For almost four decades, Dennis Lyxzén’s life has been utterly consumed by music. Born in the summer of 1972, Dennis was brought up in a working-class family in a rural area outside of Umeå in the north of Sweden.
A self-described “loner and a weirdo”, he first discovered the power of music the day after John Lennon was murdered in New York City in 1980. From there, he moved on to The Beatles through his father’s record collection, and via a David Bowie detour, became enamoured with metal and, later on, hardcore.
Long before Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn invented what we now know as the internet, Dennis relied on tape and video trading, and his tastes were shaped by recommendations from his international penpals, watching grainy VHS copies of bands like Youth Of Today and Hüsker Dü.
“It was a time when I was so isolated by the mere fact of where I was living,” explains Dennis. “There was no scene. There were hardly any punks. There were, like, eight people in the entire city who even liked punk music. I read Thrasher magazine, which had Pushead’s column where he wrote about hardcore and punk music. After a while, I started ordering Maximumrocknroll, but that was kind of it. You had to sort of guess what was reasonable or not.”
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From playing in metal and punk bands as a teenager, he has fronted several acts, most notably post-hardcore legends Refused, whose revolutionary 1998 album, The Shape Of Punk To Come: A Chimerical Bombination In 12 Bursts, was largely misunderstood at the time and ironically took on a life of its own after the band imploded during an ill-fated North American tour. Since then, he has been part of soul punks The (International) Noise Conspiracy, hardcore outfit AC4, and post-punks INVSN.
Most recently, he’s joined Fake Names, a band that would surely baulk at the supergroup tag, but whose line-up features Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Bad Religion), Johnny Temple (Girls Against Boys, Soulside), Michael Hampton (S.O.A., Embrace, One Last Wish) and Matt Schulz (Enon, Holy Fuck). To date, they’ve played just one show in Brooklyn, but more activity is planned for the future.
When we catch up with Dennis to trace a finger through his long and varied CV, it seems that the 46-year-old has put the concept of free time on the back burner. As ever, his myriad projects appear to be vying for his attention, like a nest crammed with punk rock birds.
Refused have just released War Music, the follow-up to their 2015 album Freedom, while Dennis also works on new material with his band INVSN.
It’s probably best, then, to get on with things before another project pops up to demand his attention…
After learning of The Beatles in the most tragic of circumstances, when did you gravitate to the heavier stuff?
“Well, I have to admit that I saw Europe in 1984 when I was 12. I also listened to bands like Motörhead and Black Sabbath. When everybody else kept listening to Dio and Whitesnake, I remember someone giving me a tape with Bathory on one side and Metallica’s Kill ’Em All on the other. Metallica wore punk and hardcore T-shirts, but it was Anthrax around the Among The Living album that led me to hardcore. They talked about it in interviews and so I backtracked from there, looking up the bands they thanked on their albums. Then someone else gave me a tape with Misfits on one side and Cro-Mags on the other, and bands like Crumbsuckers and Agnostic Front really struck a chord. But the band that changed everything for me was the Dead Kennedys. I wasn’t a metalhead after that.”