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Refused performing at Way Out West 2012
|Years active||1991–1998; 2012;|
|Labels||Spinefarm, Search and Destroy, Burning Heart, Epitaph, Victory, We Bite, Startrec, Umeå Hardcore|
|Associated acts||Abhinanda, Afro Jetz, Final Exit, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Invasionen, Step Forward, TEXT, AC4, Randy|
|Past members||see below|
Refused (also known as The Refused) is a Swedish hardcore punk band originating from Umeå and formed in 1991. Refused is composed of vocalist Dennis Lyxzén, guitarist Kristofer Steen, drummer David Sandström, and bassist Magnus Flagge. Guitarist Jon Brännström was a member from 1994, through reunions, until he was fired in late-2014. Their lyrics are often of a non-conformist and politically far-left nature.
On January 9, 2012, the band announced their reunion confirming shows at Coachella, Rock am Ring, Ruisrock, Roskilde Festival, Groezrock, Way Out West Festival, Sonisphere Festival (Cancelled), Download Festival, Rock for People, Primavera Sound, Hellfest, Fuji Rock Festival, Øyafestivalen, Pukkelpop, Resurrection. After embarking on a world tour for nearly a year, Refused went on hiatus again in 2012, but announced another reunion in November 2014.
The band released five EPs and three full-length albums before originally splitting up in 1998, and released their fourth full-length album Freedom on the Epitaph Records label on June 26, 2015. "Elektra" was released as the first single from the comeback album on April 27, 2015.
Early years (1991–1997)
Refused formed in early 1991 with Dennis Lyxzén (former frontman of the straight edge band Step Forward) on vocals, David Sandström on drums, Pär Hansson on guitar, and Jonas Lindgren on bass. They formed with the aim of playing outside of their hometown and releasing a 7" record (the latter which never happened). They released their first demo, Refused, the same year. With an already altered lineup (including Kristofer Steen joining from local band Abhinanda with Pär Hansson going the other way) the band released their first studio album, This Just Might Be the Truth, in 1994. A month later, they released the Everlasting EP.
Refused's final line-up consisted of Dennis Lyxzén, David Sandström, Kristofer Steen, and Jon Brännström, but the band never found a permanent bass player, switching up to 12 bassists until their original break-up. In June 1996, they released Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent through Victory Records. The album had a style that steered towards the metallic hardcore genre and included a fanzine explaining their political ideas. For this record, they toured with Snapcase. Later on, they did it in support of Millencolin in the United States and with Mindjive in Europe.
The Shape of Punk to Come and disbandment (1998)
Their third album, 1998's The Shape of Punk to Come, incorporated diverse sounds outside of the strict hardcore realm, such as electronica, jazz, and ambient. Initially, the album was both a commercial and critical failure, with little media coverage and mixed reception from fans and critics alike; some even refused to rate it because of its stylistic divergence.
The United States tour to support the album was canceled halfway. They were joined by Washington, D.C.'s Frodus and only completed eight shows in half-empty basements and coffeehouses, finishing in a chaotic performance in a basement of Harrisonburg, Virginia that, after four songs, was shut down by police. They described these concerts as "emotionally devastating" and "an awful experience", which finally led to their break-up after a rough internal fight in Atlanta, Georgia. Other factors to their disbandment were a depletion of creative energy and band members wanting different things. There was also conflict between Dennis and the rest of the band.
After breakup (1999–2009)
The story of Refused's last show soon became popular, as well as The Shape of Punk to Come. A year after its release, the album shot up from 1,400 to 21,000 units sold in the United States. In 2000, it went up to 28,000. From then on, many notable artists started to praise the band and newcomers cited them as an influence.
In 2007 Lyxzén and Sandström briefly reformed their Refused side project, Final Exit, which existed in the mid-late 1990s and originally consisted of members of Refused and Abhinanda, with each member taking a different role to that which they had in their main bands (e.g., David on vocals and Dennis on bass guitar).
As of May 2008, Dennis Lyxzén and David Sandström formed a new straightforward hardcore band under the name AC4.
Kristofer Steen moved to Orange County, California and attended film school there. He made a documentary on the band's last year in existence called Refused Are Fucking Dead, which was released in 2006. Then, he began working on operas in Sweden.
