most important albums of all time.

In 2010, the album has been reissued and made available to those who missed it all those years ago. Drummer, David Sandström, took time to talk about the album which changed the musical ambitions of many and finally ended the band.

The Shape of Punk to Come has been repackaged and reissued. Do you have any say in that or is it completely driven by Epitaph?
Oh yeah. If we didn’t want to do it, they couldn’t do it. I wasn’t so keen on it but what I remember is 2 years ago, they were talking about a live recording that I wasn’t really aware of but it existed. I thought that it sucked. I remember the show as being bad but they sent me the tape and it was really fucking good. Like really, really good and I was surprised because I had an image of us sucking live that year, 1998. This was ferocious, it sort of sounded like the record but even crazier.

Then they came with this idea. You can’t put out a live record that is 40 minutes long. When I was a kid, I bought the Iron Maiden Live After Death double vinyl, that is like over two hours of live music. It just felt stupid to put out a 40 minute show so someone had the idea of putting it together with the film and the record and making it cost like a regular record. I think they wanted to put it through the system again. They wanted to have Los Angeles times call it a classic, because that is how things become classics.

When you look back on that record, was it the shape of punk to come?
It doesn’t seem like that because we are releasing it again. We wanted to open up a door I suppose and point at some directions you could take to this music that we loved. It seems that 12 years later, The Shape of Punk to Come is still the shape of punk to come.

Can you believe 12 years later, that this music that you wrote and were a big part of is so heavily spruiked and considered such an influential album. Is that weird for you?
It is weird. Really weird! When I was growing up I would get an allowance once a month and the allowance was the exact cost of an LP. From when I was seven or eight, I would go into the city and buy a record. It was what my world revolved around. I think that having such intense, intimate relationships with classic records through the years, it’s really impossible to think that that record could be perceived like that by anyone else. It doesn’t make sense to me. There are so many records that mean so much to me, it’s impossible to consider my life without them. It’s a great record, it’s a good record but it’s not a soul searching masterpiece in the sense of the really good records that I love. I’m just happy that I’ve been involved in making something that is a really good record which is really enough for me.

It is a record that is considered so far ahead of its time. When you went into the studio, did you have this ambition in mind or was it more a matter of ‘we have x amount of songs and that is what we are going to make’?
We aimed at making something that was going to be really exciting but I don’t think that we felt that we had achieved it. That is what I remember from the recording. That we wanted to make something that was a combination of all the classic elements of rock-n-roll and all the exciting aspects of music that was going on at the time. All the latest hardcore stuff, extreme metal, big-beat, and all the stuff that was coming out of England at the time. We wanted to make a fusion of all the things that we found exciting at the time. In a sense, we did that. We weren’t entirely happy with it.

When you really, really strive to do something special there is no way you can please everybody but yourself. In the pop /rock/hardcore/whatever scene, it is probably considered ahead of its time and special but if you go into the Japanese noise scene or downtown New York avant garde scene, from that perspective it just sounds like any other rock-n-roll record.

There was such a great dynamic shift between all Refused albums. What made the band so rapidly change?
Our first demo, we sounded like early Gorilla Biscuits, that late ‘80s New York hardcore sound. Already on our second demo we were starting to sound like metal/hardcore, a lot tougher. We had rap parts and it was really like the contemporary stuff that was coming out at the time. The difference between our first and second record was huge. I don’t think we ever actually had a ‘sound’, we kept changing all the time.

In all music I’ve done since Refused, it’s been the same thing. It is one of those weird post-modern things. Growing up with bands like the Beastie Boys, genre was not a set thing. It wasn’t that once you were into heavy metal, then you were going to play heavy metal for the rest of your life, that was just not how we functioned.

Throughout those years we always listened to different genres. To us, I don’t think it seemed like that much of the change because of the range in our musical horizons. I think we were just caught in a narrow-minded hardcore scene. That hardcore scene was very conservative when it came to music and we wanted to break out of that.

Do you think you managed to break out of those constraints?
Yeah! We broke out of the band even! We couldn’t even stay together, that is how well we did the job. I figure since I’m talking to someone from Australia, it’s sort of like when AC/DC came to Europe. There was no connection between the Australian rock scene and Europe. If Australian bands were going to try to make it, they always had to move to London, stay there and try to make a name for themselves by going on tour in Germany and Scandinavia.