In March 2010, Epitaph Records put up the old Refused website online with the words "Coming Soon." Rumours spread across the Internet about what the new website could indicate, including speculation of a reunion. Citing an anonymous source "close to the situation," Punknews.org unofficially announced that the band would perform at European music festivals in 2010. Dennis Lyxzén denied claims of a Refused reformation as he and David Sandström were busy with AC4. The new band website was later announced to be a promotional site for a reissue of Refused's final album, The Shape of Punk to Come. The reissue, released on June 8, 2010, is a three-disc set with an unreleased live album recorded in 1998 and the Refused Are Fucking Dead DVD documentary in addition to the full original album.
In November 2011, multiple posters said to be for the upcoming 2012 Coachella Festival appeared on several Internet sites, and the line-ups included Refused. This started new rumours of a long-awaited reunion.
During BBC Radio 1's "Punk Show" on January 2, 2012, Mike Davies stated that Refused, along with At the Drive-In would be reforming in 2012. On January 9, 2012, it was announced that Refused would be performing for the 2012 Coachella Festival. The reunion was confirmed via Dennis Lyxzén's Facebook page. This was highly contested considering the band's original and explicit declaration to never reunite. Later that day, it was announced that they would also be playing at Way Out West Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden. They also headlined the Groezrock festival in Belgium. The confirmation that Refused would be UK exclusives at Sonisphere Festival in the UK was made on February 20. However, in light of Sonisphere UK's subsequent cancellation, Refused were officially booked by Download Festival on April 3, to perform at Donington Park instead. On February 29, Refused played a secret show in Umeå, their first live performance since 1998. Refused are also confirmed for the Rock for People festival in Czech Republic. They appeared for the first time on TV in America on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on July 18, 2012.
On August 23, 2012 Refused indicated by a Facebook post that their reunion was for 2012 only and not a continuation of their career. On August 24, 2012, it was announced that Refused would undertake a theatre tour of Australia for the first time ever that November. The after party for Refused's show on December 15, 2012 in Fabriken, Umeå saw brief reunions from related Umeå hardcore bands Abhinanda and Final Exit, as well as some rarely performed songs from Refused. Redd Kross also performed on the evening.
Hiatus, second reunion, and Freedom (2013–2017)
On February 22, 2013, Refused were awarded "The special prize for Swedish music exports" by the Minister of Trade. Lyxzén and Sandström chose to criticize the current Government at the ceremony, instead thanking the efforts of popular education, in particular Workers' Educational Association (ABF) and youth centers (in Sweden associated with social democracy) while Jon Brännström chose to not accept the prize on his behalf later stating he wished they "[...] had said no to the prize and instead held a press conference about why we had turned it down".
On October 31, 2014, Jon Brännström stated on the official Refused Facebook page that he had been fired from the band (the band would later state that he left the band in 2013), implying that Refused were still active and planned on performing again in the future. On November 25, 2014, the band announced that they would perform their first shows in three years at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, Groezrock and Amnesia Rockfest in the summer of 2015. They also headlined Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas in May 2015. Around the same time, rumours surfaced of a new album being recorded for release in 2015 after ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's Autrey Fulbright II posted a photo on Instagram claiming that Lyxzén had been in the studio recording vocals for the album.
On April 27, 2015, it was announced that Refused would release their fourth studio album, Freedom, in June 2015 via Epitaph Records. The album was produced by Nick Launay and includes further collaborations such as two songs produced with Max Martin-collaborator Shellback (Taylor Swift). The news was announced along with the release of the album's opening track, "Elektra," as its lead single.
On November 20, 2017, members of Refused revealed on social media that the band has been in the studio working on their next album.
Servants of Death, Cyberpunk 2077 and War Music (2018–present)
On July 2, 2019, it was announced that Refused will be partnering with video game developer CD Projekt Red, creating and recording original music for upcoming video game Cyberpunk 2077. The members of Refused will provide music for a fictitious band in the in-game universe, punk rock group SAMURAI, whose lead vocalist Johnny Silverhand will be interpreted by actor Keanu Reeves, featuring Lyxzén's vocals on the music tracks. The announcement was made alongside the release of Chippin' In on streaming services, the first single to be revealed for the project. On August 23, 2019, a new song called Never Fade Away came out.
On August 2, 2019, the band released "Blood Red" from their forthcoming album War Music.
The Malignant Fire EP was released on November 20, 2020.
Musical style, lyrics and influences
Refused started as a "fresh-faced positive hardcore band" and their music became increasingly progressive and radical, as did their lyrics. The record This Just Might Be the Truth was characterized for its "massive hardcore sound", mostly influenced by various bands from the New York hardcore scene (such as Earth Crisis). On their follow-up, Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent, the band had a heavier, more intricate style, which is generally attributed to their Slayer inspiration, and Lyxzén adopted screaming vocals rather than shouting. With the third album, The Shape of Punk to Come, "came the leap into the unknown" as the band mixed their previous style with unorthodox chord progressions, sampling, "ambient textures, jazz breakdowns", electronica and monologues, and other deviations from the hardcore punk music.
Refused's lyrics focus on far-left politics, drawing on anarchism, socialism, among other ideologies. By the time of their first album, the band already had a strong anti-establishment profile. The group's members were all vegan straight edge until their last show in 1998 and a couple of their songs dealt with these topics. Today, some of them no longer follow these lifestyles. In their live performances, vocalist Lyxzén usually delivers political speeches between songs. Before the Umeå hardcore phenomenon went into full bloom, the band was seen as part of the scene centered around youth-oriented venue Galaxen, along with the punk-rock scene as well as metal bands such as Meshuggah.
Among the biggest influences of Refused were ManLiftingBanner, Born Against, Slayer, and Ian Svenonius's projects (The Make-Up, The Nation of Ulysses and Cupid Car Club). Other bands that have influenced them are Fugazi, Inside Out, and Snapcase.
Refused affected profoundly the development of rock music at the turn of the twentieth century, despite the fact that very few people supported them when they were active. According to Vice, they "stood at the nexus of modern punk, incorporating all of its subgenres into one scattered but neat package", putting "the risk back into punk and hardcore by making it unexpected again." David Anthony of The A.V. Club described The Shape Of Punk To Come as "an undisputed classic that served as a rallying cry for bands longing to incorporate sounds from outside the walls of aggressive music." Author Gabriel Kuhn states that Refused "became the flagship of a remarkably strong vegan straight edge movement that engulfed Sweden throughout the 1990s" with "witty manifestos" and "performances" that "challenged many of the scene’s standards."
Among the artists who cite Refused as influence are Linkin Park, Duff McKagan of Velvet Revolver and Guns N' Roses, Sum 41, Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182, AFI, Papa Roach, Tim McIlrath of Rise Against, Underoath, Enter Shikari, The Used, Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, Showbread, La Dispute, Nick Hipa of As I Lay Dying, Derek E. Miller of Poison the Well and Sleigh Bells, Geoff Rickly of Thursday, United Nations and No Devotion, Marcos Curiel of P.O.D. and Daylight Division, Jeremy Bolm of Hesitation Wounds and Touché Amoré, Zachary Garren of Dance Gavin Dance and Strawberry Girls, Chris Teti of The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, The New Transit Direction, The Bloody Beetroots, Justin Beck of Glassjaw and Sons of Abraham, Robin Staps of The Ocean, The Bled, Thomas Williams of Stray from the Path, Brandon Kellum of American Standards, and Jonathan Boulet. The song "H. Ledger" from letlive.'s album Fake History is a "homage" to Refused because the band felt that they "didn't receive proper recognition until they were no longer active." British musician Frank Turner stated that The Shape of Punk to Come "shaped my musical path as a musician for a long time" and his group, Million Dead, took their name from a line in the Refused's song "The Apollo Programme was a Hoax". Pop rock band Paramore were inspired by the song "Liberation Frequency" and quoted a line of it on their 2007 song "Born for This".
- This Just Might Be... the Truth (1994)
- Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent (1996)
- The Shape of Punk to Come (1998)
- Freedom (2015)
- War Music (2019)
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Earlier in the 90s, Tim [Redmond] really set the standard for how high you could tune a snare drum. A lot of drummers got piccolo snares and tortured those tension rods until the drumhead was about to pop," says Refused drummer David Sandström, who toured with Snapcase in '96. "There was a certain stability and propulsion to Tim's beats that really influenced me. He was indefatigable. Felt like he could punch his way through a brick wall.
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