Being in a remote place, cut-off from the rest of the scene, you can evolve. That is a parallel thing, we were never as good or as important as AC/DC, in the same way we were cut off from the rest of the music world in the north of Sweden. We had our own scene and we created our own little universe. In that universe we created The Shape of Punk to Come and when it was released people were like ‘what the fuck is going on up there?’. The people in our home town weren’t that surprised, they thought we were great but they didn’t know that the rest of the world would think that it was so special. That is a great thing about periphery.

With that in mind, what are your thoughts on the state of punk and hardcore today?
I stopped paying attention a long time ago as far as the Swedish hardcore scene goes, which just really bores me. For the last 10 years I’ve played a lot of different music. I made a record in Swedish about my Grandad, which has folk and a string quartet in it. I had a pop band for some years and I’ve been working with improvising musicians so I haven’t really been a part of any hardcore scene for a long time. AC4 came about a couple of years ago when Dennis and I had a conversation and we wanted to play hard and crazy again. It just seems to be getting stupider though.

How so?
It is just the feeling I get whenever I pick up a fanzine or hear people talking. Every now I pick up a seven inch and read the lyrics, it just seems to be getting even more locked down in style and even more conservative musically. There seems to be more stupid people involved in it. It’s not creative; there are no fantasy elements and no imagination. It just seems boring to me.

The manifesto that was publicly released about the bands demise was somewhat unheard of. Was this intended to be controversial?
It was a conventional break up’ it was just like any other break up with someone that you’re going out with. You start hating each other, you can’t talk to each other, and you’re disappointed with each other or whatever. Then you feel that the other person isn’t to be trusted. It was just like that. Dennis wrote that manifesto in frustration, he sent it to me and I said ‘yeah put it out, I don’t care’. Actually, John and Kris never even saw it. They just thought it was stupid and I thought it was a good way to avoid being called up by journalists. Coming back from a band having just split up, the last thing you want is someone to call up and ask what happened. So the manifesto went out and no one called, it was great. I got to process it by myself. It was just a grand gesture.

What would it take for Refused to reform and play again?
Dude! I don’t know. I have no idea. It’s not something that comes naturally from anyone of us anymore. The same way that you would hear rumours about Refused reforming, I hear those rumours. I just heard a couple of months ago that Refused were playing in America this summer and I was just like ‘that’s fucking weird’. You wonder who makes that shit up. It’s just annoying I suppose.

With the help of the internet, do you expect that rumour mill to keep spinning?
I think it makes sense from a PR perspective for the people at the label, maybe they’re the ones starting those rumours. I have no idea. I don’t have internet actually. It is more of a luxury. I live an hour north of Emil, right in the middle of nowhere. With the internet, the world just comes a little too close for my preference.

Do you have any final words to leave about Refused?
That is the funny thing about interviews like this, I don’t have an agenda. Actually, I really, truly respect the fact that people still like the album and that is the reason that all four of us are doing interviews now, again. We can agree now, we’re all just crazy music fans. There are so many records that we love.

Sometimes Kris or Dennis will call me up and say ‘read this biography on Neil Young’ because it’s great. When Neil recorded Harvest, he would have this huge TV on the barn where they recorded it and that is how he would listen back to the tracks. They would do a couple of takes then he’d walk down and sit a couple of hundred meters from the barn and they would play it in this huge PA. Then they would call and asked what he thought and he would answer ‘more barn’.

It’s just one of those stories where I don’t know if it’s true but I just love everything about it. In that sense, you respect the fact there are people out there who love it, like it, are fascinated by what we did and it is just out of respect for them that we answer the phone.

The reissue of Refused’s The Shape Of Punk To Come is out now.

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BTIazza said on the 28th Jun, 2010

How I love Refused. Nice interview Brittles


tyler07 said on the 28th Jun, 2010

Nice interview ms.Brittles

Such a quality fucking band, was so stoked to see Dennis in his T(I)NC and Minor Threat covering with Rise Against forms last year. Met him after the show to, such a quality guy.

But yeah, very good job :)